Updated: Nov 22, 2020
An article series by Abe Plaut
Instagram & Twitter @abeplaut
IU senior Chase Duncan is a trans woman who is also a drag queen. While mainstream media, such as RuPaul’s Drag Race, often depicts drag being done by cisgender homosexual men, drag has never solely belonged to this demographic. Drag is inclusive of everyone despite someone’s gender, sex, or sexual orientation and is used to celebrate the entirety of the LGBTQ+ community.
Every society has rules and norms, written and unwritten. Every society has expectations for how folks are supposed to look, act, speak, and dress, especially as it relates to gender. With origins in LGBTQ+ culture to subvert these gender expectations, drag queens are becoming increasingly visible, influential, and recognized in the mainstream fashion and beauty industries. What a queen chooses to wear (or not to wear) can speak volumes to their artistic inspirations and their character’s personality.
Merle started developing an interest in drag after going to a pride-prom while in high school in her hometown of Omaha, Nebraska.
“They had 3 queens come out and perform,” Merle said. “One of them was the mayor of Omaha!”
“It was really amazing and I remember looking at them and being like ‘these women are powerful and large and they are so… immaculate.’ I think it just got embedded in my psyche.”
Merle knew she wanted to do that someday. With a background in theater, Merle began investing more into drag during her freshman year at IU as drag was a way for her to put on her own show.
“I started collecting makeup and dresses and outfits and wigs, but back then it was just an expensive hobby,” she joked.
In drag, Merle loves “being that glamorous woman” and draws inspiration from vintage “golden-age” aesthetics. She credits Judy Garland as a singularly important influence “I would watch the Wizard of Oz every day for four years, starting at the age of three. I loved Judy Garland” she explained. Musicians like Nina Simone and Janis Joplin, and more broadly the fashion of the 1960’s also inform her style.
Check out her Instagram @m._merle for more!