RuPaul’s Drag Race stars Shangela, Eureka O’Hara, and Bob the Drag Queen are changing the world one small town at a time on HBO’s gritty makeover reality series We’re Here.
The queens wield the power of drag to makeover people, minds, and hearts with a one night only specialty show starring members of the local community, LGBTQ+ folks, as well as allies—on stage together.
In PRIDE‘s chat with the queens, alongside show creators Johnnie Ingram and Steve Warren, the transformative powers of drag are on full display.
The premise of the show “really resonated big to” Shangela, she says, “because I kept thinking, ‘Wow, if I would’ve had this when I was growing up in my small town, what an impact it would’ve had on me.’“
Taking the full spectacle of drag to these small towns uplifts the LGBTQ+ community there who might feel alone or misunderstood. At the end of the day, it showcases the power of representation.
Bob relates it to watching Bebe Zahara Benet win her Drag Race crown on national television. “Seeing someone on RuPaul’s Drag Race being celebrated for everything that I had been told was bad about me (she’s lack, she’s queer, she’s fem, she’s a drag queen) and people on TV were giving her accolades, telling her she’s gorgeous, she was brilliant,” she reflects. “By finding the drag community, I found a way to use everything that was ever used against me to be a benefit to me. Every detriment had become an attribute.”
Of course, being an unscripted series exploring small towns, everything wasn’t just rainbows and butterflies. Episode one catches a moment after the queens leave a store and an angry patron calls them “freaks” and promises never to return. And in Branson, Missouri, a store owner calls the cops on the queens.
“It was a shock, but it was also a reminder that we still have a lot of work to do in regards to pushing ourselves farther on the spectrum of acceptance,” Shangela reflects. “We get celebrated so much by fans and different people that we meet that going into these spaces, these conservative towns, was truly a sobering reality. It brought us back to what it’s like for a lot of LGBTQ people on a daily basis.”
The power of the series lies in queer resilience. These towns aren’t the Drag Race workroom, and many LGBTQ+ people’s identities aren’t celebrated or even acknowledged. But to find your own joy, strength, and pride within yourself, in spite of the world’s shortcomings, is a superpower.
Watching Bob, Eureka, and Shangela share their superpowers with the people in these communities is a cathartic experience, and a moving lesson in empathy and human connection, something many of us are lacking while isolating in our homes across the world. And while they might not have been able to get every townsperson on board with their mission, Warren says the trying is a step in the right direction. “Even though we haven’t necessarily won their hearts over, we’re engaging in showing a face and being present and being visible.”
The pandemic derailed the original plans for tonight’s finale, so instead the queens will dig deep into their own stories. Eureka teases that they’ll also get to showcase some of the leaders of the queer communities they visited that they didn’t get to show previously.
“It’s a great way to show people that we’re getting through it together,” Eureka says, calling it a “powerful shared experience.”
The season finale of We’re Here airs tonight at 6pm ET/9pm PT on HBO!