Legends of Drag: Queens of a Certain Age

Harry James Hanson and Devin Antheus's beautifully designed photography book, Legends of Drag, is a tribute to 79 legendary drag elders who paved the way for the new generation of drag. Though a few died after being photographed and interviewed, the majority of the subjects of this lavish book are still working today. The profiles are arranged regionally, covering 15 cities across the United States, making it easy for readers to find their hometown (s)heroes. "No two queens define the art form the same way," write the authors. "By highlighting this wide-ranging cast of queens, we intend to offer many entry points into this varied and category-defying tradition."

In addition to fascinating origin stories and anecdotes about entertaining, the queens have stories involving decades of LGBTQ+ activism. In the early 1990s, Joan Jett Blakk ran for mayor of Chicago. Chilli Pepper, another legendary Chicago queen, boasts appearances in the 1980s and '90s on talk shows hosted by Oprah Winfrey, Phil Donahue and Joan Rivers. The subjects of these profiles are both inspiring and funny. New York City's Flotilla DeBarge says, "I always start off the show looking like Halle Berry and by the end I wind up looking like Chuck Berry. Get into the delusion, darling!" Kitty Litter calls her home state of Texas "the button-fly on the bible belt."

The book ends with a "non-exhaustive chronology" of international attacks on gender normality--from a rebellion in Greece in 390 after the passing of a law that punished "male effeminacy" to the 1970 opening of a house for homeless drag queens and queer youth in New York City. --Kevin Howell, independent reviewer and marketing consultant

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