DRAG QUEENS AND BEAUTY QUEENS
Contesting Feminity in the World’s Playground
by Laurie A. Greene
Rutgers University Press, 232 pages, $24.95
“RECOUNTING THE HISTORY of marginalized communities is always important, even more so when the population in question is absent from so many of its storytellers,” writes Stockton University anthropology professor Laurie A. Greene to describe the once vibrant gay scene in New Jersey’s Atlantic City, which was decimated by AIDS and gentrification. Drag Queens and Beauty Queens is an ethnographic study that analyzes the symbiotic relationship between a “pair of spectacles”: the 100-year-old Miss America pageant (which Greene calls a “performance of gender” that’s “understood by gays as essentially a camp performance”) and its “drag counterpart,” the Miss’d America pageant.
Created in the 1990s by drag queen Sandy Beach, Miss’d America was originally held on the day after the official event—the joke being that its contestants had arrived in Atlantic City a day late. According to Greene, the Miss America pageant is part of “the regulation of femininity from within the culture and policy of a nation.” As such, it provided drag queens, who were already involved in deconstructing these notions, with source material to riff on. As “queens” of a sort, they were naturally interested in being crowned.