It's time to talk about everyone's favorite subject in drag, SHADE! We all throw it, but when does the lines blur from the fun of shade to downright bullying? Sit back and get ready for the Shade of Drag!

The shade of it all. You’ve all seen it on RuPaul’s Drag Race and on Untucked, and guess what? It’s happening every day in real life. I’m talking about drag bullying, the point where the shade just isn't cute or fun.

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Why is it that today’s drag has to be so vindictive? Sure it sells good TV, and everyone loves a catty queen, but there is a fine line between throwing shade and being a bully. I have sadly pushed the line way past shade myself.

What happen to the camaraderie, when, at the end of the day, queens united and loved one another? We need to take a step back to a time when there was an attitude of love and tolerance. Let's return to the ‘Drag Golden Years’ when our community loved and supported one another.

I am very thankful to all the legendary queens who paved the road, with many sacrifices, allowing us to freely express ourselves today and prance around in our mini-dresses. When greats like Nashville legend Tina Louise began, people were being jailed for dressing outside their gender. Living with day-to-day struggles like that, you can definitely understand why the bond between the queens was so much stronger. They found power through their community, which made them stronger individuals and performers as well.

Today, though, is a completely different story. Some queens feel that, every time they dress up in drag, it’s a competition. While the drag community is filled with competitions, not every night on stage is a contest. To me, drag is an art form entirely about entertainment! As long as my audience is entertained, I feel like I’ve done my job.

Living in a world that already stacks so many obstacles against our community, why add more to the stress and bully one another? When I spoke to some of the performers I work with in Nashville, there were plenty of shocking stories. One girl was attacked backstage by three regular performers while guest spotting at “their bar” and another discovered a queen had urinated in her bag backstage during a competition.

Years ago, I asked one local performer why she was often rude to other girls. She laughed at my question and said, “You have no business asking any questions about drag much less writing a column about it. You clearly don’t know, aren’t you new to this?” I remember my reaction like it was yesterday, I admit I giggled a little at that. At least this queen didn’t save any chatter for behind my back, so I had to give her some props for that!

At my first big hosting gig, one queen who no longer worked there said, when asked about the show, “I don’t work there anymore, that rotted queen is hosting now…” Later in my drag career, after winning a local fan-voted contest, another performer announced my performance to the audience as, “Supposedly this is the best.”

Another time I saw one queen brought back out and ridiculed for not wearing panties. Mind you, she was fully padded, so nothing X-rated was to be seen. This was just the hosts' ploy to embarrass her in front of the entire bar.

There was one queen who really touched my heart who has since passed away. She was fun, creative and made more tips than any of us, just by being herself and expressing herself anyway she could. The more seasoned queens of course paraded her around like she was a big joke. But she never cared, because she knew when on stage she was going to let her light shine brighter than anyone else.

Here are some quotes I received from other queens when I asked, “What are some examples of shade thrown at you?”

“I have never seen anything like it in my entire career!”
“You look like a dumpster mummy!”
“What type of drag do you call this?”
“Did you design this outfit or did your sewing machine just blow up?”
“Who taught you how to paint, Bozo the clown?”
“I can't do that song with you because I don't have a wig for that”
“You should really ask someone to help you with that face”
“She's doing what she calls performing”

I am from a small town, so bullying was an everyday thing in my life. In a sense, I’m thankful for that, because it did give me a thicker skin. I was mostly a victim, but sadly sometimes played the perpetrator. Bullying is like an illness that can easily be spread.

Bullying is a real life issue that everyone faces, not just the drag community. Let’s quit causing more damage to our brothers and sisters and encourage them for being brave enough to be unique or different. People are very precious and extremely fragile. Sometimes they can be broken very easily without even showing the smallest crack.

With all the hard work that goes into being a drag queen, the last thing a queen needs is to be tormented because someone thinks she doesn’t fit the mold. I wish all cities celebrated more types of drag and had a variety of venues and events for girls to showcase their talents. Drag is so fluid! It has no specific way it should be done. That is what makes it so amazing!

If you ask me, this drag on drag crime has got to stop! It’s time to bring back the nice days! Retract those claws, ladies, Welcome your sisters with open arms. Lovingly give advice, not advice with shady undertones. Realize what you think works may work for you, but might not be best for someone else. And guess what? Take some advice sometimes too: you will be surprised at what works for you.

Until next time, love one another and try not to be so freaking judgmental because “we're all born naked and the rest is drag!”

This article has been republished from Out & About Nashville, and was part of a series of first-person pieces written by the late Bobbi Williams.

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