Want to be a RuPaul’s Drag Race star? Well, it’s not all glitter, glamour and tucking. There’s a dark side, particularly if you happen to read the comments put out by keyboard warriors with a self-appointed ax to grind. For these people, you will never be pretty, talented, or delightful enough, though they never tell you just what their qualifications are to deliver such harsh judgments about those more famous than they are.
The dynamic Brita Filter (Season 12) recently posted a vicious comment she got from someone while assuring us that she’s not going to let it ruffle her feathers, as it might have in the past.
Accompanying a video clip on Instagram, Brita wrote: “As most of you know, I have been very open about my mental health during the pandemic and after RuPaul’s Drag Race. I created this performance about my struggle with severe depression, which led to heavy drug and alcohol abuse, then attempted suicide. I needed to create this piece to take my power back….I am officially letting go of the old and welcoming in the new. Here’s to brighter days.”
The video of the performance (which Brita did as part of the Lady Liberty contest at the NYC queer club the Q) starts with an array of nasty comments flashing before us, to show just what kind of vitriol she’s been up against. Backed by two writhing male dancers, Brita then lip-syncs “Brighter Days” by Cajmere (feat. Dajae), then dramatically transforms into her male persona, Jesse Havea, and indulges in some heavy soul searching, complete with the equivalent of an onstage breakdown. By the end, hope and self-appreciation have taken over and you sense that Brita will rise above the naysayers and be OK. Brita will be brighter!
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And that’s not the end of it. Over on Facebook, the normally winsome Pandora Boxx (Season 2, plus the first and sixth seasons of All Stars) cryptically posted, “I’m really over people saying sh*tty things to me and about me.” I promptly commented with the supportive, “We love you, you rotten, dried up monster,” lol. Drag Race winner Bianca Del Rio cracked, “I’m working on keeping my mouth shut.” And late bombshell Anna Nicole Smith’s interior designer, Bobby Trendy, commented, “Well, I actually welcome negative and derogatory things said to me and about me because it draws more attention.” Someone then replied to Bobby: “I wasn’t aware this was about you.”
But there were also a ton of straightforward remarks supporting Pandora. And my advice to every Drag Race contestant is to simply not buy into the comments. I’ve been there, fishing through strangers’ utterances in hopes of finding some ego-stroking words, only to come across a random snapback that really hurts. But unless it’s constructive advice, don’t let the criticisms control you. And remember: If they could, the disser would actually love to switch places with you in a heartbeat!
The music that makes me cringe
Speaking of withering comments, Beanie Feldstein got mixed reviews as 1920s lovelorn chanteuse/comic Fanny Brice in Broadway’s first Funny Girl revival, though some were on the downright sadistic side. (“Feldstein is, I’m sorry to say, not giving a Broadway-caliber performance”—New York Post).
But instead of ignoring bad reviews, another way to deal with them is to just quote selectively from them, the way evangelicals cherry pick from the bible to get what they need. Time Out’s critic wrote that when Beanie appears onstage and says her affirmation — “Hello, gorgeous!” — “the crowd goes wild. But then she starts to sing.” Ouch. Well, the Funny Girl ads did a little pruning and have simply been blaring, “The crowd goes wild—Time Out”. Shameless! “If a review isn’t pretty”…simply butcher it to your liking!
Many other critics agreed that Beanie’s vocals are undernourished, which is weird since someone close to the production told me the reason they didn’t bring over the London star, Sheridan Smith, is “She couldn’t sing the score.” (Sheridan also isn’t really a name in the States). So why bring in Beanie? Oh, well.
Someone who can sing the score is the original Fanny, Barbra Streisand, whose 80th birthday happened to be on Beanie’s opening night. Interestingly, it was Barbra who walked away with the reviews. While going so-so on Beanie, the critics all chose to take note of how legendary Babs’ Fanny was — and forever will be, thanks to the movie version.
In any case, Beanie has been terrific in movies like Ladybird and Booksmart and she’s obviously as driven as a Ziegfeld star, so she will survive this meh mess. Don’t rain on her blah blah blah!
[On a sillier note, between Beanie, Shoshana Bean from Mr. Saturday Night and Gabby Beans from The Skin of Our Teeth, Broadway has turned into a three Bean salad! I’m here till Thursday. Check out the ribs platter.]
Oh, you pretty thing!
One of my all-time “Heroes”, late rocker David Bowie, will live again in Moonage Daydream, which is the first movie to be sanctioned by the bi icon’s estate and which will feature 48 musical tracks, previously unseen footage and narration by Bowie himself.
Filmmaker Brett Morgen (Cobain: Montage of Heck) is directing the movie, which explores “Bowie’s creative, musical and spiritual journey” and will stream and come to cable next spring. Bowie was so subversively sexy and glam that he helped catapult me and many others out of the closet in the 1970s. (Yes, I blame him.) This filmic experience sounds positively “Hunky Dory,” as well as providing undeniable proof that “Boys Keep Swinging.” Anyone who responds with a harsh comment deserves to find “Life on Mars.”
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Speaking of influential multi-media artists: I hear there will be a second part of The Andy Warhol Diaries, the popular glimpse at the legendary visionary, coming to Netflix in the foreseeable future. Oh, and drag star/historian Linda Simpson is getting a show at New York City’s Howl Gallery and longtime club presence/artist Kenny Kenny will show his dazzling photos at Calligaris. And here’s one more item: Harry Styles says he’s open about his sexuality to his friends and it’s outdated for anyone else to speculate on it, but isn’t it the celebrity closet that’s outdated? Thank you, good night, and say whatever you want about me in the comments because I won’t be reading them!
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Editor’s note: This article mentions mental health. The Trevor Project provides a safe, judgment-free place to talk for LGBTQ youth at 1-866-488-7386. You can also call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.
Michael Musto is a longtime writer for the Village Voice and a well-known commentator on all things pop culture. He’s written four books, been named to the Out 100, and won eight Glam awards for Best Writer. His “Read Now, Cry Later” column appears right here every month.