Three touring vans decked out to the max – one covered in pink glitter, another shaped like a giant purse and… is that an actual elephant? – are travelling the backwater roads of the United States of America. They drive down the main street of a small town and when they stop, what emerges is eye-melting magnificence. Bob The Drag Queen, Shangela and Eureka (all familiar faces from RuPaul’s Drag Race) are here in full drag to transform faces and lives as they give three small-town LGBTQI+ people the makeover of a lifetime in each episode. Then they’ll spend a week training them intensively with the goal of helping them to put on a drag show with an open invitation for the whole town to attend.

Loud & proud

It’s a triumph of self-expression, fun and heartfelt conversations as the three drag queens talk their “clients” (called Drag Daughters on the show) through what drag has changed about their lives and helped them to realise and accept about themselves. Putting on the show will help the Drag Daughters connect with others in their towns who’re potential allies and supporters, or even just looking for a fun night out.

Recently, particularly in conservative small-town USA, the voices of hate have grown loud and proud, but those people are really the minority. Most people just aren’t terribly familiar with anyone different, and it’s time for an introduction that doesn’t start by insisting that different means wrong. Shangela says, “Sometimes you can change people’s minds and opinions just by them knowing a person from a different community than theirs. And a lot of the places we went to were not very diverse, they were not racially diverse, they sure as heck weren’t gender-identity and sexuality-wise diverse. So it’s important for us to be out there and do that, and I re-learned, it was a sobering reality and a re-introduction to what life is like in a lot of places in America, when we need to do better.”

Meet the queens

Even if you haven’t been an avid Drag Race fan, We’re Here has plenty to offer for the sheer entertainment value and deep human understanding that each of these queens brings to the show, having survived their own struggles to embrace their identities. “The confidence you have as a queen is a confidence that anyone can tap into. It is not always about being the most confident; it is about highlighting what you see about yourself as the most positive. Take what you love about yourself and highlight that,” says Bob. Eureka adds, “I’ve been through a lot in my life, which used to be to my detriment. But now with this I’m able to use the experiences I’ve been through and how I navigated through it to potentially help other people navigate things they’re going through that might be similar.”

image

Bob The Drag Queen

Birth name: Christopher Caldwell

Specialities: Stand-up comedy, social activism, social media. Bob is outstandingly community focussed. “That is part of being in the human race. My family and I were homeless when I was younger. The generosity of others helped us get back on our feet,” he reveals.

Growing up: Now a New York City queen, Bob was born and raised in small-town Columbus, Georgia, where his mom actually ran a local drag bar. But it was seeing RuPaul’s Drag Race for the first time that got him into trying drag for himself. And a star was born. Bob is more than ready to tackle issues of faith. “I grew up Southern Baptist and I'm not religious anymore, but it was a pretty big part of my life when I was growing up. I would go to church every Wednesday and every Sunday. Sitting in the pews or sitting in a Bible study was a constant hearing about how I was wrong. Whether they knew I was queer or not, what they were preaching was about me and about people like me. And being told that twice a week – it really starts to tear you down,” says Bob.

Why drag? “The drag is a slight distraction. Oddly enough you can be more human and more real in drag. By putting on all this armour, you actually let your guard down, that’s the ironic thing.”

Check out Bob on social media, and YouTube

Check out Bob on Drag Race

Drag family: Drag daughter: Miz Cracker, Drag sister: Monet X Change. And Bob adds, “I would go to shows by Sherry Vine, or Bianca del Rio, or Peppermint, I would just sit there in the audience and watch them perform and take notes. They would take me under their wing and they would show me how to do really simple things here and there. Ivy Winters taught me how to make wigs, and Peppermint taught me how to entertain a crowd, and Bianca Del Rio taught me how to hem a dress. Sherry Vine showed me the importance of social media. There have been lots of queens who have helped create Bob The Drag Queen, but I didn’t have one drag mom.”


image

Eureka O’Hara

Birth name: David Huggard (David now goes by gender-neutral pronouns)

Specialities: Dancing queen, body positivity and anti-bullying activist. Eureka has their drag roots in the pageant world, so their make-up and costuming is high impact and geared towards perfectionism, but they’re also a high-energy performer.

Growing up: Eureka was born and raised in Johnson City, Tennessee. They grew up in a poor but loving home. It was the outside world that was the problem. "My whole life I was teased and tormented over being too feminine, and being overweight, and being different. But my mom was always the one who told me I was a star, that I was smart, and I had a future, and she always pushed me to be the best I could be,” says Eureka. They experimented with living as a woman as part of their exploration of their own gender identity. "I did not feel like a man, and I did not feel like a woman. It was the most confusing, darkest time in my life. How do you express that you don’t know what you are? Some days I feel more feminine than others, some days maybe more masculine, but the only way to describe myself was gender-neutral,” says Eureka.

Why drag? “People see Eureka and think she’s this huge, extroverted personality, but that’s Eureka. As a boy, I am and used to be very introverted and very afraid. Eureka helped me put on a mask and be a different character than I was. Then, the pretend became who I really was. I learnt that the person I was in drag was actually who I wanted to be. I wanted to be happy and to love myself. I gained more confidence as a queen and as a person,” they say.

Check out Eureka on social media and YouTube

Check out Eureka on Drag Race

Drag family: Drag mother Jacqueline St James (aka Jacqueline Presley-Grizzle)


image

Shangela Laquifa Wadley

Birth name: Darius Jeremy Pierce.

Specialities: Dance, comedy, acting, social activism and pageant competitions. Shangela was the first drag queen to walk the Oscars Red Carpet in full drag in 2019 thanks to her stand-out cameo role in A Star Is Born.

Growing up: Shangela was born in Paris, Texas and attended Southern Methodist University. “Looking around, I never saw anyone that I thought was like me. I was a small, gay black kid in a very rural community. Even in television and film, I didn’t see anyone that was out and flamboyant, a little boy doing Beyoncé choreography,” he says. “I’m sure there were gay individuals. I’m sure there were probably even gay gatherings. But I never knew about any of them because it wasn’t very visible. And being gay was something most people, at least that I knew, didn’t really talk about it. There wasn’t a local bar or a local club or a recreation centre where you could go and be among the gays. And so I felt like, possibly, there is no support here. It didn’t feel safe to me to go seeking that support because I didn’t see anyone else doing it.”

Why drag? “I'm going to give ’em something to look at, and even if it's not for them, it's for me. I feel beautiful. I feel confident. I feel stronger when I have this on. That's what we're doing a lot of times in drag. It helps you to walk a little taller. I'm now living my life for me. This is mine,” says Shangela. “That’s why we talk about drag being transformative. It’s because you see yourself outside of yourself and you start to realise where you can go by just adding a little extra sparkle. Adding this layer of armour, whether it’s the make-up, or it’s the costume, or it’s the hair, or it’s just the stage itself and how the lights kind of take you out of who you are, and put you into who you want to be.

Check out Shangela on social media and YouTube

Check out Shangela on Drag Race

Drag mother: Alyssa Edwards


We’re Here S1 starts on Monday, 1 June on 1Magic (DStv 103) at 22:15

Drag fan or in search of queer-friendly content? Also watch:

How to watch We’re Here online

Sign up for DStv Now. It’s no extra cost for DStv subscribers! With DStv Now, the same channels you watch on your decoder at home are available for you to stream online or using the DStv Now app on your phone.