A drag queen’s look isn’t complete without a killer wig. Whether they are performing in front of a huge theater audience or vogueing in a crowded underground basement club, the dramatic wigs make the looks that inspire us all to stop, stare, and smile for all the right reasons.
“I believe wigs will always be popular with drag,” says one of RuPaul’s Drag Race season eight’s most beloved participants, Naomi Smalls. “Naomi Smalls is a completely different person than Davis [Heppenstall], and I like to completely transform. Being able to change your hair color, texture, and length by plopping something on your head is immediate satisfaction.”
Orlando-based drag queen Cara Cavalli adds, “Wigs are a big piece to the puzzle when it comes to creating a female illusion. Just as hair is always an integral part to a woman’s beauty regimen, wigs are just as important to a queen. When planning a look, an immediate question we ask ourselves is ‘Okay, but what hair will I wear with this outfit?’ It’s part of the process.”
But, what exactly does the process really look like? Ahead, three queens divulge to ELLE.com where they shop for wigs, the best tricks for installing them, and tales of hair pieces flying off (gasp) mid-performance.
I wear a wig every time I get in drag which is normally about three to four times a week. Hair is such a vital part of the head-to-toe look. I come from a cosmetology background and I think it has helped me understand color and proportions. I’m not the easiest wig client, and can be very nitpicky when it comes to things like size, closeness to the face, and warm and cool tones. My hair color has to be complementary to the outfit or the character that I’m looking to achieve.
During the season eight finale of RuPaul’s Drag Race, I had the honor of learning how to secure a lace front by the amazing Bianca Del Rio. Bianca is such a lovely, kind professional always looking to teach anyone interested in improvement. She got me hooked on Kryolan Mastix Spirit Gum Adhesive. My biggest advice for securing the wig: spirit gum, bobby pins, and a prayer.
I’ve lost track, but I have about 30 different wigs. I’ve traveled everywhere from Hong Kong to the middle of nowhere for drag. I’m always scrolling through Instagram, Tumblr, and Google looking for new styles to send to my stylist @wigsandgrace to try to replicate. The funny thing is, synthetic hair is similar to the hair that grows out of a woman’s head. When a wig is brand new, it never does what you want—similar to freshly shampooed hair. But, after performing in that wig, once it’s filled with products and pins after about five times, it really starts to learn how to move with you.
There are so many different synthetic hair finishes, so it’s important to find out which ones work best for your style of performing. When I first started drag, I liked everything long, silky, and down to my ass—modeling myself after supermodel Naomi Campbell. Now, I’m having a lot more fun exploring different shapes and styles. — Naomi Smalls, Drag Entertainer, Chicago, IL