Photos: The dazzling drag queens and fabulous fans of RuPaul’s DragCon LA 2023


DragCon LA kicked off Friday morning with a ribbon cutting ceremony hosted by RuPaul and 30 dazzling queens from the now ubiquitous “RuPaul’s Drag Race” franchise. Cackling to himself that he didn’t immediately see a ribbon to cut at all, the Emmy-winning host and supermodel of the world was in good spirits, kicking off a weekend designed to uplift and celebrate drag.

The Los Angeles Convention Center, adorned with signs like “Sissy That Walkway” and “Slay Ave” that helped orient fans around the con’s many booths and vendors, offered itself up as a welcome space for fans of Ru and his legendary children. To walk around DragCon is to experience drag not just as entertainment but as a booming cottage industry in which merchandise, photo-ops and branded experiences are de rigueur.

A person in armor
Heidi N Closet poses for a portrait during RuPaul’s DragCon LA at the Los Angeles Convention Center.
(Dania Maxwell / Los Angeles Times)

For Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato, who have helped shepherd the “RuPaul’s Drag Race” brand to its meteoric mainstream success as the show’s producers, the convention is but an extension of their desire to champion drag’s artistry and to avoid it from becoming an easily ignored fad. Keenly aware of a political climate that seeks to vilify drag queens, the entrepreneurial pair hope to continue to provide a platform for this most fabulous of art forms.

“At a time like this, just being visible is important,” Bailey tells me. “Drag is not threatening anyone. It just is; and it celebrates people in their infinite variety.”

Along with all the excitement of the biggest DragCon ever, the looming cloud of the biggest year of anti-LGBTQ+ legislation is never far from thought.

May 12, 2023

Amid plenty of sequins, numerous and colorful wigs and many a feathered boa — not to mention a bevy of shirtless skirted boys hawking underwear on the pink carpet — the attendees at this year’s DragCon LA didn’t disappoint when it came to serving looks. Nor, as it happens, in their ability to remind us of the self-actualizing power drag can have on even its most casual fans. Here are some of the faces from DragCon.


Lady Bushra

A person poses in an embellished emerald outfit.
Lady Bushra poses for a portrait with an outfit she made herself, inspired by and celebrating South Asian women.
(Dania Maxwell / Los Angeles Times)

Coming all the way from the U.K., Lady Bushra was keen to make her mark in the U.S. “My drag is essentially a love letter to South Asian women,” she explains, detailing how she further embellished the vintage emerald dress she’d chosen for the occasion. “I’m very much inspired by the Bollywood superstars that would dance and perform and entertain to put a smile on people’s faces. I just want to reciprocate that and bring joy to all the fine folks here at DragCon.”



A person in drag poses with their hands on their huge hat.
Priyanka poses for a portrait during RuPaul’s DragCon at the Los Angeles Convention Center
(Dania Maxwell / Los Angeles Times)

The winner of the inaugural season of “Canada’s Drag Race” came to DragCon with an outfit as outsize as her own personality. “I had a guidance counselor who told me I’d never be a star,” she recalls, with a wry smile as she surveys the school-themed booth around her. “So I was like, I’ll show you! So I wrote [the song] ‘Bad B— Don’t Cry’ about that guidance counselor and about not taking no for an answer. And now this is the final cherry on top where I’ve created Bad B— High where all your dreams can come true!”


Heidi N Closet

A person wields a play sword in a metallic dress.
Heidi N Closet poses for a portrait during RuPaul’s DragCon LA.
(Dania Maxwell / Los Angeles Times)


Explaining her shining silver armor outfit, “RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars 8” contestant Heidi N Closet doesn’t mince words: “I’m here to save the world from all those hateful h— out there, you know?” She knows there’s a lot of hate out there, and she’s well aware that her own drag artistry can serve as a weapon to fight off such attacks. “Drag allows people to be who they are and just be as loud and bold as possible. It’s definitely helped me in the self-confidence department, helped me feel stronger and more powerful. It’s opened up the world for me.”


