The Outcasts of Drag Have a New Kind of Queen
As this once fringe cultural scene goes mainstream, women and gender-nonconforming artists like Ata Racks are challenging notions of who can take the stage.
Edited by Brendan Spiegel
Drenched in fake blood, wearing nothing but a ragged tutu and a bra, the drag performer known as Ata Racks gingerly steps in front of the small crowd gathered to watch them perform. This visual onslaught is in jarring contrast to their calm, almost shy body language. Ata Racks stands motionless, gaze directed at the ground, waiting for the music to start.
As soon as the first chords of the song come on, Ata Racks’ body explodes into performance. This is a lip sync number, but the performance is overtly physical. Ata Racks, who uses they/them pronouns, throws their body around like a tormented ragdoll, but still hits carefully choreographed marks, working the crowd and collecting dollar bills from cheering audience members.
This is a different kind of drag scene, and this is a different kind of drag queen. Instead of the typical setting — a gay bar with shirtless bartenders and $20-minimum bar tabs — the young crowd (some not old enough to drink) is crammed in th…