As drag’s popularity continues to grow in mainstream culture, more and more big-name artists are casting talented queens in music videos, live shows and more. In 2019 alone, artists such as Taylor Swift, Iggy Azalea, Little Mix, and Melanie C have all worked alongside drag artists in empowering ways to bring their art to life. Here, both drag stars and artists tell Billboard how to keep these collaborations fair and beneficial for everyone.
1. Work with queens year-round.
While Pride month is a great time to bring visibility to the LGBTQ community, it’s also extremely busy for drag artists. “Drag queens are wanting to move to the forefront,” says Silky Nutmeg Ganache, who performed alongside Iggy Azalea at one of the rapper’s recent tour stops. “But believe me, we are available beyond the month of June.” Instead, ask to work with queens on projects that make sense for all parties involved. “Sometimes it feels like there’s a bit of a bandwagon,” says the Spice Girls’ Melanie C, who is on a solo world tour performing with drag queens from Sink the Pink, a London-based queer nightlife collective. “Keep it real and genuine. Don’t jump on the bandwagon, because I think people will see through that.”
2. Provide necessary accommodations — including payment.
Like any artists, queens need time and space to prep hair, makeup and costumes before a shoot or performance begins. Vanessa Vanjie Mateo, who appeared with Iggy Azalea in multiple music videos and live performances, says that while queens are able to “adapt to various situations and make things work in the moment,” that doesn’t mean they should have to. “Take into consideration having proper places to get ready.”
And while exposure is great, it doesn’t replace proper compensation. “I’m not going to do something that’s not financially beneficial or not [going to] further my brand,” says Trinity the Tuck, who appeared in Taylor Swift’s “You Need to Calm Down” video and points to her experience on set as that of a positive work environment. “It was financially beneficial and all around she and her staff took really good care of us.”
3. Treat queens as partners, not props.
Trixie Mattel, who had a comedic bit part in Azalea’s “Started” video, says she won’t take a job in which she isn’t used for her full abilities. “If I get invited to do something and it’s like, ‘You will be one of 12 drag queens in a scene that’s two seconds,’ I don’t go,” she says. “I am not the potted plant being rolled out for the video.”
Part of that relationship means being open to returning the favor down the line, as drag artists could use powerful allies to help amplify their message. “If there ever comes a time where I have a cause,” says Ganache, “you best believe that I’m going to call back on you for your help.”