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RuPaul’s Dragtastic universe is a very lucrative business

2019-09-08

Nina West attends RuPaul's DragCon 2019 at The Jacob K. Javits Convention Center on September 7, 2019 in New York. (Santiago Felipe/Getty Images)

Condragulations to Mama Ru!

The third edition of RuPaul’s DragCon NYC landed at the Javits Center in New York City this weekend for a three-day “extravaganza eleganza” of all-things drag.

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With the lavish event, the media-savvy creator of the “Drag Race” phenomenon meant business: Non-judgemental, gender-illusioned, feeling-the-fantasy, money-in-the-bank type of business.

Billed as “the world’s largest convention celebrating drag culture,” RuPaul’s DragCon is an annual expo that debuted in Los Angeles in 2015, as the drag phenomenon generated by the Emmy-winning reality series “RuPaul’s Drag Race” started to take over the mainstream.

After two highly successful events in New York, the eternal Supermodel of the World decided to add a third day for its line-up.

From Friday to Sunday, drag fans could catch performances by their favorite “Drag Race” contestants, dance to a rare appearance by RuPaul as DJ, watch one-on-one conversations between Ru and famous “Drag Race” fans such as Diane von Furstenberg and Whoopi Goldberg and, of course, buy, buy, buy.

With more than 220 vendors, who according to organizers sold over $8 million in merchandise last year, the conference is a not-to-be-missed opportunity for businesses that cater to the drag aficionado.

Merchandise ranged from hot pepper sauce, to biodegradable glitter, vocational training sessions, to drag queen accessories to kids.

Stephen Rotundo, a Jersey-based “bear” — or a stocky hairy gay man — sells a rainbow assortment of “lace-front wigs built from scratch.” An approachable man with sweet friendly voice, Rotundo is the owner of Bearded Beauty Wigs.

He told the Daily News that, even though he thinks that this year’s convention seems slower than last year’s, he is happy with the results. “Saturday was crazy,” he told The News while brushing a long pink wig.

RuPaul and Diane von Furstenberg seen onstage during RuTalks at RuPaul's DragCon at The Jacob K. Javits Convention Center on September 7, 2019 in New York.
RuPaul and Diane von Furstenberg seen onstage during RuTalks at RuPaul's DragCon at The Jacob K. Javits Convention Center on September 7, 2019 in New York. (Gary Gershoff/Getty Images)

After 11 seasons of “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” people now have to stand in line for up to one hour — and buy a minimum of $35 worth of merchandise — to have a chance to interact with some of their favorite contestants in a meet-and-greet.

Thirty-three year-old Chris P. came from Richmond, Va., for the day, just to attend the convention. After standing on line for 15 minutes to take a picture with Miz Cracker, a contestant who placed fifth on the show’s 10th season, he told The News that he didn’t mind waiting.

“I think she’s having lunch now,” he excused Cracker.

He was lucky.

The wait for people who wanted to chat with Season 11's Miss Congeniality Nina West was over one-hour long. Besides being one of the longest lines on the floor of the convention center, West “likes to spend 2-3 minutes speaking to her fans,” a staff member said.

No wonder “Drag Race” fan U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) sent her a now-famous tweet after her elimination.

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General view of the atmosphere during RuPaul's DragCon 2019 at The Jacob K. Javits Convention Center on September 7, 2019 in New York City.
General view of the atmosphere during RuPaul's DragCon 2019 at The Jacob K. Javits Convention Center on September 7, 2019 in New York City. (Santiago Felipe/Getty Images)

Ticket prices ranged from $40 for a single day pass, to $300 for VIP, which included shorter lines for meet-and-greets, access to a VIP lounge, and early access to the show floor.

Once fans of all ages passed by the airport-like metal-detection arches at the door and ventured into RuPaul’s world of gender illusion — walking through rows named “Glamazon Blvd,” “Sickening Street,” “Death Drop Alley” or “Werq The World Way” — they were able to take part in a universe that less than a decade ago was only known to a very small fraction of a minority community.

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