Do you have what it takes to serve as San Francisco’s official drag performer?
While not going so far as launching its own elimination-style reality show, Mayor London Breed’s office announced Thursday that applications are now open for the city’s first-ever Drag Laureate position.
The program, which was unveiled earlier this year, aims to support LGBTQ+ nightlife and entertainment in San Francisco. A vetting committee consists of various city agencies, including the Entertainment Comission and the Office of Transgender Initiatives, as well as people affiliated with the Transgender District, the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, Castro Cultural District, Bay Area American Indian Two-Spirits, and others. The winning artist gets a $55,000 stipend and serves an 18-month term.
Responsibilities include serving as a spokesperson for San Francisco’s LGBTQ+ community and partnering with the city on large-scale events like Pride while producing drag events of their own. The Drag Laureate will also be expected to help find their successor, essentially enshrining the role of the “drag mother.” Further talents, like the ability to lip-synch to Dua Lipa or perform a passable impression of Little Edie, are optional, but encouraged.
To be eligible, applicants must be over 21 and live in San Francisco, with a demonstrated background in community activism and a good working knowledge of the history of drag.
According to a news release from the Mayor’s Office, the program stemmed from San Francisco’s LGBTQ+ Cultural Heritage Strategy, a “community-driven effort to honor the legacy, nurture the well-being, promote economic opportunity, and ensure the longevity of San Francisco’s LGBTQ+ community.”
“I’m excited that San Francisco is joining New York and West Hollywood in establishing Drag Laureate programs in their cities,” said local drag legend Juanita MORE!, who recently held the title of Empress of San Francisco (as close to drag laureate as anyone could get).
It’s notable that the organization bestowing the stipend is the San Francisco Public Library. While that makes sense—the city already has a Poet Laureate—the move comes as libraries have increasingly become cultural flashpoints, with numerous LGBTQ+ titles banned. Goaded on by homophobic and transphobic social media accounts, drag performers who read stories to children have faced widespread threats that they’re somehow sexualizing or “grooming” kids.
The position is thus likely to generate some controversy by merely existing. D’Arcy Drollinger, the owner of SoMa drag club Oasis, told The Standard she will apply.
“The drag community in SF is such a force. We are doing so much for the city and our communities already,” she said. “I would absolutely love the honor to be the laureate for San Francisco, but I honestly am so thrilled the position exists, that it feels like we all win.”
Other performers, like Ladybear, were more direct.
“Call Ladybear,” Ladybear said.
Astrid Kane can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org