Ashleigh Atwell

Ashleigh Atwell: Lessons to be learned from ‘Drag Race’

I am a “RuPaul’s Drag Race” stan.

I watch it like dudebros watch the Super Bowl. I watch it, usually with a snack, every week. I commiserate with other fans about who will win, who will lose and what is rigged (#justiceforshangela).

“Drag Race” is mostly fun for me, but every now and again, the show veers into social commentary. They have covered everything from eating disorders to the Pulse nightclub shooting. Despite RuPaul’s extremely problematic commentary, the past couple of seasons have been dropping gems left and right.

Season 10 has been no exception. During the April 5 episode, two queens — Aquaria and The Vixen — had a squabble that spilled over into the behind-the-scenes show, “Untucked.” For those that aren’t watching, Aquaria is white and The Vixen is Black.

Aquaria came for The Vixen’s drag because the wig she wore in the previous episode belonged to another queen. The Vixen shot back and Aquaria wasn’t prepared. During “Untucked,” the incident was brought up in conversation and Aquaria began to cry when The Vixen confronted her. The Vixen’s response to the tears was very poignant.

“You say something, I say something, you start crying,” The Vixen told Aquaria. “You have created the narrative that I am an angry black woman who has scared off the little white girl. So when you get super defensive and tell me that I’m being negative, when I’m just responding to what you brought to me, that will always read to these [pointing at the cameras] as a race issue.”

She told no lies.

Every Black girl, woman or femme has had to deal with this type of situation. A white girl starts some shit, you call them out, they cry and suddenly, you’re the aggressive one. I deal with this all the time at my soon-to-be-former retail job. If I had a dollar for every time someone assumed I had an attitude or was in a bad mood, I wouldn’t have to work in the service industry. The “angry Black woman” might seem like a simple caricature, but it has ramifications.

My supervisors have attempted to discipline me for an attitude issue that I don’t have. The Vixen confirmed that she has received death threats since the show aired. Black girls are disciplined more harshly in school. A recent study titled “Day-to-Day Experiences of Emotional Tax Among Women and Men of Color in the Workplace” reported that 58 percent of Black women felt they had to be “on guard” in their workplaces.

Frankly, it’s exhausting. When The Vixen walked into the werk room for the first time, she shouted “I’m here, to fight.” Well, sis wasn’t playing. It’s just sad that this has become her fight.