Love Somebody Else
It’s time for me to share an important confession. Throughout the pandemic, I have tried a range of ways to stay occupied. I’ve shared my love of The Great British Baking Show and I’ve shared how jogging and walking have also helped. Of late, I’ve stumbled into something entirely new. Around the time of the Emmy awards I saw something special. I saw a recipient who collected the most Emmys of any person of color in history. The project connected to this collection was one I had heard of, but since it was “reality television,” I passed on it…somewhat judgmentally.
RuPaul’s Drag Race was never meant to fill the hours and hours (and hours) it has filled in the past few months. I swear. I am by no means new to drag culture. Some of my favorite bars in New York City featured performers who sang live in drag. And during law school, I spent a lot of time at the drag bars in Buffalo and Rochester, New York. In some ways, I had such love for the culture, I feared that a reality show about it would be trite. Much to my delight, I discovered it was!
The way contestants pick and pick on each other is trite and trying—it really is. And yes, it’s glorious! Mother Ru watches over all of this, rising—floating is more like it—above it all. Part mentor, part task master, part show person, part parent, RuPaul guides the contestants through as many tasks and games as emotional challenges. The skills RuPaul uses in delighting the audience are only rivaled by the skills used to comfort and care for contestants facing some of life’s hardest challenges on and off the runway—and there are many.
What RuPaul did was take a subculture on the fringe of the dominant culture and move it stacked-heeled step by stacked-heeled step into a shining example of excellence for all to see. I wonder what other small, slightly off-beat, often misunderstood subculture could learn a thing or two from this success? At the end of every show RuPaul intones, “If you don’t love yourself, how the hell you gonna love somebody else?” The benediction closes every hour-long service, with the congregation often yelling it along with RuPaul. It’s an echo of that saying about loving others as ourselves but with a different emphasis that’s hard to miss.
Season after season, contestants with new-found fame go out to new places or return home with messages of confidence, understanding, and pride (and shade, too). A world some fear for lack of understanding dominates national award shows. The revolution has begun, and it is televised. And yes it’s a revolution of culture. Yes it’s a revolution of media. It’s even a revolution of fashion (trust me). But at its core, like so many revolutions we hope will come to pass, that we pray and hope weekly may come to be, it is a revolution of love. And without that revolution, “How the hell you gonna love somebody else?”
May it every be so,
Rev. T. J.