(Laura Cappelle’s article appeared in The New York Times, 8/22; via Pam Green.)
PARIS — Anémone, 65, an impersonator at the famous Chez Michou cabaret, and Freya Kor, 22, the winner of the“Drag Me Up Paris” competition, have remarkably similar jobs: Makeup, wigs and onstage lip-syncs are all part of their routines. Yet in this city, they belong to different worlds entirely.
Ms. Kor is one of a booming young generation of drag queens influenced by the TV show “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” brought to French screens in recent years by Netflix. In bars and nightclubs around Paris, their uproarious, gender-bending performances are drawing increasingly large crowds, rewriting the rules of a local genre once dominated by “transformiste” cabarets like Michou’s.
On paper, there is one key distinction between the two traditions: While transformiste artists take on a range of personas, often impersonating real-life icons, drag queens create a single alter ego. In practice, the shows pull in very different audiences, split along generational and social lines.
Sit down for dinner and a show at one of the few remaining transformiste venues and the crowd will look much as it does at non-drag cabarets like the Moulin Rouge: middle-aged tourists and families. The succession of lip-sync numbers often feels like a nostalgic singalong, with pastiches of celebrities such as Celine Dion and Barbra Streisand along with a roll call of French pop singers.
Photo: The New York Times