Today’s crop of drag queens—especially the superstars on RuPaul’s Drag Race—are more creative and inventive than ever. Queens like Shea Couleè are using high-fashion looks to send important messages, while Landa Lakes uses their drag to educate others about Indigenous culture, and those are just two examples. The art of drag has always been about more than the look, of course. Each queen brings a unique story and vision to their art form. And a new book, launching next month, aims to pay homage to those who paved the way as far back as the 1960s.

Legends of Drag: Queens of a Certain Age (available for pre-order now) is the brainchild of duo Harry James Hanson (creative director and drag performer) and Devin Antheus (floral stylist, writer), both of whom wanted to “give the girls their flowers,” says Antheus. “These elders know how to survive a plague, how to bring joy to those around them, and how to cultivate resilient communities—and they do it all with style, charisma, and grace.” For Hanson, doing the project stemmed from a more personal place. “As a drag artist myself, who didn’t come up within a traditional drag family, I’ve always been fascinated by the way things were ‘before,’ because those stories were never told to me—I had to seek them out,” says Hanson.

To highlight a variety of veteran drag queens who broke boundaries across the country, the pair travelled to 16 cities including San Francisco, Portland, L.A., and Milwaukee to profile local drag icons, like New York’s Egyptt LaBeija and Las Vegas’s Hot Chocolate. Narrowing down which queens would grace the inside of the book was, of course, a difficult feat. “We sought out queens with whom we felt an aesthetic resonance, who looked like they had stories to tell,” says Hanson, adding that they allowed each city to guide them towards their various subjects. “Social media and deep dives played a big role as well,” says Hanson. “I still have a spreadsheet of nearly 100 queens whom I’d really love to work with.”

While each queen in the book differs greatly in style—from Collette LeGrande’s Old Hollywood glamour to Hot Chocolate’s campy wears—the duo says they were all united by one mission: To disrupt. “Drag has a long history of subversion and resistance,” says Antheus. “It draws on diverse lineages and traditions, and yet is ever being re-invented.”

During their epic drag road trip across the U.S., the duo picked up some memories along the way. For Antheus, that was getting a palm reading from New York’s Simone and cruising the Vegas strip in Hot Chocolate’s convertible; for Hanson, meeting the Goddess Bunny in Inglewood was a fever dream. “We shared shrimp cocktail and rosé (for breakfast) in a wood-paneled banquet room, as she regaled us with stories of her decades-long career in Hollywood,” says Hanson. “Our shoot was almost rained out, but as golden hour approached, we captured the perfect shot—it’s still one of my favorites.”

While they wanted to simply spotlight each queen’s artistry, the duo’s main hope for the book is that everyone can connect with their unique stories. “We hope everyone who encounters the book finds at least one profile that moves them,” says Antheus. “One queen whose story resonates with their own—a mirror in which to find themself, a doorway to pass through.” Hanson also hopes people can look past the international stars on Drag Race, and think about supporting and uplifting the queens who have long been using drag as conversation-starters. “It’s easy to get excited about what’s happening on television, but there’s so much incredibly rich, rare, and beautiful drag happening on a local level,” says Hanson. “Our elders are a bridge between the traditions of the past and visions of the future.”

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