How To: RuPaul’s Drag Con ’17

I’ve known the incredibly popular Latrice Royale, breakout star of RuPaul’s Drag Race, for almost 20 years now. I lived in Ft. Lauderdale late-90s and she was just getting started in her career, tearing up stages and making waves. We met through a close connection, clicked right away and stayed in contact in various capacities throughout the years. When I competed for Mr. Gay USofA my first year I had Latrice drop a few fierce soundbites into my dance mix. They have magically found their way into other mixes since. I knew she would be coming to Drag Con so I reached out via text about working her booth selling her wares and wears. I got a response immediately saying YES! in so many words. Done and done. I always wanted to check out the event but without the fangirl anxiety that may appear. Here’s the timeline to my very first adventure to RuPaul’s annual Drag Con.

FRIDAY 04/28/17

2 p.m. – Leave work early. Depart Palm Springs, bound for DTLA to work RuPaul’s Drag Con for my dear sister & Drag Race star Latrice Royale at her merchandise meet/greet booth inside LA Convention Center. Backstreet Boys’ greatest hits play loudly on the speakers inside my beautiful Escape. Life is good. I begin to belt out lyrics of their power ballads as the drive settles in.

4:10 p.m. – Arrived in Los Angeles. Parked car at Pershing Square around block from hotel Hilton Checkers on Grand to save a few coins. Rolled bag into lobby, checked in and quickly up to my room. Unpacked. Showered. Connected.

6:30 p.m. – Grabbed a Lyft over to Camp Latrice before heading out for the night. Big hug with bestie Bob Taylor who was in town to do social media for the team. Hung in condo while everyone got cute, caught up & ki-ki’d. Meet the fabulous rapper Epiphany Mattel who was along for the ride. Enjoyed the skyline from the balcony. Caught up with Bob. Excited for the weekend ahead.

8:15 p.m. – Waltzed in the backdoor to Belasco Theater for “All Stars Live” featuring Latrice, Sharon Needles, Jujubee, Tatianna, Raven, Bob the Drag Queen, Detox, and Violet Chachki among others. Danced in place, turned up a bit. Pure enjoyment! Watch crowd form around stage. Lady Bunny spins the turntable until showtime.

9:20 p.m. – Show begins. Bob the Drag Queen emcees. Cher appears. Oh wait, that’s Chad Michaels. Detox rides a man’s shoulders through the crowd collecting cash. Latrice tears roof off building and crowd goes ballistic. Violet swings from rafters on a cirque-style ring on a cable. Theater becomes tighter than a sardine can. I meet a fan who has over 12 queen’s faces tattooed on his body. A taste of the weekend ahead. Lots of selfies are taken. Many people on their phones filming. Crowd roars loudly for each All Star.

11:30 p.m. – Depart back to beds and midnight snacks. Two slices of pizza found their way from Latrice’s fridge into my stomach. Lots of laughs ensue. Bob mentions he felt “lost” after some cute boy gave him the feelings when in turn replied to “go find Google Earth.” Latrice screams out loud! High-fives commence.

12:15 a.m. – Lyft driver drops me off at Hilton. Brush teeth. Valium-induced sleep ahead. Watch Weather Channel until… Zzzzz.

SATURDAY 04/29/17

7 a.m. – Wake up. Shower off. Dress up. Walk across street to Starbucks for double tall latte and toasted bagel with cream cheese. Sustenance. Call husband. Order a Lyft to Staples Center. Focused on why I’m there.

8:30 a.m. – Arrive at LA Convention Center to West Hall. Lines of diehard fans have already formed to come inside. I proudly flash my exhibitor pass and slide through the doors. The morning was quiet inside as booths continued prep while some squirrel friends felt it necessary to arrive before it opened. I walk the pink carpet and shoot an Instagram video catching RuPaul on roller skates with a few VIP’s before finding our booth for the weekend next to Ru.

8:40 a.m. – I meet Cynthia Lee Fontaine, Sasha Velour (who I adored!) and the charming Ongina who were all in our near vicinity. Michelle Visage stops by, we meet and ki-ki about her rap on “(It’s Gonna Be) A Lovely Day.” Her beautiful girls are on full display. We set up our tables with merchandise displayed, organized as well as we could and got our merchant “hooker” chips for charge cards in order.

