Disney has been getting in on the popularity of drag queens recently, inviting groups of performers to pose alongside the stars of “Maleficent: Mistress of Evil” and “Frozen 2” at their respective premieres.
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Since “RuPaul’s Drag Race” debuted in 2009, the show has won 13 Emmys and sparked numerous lucrative careers, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Contestants from the show have gone on to appear in movies like the 2018 remake of “A Star is Born” and Netflix’s “Dumplin.’”
There’s a lot more money in drag than one might expect. Brandon Voss, the owner of Voss Events, the company that runs a tour featuring “Drag Race” stars, told the Reporter that his drag clients all earn more than $500,000 per year and one queen, Aquaria, has made more than $1 million just for endorsement deals and performances.
"One [queen] can make $300 at a nightclub and Bianca del Rio will walk out with $30,000," Voss said.
That tour has grown from 22 cities across the U.S. and Europe in 2017 to 85 cities this year, including more arenas than ever before, according to the report. The tour has sold more than 130,000 tickets in 2019, with prices from $50 to more than $170.
Queens have also gotten deals with record labels to lip-sync songs and have collaborated with major fashion brands. But the real money “is on the road,” queen Nina West told the Reporter. West started getting offers after appearing on season 11 of “Drag Race.”
“Without the show, I don’t know if businesses would be interested in the viability of drag,” West said.
DragCon, an annual event held in New York and Los Angeles, attracted a combined 100,000 fans last year, according to the report. They spent $8 million on merch at the events. London is being added to the lineup next year.
World of Wonder, the production company behind “Drag Race,” even has its own streaming video platform, WOW Presents plus, which offers shows like “Drag Race” and its spin-offs and the Macaulay Culkin movie “Party Monster” for $4 per month.
“Drag queens have tapped into an audience that’s been desperate for a different kind of entertainment,” Randy Barbato, co-founder of World of Wonder, told the Hollywood Reporter. “Madison Avenue, the fashion industry and Hollywood are finally catching on.”
Here are five movies featuring drag queens that grossed the most at the box office, according to Box Office Mojo:
5. Kinky Boots (2005) — $9,950,133
4. The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (1994) — $11,220,670
3. To Wong Foo Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar (1995) — $47,774,193
2. The Birdcage (1996) — $185,260,553
1. A Star is Born (2018) — $434,888,866