A History of the New York Drag Scene That Launched RuPaul

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Long before runways, a hit reality-TV show, and international stardom, RuPaul circulated in New York City’s burgeoning drag scene. In the late 1980s and early ’90s, drag queens flocked to the bars and clubs of the Lower East Side, eventually expanding visibility into their community with the launch of Wigstock, an annual festival dedicated to all things drag.

As the drag scene flourished, so too did interest in the community. Linda Simpson was one prominent member of that community. A performer, nightlife personality, and self-described “drag documentarian,” Simpson documented the city’s drag scene and all those who frequented it. The resulting photo project, the Drag Explosion, captures not only the community that launched RuPaul, but also a pivotal moment in herstory.

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A History of the New York Drag Scene That Launched RuPaul