9:50 a.m. – I hug it out with my sister and season 9 star Trinity Taylor experiencing her first Drag Con, as well. I quickly scan over booths to check out the scene. I notice there’s way too much to catch in one pass. I head back to our booth for the impact. Flower girl Larry “Hot Chocolate” Edwards in town from Las Vegas stops by for a hug and hello. I have an urge to water her head.

10 a.m. – Doors open. Chaos ensues. People run to get in lines to meet the stars. Fandemonium hysteria from all angles. Roars of cheers and applause erupt from corners of room at random times. People purchase pieces and inquire about Latrice’s arrival. Fans become hungry. As do I. I smell pizza.

1:15 p.m. – Latrice Royale arrives to a roar of her Royale Court patiently waiting a moment of face time and a selfie with their idol. I witness my first moments of how emotional this weekend will be. One hippie-chick wants to be saved on her knees in her photo. Another almost collapses walking towards Latrice out of being star struck. I try to sell t-shirts through my own emotions. It was something to see and be part of.

1:40 p.m. – I sell an 8×10 for autographing to a 10-year-old girl with her incredible mom. I speak with someone who works in a correctional facility and Latrice’s past and now success story resonates personally with her. I fist bump with a cute 7-year-old boy with his family who wants a picture with Latrice. I find this a common theme among the attendees. Mostly millennials. Lots of teenagers with families. I realize RuPaul’s Drag Race has offered people a voice where they wouldn’t normally be heard. I commend the queens who have been on the show and vulnerably opened their lives up to we viewers because in many ways they have changed lives. The adversity drag queens have faced through time provides a relatable comfort zone to many and the show is the vehicle that transports those feeling similar together. The event was a safe haven for the likeminded. I saw everything and everyone. It was phenomenal in many ways. And hopefully these will be the open-minded people voting in the next election. It made me hopeful.

2:15 p.m. – Some queen feels it necessary to dress as Melania in her powder blue inaugural suit. Series of eye rolls begin. I ask, “Why?!” and keep waking. A prime example of someone trying to get a piece of the attention. I do notice quickly if one isn’t part of the Drag Race phenomenon it’s hard to get the attention of the attendees. They were there to see the queens of the show and of course, RuPaul. Jaymes Mansfield poses with fans as I notice Pandora Boxx attaching a wonderful bright light to mobile phones as drag fiends snap selfies with her.

3 p.m. – I walk away from our booth feeling a tad weak because of lack of food. I devour a slice of overpriced pizza with two sad pepperonis on it ($1 extra!) and soda while giving hugs to the talented Erika “The Drag Photographer” Wagner who was with Trinity. Candis Canne struts through to camera flashes. As well as some queen on stilts. Watch out! Comedian Alec Mapa stops by the booth to say hello and a photo.

3:45 p.m. – The crowds are thick with energy and stamina. I walk by Alyssa Edwards and shout out, “Hang in there, gal!” where she quickly shouted back in between flashes, “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.” There seems to be even more people inside at this point.

4:20 p.m. – The booth is in full rotation of eager fans. Everyone is in a fabulous mood! Acid Betty stops by and looks amazing with her butterfly giggery. She worships Latrice! A love-fest ensues. Fans clamor for a good shot of the two queens interacting. Chaos continues. I meet a drag king named Max who was giving me Trace Adkins realness with his open chest and prosthetic nipples with ring.

6:15 p.m. – Most of the room has cleared out. We are finishing up tucking things away for the next day. Alyssa and Courtney Act both have lines of people they don’t turn away. Sadly, there is a moment one has to stop and say, “Sorry, that’s it today.” Security guard all barreled-out gets a bit gruff with me from still being there. I flash my badge, a smile and give him a side-eye. Honestly, I give the staff props because it’s a huge deal to put on and they handle it very well. In reality, the fans want to hang as long as they can. Say goodbyes and Lyft back to Hilton.

7:30 p.m. – Washed the day off me with a good shower. Headed to West Hollywood for a nice dinner and glass of pinot noir. Chat up Brian who is in town and he joins me at Cafe D’ Etoile on the boulevard. We soak up the gorgeous night while I talk Drag Con with the table next to us showing videos of the day.

11:30 p.m. – Return to room. Check some emails. Drop into bed. Pure exhaustion. Lights out!

