Founded in 1991 by filmmakers Randy Barbato and Fenton Bailey, World of Wonder has become Hollywood’s most successful independent studio for LGBTQ+ content and artists, with a particular emphasis on the impact that it’s had on drag performers all over the world with the ever-growing RuPaul’s Drag Race franchise – which Barbato and Bailey serve as executive producers of.
With conservatives now pushing a relentless anti-drag and anti-trans narrative to further their own political agendas, World of Wonder has partnered with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) to create the Drag Defense Fund. This initiative aims to support drag performers and the LGBTQ+ community at large during these trying times.
In an interview with Out, Barbato and Bailey shared their thoughts on the current anti-drag rhetoric coming from conservatives, talked about their efforts behind the Drag Defense Fund, and discussed the idea behind the recent “Wigloose: The Rusical” challenge on Drag Race season 15 that spoke so much to the times that we’re living in.
Out: What is the main goal of the Drag Defense Fund and what’s been the response so far since launching this initiative?
Randy Barbato & Fenton Bailey: The main goals of the Drag Defense Fund are to fight Anti-LGBTQ+ bills in court, to push back against LGBTQ+ book bans and classroom censorship, to defend drag in communities across the country, and to educate the public on the huge wave of bills emerging throughout the US.
There has been enormous interest in this initiative since it has launched. We are delighted that folks are engaged and motivated to act, because we need to fight these measures in the courts and not just on social media.
A lot of discourse is going on about Tennessee and Florida, but these aren’t the only states that are pushing anti-drag and anti-trans bills in the US. Why do you think this has suddenly become such a hot topic among conservative pundits and politicians?
As RuPaul has said, ‘this is the politics of distraction.’ This is an attempt to shift focus away from the fact that so many Republicans are unable to or disinterested in addressing the real problems our country faces. They are desperately trying to disrupt progress and turn back time. It’s really no different than bullies at school picking on the people that they think are weak and easy targets, and in that, they are mistaken.
How can people get more involved with the Drag Defense Fund?
People can get more involved by going to the Drag Legal Defense Fund website and donate! Also, it’s important to get educated on the over 400 anti-LGBTQ+ bills that are emerging in some shape or form throughout the country. It’s also critical for everyone to vote. That is the number one weapon we all have to fight ignorance. And it’s free!
RuPaul’s Drag Race has transformed the lives of many LGBTQ+ artists and drag performers across the United States and around the world, but queer people can sometimes take LGBTQ+ rights and visibility for granted. What do you think about the current state of queer visibility in mainstream media?
Visibility is everything, and from where we sit, there needs to be more! The more media can reflect the reality of the world we live in, the more difficult it is for others to try and deny our existence.
The recent “Wigloose: The Rusical” episode from season 15 felt very timely to what’s going on right now in politics. As the executive producers of RuPaul’s Drag Race, what’s the importance of showcasing a challenge like that on a network as big as MTV?
We’ve always believed that our mere presence is our politics and so we are grateful to MTV for providing a platform for Drag Race to continue. Our ability to share with the world so many diverse and talented queens is a blessing. Their tenacity and their heart shine through and remind people that we all have so much more in common than we realize.
Over a year ago we filmed “Wigloose: The Rusical.” Tom Campbell and the creative producing team wanted to find a way to address their concerns of the shifting political climate while wrapping that message in joy, love, and laughter. And that’s what Drag Race does best!
RuPaul’s Drag Race season 15 airs Fridays on MTV.