"Drag pushed me to express myself on a daily basis," explains drag king Phantom in the trailer above. She considers performing in drag therapeutic, an outlet from the daily stresses that come with being a mom of two. Phantom is just one of many drag performers featured in the upcoming film The Making of a King, a documentary that takes an intimate look at drag king culture.
Director Nicole Miyahara tells Refinery29 that, ever since she was introduced to drag king culture, she wanted to understand who the performers were, "both in and out of drag." Now, after years of research and releasing several viral videos on the subject, she's delving even deeper, exploring the public and private lives of drag kings in a feature-length documentary.
Although drag has been a long-standing interest for Miyahara, she explains that her work is really intended to educate those less familiar with it. First of all, she wants to make it clear that drag kings are not an offshoot of drag queen culture, since it seems to her more people are familiar with the latter.
"'Drag king' is not even a common term in people’s vocabulary... There is one show on cable TV that highlights and celebrates the drag community, and that show has chosen to exclude performers who are not drag queens from participating," she says. "Historically, kings have a long and rich history of male impersonation, and we wanted to dispel the myth that, just because you haven’t heard of a drag king before, doesn’t mean they’re a 'new' cultural phenomenon."
Miyahara adds that, even among people who have heard of drag king performance, there are still quite a few misconceptions about the art form.
"Drag isn’t just one gender impersonating another, or a man dressing up as a woman, it is so much more than that," she says. "Many times, people assume things about what a drag king will perform because of stereotypes regarding men and masculinity — but it is actually drag kings who remind us to question our assumptions about gender through their lives and performances."
More than anything, Miyahara hopes that the film shows that drag can be an empowering form of self-expression for female-bodied and transgender people, and that "the art of male impersonation is just as important as the art of female impersonation."
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