Workhorse Queen @ Slamdance

Angela Washko’s film is enjoying its world premiere at this year’s Slamdance film festival. The documentary is a look at the life of one drag queen through the lens of how a show like RuPaul’s Drag Race has affected the entire drag culture.

Having come to drag late in life, 47-year-old Ed Popil or Mrs. Kasha Davis is someone who will be recognizable to only the most dedicated of RuPaul’s Drag Race fans. After having been married young and father to a couple of kids, Popil came out and soon left his conservative environment to move to Rochester, New York. Continuing in his quest to be true to himself, he left his job as a telemarketer making the decision to become a full time drag queen.

RuPaul’s Drag Race. Rupaul’s show brought drag to the masses making it not only acceptable, but popular. Every drag queen dreamed of becoming a star due to the show. After having auditioned seven straight years to be on the uber popular reality show, he was finally successful. Popil’s Mrs. Kasha Davis was modelled on a 1960s suburban housewife in tribute to his own mother.

Despite this rather unique persona and look, in her season Mrs. Kasha Davis was the seventh queen voted off. After this we see the highs and lows of Popil’s career. Including a stint in rehab due to the abuse of alcohol. Instead of letting the lows or performing in small venues to sparse clouds completely defeat him or make him turn away from what he loved, Popil forged on creating shows which positioned him as a queer role model for children which is largely missing in small towns like Rochester. Mrs. Kasha Davis now puts on theatre shows for children in Rochester and is an inspiration.

What is always in the background in the documentary is its commentary about reality television and shows like RuPaul’s Drag Race and its effect on the queer performing community. How it has been put up as the apex of the queer performing world and how success is gained. The film shows how it is not for everyone.

There are many levels to all that is going on here. Even Ed Popil’s Mrs. Kasha Davis is rather a subversive drag queen. Modelled on a 60s housewife who escapes the monotony of her life by going out at night to perform drag. Says something about women’s lot in life, no? Not the typically glamourous drag queens we have become used to.

Plus the film makes us question a show like RuPaul’s which excludes nonbinary or trans performers. That is not really what the queer world is about as it has always been a space for everyone. Why this change? To make it more palatable to large amounts of people? Does it truly represent the community it claims to?

Then there is the belief, even within the queer community, that unless you make it on Drag Race you have not really made it. Success should not really be measured on one show, surely?

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