What Is A Drag King? Definition + History

Drag has been a form of performance art for decades, and while most people are familiar with drag queens, drag kings have gained attention in recent years. So… what is a drag king?

A drag king is a performer dressed in typically male clothing and makeup to perform on stage. They often use masculine personas and mannerisms to portray a male character, and their performances can range from lip-syncing to live singing, dancing, and even comedy. The goal of a drag king is to entertain audiences and challenge gender norms by presenting a different side of masculinity.

Just like drag queens, drag kings have been around for centuries. In fact, the first recorded drag king performance was in 1867, when a woman named Vesta Tilley dressed up as a male and performed in music halls in England. Since then, drag king performances have evolved to include a wide range of styles and genres.

There are several types of drag kings, including traditional, neo, and hyper kings. Traditional drag kings often present as masculine butch or androgynous characters, whereas neo-kings might explore more contemporary forms of masculinity or subvert gender expectations. Hyper kings take things to the extreme by portraying exaggerated and fantastical forms of masculinity, such as superhero characters or wrestlers.

One of the key aspects of drag king performances is the use of prosthetics and padding. This can help performers to create a more convincing masculine appearance, by creating broader shoulders, flatter chests, and other masculine features. Drag kings may also use facial hair, including beards and mustaches, to further enhance their appearance.

Drag king performances can be found in a variety of venues, from bars and nightclubs to theaters and festivals. Many drag king performers are part of the LGBTQ+ community and use their performances to express themselves and challenge societal expectations. Drag kings can also be seen as part of the larger drag community, which includes drag queens, non-binary performers, and other gender-non-conforming artists.

In conclusion, drag kings are performers who dress up in traditionally masculine clothing and makeup to entertain audiences. They use a variety of personas and styles to present different forms of masculinity, and their performances can range from lip-syncing to live singing, dancing, and comedy. Drag kings have a long history and continue to be an important part of the LGBTQ+ and drag communities.

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