"She works hard for the money": Drag queens and the management of their contradictory status of celebrity and marginality

Dana Berkowitz, Linda L Belgrave

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

16 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

This article reports an ethnographic study of drag queens who perform in Miami Beach. Drag queens are marginalized, both economically and socially. However, drag enables some gay men to emphasize and manipulate aspects of femininity for the means of earning attention and income and garnering situational power. Grounding their empirical findings in symbolic interaction, identity, and performance theories, the authors argue that drag queens employ nuanced strategies to negotiate their contradictory status of admired yet alienated performers. The authors use observational and in-depth interview data to explore how participants experience, cope with, and challenge their social marginality. The authors then detail the rewards of drag, focusing on the allure of the transformation, situational power, and income. A subjective understanding of drag reveals that although marginalization is a serious issue, the rewards of drag can be empowering. The authors argue that identity work emerges as a link between marginalization and rewards.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)159-186
Number of pages28
JournalJournal of Contemporary Ethnography
Volume39
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Apr 2010

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marginality
VIP
drag
reward
money
management
income
femininity
marginalization
interaction
interview
performance
Celebrity
Reward
Contradictory
Marginality
experience
beach
Income
Marginalization

Keywords

  • Drag queens
  • Identity
  • Performativity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Urban Studies
  • Anthropology

Cite this

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