Last year, we spoke to Simon Doonan about his release of Football-meets-Fashion read, Saturday Night Fever Pitch. We’re now covering his authorial return, as he takes us on a whistle-stop tour through drag’s compelling history in his set-to-release, Drag: The Complete Story get ready; he’s brought the receipts! 

Drag strove to carve out “a destination for the destination-less” and is doing so still in violent measures (Doonan comments that it's no coincidence that drag vernacular incorporates such visceral phrases as “killing it” and “slay”). Leading us further down the rabbit-hole of drag, the book is a Mad Tea-Party featuring our favourite butch drags, comedy drags, black drags, radical drags and more. Doonan, of course, plays the role of Mad Hatter, as he introduces us to all the familiar (and not-so-familiar) faces of drag: from the cross-dressing Dionysus in Classical Greek tragedian’s Euripides, all the way into Insta-age drag artists and (our beloved) RuPaul.

Drag is ingrained into our cultural heritage with indelible ink; Doonan recalls Shakespeare’s own ‘gender trouble’ (the playwright was all too aware that his female characters were cross-dressing men) forming as much of a legacy as Dame Edna and Vicky Pollard. “Drag performs the same function as Perseus’ shield. It allows us to stare down our darkest, most irrational misogynist fears, safe in the knowledge that we are looking at a parody”. The book functions similarly – as much as it is artistic, it directly interrogates with the myths of gender binaries. 

It’s easy to recall Judith Butler’s gender theory on the matter (“there is no original or primary gender that drag imitates, but gender is a kind of imitation for which there is no original”). Doonan (he's much more fun and subversive) takes this and runs with it into the 21st Century, where drag has now been absorbed into the mainstream – in oh so candid, delicious prose.

Doonan puts it best when he says “there are no rules” in drag. But it's far from nihilist; drag is theatrics, exaggeration, but most importantly, authenticity with a dash of glitz and glamour the book celebrates it all via witty narration and dazzling photography. More pastiche than "parody"; this stuff matters.

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Proceeds of the book will benefit the Ali Forney Center, which houses and protects homeless LGBTQ youth on the streets of New York. Click here to pre-order:

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by Marc Bohan