Personal Branding: How Drag Queens Get it Right

Photo by CEphoto, Uwe Aranas

Go to any business conference these days, and you’re very likely to see a session about creating or strengthening your personal brand. “Personal Brand” is one of those buzzwords that, when you use it, makes you feel like you really have your stuff together. But like, what does it mean… really.

Your personal brand is, at its most basic, the neat package of yourself that you present to the world. In the short interactions we share with people day-to-day, you don’t often have much time for someone to get to know you. A strong personal brand makes it easy to convey who you are to acquaintances and strangers in even the shortest of meetings. If you know what you’re all about, inside and out, backwards and forwards, it’s impossible for others not to see that.

When you ask most people to think of someone with a strong personal brand, the names they come up with are probably along the lines of Oprah, Martha Stewart, or Richard Branson. Me? I think of Bianca Del Rio and Sasha Velour.

As a group, few do better at establishing and sharing their individual, unique brands than drag queens. If you’re a fan of RuPaul’s Drag Race, you understand that it only takes an episode or two to distinguish between the comedy queens, artist queens, and pageant queens. Why? Because each queen knows their brand through-and-through, and it flows out of every pore in their body. How do they do it?

A Unique Look

The most recognizable drag queens create a personal look and they stick with it. They’ll customize it for different costumes and events, but you’ll always be able to identify who’s under the wig and sequins. That’s a strong brand. No matter if they’re in a ball gown or bodysuit, we know it’s them.

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It’s harder for those of us working in your standard office environment to create a unique look for ourselves. (Real talk: I once got denied attendance to a client meeting because I had teal and purple hair at the time.) But your unique look doesn’t have to be too outlandish, and it doesn’t even have to be on your person. Create a unique website or business card to visually represent yourself if that’s what makes sense.

Should you wear a big wig and eyelashes to your next job interview? Probably not. But, I recently read an article touting quirkiness as a desirable characteristic in exceptional employees. So go ahead and rock that cat sweater at the office. Case-in-point, this is me in the dress I wore to our last office holiday party:

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Presence and Consistency

The most well-known drag queens have a strong presence across platforms, and are consistent with their visual presence and messaging on all of them. They also use these channels to connect with fans and market themselves. If I’m a new fan or prospective booker visiting a queen’s social media page and they haven’t directed me to their website, told me about their upcoming shows, and shown me pictures/videos of their recent performances, they’ve failed me (and themselves).

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Authenticity

Creating a drag persona is a deeply personal, and sometimes vulnerable experience. In a world that has traditionally outcast them, living through a drag character allows one to be their true, authentic self. And it shows. Performers who may be introverted and reserved in their “muggle” lives will be fully confident and vivacious on stage. They are true to themselves and we love them for it.

Being authentic, in and of itself, is valuable. It also helps your brand. Comedy queens are funny and we laugh. Fashion queens show us bold style and we ooh and aah. Artistic queens push the boundaries and make us think. Being good at being themselves is what keeps them working.

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So when you’re working on your personal brand, remember the drag queens. Create a unique presence for yourself, be consistent with it, and always be your authentic self.

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