If like me you’ve found solace this year in the company of television drag queens you might have run out of shows to watch. I have comfort-binged all twelve seasons of Drag Race, all five of All Stars, Secret Celebrity Drag Race, Drag Race: Vegas Revue, plus all the international Drag Race iterations (well, apart from Chilean one, because I couldn’t work out how to get the English subtitles to work for it on the World of Wonder app), and then there was HBO’s wonderfully uplifting We’re Here. Movies gave us Stage Mother, and a touching drag scene in Dating Amber. So now what? Thankfully Netflix have brought two fairy drag mothers, or Godmothers as they call themselves, to the rescue with their first original Brazilian reality series which landed on the streamer globally on Wednesday November 11th, A Queen Is Born/Nasce Uma Rainha.
Each episode sees an aspiring drag performer head to a kind of drag finishing school with personal tuition from Brazilian drag stars Gloria Groove and Alexia Twister who give them some intense training to help prepare them both inside and out for a lip sync number in front of an audience. Along the way they are given some help on movement in heels, choreography, hair and makeup, fashion, attitude, padding, and of course tucking. And it’s not just drag queens who get the A Queen Is Born treatment, in episode three we meet Carla who transforms into drag king Carlão Sensação. What’s particularly satisfying is seeing each individual element of drag broken down, so we see how the magic happens. Drag Race tends to focus more on the finished product of mostly advanced queens, while We’re Here focuses more on the emotional journey. So A Queen Is Born feels part drag tutorial part drag therapy as Groove and Twister bring out the confidence in their students. In the first episode we meet the adorable Paolo who has been dressing in drag to teach English to trans students, but hasn’t really thought through his drag persona, Paola Di Verona, much beyond throwing on a wig and frock. Every episode the Godmothers are joined by a special guest to offer a little more insight, in the first episode its actor, singer and TV host Tiago Abravanel giving tips on finding organic movement for Paola that are extensions of Paolo’s natural gestures.
Meanwhile, just as gorgeous out of drag, Groove meets with Paolo’s close friend Giuliana to offer her a makeover by one of Paolo’s trans students while not so subtly trying to convince her to come and see Paola’s performance. Giuliana loves him but is very resistant to the idea of him doing drag. Similarly in episode two Groove meets up with aspiring drag queen Matheus aka Juju Glow’s aunt Juscileide, who like Giuliana, says drag isn’t what she wants for her nephew fearing for his safety in the hyper-masculine society that’s lurched to the far-right under Bolsonaro with his anti-LGBTQ rhetoric. As Groove puts it, “Matheus’ personality brings many risks, after all we live in the world’s most homophobic country.” In this environment, with LGBTQ rights under threat, the act of drag itself becomes a more political one of fierce resilience and resistance. Although A Queen is Born is primarily a satisfying drag makeover series, the show then, as well as providing an entertaining escape, is also a piece of resistance in itself and likely to be a lifeline for some Brazilian LGBTQ folks who need to see some examples of queer joy and chosen family lifting one another up. Thanks to Netflix for helping to queer up Netflix Brazil with shows like this along with the fantastic trans teen movie Alice Junior.
By James Kleinmann
A Queen Is Born/Nasce Uma Rainha is streaming on Netflix now.