Over 300 drag performers, 23 hours of shows and lots of impossible outfits: Bushwig NYC is back!
No tea, no shade, gurl, but over the weekend, New York City officially turned into the world’s capital of drag queen realness, hunty. Okuurrr?
While masses of drag queens, their drag mothers and their drag worshipers descended on Manhattan’s west side early Friday for the start of the third mega successful — and highly mainstream — edition of RuPaul’s DragCon NYC at the Javits Center, in one of the boroughs, a group of drag performers put up a different type of convention.
Bushwig, a marathon of sensorial extravaganza eleganza, celebrated the art of drag in its truest essence: as a gender-challenging, subversive and over-the-top celebration of queer fun.
The sickening eighth edition of the event — 23 hours of drag, music, art and, well, wigs — took over the Knockdown Center, a century-old 50,000 square-foot art and performance space in Maspeth, Queens, which once housed a Gleason-Tiebout glass factory and a Manhattan Door factory.
This year’s “celebration of queer creative New York” was expected to bring in a record-breaking number of attendants and performers. Though final numbers have not been released yet, the 2019 festival is expected to beat last year’s record attendance, when 4,000 queens, queers and their friends came out to border between Queens and Brooklyn.
Not even an exhausting 20-minute walk from the Jefferson St. station on the L line was enough to curb the fun for drag enthusiasts.
Organizers provided a discount code for a Lyft ride, as well as free shuttle services to and from the subway station, but the demand was high.
“It’s a real festival of love,” Untitled Queen, a beloved Brooklyn drag performer told the Daily News. “I’ve been here from the start,” she said. “Every year it gets bigger and better.”
Carrie K. King, one of many examples of real-girls-doing-real-drag, attended for the first time this year. The California-based artist didn’t let a broken foot get in the way. Dragging her foot on a knee-walker scooter, King traveled to New York from San Francisco just for Bushwig (“I did DragCon for the last three years... I’m so excited to be here today!”)
She goes back to California Monday morning.
The beauty of Bushwig lies in its underground feel, its sense of community and a heart-warming democratic spirit.
Drag has even gotten the seal of approval of such mainstream cultural markers as Lady Gaga, “Saturday Night Live” and the Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi.
And yet, even though Bushwig grew exponentially as part of the macro-societal trend, its mission has remained the same — it celebrates the essence of the subversiveness of the Brooklyn drag aesthetic: freaky, fabulous, flipping fierce.
Untitled Queen — a Boricua-Filipino visual artist, drag queen, activist, and graphic designer, who sometimes goes by Matthew de Leon — is sitting pretty atop the Brooklyn drag hierarchy after she won the Brooklyn Nightlife Award for Drag Queen of the Year in 2015. She shared the stage with upcoming fresh new talent, such as Harajuku, a first-generation Salvadorian born in Jamaica, Queens, who’s the reigning Miss Bushwig 2018, and Charlene Incarnate, a transfeminine “post-Drag Priestess” who won the title the previous year.
Other high-caliber performers over the weekend included drag performer Christeene, queer rapper and recent Madonna collaborator Mikky Blanco, visual artist Raul de Nieves, the legendary New York queen Lady Bunny, and St. Louis-based pop artist Slayyyter, who closed Saturday’s day-long activities.
“This is like a performance event,” said Untitled, whose favorite aspect of the festival is that she can meet her “family and people who I’ve never seen. It’s a real festival of love.”
Founded in 2012 by two Brooklyn queens, Horrorchata and Babes Trust, after a drunken evening at the now-defunct Secret Project Robot, Bushwig’s mission has always been to showcase local talent.
“I like to think of Bushwig as gender anarchic. We defy society’s ideas and constructs around gender, and we challenge the heteronormative world, both intentionally and not,” Horrorchata told Forbes.
“Bushwig is an accepting, safe-as-possible space to be completely yourself. Unashamedly. It’s the antithesis to very toxic, masc gay culture…like no fats, no femmes, that hyper-masculine, straight-acting culture,” co-founder Babes Trust explained to Bedford + Bowery.
Different from its glam-and-glitz counterpart at the Javits Center — which claimed that drag fans spent $8 million during last year’s convention — Bushwig had a much smaller area dedicated to sales. Most of them are Brooklyn-based artists and artisans who are used to selling their merchandise on Etsy or at block parties at MoMA PS1.
One of the vendors, the photographer and visual artist Steve Harwick, told The News that Bushwig is the place to be because the sense of community. The founder of Bound Leather Zine, Harwick was selling merchandise, which included buttons, posters and zines. At Bushwig, the items were a hit.
Still true to its roots, Bushwig keeps expanding. Editions in Los Angeles and Berlin are helping to spread the Brooklyn vibe and the underground love throughout the world.
The trend can only grow, according to Misty Meaner, one of the show’s hostesses, who looked dazzling in a bright-pink belted mini-dress that Ursula from the “The Little Mermaid” could totally wear for a burlesque performance.
A style that resembles a “knockoff of Christina Aguilera and Cavalli,” Meaner told The News.
After going to RuPaul’s DragCon for a couple of hours, she said that both events can, in fact, co-exist. As long as people know what they are getting.
“DragCon was cute, but it’s not made for people who do drag,” she said. “It’s made for people who like drag.”