The cover of New York Magazine’s June Television Issue is a look at America’s new national pastime — drag — and the creation of a new kind of American pop star: the drag queen. There are 37 different covers, each featuring an alumnus of RuPaul’s Drag Race, which over 11 seasons has launched careers and made celebrities out of more than 100 queens. Features writer Matthew Schneier opens the package with an essay on how drag is the spectator sport that’s conquered not just gay culture but mass culture. “America loved drag queens,” writes Schneier. “And now the whole world does.” Vulture senior writer E. Alex Jung follows Schneier with a critique of post-queer drag, and what is lost when a subculture goes pop: “We’re living in a post-tragic, post-camp, profilter era of drag that sits in the uncanny valley.” Also included in the package: a definitive ranking of the cultural power of America’s top 100 drag superstars; the cost of a full drag look; and more.
“Over recent seasons of Drag Race, it became obvious to viewers that show itself is now just one small part of a new celebrity economy,” says New York editor-in-chief David Haskell. “Yes, the show regularly launches careers — but drag queens now have agents and managers; they have world tours and spinoffs and podcasts and conventions and tons of merch. Drag queens have become pop stars, and pop is a big business.” The covers are a nod to a previous half-tongue-in-cheek power ranking from New York archives: the 1979 cover story on “The Most Powerful Rabbis in New York.”
New York’s director of photography Jody Quon says the magazine felt it would be an event to give each of the subjects their own cover. “We wanted everybody to have a shot at being the cover,” she says, and acclaimed photographer Martin Schoeller shot all 37. “The magazine was already at work on this study of the Drag Race contestants,” says Quon. “Martin Schoeller was very interested in this subculture, and interested in creating a portfolio of queens who attend the annual DragCon in Los Angeles.” The covers feature performance portraits, whereas the inside images are close-up shots with head-on eye contact. Combined, the portfolio delivers two distinct points of view: one that’s a play on the classic power portrait, and another that captures the subjects as pop superstars.
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