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"Did you hear about the Scottish drag queen? He wore pants."
—Lynn Lavner, comedian
I'm into drag racing. I know it's really dangerous, but I love driving really fast with women's clothes on.
—George Smilovici, "I'm Tuff"
Unlike transvestites, drag queens wear women's clothing only on special occasions. They are usually gay men who occasionally like to get that little bit more flamboyant by dressing up as a tornado that's just rushed through a mountain of candyfloss and glitter. They can get dolled up for a variety of reasons; perhaps they are paid entertainers and the drag is part of their act, perhaps they consider it an art form; or perhaps they just enjoy it. It differs from person to person.
Drag queens on TV are sometimes used for the old "straight man comes on to a girl in a bar... but she's not a girl!" joke. A popular variation on this will have the straight man remain completely oblivious to the fact that he's copping off with a man until the last possible moment. However, this joke usually uses Transsexuals instead, since they tend to dress up a little more plausibly than drag queens, who are usually clad in a stylized and outlandish parody of feminine clothing. It's also common for women to comment on how much they wish they had the queen's legs.
Drag queens on TV are usually sharp-tongued and witty, matching the stage personas of real-life professional stage performers. They may provide the main character with world-weary advice or help put forward (ironically) a "just be yourself" Aesop.
There are many heterosexual men who "drag up" to play characters. One such man is Barry Humphries, who appears as TV presenter Dame Edna Everage in both the United Kingdom and Australia. They are generally included in the drag queen category as well, especially if the female characters are a predominant part of their act.
The Distaff (ahem) Counterpart is drag kings--women dressed as men performing masculinity with levels of exaggeration similar to drag queens. They're not as well-known in mainstream culture despite being popular with the lesbian crowd. A few drag performers are Transsexual, but one doesn't indicate the other. Those who are tend to leave the drag world behind after transitioning, if they're too convincing as their desired gender.
- The Arrancar Charlotte Chuhlhourne of Bleach, who faces off against resident pretty boy Shinigami Yumichika Ayasegawa. He also cranks the drag factor up to eleven with eye-searing results. He fires heart-shaped Ceros/Doom Blasts.
- Especially amusing since Yumichika is considered a bit effeminate by Bleach standards, but the sight of Charlotte's fabulous appearance provokes him shrieking hysterical laughter that can be heard a mile away.
- In One Piece, Mr. 2 Bon Clay of Baroque Works is a drag queen. He wears a ballerina outfit, doesn't have a female partner, and for Pete's sake, his style of karate is Okama Way, which roughly means Gay Way! Interestingly, he eventually proves himself to be roughly the manliest Badass in the series.
- There's also the Kamabakka Kingdom (which translates almost literally as filled with Okama), where everyone has the heart of a maiden. Much to his despair Sanji lands here.
- Also, in the secret 5.5th level of Impel Down, former "Queen" of the Kamabakka Kingdom has created the New Kama Kingdom, filled with even more okama (including himself)
- This may not count, as they have "transcended gender" due to their "Queen's" powers, which can change their genders perfectly.
- Haruhi's father Ryuuji in Ouran High School Host Club works at a crossdresser bar, and is absolutely fabulous. Since his daughter also dresses up as a boy, one wonders if it's hereditary. He prefers to be called "Ranka", although he doesn't always crossdress.
- In 'Pet Shop of Horrors, all of Count D's animals can be seen in human-like forms by their owners or by special people. The peacocks look like drag queens.
- Priscilla, Queen of the Desert has Hugo Weaving (Agent Smith from The Matrix), Guy Pearce (Leonard from Memento), and Terrance Stamp (General Zod (!) from Superman II) as a trio of drag queens traveling through Australia. (However, Stamp's character is a Transsexual woman, not a gay man.)
- The comic response to the above, To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar, starring Patrick Swayze, Wesley Snipes, and John Leguizamo. Leguizamo is a comedy actor, but the other two are Playing Against Type so hard that the roles are arguably CMOAs.
- Captain Shakespeare in the film version of Stardust.
- The role of Edna Turnblad in Hairspray has always been played by a man, the original 80's version had Divine play the part, the stage version had Harvey Fierstein, and the new 2007 version has John Travolta.
- Lola and the Angel Boys in Kinky Boots.
- Albert in The Birdcage.
- And in the film it's based on, Albin in La Cage aux Folles.
- The Lady Chablis in Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, notable in that the movie is based on a real murder case and Chablis plays herself.
- The title characters' friends in Connie and Carla." They eponymous girls themselves are more like Sweet Polly Olivers...kinda.
- Hana from Tokyo Godfathers was a successful drag performer in the backstory, and is still dressed as a woman living on the streets. In the subtitles, teen Miyuki calls him "Uncle Bag"; in the original Japanese it's "okamasan," a clever portmanteau of okaasan, "auntie/older woman," and okama, "effeminate gay man."
- Feodor Basmanov in Ivan the Terrible, doubling up as a Villainous Crossdresser.
- The titular character of Crocodile Dundee almost falls for one of these, until informed that the "girl" he was chatting up was really a guy.
- Harold Perrineau (Michael "WAAAAAALT!" Dawson) was that in two roles, Romeo + Juliet and Woman on Top.
- The Curiosity Of Chance has a group of catty drag queens that arouse the interest of the main character and awaken his inner queen. Perhaps more ostentatious than them though is how everyone in the movie fawns over them like a fourth of July parade.
