These Drag Stars Wowed Us On & Off the Stage in 2023
These queens made a splash in 2023!
John Gram/Preston Meneses/Matt Crockett
Where would the
+ community be without drag? The art form and its practitioners challenge the conceptions and binaries imposed by mainstream society -- and often make our days brighter in the process.
In 2023, there was a plethora of fabulous drag artists making waves on television, on gay bar stages, and even in the world of activism. Below are the outstanding honorees featured in
this year's Out100
Los Angeles Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence
Dusti Cunningham for
The Los Angeles Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence have been operating out of the City of Angels since 1995, serving the queer community with education, resources, fundraising, entertainment, and hope. The sisters employ drag, iconoclasm, and humor to further their mission “to remove stigmatic guilt and promulgate omniversal joy.”
For decades of service, the Sisters were slated this year to be honored by the Los Angeles Dodgers with the team’s Community Hero Award. Unfortunately, conservative Christians and the far right saw the moment as a chance to attack, launching a national campaign against the Sisters and their appearance at the game.
“The Dodgers controversy brought the current sociopolitical crisis of our nation right home to our doorstep,” Sister Unity says. “Instantly, our work became urgently relevant once again. Our response was to again be our flamboyant selves exactly as we are, but this time organized for national engagement.”
That national engagement led to over $16,000 in donations, an influx of people wanting to join and continue their mission, widespread broadcasting of their message, and new opportunities to work with other groups. And the collective outrage over their exclusion led to a restoration of their honor, which the group received on the field at Dodgers Pride Night.
Amid the drama, the Sisters keep preaching the queer gospel. “Our message continues to be that we flaming drag nuns are here in the streets of the world being our own colorful selves, and that if we can do this, then there is room in the world for each person to be who they are, as they are, free from shame and guilt and filled with love and joy for your own lives.”
In 2023 drag performer D’Arcy Drollinger made history when she became the first drag laureate of San Francisco and began serving as an ambassador for the city’s LGBTQ+, arts, nightlife, and entertainment communities. But Drollinger didn’t just make history in California; she is also the first drag laureate in the world.
The significance of this honor is not lost on Drollinger, who owns San Francisco’s Oasis, the largest drag-owned club in the United States. “It has become increasingly dangerous to do drag,” says Drollinger. “You now not only have to work your ass off as a performer, but all the while you find yourself looking over your shoulder.”
Aside from safety, one of the biggest obstacles Drollinger faces is being taken seriously as a drag artist. “Once people realize that drag is at the center of what you are creating, it is most often immediately regarded as disposable entertainment and not taken seriously,” says Drollinger. “It has taken me years of hard work, and even needing to create our own space to do the work, for people to appreciate what we are doing as real art and a legitimate means of entertainment.”
When Drollinger is not performing her duties as drag laureate, you can find her involved in a number of creative endeavors. This year she opened a film production studio in San Francisco focused on LGBTQ+ independent filmmaking. In 2023 she also finished principal photography for her second feature film,
, which features over 60 drag performers.
“If we can walk through the world on a daily basis just a little more fabulously, we inspire others to be more fabulous,” says Drollinger. “And when everyone is a little more fabulous, there is that much less room in their hearts and minds for anger, violence, and prejudice.”
Mrs. Kasha Davis’s famous catchphrase on
RuPaul’s Drag Race
season 7? “There’s always time for a cocktail.” But since 2015, Davis has been sober, which has profoundly impacted her life and work for the better. “In the process of clearing my mind over those eight-plus years, I have discovered the importance of giving back and being a light that was not there for me growing up.”
And Davis is a light, be it on season 8 of
this year or the drag story hour she has helmed for almost seven years at Blackfriars Theatre in Rochester, N.Y. In the face of right-wing attacks on drag artists entertaining and educating kids, she has doubled down. In fact, her proudest accomplishment is securing a partnership with a production company to create a children’s TV show that she would cohost with her husband, Mr. Davis (a.k.a. Steven Levins).
“We are winning,” says Davis, who is a stepparent of two. “No matter how loud, angry, or even violent the haters are we win by being exactly who we are. Through these difficult times we have continued to build allyship and awareness and, I hope we continue to see the progress that is being made as we continue to stand in our truth and light.”
Coming up, Davis will be playing the role of Barry in a production of
and will teach a course on drag at SUNY Brockport as an adjunct professor. She also continues to be an advocate for LGBTQ+ people struggling with addiction. “There are many paths to recovery, and the biggest message is that we can’t make it alone,” says Davis, adding, “I live my recovery openly so that others in the LGBTQ+ community can see it’s possible. One day at a time.”
It was a long journey for Jimbo, a self-described drag clown from Canada, to enter the werk room of
RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars 8
. Excluding the all-winners season that took place in 2022 — which featured
Drag Race UK
winner The Vivienne — Jimbo became the first international queen to appear as a contestant in
“My life’s mission is to create beauty, spread joy, give love, and be generous,” Jimbo says. “I am so proud to be gay, to be different, and to be myself. I can say that now because of the lives and work of so many LGBTQ+ people before me. I want to be one of those people for future generations, so they too can live and thrive where they are safe and accepted.”
Back in 2020, Jimbo became an instant fan favorite upon entering the competition of
Canada’s Drag R
season 1, placing fourth overall. Two years later, she got to compete in front of Mama Ru in the first edition of
RuPaul’s Drag Race: UK vs the World
but was suddenly eliminated by a fellow queen for being a front-runner. In both experiences, her time was cut short before she had a chance to snatch the crown.
They say the third time’s a charm, and that’s precisely what happened to this Canadian queen. In 2023 Jimbo was cast on
All Stars 8
, won four maxi challenges throughout the competition, and was inducted into the Drag Race Hall of Fame at the grand finale. And in a year when drag artists are constantly being targeted by conservative forces, Jimbo’s reign of laughter and joy has been much needed.
“I am working to overcome the anti-drag bills and anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric by being unafraid, loving life, and sharing my truth authentically and proudly,” Jimbo says.
From the moment Sasha Colby sashayed into the Werk Room of
RuPaul’s Drag Race
dressed like a Hawaiian warrior, it was clear that the reality drag competition would never be the same. The former Miss Continental winner raised the bar for season 15, slaying challenge after challenge with charisma, uniqueness, nerve, and talent. And today, she is the first America’s Drag Superstar of Polynesian descent (and the second trans woman of color in the franchise) to wear the crown.
Colby called winning
her “biggest blessing this year.” And there have been many blessings, including the privilege of emceeing Vice President Kamala Harris’s Pride reception. Colby, who electrifies sold-out crowds in her live shows, also draws a line between “the work I do” and “what I do for work.” She explains, “What I do for work is I’m an entertainer, a creative, and a performer. The work I do is, through my art, I allow people to find empowerment in themselves.”
Through it all, Colby is proud to have slain her inner saboteur. “I’ve overcome this by getting out of my own way, being kinder to myself,” she notes.
, Colby has emerged as a prominent voice for trans rights in a time of aggressive political attacks from the far right. Her message to the world is simple: “Our similarities outnumber our differences as human beings. With compassion, education, action, and practice on a daily basis, we can achieve equality.”
What’s next for the self-identifying Native Hawaiian witch and goddess? “The freedom to create art and immerse myself in what I love to do.”