As the pandemic lingers, it’s hard not to miss the excitement, the fun, and the sense of community offered by Weho’s legendary nightlife – but while its shutdown may have many of us suffering from wistful nostalgia, for those who depend on it for their livelihoods, it’s an ongoing existential crisis.
This is particularly true for the city’s many drag performers, whose work is best served up in person, preferably in a room full of cocktail-infused fans eager to show their appreciation with their cheers, laughs, and applause – and with their wallets.
That’s one of the big reasons why the Ariadne Getty Foundation is thrilled to be presenting the second season of the smash hit Instagram Live drag show, “Quarantine Queen,” which debuts on Wednesday night at 7pm.
“‘Quarantine Queen: Season 2’ is providing more than just entertainment, it’s providing a crucial source of income for drag queens and other LGBTQ performers who are currently out of work because of the Covid-19 pandemic,” says Getty, who serves as President and CEO of her Foundation. “The Ariadne Getty Foundation (AGF) is committed to supporting the LGBTQ community, and by sponsoring “Quarantine Queen: Season 2” we hope to inspire others to do the same.”
The show, which began with a first season in March, is the brainchild of West Hollywood drag icon Rhea Litré, and not only brings together drag queens performing in their unique and daring ensembles with all their glitz, glamour and long lashes, but also provides each of them with a critical platform for donation-based income during the Covid-19. Guests during the debut season included Adam Lambert, Gigi Gorgeous, and Todrick Hall.
Talking to the Blade, the show’s creator shared the story about “Quarantine Queen” originally came to be.
“I worked in nightlife,” Litré says. “My job was to bring as many people as I could to one venue. When we were told they were going to be closing the bars, I was like, ‘Wow. How am I going to keep spreading art, how am I going to give drag queens a platform, how am I going to continue doing the things that I think make me authentically me? How am I not going to do drag?”
Determined not to simply sit at home and do nothing, Litré decided to get into action, and came up with the idea to do a live drag show online and give fans the ability to make donations.
“The Venmo thing was actually a joke, I was like, ‘I’ll put it up and see if I can get a tip.’ But then, I was talking to my sister, 6, on the phone, and she was like, ‘Bitch, that’s a thing!”
It turns out Litre’s fellow queen wanted in on the fun, and the two joined forces.
“On March 16, 8pm Pacific Time, we gave birth to the first digital drag show of its kind,” Litré tells us, proudly. “There has been drag online for a long time, but as far as a conceptualized, produced show, that had never been done before.”
The response was huge.
“People’s reaction when they saw this for the first time – it was like the VMAs. They were like, ‘Oh my god, what is going on!’ I had all the ‘Who’s Whos’ in West Hollywood, in the room, about an hour before we went live. I texted all my friends, I said, ‘Bitch, do not miss this, get here at 8pm, you better show up – and they did!
“We ended up doing three shows a week – Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, at 8pm – every week, until July.”
Even though the streaming format might have seemed like a liability, it turned out to have advantages, too. It allowed for the involvement of a whole host of other Queens and other performers who might otherwise have been unable to participate.
“It’s incredible, because you know I book shows in Los Angeles, and you can only get certain girls if they’re available – if they’re in town,” Litré shares. “But now, they can be anywhere, all over the world, and I’ve had people performing from Australia, from the UK, from Canada – it’s so amazing to see, international forms of drag all getting together in the same show, and just spreading equality through the art of drag.”
When the show went on hiatus two months ago, Litré faced a dilemma.
“I was really contemplating whether or not to do this again. It takes a lot of work, a lot of preparation. I was going through a lot of personal hardships, trying to figure out how I was going to get what I needed out of life. I think being a nightclub person, I really connect with the touch, and the feeling, and the conversation, and seeing people in their eyes, and smiling at somebody – and when that was taken away, I felt such a sense of worthlessness. I thought, ‘What I was put on this earth for, I can’t even do right now – what is my purpose? Why am I here?’
That’s where Ariadne Getty came in.
“Ariadne is a great friend of mine, and someone that I look up to very much, with her work through UNICEF and GLAAD,” says Litré. “She is literally an angel on this planet, and she was a huge fan of ‘Quarantine Queen.’
“She called me, she knew I was going through a hard time, and she said, ‘Listen, you bring so much happiness through your show, let’s produce ‘Quarantine Queen.’ You need this outlet and I want to be a part of it.’
“It’s like a literal match made in heaven, Ari’s like family to me. For her to reach out, and see that I was hurting and that I needed an outlet – I knew that I was loved. And I knew that I had to do it, because I had to give that feeling back to someone else, and I know ‘Quarantine Queen’ does that.”
Getty, whose longtime work as an ally and advocate of the LGBTQ+ community is legendary, concurs.
“This is a time to celebrate not only Queer creativity and entertainment,” she says. “But, more importantly, we are, literally, helping to support these artist’s livelihood. ‘Quarantine Queen’ is keeping the community connected and stronger than ever during these difficult times.”
She adds, “Laugh, enjoy and TIP! And, don’t forget to VOTE in November!”
The new season of Litré’s all-inclusive drag competition will feature up-and-coming drag stars as well as fan favorites as they battle it out each week, including some of the most renowned drag queens and LGBTQ performers who compete and entertain audiences worldwide. Among the many guests lined up so far are Eureka O’Hara from HBO’s “We’re Here” and “RuPaul’s Drag Race” winner Alaska Thunderfuck. It kicks off at 7pm, Wednesday September 2, on Instagram Live (https://www.instagram.com/quarantinequeendragshow).
Now that the show is back, we asked Litré how long we can expect it to continue.
“I have no idea. Honestly, I could keep doing this until I can’t anymore. As long as I can go live with people, and as long as there’s the internet, Ari and I will continue ‘Quarantine Queen.’”