- In Bent, the cabaret featured a crossdresser (played by Mick Jagger!), who ends up abandoning his lifestyle to run away and lie low from the Gestapo.
- Both Nick and Jane and Trick, among others, feature sizable supporting roles for a catty drag character named Miss Coco Peru, played by Clinton Leupp.
- In The Last Continent, Rincewind's wanderings across FourEcks lead him to the Galah, an obvious parade for homosexuals. He finds that his Luggage has been adopted by a troupe of drag queens (one of whom is actually a woman) but never clues in that most of the sequins, makeup, and high heels are being worn by men. For one thing, he's a wizard, and most of his experience with women is when they're trying to convince him to do something dangerous. For another, he's from Ankh-Morpork, where a lot of women get in fistfights. And win.
- In The Boy Who Followed Ripley, Tom Ripley (best known from The Talented Mr. Ripley) decides that the best way to rescue a friend from kidnappers is to disguise himself. In drag. He showed a knack for disguises in previous stories, but he seems incredibly amused to try drag for the first time. (He's not really gay. Or is he?)
- Adrian in Bloodshot is a drag queen with the stage name Sister Rose. He also happens to be an ex-Navy Seal. The main character talks about how attractive he is in and out of drag.
- One episode of Absolutely Fabulous had a drag queen friend of a pimp tag along for a while (Liza Minnelli references included).
- Ru Paul's Drag Race, honey.
- Bramwell featured an episode about a 1890s transvestite Hackett, implied to be a performer and openly stated to be a male prostitute involved with sailors.
- The US version of the game show Dog Eat Dog featured a challenge involving drag queens and the invariably male contestant attempting to guess who wasn't in drag.
- Noah's Arc: Alex, with Noah, Ricky and Chance as drag backup singers in one episode.
- The eponymous hero of The Dragon Queen is a male who likes to dress up as a female superhero and got his start cross-dressing in a Drag Queen bar. The character seems to be tending toward identifying as completely female though.
- Yoshi of Jenny Haniver is a weekend drag queen, singing at the local drag bar.
- Sinfest supporting character Squigley dresses up as "Sarah Piglin" in a number of strips, usually for political satire.
- Darren in Girls with Slingshots
- King of the Hill: Peggy Hill falls in with a group of drag queens and bond over their shared fashion sense. Notably, neither Peggy nor the other queens figure out the others' real gender for most of the episode.
- Paul O'Grady is a British comedian who made a living through the 1980s and 1990s as Lily Savage, his sharp-tongued drag queen alter ego. O'Grady has since dropped Savage and mostly appears as himself these days.
- Verka Serduchka, the Drag personality of Ukranian singer Andriy Mykhailovych Danylko finished second in the Eurovision 2007 contest.
- He is also a very popular singer in both Russia and Ukraine and successfully performed as a stand-up comedian. Note that he is heterosexual.
- Comedian Eddie Izzard has performed in drag for almost his entire stand-up career.
- Izzard even does a bit on the differences between being a drag queen and a transvestite (a transvestite being a "male tomboy.") He even identifies himself as the latter, rather than the former.
- Izzard does not only dress in female clothes for performances. It's a personal thing. He's not a drag queen.
- A live trailer for a chat show once referred to Paul O'Grady as a "transvestite comedian." O'Grady could be heard yelling from backstage "Eddie Izzard's a tranny; I'm a drag artist!"
- Dame Edna and her (winkwink) manager Barry Humphries.
- Plus the performance of I'm Every Woman by Dame Edna and KD Lang.
- RuPaul Andre Charles is the most famous drag queen in American media. His RuPaul persona became famous in The Nineties for being very approachable...if scarily tall, standing at 6'4 before factoring in the platform heels and big hair. She has released albums and hosted talk shows, and has lately been in the spotlight for the reality show Ru Paul's Drag Race, essentially America's Next Top Model meets Project Runway meets American Idol...with gender-bending.
- Queen's video for "I Want to Break Free" had the members dressing up in drag.
- And also The Moe Bandy and Joe Stampley music video Where's The Dress (Link goes to the actual music video).
- David Bowie famously wore a dress on the cover of 1970's The Man Who Sold the World, and later combined this with Acting for Two in the video "Boys Keep Swinging" (1979) — all three of his backup singers are him in drag, and the instrumental finish of the song is used to underscore a Fashion Show that gives each one a turn on the catwalk.
- Marilyn Manson has also done this...many, many times
- The Lady Chablis is a preoperative transwoman who also appears onstage at Club One in Savannah, GA, as an elaborate drag queen, and in drag pageants. She plays a major part in both the book "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil" and appears as herself in the film, as mentioned above.
- Brian Fucking Molko.
- Brian Molko stated "I'm clearly not a drag queen" while on Jonathan Ross's show before musing over whether or not he was a transvestite.
- This would apply to most Pantomime dames.
- Bert Savoy was one of the earliest examples of the type, and a major influence on Mae West (several of whose plays included drag queens as characters).
- At the Carnival in Aalst, there are a lot of Voil Jeanetten . These are men dressed in drag, but with a lot of beer and some rather weird attributes - like umbrellas with rubber chickens and dead fish tied to them. And for those three days in the year, everyone finds it normal.
- Loose translation: Dirty Fags; though it is not an insult