Salina EsTitties

A person poses for a portrait with their tongue out.
Salina EsTitties poses for a portrait during RuPaul’s DragCon, with a booth inspired by her hometown of L.A.
(Dania Maxwell / Los Angeles Times)

For her first DragCon, Salina EsTitties knew she wanted to bring her love of Los Angeles into her booth. “But not like Beverly Hills glamour L.A., baby! My whole thing is I came from the streets, so I needed to relate to the people that I am.” And so, with painted brick walls with graffiti, a food cart and an old-school glam photo booth, the local queen made good on the desire to have her fans meet her there.


Dustin Ceithamer

A person in a costume with a horse head hat, poses for the camera.
Dustin Ceithamer poses for a portrait during Rupaul’s DragCon.
(Dania Maxwell / Los Angeles Times)

At 6-foot-8, Dustin Ceithamer would’ve turned heads even if he hadn’t been wearing an outfit that made him tower even more over all other DragCon attendees. “This is a vintage Bob Mackie showgirl costume,” he bashfully confesses, acquired through a “bad business divorce.” The outfit was a chance to dip into the world of drag he so admires from afar. “I do love to explore the creativity of it, the freedom that there are no rules and you can kind of just express yourself and be as creative as you want.”


Morgan Wells

A person in a festive outfit.
Morgan Wells poses for a portrait at RuPaul’s DragCon LA.
(Dania Maxwell / Los Angeles Times)

For designer Morgan Wells, who first began toying with drag close to three decades ago, DragCon is an opportunity to take stock of what queens from near and far are sporting these days, a chance to keep up with what’s new and fresh. “That’s why I come to these conventions: to get inspiration! To see what these girls are doing, what the new styles are and get inspiration from that. Oh, and the performances! I just love the performances.”


Gyndahollow Graham

A person poses in a light blue dress and white sash.
Gyndahollow Graham poses for a portrait during RuPaul’s DragCon.
(Dania Maxwell / Los Angeles Times)

“A big part of my drag is community service.” Such a statement is clear just from looking at what Gyndahollow Graham chose to wear for this year’s DragCon. Echoing an event the veteran educator will be putting on in Atlantic City, N.J., in June, Graham donned a sash that reads “More Drag, Fewer Guns”: “Which is, of course, a reaction to all the legislations that are being put in place to attack the LGBTQ community — and also against gun violence. And the dress itself has trans colors because it’s a matter of supporting trans individuals as well.”


Gavin Haynes

A person dressed as a bath loofah.
Gavin Haynes poses for a portrait during RuPaul’s DragCon.
(Dania Maxwell / Los Angeles Times)


Many miles away from his home in Jacksonville, Ala., Gavin Haynes was beaming. “I love drag and I love drag queens. I love that you can literally be whatever you want to be.” For someone who took inspiration from a bath loofah for his outfit (“I wanted something that covered my huge body and gave me a skinny silhouette,” he says with a grin), DragCon offered a window into the world he’s long admired. “I started watching ‘Drag Race,’ and I fell in love with drag since then. I just dress up at home and have fun.”


Lady Pussy Galore

A person dressed in a kimono.
Lady Pussy Galore poses for a portrait during RuPaul’s DragCon.
(Dania Maxwell / Los Angeles Times)

Arriving at DragCon in support of her drag daughter, “Drag Race Philippines” contestant Corazon, Lady Pussy Galore has wild ambitions for what her own artistry can accomplish. “I want to show that drag is not just being fancy. It’s not just fashion. But also, that it can help people. I have a nonprofit organization that helps kids in the Philippines, with backpacks and school supplies. So I’m trying to put myself out there and hopefully someday I will create libraries in far-flung areas in the islands of the Philippines.”



A person in a black-and-white striped dress sits on a checkered sofa on top of a zebra print rug.
Gottmik poses for a portrait at Rupaul’s DragCon LA.
(Dania Maxwell / Los Angeles Times)

Surrounded by copies of their new book, “The T Guide” (co-written with Gigi Gorgeous) “RuPaul’s Drag Race” fan favorite Gottmik remembers how Kabuki and Pierrot influences helped them come up with their signature two-tone makeup style. “When I first started drag, I was using feminine drag to express and figure out my gender and I didn’t really feel comfortable painting my face skin-tone drag. So now I’m able to experiment so much with color and textures and it ended up being this kind of mask. It feels like a character, almost. So I can be me, still, but like my mask is on at the same time.”