Drag Queens and Beauty Queens: Contesting Femininity in the World's Playground (Paperback)
The Miss America pageant has been held in Atlantic City for the past hundred years, helping to promote the city as a tourist destination. But just a few streets away, the city hosts a smaller event that, in its own way, is equally vital to the local community: the Miss’d America drag pageant.
Drag Queens and Beauty Queens presents a vivid ethnography of the Miss’d America pageant and the gay neighborhood from which it emerged in the early 1990s as a moment of campy celebration in the midst of the AIDS crisis. It examines how the pageant strengthened community bonds and activism, as well as how it has changed now that Rupaul’s Drag Race has brought many of its practices into the cultural mainstream. Comparing the Miss’d America pageant with its glitzy cisgender big sister, anthropologist Laurie Greene discovers how the two pageants have influenced each other in unexpected ways.
Drag Queens and Beauty Queens deepens our understanding of how femininity is performed at pageants, exploring the various ways that both the Miss’d America and Miss America pageants have negotiated between embracing and critiquing traditional gender roles. Ultimately, it celebrates the rich tradition of drag performance and the community it engenders.
About the Author
LAURIE GREENE is an associate professor of anthropology at Stockton University in New Jersey, where she has taught since 1986. She is the founder and chair of the LGBTQ Youth Safe Space Initiative at Stockton University and an advocate for the local LGBTQ community.
"An unprecedented look at drag culture and its history in Atlantic City. A must-read for queens and their fans!"
— Sapphira Cristal
"I have long wondered how the Miss America pageant maintains a conservative appeal while ignoring the known influence and involvement by the gay community. If you've ever known or loved Miss America, you need this history lesson."
— Erin O'Flaherty
"After 30 years in the drag business, I was surprised and elated to learn so much about drag/LGBTQ+ history in Atlantic City. The in-depth exploration of how Miss America and Miss’d America were connected and disconnected is fascinating."
— Sherry Vine
"Through a highly entertaining, insightful, and informative combination of history, ethnography, and gender studies, Greene uncovers the long-standing influence that Atlantic City's LGBTQ+ community has had on the Miss America Pageant."
— Rusty Barrett
"The subject matter is fascinating."
— Gay & Lesbian Review
"Greene’s prose is delightful and imaginative, the work standing out as both an illustration of the horrors of hegemonic oppression and the beauty of an adaptable subculture. Drag Queens and Beauty Queens adds to the growing body of work that provides insight into the development and practice of gender norms and their influence on the tapestry of national identity formation, maintenance, and adaptation."
— Gender & Society
"All of this is told by Greene through attentive ethnographic fieldwork, with transcript excerpts often conveying not just the words but the animated community conversations from which she draws. She makes productive use of sources like Facebook pages dedicated to Atlantic City memories, which can sometimes offer richer LGBTQ archives than more recognized repositories. Ultimately, Drag Queens and Beauty Queens is not as expansively or densely theorized as, say, Marlon Bailey’s landmark ethnography of the Detroit ballroom scene, Butch Queens Up in Pumps, but its trade-off is greater accessibility. This would make a productive text in undergraduate courses, where the Miss/Miss’d America comparative analysis would surely spark discussion. Greene’s ethical commitment to producing a readable text for the drag community itself is also to be commended. With this book, Laurie Greene has expanded the canon of New Jersey LGBTQ history and offered a valuable model of community-based scholarship."
— NJ Studies