SUNDAY 04/30/17

8:30 a.m. – Slide some flip-flops and shorts on. Jump over to Starbucks for my caffeine gig. Flirt with some bro in the lift. Back to the room. Shower and pack before checking out. Head to car with bag and over to the convention. Find parking on the quick. $25, but convenient.

9:30 a.m. – Walking by the line to enter I ask some kids how long they’ve been there waiting. Two hours for them and they were about 100 deep in the line. I scoot through the door.

10 a.m. – Doors open. Energy once again floods the room. Latrice holds church service with fans and followers alike outside the hall with a 20-person choir. I saw the video. It seemed spectacular! I begin to sell merchandise and answer the million dollar question, “What time will Latrice be here?!” That time changes through the answers. And I realize I’m beginning to lose my voice. Lauren Bacall realness sets in.

12:15 p.m. – Latrice arrives ready! We get organized while sliding a few VIP and vendors in to get a quick snap with her before the brunt. Already, Sunday feel busier than Saturday. Once again, Madame Royale makes each fan feel they are the only one there and the first one she’s seen today. It’s NEVER robotic or forced. Being genuine is her brand. The greater majority of fans purchase merchandise and wait for their chance with the queen.

1:23 p.m. – More eruptions of the crowd roar at random times. Kids playing in the (smartly placed) Kid Zone. More fans parade through for a piece of Latrice. I sell the hell out of some Chunky Yet Funky / Large & In Charge candy bars, buttons, promos and 5XL t-shirts. New friendships are formed and cemented. I’m having an absolutely wonderful(ly exhausting) time!

2:29 p.m. – I have a second slice of pizza and soda. Come across Miss Gay America, Suzy Wong. We quickly hug it out and I keep going. Porn prince Boomer Banks teases us all at the booth in his leggings. Across the way Aja continued working her crowd while local divas Ethylina Canne helped out Delta Work. Miami’s own Tiffany T. Fantasia twirls by the booth while the legendary Kitty Meow interviewed people near by.

4:10 p.m. – Announcements have repeatedly been made that the event is winding down. Backdoors are opened and forklifts drive in. Teams start packing up their giggery. We get our fort down and packed up faster than most. Latrice graciously stays and continues signing anything someone puts in front of her, never saying no. Generous gifts continue to be dropped of at booth for her.

4:30 p.m. – Upon first load to the truck, Christopher (Latrice’s incredible husband) and I stop for a big hug with the fierce Detox as her team packed up. Walk past Nina Bonina Brown with Morgan McMichaels on the back dock. At this point, queens like Alyssa and Trinity are in slippers and the show is definitely coming to an end. Spotlights have been turned off and are being packed away.

5:10 p.m. – Emotional goodbyes with the team. Latrice and I share a hug for the ages. We talk about going on the road together. I worship her and walk off with the LA sunshine beaming down playing part in a beautiful day. Head back through ballrooms past the deconstruction of it all and to my car.

5:30 p.m. – With air conditioner blasting me, I text my husband about departure. Lots of heart emojis. Open the Waze app on my iPhone and get going back home. One last round of emotions as I get on the freeway. Up in my head about new branding ideas and the future. Feeling all kinds of inspired.

7:30 p.m. – Arrive home in the desert to hugs from the husband sharing stories of the days before. Eat some food. Still reeling from the event and in my feelings about it all. Watch Real Housewives of Atlanta and RuPaul’s Drag Race because I hadn’t had enough all weekend.

10 p.m. – Inner thighs have a ridiculous burn to them for squatting plies down to get merchandise under tables. Lower back is blown. I’ve become part of the couch. Exhaustion has set in and I somehow get to bed but can’t sleep. Toss. Turn. And finally…. I do.

The event is something one must see to believe. According to LA Times there were over 40,000 attendees! It was more emotional than I ever began to believe it could be. Not only for fans meeting idols but for me seeing it firsthand. Living in Nashville I always wondered what the county music fan fairs were like and now I know. People want their idols to know how and why their lives have been changed because of them. It’s a lot for celebrities to hear and handle. I saw it mere feet from me and it’s intense. As I’ve said, these queens on RuPaul’s Drag Race have changed people’s lives for the better. It’s a beautiful thing. It actually has shed a new light for me regarding the show. I see its purpose so differently now. It’s an amazing phenomenon that I’ve been a small part of. ♥

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