STEPHANI RUHLE (HOST): What do you want our audience to know? What do you want us to understand about drag?
JULIE J (DRAG PERFORMER): Oh, my gosh. I think first and foremost, drag, from its very inception, I say this all the time, we are leading with love. Everything that we do and put out into the world comes from a place of love, truly just championing yourself, really showing who you are as an individual and being proud of the individual that you are. It always makes me laugh a little bit when there is so much in the news about drag as this malicious entity that is looking to dominate culture in some way or another. That is not what we're looking for. I think even greater than the LGBTQIA+ community, no one's looking for domination, that is not what we're about at all.
RUHLE: So what is drag? Someone says drag queens, what is a drag queen?
ROSÉ (DRAG PERFORMER): Drag is a costume. I am an actor, I made that connection really clearly recently. It is a costume. You're in drag right now. Everybody’s in drag. You’re wearing this to your job, you wouldn’t wear that at home, you wouldn’t wake up and have that on.
RUHLE: And I assure you, my face, my makeup… not even close.
ROSÉ: We're all in drag. We assume a physical presence to match what our society has told us we are or what we’ve dive into, there's an expectation. Drag, at its best, is dismantling that expectation because somebody like me is not supposed to look like this, but, baby, why not?
MARIYEA: (DRAG PERFORMER) I think the most important thing about understanding these intersections, right, is that for a lot of us, we did not get the chance or opportunity to define any of these things for ourselves. They are just who I am. It's just how I came into this world. I have no choice in the matter because it is just me. I think when you are a person who has the privilege of growing up in a world that is built for you, it makes it really difficult to accept the fact that this world is not built for some people. I think that being the first thing that people need to understand is something that is really hard. If I too was born a straight, cisgender person, I could see myself having some blind spots to the fact that there are people in this world that don’t have that experience. I think the first is understanding that there are many of us in the world who did not have the privilege of it being built for us. We are taking space to create a world that we could see ourselves inside of. That is not a malicious thing, that is just me asking you to respect my survival, because I have no choice but to respect yours and your existence. Because we are not going anywhere. We are here.
RUHLE: Are things worse for you today than what they were three or four years ago?
MARIYEA: No, history is cyclical, and that's something that we need to understand first and foremost. These are not unprecedented times. Our queer elders and founders have been struggling with the same things that we have been struggling with today.
RUHLE: But drag shows in some states are being canceled or banned, and one thing that you hear about on the news or from certain news organizations are these drag story times. Help me understand this, from somebody that does not believe that there is anything nefarious, why are there drag story times in libraries for young children? What's the reason for it?
ROSÉ: To encourage kids to read, to enjoy reading. To get their little noses in books and get them reading. That is literally what it does.
JULIE J: If this beautiful person can read a book, oh my God, so can I.
MARIYEA: Especially if they look like a character out of the book.
NIKKI O (DRAG PERFORMER): If only we could read….
RUHLE: To the person out there, and I am not saying it is right or wrong, but is saying, I am exhausted by this, I can't keep up, I can't keep up with the LGBTQIA, what do you say to that person? Why is it important for people to get this right?
JULIE J: Absolutely, I'll preface this by saying the rest of the world keeps up with a lot of things. There are a lot of things to other people keep up with, football, basketball, there are people that I talked to that can name every person on a team, every score and move that somebody made, but when we talk about a group of people who have been a part of the fabric of our country from its inception, truly, from the beginning of human history, really.
RUHLE: Do you think there’s, I am hesitant to say a silver lining to this anti-drag movement, but we are talking about it. Here are the five of us sitting here tonight, and you are getting your message out to the world, so is there any silver lining that in the end, this will elevate you?
NIKKI O: I think the silver lining is that it has galvanized us as a community, not only drag performers and fans of drag performers, but just this whole queer family, worldwide and domestically alike. We are just saying no, you can't tell us that this is nefarious, to use your word. It's not, okay? We are not coming for your children, okay? We're not pedophiles, we're not monsters, we're not criminals. We're expressing ourselves with this art form that has helped us find who we are outside of performing, and has brought in all of these myriad talents that all of us possess to do this particular form of art. It has made us come together as a community, which is why we're also happy that the four of us were here today. We can't wait to rep for our community because it's not these things that they say it is.
RUHLE: My ladies, my pioneers, thank you so, so much for having the conversation and being here and all that you do. Thank you.