When you think about your favorite childhood movies, which ones stick out in your mind? I’ve got a standard cache of animated films, Disney classics, and anime, but one I have treasured most is To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar. If you haven’t seen it, it’s basically a road trip movie about 3 drag queens who get stranded in a backwoods little town. It’s in the lane of Priscilla Queen of the Desert (which is also sweet as, if you’ve never seen it), but it stands on its own merit.
When I think about how I learned to be a woman, a variety of things come to mind. I learned so much from the female relatives in my life, more than I could ever quantify. I watched a lot of French movies growing up, and saw how elegant, soft, and beautiful a woman could be when she is just feeling herself (thanks Audrey Tautou). I listened to a lot of female musicians, and saw women who were gritty and raw and weren’t afraid to scream whenever they wanted to (Kittie? The Distillers?). And then there were drag queens.
I want you to believe in yourself, imagine good things, and moisturize.Vida Boheme
These were the sage words of Patrick Swayze as Vida Boheme, perhaps the most glam role he ever took on. The quote is actually something that my mom would have probably said. Miss Vida is elegant, stylish, and has a heart of gold. If you need a bit of a boost to feel yourself, take heed to the words of the no-nonsense Noxeema Jackson (a.k.a. Wesley Snipes).
If you want to let them know that there is steak for dinner, you got to let them hear it sizzle!Noxeema Jackson
And of course there is the famous line from ChiChi (John Leguizamo), that just enshrined him in my heart as a Latina icon.
I’m a Latina Marilyn Monroe. I got more legs than a bucket of chicken.ChiChi Rodriguez
There is all of that and more in this movie, not to mention the opening scene that will give you a new appreciation for getting ready every day and the song “I Am the Body Beautiful” by Salt-N-Peppa.
During one scene, Noxeema and Vida tell ChiChi that he is just a boy in a dress, and has a long way to go before he can say that he is a drag queen. Frustrated, Chichi asks how many steps there are to becoming a queen. These steps are revealed throughout the movie, and frankly, are just great rules to live by. I watched the movie again recently (for the 100th time), and thought they deserved some spotlight.
1. Let good thoughts be your sword and shield
A while back I wrote a post about how much I love Dolly Parton, because I feel like she embodies this rule. Actually, now thinking of it, I think Dolly embodies all 4 of these rules and I think we can all agree that she is a kween. All hail Dolly.
I have been trying to work on being consistent about good thoughts, which has always been an obstacle for me. I’ll be riding high on positive thoughts for a while until one random day I have a freak out that takes the wind right out of my sails and I have to start over from square one. It’s a bit of a roller coaster and I’ve always found it difficult to maintain momentum. Since I’ve returned from New Zealand, I’ve been combining regular visits with a therapist and practicing more rituals, like daily tarot, meditation, and acupressure, to try to keep my head in the game. Honestly, I have never felt more consistently optimistic in my life.
Every morning I wake up and before I do anything else (which means looking at my phone), I take a few minutes to close my eyes and ask myself how I’m feeling. Sometimes it’s I’m feeling energized/positive/excited, but there are plenty of mornings where I wake up and think to myself I’m feeling insecure/scared/nervous. I’m not feeling confident. But I don’t try to make it better or rationalize. I just accept my feelings and thoughts, whatever they are. After that, I set my intention for the day. It can be anything from I want to make someone smile today to Today I will apply to 5 jobs. At the end of the day, I do another short meditation where I again ask myself how I am feeling, and if I completed my intention.
Since I’ve been doing this, I have found myself feeling more confident than ever. I’ve been trying things that would have terrified me before, and finding that the hesitation I have felt all these years before is just not there. It’s not a perfect science, but all of the practices are making me feel like I have that sturdy sword and shield to push forward in my endeavors.
2. Ignore adversity
If you’ve ever seen Selena (and if you haven’t, who are you and get off of this site and go watch it immediately), then perhaps you’ll remember a scene where her father is talking to her about her success.
All the barriers that have stopped people before… and you went through them like they didn’t exist. Maybe for you they don’t exist.Edward James Olmos
There are some quotes you come across in life that really find a home inside of you. The maybe for you they don’t exist part of that quote is what really sticks out for me. There may be 500+ million blogs on the internet, and getting anyone to find it is a barrier, but how about I just make a successful one? It might sound naive to some, but I’m honestly approaching it that way. Why don’t I just make music? If I want to be a writer, then hell, why don’t I just write. And now that I’m just doing these things, I’m finding that the barriers that I always thought were stopping me are actually not even there at all, because I’m just, well, doing it. I was the barrier, and now I’m choosing not to be.
A long time ago I remember someone talking about why they couldn’t do something, saying that other people were already doing it. But so what? Who’s to say that you can’t do it too, and maybe even do it better or add something unique to it. If everyone thought that way, there would never be any innovation. What if Yves Saint Laurent decided never to make clothes, because other people were already making clothes? We all have something to contribute to this world, so why not you?
I learned this from my therapist, but maybe rather than saying I can’t do it or I don’t know how, it’s simply a matter of perspective. How about saying how can I learn how to do this?
3. Abide by the rules of love
This makes more sense in the context of the film, but it reminds me of that line from “Everybody’s Free to Wear Sunscreen” where Baz Luhrmann says don’t be reckless with other people’s hearts, and don’t put up with people who are reckless with yours.
Values and opinions about love and relationships can look different to everyone, but I do believe there are some core truths like this one that hold up. I think it speaks more to respecting other people and their feelings. Love isn’t selfish, and I think it’s important to try and honor the people you love by doing right by them whenever possible, by being honest with them, even when it’s painful and considering their needs.
In regards to this rule, I’m a work in progress. A while ago I hurt someone that I really love and care about. I was definitely breaking Rule 3. I’m not perfect, and I don’t want to be, but the people in my life that I love deserve the best, and I’m doing everything in my power to make sure that they have it. That was a really dark and painful time, but following Rule 1, I am bettering myself, and trying my hardest to sincerely make amends, and that’s the best that I can do.
4. Larger than life is just the right size
Can I get an amen? Perhaps a yas hunny?
I think we can all agree that life is full of some bullshit. There is absolutely more than enough depressing, hateful vitriol to get you down. Sometimes it’s from the world around us, but plenty of times it comes from ourselves, and that, well, sucks. I’m not the first person to say that life is too short, but I will tack on that life is too short to not do whatever the hell you want.
This last step is also the last line in the film, and shows a whole cast of drag queens as different flowers, all looking absolutely glam. The thing I love about drag queens isn’t just that they look glamorous or are great entertainers; it’s the confidence. The confidence to get up and perform, to just do what you love and not care what other people think. As the popular saying goes, you are just living your best life, and isn’t that what it’s all about?
It doesn’t matter what you look like! I mean if you have a hunchback, just throw a little glitter on it, honey, and go dancing!James St. James in Party Monster
Even more evidence that this rule is the truest of them all is the indomitable Jonathan Van Ness who is often labeled as “over the top” (and has a book coming out with that exact title), but does nothing but spread optimism and happiness in this world.
Life is short. Enjoy it while you can. Do it big when you can.
So how am I doing so far? Have I completed all four steps? Have I reach true queen status? Technically, the rules are originally intended for drag queens in training, and I don’t consider myself part of that community. However, they’re good rules for life and I’m still rough around the edges, but I think I’m living a life that Vida and Noxy would be proud of.