American dream (n.): fake hair, diamonds, and frankfurters
For some, happily-ever-after includes a white picket fence, two-and-a-half children, and a Golden Retriever. For a drag queen, however, it's about hairpieces, more than two-and-a-half carats, and inflatable items that can be shaped like dogs.
Example: "The American dream for me is to have, like, wigs and jewelry and hot dogs and balloons."—Season 3 contestant Carmen Carrera
beat one's face (v.): to apply the perfect amount of makeup
What sounds like an insult is actually a compliment for a drag queen, as this exchange between a guest judge and Season 3 contestant Yara Sofia illustrates.
BGB (interjection): acronym for "bye, girl, bye"
What a drag queen says when a fellow queen she didn't like gets sent home from RuPaul's Drag Race. It is a play on the salutation coined by contestant Keisha on MTV's bisexual dating series A Shot at Love with Tila Tequila: " Hey, girl, hey!"
big girl (n.): a plus-size drag queen
break the dawn (v.): to give all that one has to something
In Season 1 of RuPaul's Drag Race, contentious competitor Akashia finds herself as one of the bottom two contestants, lipsyncing for her life to "We Break the Dawn" by former Destiny's Child member Michelle Williams. And that is exactly what she does in her performance.
booger (n.): a non-stereotypically attractive drag queen, whose success tends to be attributed to her stage presence versus appearance (see also heather)
With eight contestants remaining in Season 3 of RuPaul's Drag Race, two camps emerged—the heathers (Manila Luzon, Delta Work, Raja, and Carmen Carrera) and the boogers (Alexis Mateo, Yara Sofia, Shangela Laquifa Wadley, and Stacy Layne Matthews). Only the heathers, however, are aware of this nomenclature.
Cameroon (n.): the place from which people who will metaphorically "whoop your fucking ass" originate (see also Chicago)
The homeland of Season 1 winner Bebe Zahara Benet. Whenever she takes the stage, RuPaul screams, "Cameroooooon!"
chanté, you stay (interjection): what RuPaul says to the drag queen who is one of the bottom two contestants, but is saved and moves on to the next round after lipsyncing for her life (see also lipsync for life, sashay away)
Stemming from the lyrics of her 1992 dance hit "Supermodel (You Better Work)," it's the equivalent of Heidi Klum's or Ryan Seacrest's "You're safe" on Project Runway and American Idol, respectively.
charisma, uniqueness, nerve, and talent (n.): the four qualities RuPaul looks for in America's next drag superstar
Note: In acronym form, it becomes clear that RuPaul hopes to C. U. next Tuesday.
Chicago (n.): the place from which people who will "whoop your fucking ass" originate (see also Cameroon)
Example: "You piss me off some more and I will whoop your fucking ass. Bitch, I am from Chicago!"—Season 2 contestant Mystique
chicken cutlets (n. pl.): brassiere gel inserts that give a drag queen cleavage
Interestingly enough, these also have a special meaning to Pauly D and the cast of Jersey Shore.
condragulations (interjection): good wishes and compliments directed toward a drag queen
In a Season 2 challenge on RuPaul's Drag Race, the queens were asked to put together a "country realness" outfit. When self-proclaimed Southern contestant Mystique (yes, we're aware Chicago is not in the South) steps onto the runway in her "mall" look instead of a cowboy hat and chaps, the judges are not pleased. Though she is sent home, Mystique's attempt has gone down in Drag Race history and led to much more queen "realness."
drag mother (n.): an experienced drag queen who acts as a mentor and guide to a greener drag queen
The catchphrase of Season 3 contestant Yara Sofia.
extravaganza eleganza (n.): something possessing exceptionally high amounts of elegance
fierce (n.): amazing; hot (see also sickening)
In the "totally leotarded" challenge in Season 3, contestant Manila Luzon is impressed by the look she pulls off with a black bodysuit and some bright colored duct tape, which leads her to coin the term, "fierce jazzercise realness."
fishy (adj.): to look like a woman, not like a man dressed like a woman.
In the world of drag queens, there are some who strive to pass as women and others who embrace the "camp" of their clearly man-in-makeup appearance. This term refers to the former.
Example: "I'm serving fish, honey… and this ain't trout!"—Season 2 contestant Jujubee
garage doors (n.): the eyelids of a woman sporting a single shade of eyeshadow
Professional makeup artist Sutan (known for his appearances throughout America's Next Top Model) showed his true colors as drag queen Raja in Season 3 of RuPaul's Drag Race and shared with his fellow contestants a term for non-blended eye makeup.
go Mary-Kate (v.): to wear multiple layers of clothing; a style perfected by fashion icon Mary-Kate Olsen
Example: "Maybe I'll go all Mary-Kate on everyone and wear, like, 30 things at once."—Season 2 contestant Jujubee
Shangela Laquifa Wadley had spent only five months on the drag scene before appearing on Season 2 of RuPaul's Drag Race. Though she didn't last long, her "Halleloo" catchphrase left quite the impression and she returned with a vengeance to compete on the show's third season. If America can learn anything from Shangela's trajectory it's this: dropping a syllable from a longstanding term is enough to make you famous. And let us say, "Hallelujah!"
