The Workhorse Queen documentary, by director and writer Angela Washko, follows Drag Queen Mrs. Kasha Davis as she continues to make a place for herself in the drag community pre and post competing on RuPaul’s Drag Race.
I was provided a free screener of Workhorse Queen for review. The opinions I have shared are my own.
Even though RuPaul’s Drag Race has played a vital role in bringing drag to the mainstream and making it more commercial, it can be looked upon as a double-edged sword. Yes, RPDR participants can get catapulted to stardom overnight, however, it makes things tough for the drag queens that don’t get on the show (or aren’t interested in competing). Fans attend drag shows to watch the previous RPDR contestants. As for the other hard-working and talented queens? The same fans are like, “Who?”
Also, RPDR followers know that a contestant’s career really begins after the show. What a RuGirl can accomplish once they have been eliminated matters a lot. Numerous queens have amassed a huge fandom even though they never won a season of RuPaul’s Drag Race. We all know who Willam is and we all know he’s never going to be invited back to Drag Race (ha!). And yet, he’s a force to be reckoned with.
And then there’s an issue some fans have about the past winners of RPDR. A majority of the winners fit a certain mold. No one can deny the winners aren’t talented, but yet, they either have a specific body type, look stunning, are pros in adult humor, or are really out there.
So, where does all of this leave a drag queen like Mrs. Kasha Davis or the ones that don’t fit the “winner” mold and are also above a certain age?
Workhorse Queen gave us some answers to such questions while highlighting the ups and downs (and problems) existing in the world of drag.
I liked how Edward Popil (the man behind the persona of Mrs. Kasha Davis) realized his calling as a drag queen. He took up doing drag to express his creativity, even if he began at a later age than his peers. Based in Rochester, New York, Popil was able to make a name for himself in his hometown before he began auditioning for RuPaul’s Drag Race. After years of auditioning, he finally got cast in season seven only to be the 4th queen to be eliminated and finishing 11th in the 14-contestant season. Popil and drag queen Tempest DuJour were the only two above the age of 40 during the seventh season.
Popil experienced a new level of fandom being associated with RPDR, but due to the fast-paced nature of this particular reality series (we get way too many seasons and new queens to root for every year), the opportunities began to dwindle. Popil, as of yet, hasn’t been called back for a season of All-Stars.
While I would like to see Mrs. Kasha Davis return as a contestant, having watched Workhorse Queen, I think Popil has found happiness and satisfaction in his kind of drag and what he can give back to the community (especially through his content for kids, Imagination Station). It took him time to get there, but he persisted.
One of the best things about Workhorse Queen is Popil’s openness to share the good, the bad, and the ugly from his life. Due to the era he grew up in, his family rejected his queerness. Popil even married a woman to live a heterosexual life. He was able to reconnect with his father years down the line, but it wasn’t easy. Popil’s childhood offers a sharp contrast to how things have changed and society is more open to accepting queerness. And it can’t be denied that shows like RuPaul’s Drag Race have played a vital role in pushing queer representation in media.
Popil also struggled with alcohol addiction and shared how his love for his husband and two step-daughters helped him get on the right track.
Workhorse Queen is a heart-warming and emotional story of Popil’s strength as an “older” drag queen continuing to work in the everchanging competitive landscape of drag. Ageism is a toxic problem that plagues the queer community (and links to how queer individuals are only interested in superficial attractiveness and youth). On a larger scale (outside queer spaces), I think all of us have felt inadequate because we haven’t yet achieved the milestones society expects people to cross before they turn 30 or 40 years old.
Popil’s arc in Workhorse Queen is a great example that showcases how age is just a number and how certain “achievements” are overrated. What finally brings you happiness later in life might be a decision that never crossed your mind when you were younger.
Workhorse Queen had its virtual screening at the Slamdance Film Festival 2021 on February 12, 2021.
I highly recommend watching this documentary!
Also, I would love for RuPaul’s Drag Race to have a season where all of the contestants have to be above the age of 50. Let the queens who helped pave and have mentored countless young queer folk get their time to shine on an international scale.
You can watch my coverage of RuPaul’s Drag Race (reaction and review videos) on The Geekiary YouTube channel.
Farid has a Double Masters in Psychology and Biotechnology as well as an M.Phil in Molecular Genetics. He is the author of numerous books including Missing in Somerville, and The Game Master of Somerville. He gives us insight into comics, books, TV shows, anime/manga, video games, and movies.
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