Not far from the White House, dozens of dolled-up drag queens take to the streets in their finest frocks to celebrate diversity and freedom, all with a healthy dose of competition.
“Four minutes to go, make sure you’re backed up because you’re gonna get hit by a bunch of racing queens, and you don’t want that!”
Drag queens are jostling for prime position at the start line — some are stretching, others are doing last minute hair checks.
The competition is fierce.
“I want to run this high heel race because I want to win!” one competitor says emphatically.
Her strategy? “Kneecap people on the way. No, kidding. I just sprint as fast as I can.”
17th street is packed. Thousands of spectators, young and old, line the street.
Two officials zoom around on Segways trying to clear the crowd from the three-block racetrack ahead of one of the most highly anticipated events of the year.
“It’s a really big event not just for drag culture, but for gender-defying culture that doesn’t give in to stereotypes,” a race-goer explains.
“You have all the crazy shit going on in the White House, so it’s really important to fight back against that and say, no, we are not going to get stuck in the past, we are going to keep moving forward as a society.”
Clad in a lacey black dress with a voluminous purple wig, the event’s grand marshal, Banaka, describes how it all began.
“It started way back in 1986 on this very street. Two patrons were in drag on Halloween and decided to take a shot at this bar, run to the other end of the street, take another shot and run back, and it snowballed from that.
“It’s a very spirited event. It started out with two guys in drag just placing a wager, and now we have all this.”
The costumes are very impressive — there’s a Cinderella with fairy lights in her skirt, lots of Lady Gagas and, of course, a drag Donald Trump, complete with glitter blue eye shadow, accompanied by his wife, Melania.
Donald: “We’re here parading for the high heel drag race.”
Melania: “We don’t give interviews to fake news, get out of here.”
Reporter: “Melania, you look fabulous! ”
Melania: “I know. He spent lots of money to clean this girl up.”
What made Donald and Melania leave the White House to come here?
“We want to build a Trump Tower right over there.
“There are lots of the gays here, so we decided to come out and smile and pretend we don’t want to kill them, so we can have our tower.”
A competitor flamboyantly flicks her folding fan and things start to get serious.
After a countdown and one false start, it’s on for real.
The ladies in the front row set off at a cracking pace.
Those behind opt for more of a strut.
It’s over in seconds. The finish line is crowded with groups of giddy locals getting selfies with the queens.
Surrounded by TV cameras, in a white fringed flapper dress, silver block-heel boots, a platinum blonde wig and eyelashes to Texas is the winner — Scott.
“I’ve been running on my own for a couple of months now, training. And then, yesterday, I just put some heels on and got the feel for it, ran around in my yard and on the street,” Scott says.
Scott’s prize? Some free drinks at a local bar, two tickets to see Janet Jackson and, as grand marshal Banaka says:
“The pride of knowing you’re number one.”
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