heather (n.): a conventionally pretty drag queen and member of the "popular" clique (see also booger)
In a tribute to the ‘80s cult film starring Winona Ryder and Christian Slater, four contestants on Season 3 of RuPaul's Drag Race (Manila Luzon, Delta Work, Raja, and Carmen Carrera) began referring to themselves as heathers.
interior illusions lounge (n.): the backstage room where the contestants sit as the judges deliberate
The equivalent of the "Stew Room" on Top Chef.
kai kai (n.): the circumstance in which two men dressed in drag engage in sexual activity
When Season 2 contestant Sahara Davenport revealed that her boyfriend also does drag, her competitors question her sexual preferences and ask whether the two " kai kai". Sahara squashed the rumors, but when her boyfriend Manila Luzon appeared on the third season of RuPaul's Drag Race, the topic was broached yet again. Manila admitted the two do have queen-on-queen relations and said they are "drag lesbians."
ladyboy (n.): a synonym for a drag queen
It is also the name of a RuPaul song that the contestants sing in a Season 2 challenge.
lipsync for your life (n.): a drag queen's final opportunity to impress RuPaul and save herself from elimination
After the contestants show off their looks on the runway, the bottom two contestants go head-to-head on the main stage, lipsyncing to a song of RuPaul's choosing. Often times, wigs and clothing come off.
leotarded (adj.): donning a bodysuit
Meryl Streep realness (n.): the attempt to achieve a high level of authenticity in a screen performance by not being afraid to look unattractive (see also country realness, fierce jazzercise realness, Soul Train realness)
When the dragtestants are faced with an acting challenge in RuPaul's faux film From Earth to Uranus, one queen thinks she knows what it takes to be no. 1.
Example: "I'm bringing Meryl Streep realness. You gotta get ugly to win the gold."—Season 3 contestant Mimi Imfurst
pit crew (n.): a team of two men hired to assist in all RuPaul's Drag Race challenges
Though they do not say or wear much, RuPaul revealed the casting process for Season 3's pair in briefs.
PMP (n.): a post-modern pimp-ho, i.e. a prostitute who acts as her own pimp
In her stand-up routine for one challenge, Season 3 contestant Shangela comes up with a bit about whoring oneself out in these tough economic times.
Example: "Post-modern pimp-ho means, yes, I'm still a pimp, but I'm also my own ho. That's right. Because of the recession, y'all, I'm telling you, I had to scale back. Sometimes I don't even pay myself my own money."—Season 2 and 3 contestant Shangela Laquifa Wadley
read (v.): the art of insulting, as popularized by the 1990 documentary Paris is Burning (see also throwing shade)
resting on pretty (v.): when a drag queen banks on her attractiveness to get her to the top, instead of her talent (can be used interchangeably with resting on body)
Both Season 2 contestant Tatianna and Season 3 contestant Carmen Carrera were accused by the judges of committing this drag crime and neither won the final competition in her respective season.
sexcretary (n.): a sexy-looking secretary
sickening (adj.): incredibly amazing; excessively hot (see also fierce)
When Season 3 contestant Mimi Imfurt suggests her competitor Shangela has gotten where she is thanks to a sugar daddy, Shangela makes sure she knows the real reason is because she's (what?) sickening.
sprepper (n.): combination of Sprite and Dr. Pepper, which isn't necessarily a good thing. (see also booger)
When the Season 3 contestants are challenged to turn jocks into drag queens, Carmen Carrera notices Raja's task is particularly difficult.
Example: "She's supposed to be a heather. But she kind of looks like a Sprepper… it's usually like a booger quality."—Carmen Carrera
Soul Train realness (n.): the realistic emulation of the disco era
When Season 3 contestant Manila Luzon gives a disco performance of RuPaul's new song "Superstar," she proudly believes she delivers authenticity.
Example: "And I just unfold my wings. I'm giving you Soul Train realness, honey."—Season 3 contestant Manila Luzon
t (n.): the truth
As Shangela would say, the t is "the info, the bizness, the low-down." Though drag queens have been known to ask for it, they tend to not like what they hear.
throwing shade (v.): the art of insulting (see also read)
Example: "Oh, honey. I need to duck and cover because you all bitches be throwing beaucoup shade."—RuPaul in Season 2
tuck (v.): to affix one's male genitalia in a way that it is not visible so that one resembles a woman (n.): the product of a man affixing his genitalia (typically with duct tape and multiple pairs of pantyhose) so that it is not visible
Example: "I'm still mesmerized how she tucked all that stuff. I don't know where the heck it went, but it was an amazing tuck."—Guest judge Vanessa Williams about Season 3 contestant Carmen Carrera
two piece and a biscuit (n.): the secret to success for Season 2 contestant Mystique
This Popeye's signature meal became synonymous with Season 2's resident "big girl."
who-ho (n.): a ho who is dressed like a Who from Dr. Suess' fictional land of Whoville
work (v.): what "you betta" do, according to RuPaul, to stay in the competition
Jaimie Etkin is an assistant culture editor at The Daily Beast. She has also written for Us Weekly and Radar.