Start your engines! In Drag Invasion, over 30 queens from the hit show RuPaul’s Drag Race take Peru by storm. While the doc will clearly appeal to the reality series’ massive fanbase, it simultaneously offers a glimpse into the lives of members of the LGBTQ community in Peru.
Barely anyone bats an eye at Drag Race in North America, but the TV competition starring drag queens remains a powerful force for change internationally. Drag Invasion takes place as dozens of contestants from various seasons stop to perform in one of South America’s most homophobic countries on a 2017 tour.
The result feels like both a Drag Race bonus episode and a micro-documentary on the lived experiences of queer people in Peru. The queens are clearly happy to be on camera again, cracking jokes and churning out soundbites. The Peruvian fans are also candid on camera, both about the influence the show has had on them, and their experiences of homophobia in the country.
As footage of Lima’s Pride Parade plays, one man explains the danger inherent in attending Pride and his own personal journey to participating in it. Many of the interviewees mention Christianity as upholding a culture of shame and discrimination in Peru. One person recalls being stalked by “some kind of pastor” from a nearby church, who taunted them and told them to turn away from Satan.
Although it may seem like the flashy, fun, drag performances being mixed in with such sobering accounts of hate is too stark a contrast, it’s the Drag Race way. The series is known for going from playful to serious in an instant, and the documentary follows suit.
From the moment the queens arrive in Peru, they’re greeted with hordes of fans at the airport. Bianca Del Rio emcees an onstage proposal, a child fan dresses up to meet her favourite star, Alaska, and a 40 year-old mother gets called up to the stage for a lip sync battle and wins.
The Spanish-speaking queens get the most fanfare, conducting interviews with local media and getting extra cheers when they switch between English and Español onstage. While none of the queens on this tour were Peruvian, Envy Peru recently made history as the first Peruvian contestant, appearing in the Holland edition.
The documentary is slightly easier to follow with a few seasons of Drag Race under your belt–for example, there are no subheads to introduce the queens’ names–but it could also work as an introduction to the artform and the show. It also features some up-and-coming Peruvian drag queens. RuPaul’s Drag Race: Peru, anyone?
A large chunk of the film follows the queens backstage, on-stage, and in hotels and cars, which feels similar to docs that tag along with a pop star on a tour. Peruvian fans are pictured in their homes or the intimacy of their bedrooms, one with a neon “YASS” sign in the back.
In a year without drag shows at dive bars and touring drag superstars, this doc captures the electric energy of performance and the power of fandom. Most of all, Drag Invasion is a good time.