You have probably heard about drag queens and shows focusing on this community. But have you ever wondered about drag culture influence in cabaret? How did it all start? Here, we will go through a brief history of this movement, and what made it so important for everyone.
How Drag May Have Started In Cabarets
Cabaret is a form of theatrical entertainment, but it usually has a more adult focus and audience. It also differs from country to country, and it is often a part of the underground movement. So how does drag fit in all of this? In the sixteenth century, women weren’t allowed to be on stage. There were no actresses at all, and men had to perform both male and female roles.
Similarly, in the Victorian era, English actresses often played men. Some would say that these are early examples of drag even before it became a thing. Soon after cabaret appeared in the United States at the beginning of the nineteenth century, the new version of cabaret was a combination of striptease, drag, burlesque, and music.
Drag and cabarets continued to evolve, and jazz played an important role in their development. Cabarets in New York City turned their focus towards incredible vocalists like Nina Simone and Peggy Lee, while others offered instrumental music.
Obviously, there wasn’t much support for the LGBT community in bars and clubs, and gay bars were just a dream at the moment. So the only form of escapism was cabaret. Over the years, drag has been associated with cabaret, comedy shows, and various nightclubs due to the fact that they offer far less censorship.
Bright, Flashy Lights and Entertainment
Cabaret and drag culture have many things in common. The primary idea behind both is entertainment. Costumes and makeup are an important thing for both cabaret and drag performers, and both enjoy flashy, luxurious aesthetics. Drag artists love fancy dresses, and it all adds up to their performances.
Thanks to television and rock music, cabaret started to die slowly, and fewer people were interested in this type of entertainment. Over the years, people turned to reality shows, concerts, and comedy theatre, and cabaret almost became a thing of the past.
However, drag shows are still exciting for many people out there, and through drag, cabaret continues to live as well — at least a part of it. Drag is an excellent way for performers to express themselves, try out something new, and be freer than they usually could.
There used to be several magnificent clubs focusing on drag in the US. For example, the Jewel Box Revue operated for over thirty years until it closed in 1975. They made such an impact on the community, and the club was way ahead of its time.
Recently, there have been some drag brunches throughout the country, where drag kings and queens perform while the audience can enjoy different foods and drinks.
Overall, drag has been penetrating the mainstream for a while now, and you can see drag queens everywhere.
Drag Performances May Have Started Here
One of the most important impacts of cabaret was the fact it made drag possible. During the prohibition era, there weren’t many LGBT clubs or bars where people could show who they were and what they enjoyed. Today, the whole world is a lot more open than it used to be, and even though it is still not ideal, society has made some huge steps in the right direction.
If we take a look at the beginning of the twentieth century, cabaret was the only place for people to express themselves. It was a unique opportunity to be freer than ever without exposing oneself.
A hundred years ago, society had no understanding, very little compassion, and they didn’t care about anything that is out of the ordinary. As a result, members of the LGBT community had to keep their desires a secret and act as vanilla as possible.
There were no LGBT-friendly bars, clubs, or pubs, and your options were to either pretend or get lynched. The best place where queer people could express themselves at the time was a cabaret. It’s understandable why drag shows are popular to this day, even though cabaret is mostly a thing of the past.
Coming Out of the Cabaret Closet
Getting out of any type of closet can be challenging unless it is a literal closet (then you can just hop out). Accepting who you are as a person is an important step in life that everyone should take. People need to realize that our likings, interests, sexuality, and any other preferences don’t define us. We are neither good nor bad people because of our sexuality and gender identity. We are just people.
Drag shows evolved out of necessity, but today, they are here for entertainment. Drag has become mainstream, at least more than it used to be. This shift helped drag survive what cabaret couldn’t. It offers something that people needed, a way to live an extravagant fantasy. That’s why drag is everywhere today.
It’s amazing that one of the most popular shows nowadays is called RuPaul’s Drag Race, and it has several spin-offs. Many people enjoy watching this show, not just the LGBT community. For most of them, it’s about entertainment, but for others, it means so much more. RuPaul’s reality show is just the tip of the iceberg.
Mainstream movies like The Fifth Element had drag characters before everyone was into drag. The character played by Chris Tucker — Ruby Rhod — is a flamboyant queen wearing a leotard, who shows that people can be loved no matter who they are or how they dress. And we all know everyone loves Ruby Rhod. For some, this character was just a funny, over-the-top radio host, but for others, she was a sign of better times arriving sooner than they thought.