RuPaul, Aquaria (Season 10 Drag Race winner), and Violet Chachki (Season 7 winner) walked the Met Gala red carpet yesterday, an important milestone.

When I wrote yesterday about the Queer History of Camp, I said, “I’m a little disappointed, although we’ll have to see for sure tonight. With Shangela anointed by Queen Bey, Trixie running an empire, and Willam at the SAG Awards, Camp at the Met gala would have been the perfect year to have Drag Queens on the committee.”

Turns out that even though three queens showed up, I was going to stay disappointed. Yesterday was set up for a win. The queens were playing on their home turf and they should have hit this event out of the park. (I can’t believe I’m using sports metaphors on a Met Gala post about Drag Queens. I’m that distraught!)

Even other Drag Queens called them out:

For starters, people were big mad that RuPaul would dare to show up out of drag. I think perhaps he thought that he could show off Camp without drag, but that’s like having pancakes without syrup – why would you ever? Maybe he was even being cheeky, playing up the irony of the situation, which would definitely be campy. Unfortunately, it fell flat, especially when we’ve seen him dressed up like the freaking Queen of England

Another problem with RuPaul’s look was that it was basic, for a drag queen. Admittedly, the bar was set much higher for Drag Queens than it was for the Kardashians, but that’s because we’ve seen these queens turn out mind-blowing looks in the past. I’ve even seen campier outfits on RuPaul in Drag Race’s Werk Room! The brightly coloured, sequined suit with a striped pink zebra sleeve was…a choice. It’s not terrible, but it lacks the high aesthetic value and the seriousness that Sontag ascribes to Camp. It’s underwhelming.

Aquaria also messed up big time in her John Galliano gown, because although it was a cool dress with interesting textures and shape, there was almost nothing Camp about it. Compare this to her Episode 3 look and her Episode 6 look from RuPaul’s Drag Race. These are much more creative and campier than what she wore yesterday. We know Aquaria can do better, so why didn’t she?

The only queen that wore something that at least approached a drag level of Camp was Violet Chachki in a Moschino gown from Fall 2019. According to Sontag, Camp views objects in quotation marks, and Violet’s “dress” is actually stylized to be an oversized glove. It’s theatrical, exaggerated, and a little humorous, a good measure of Camp. In a Vogue interview, Chachki says, “It’s camp, but not ridiculous. It’s perfect for me.” I’m also a fan of the almost cartoonish makeup and hair that add to the effect. I like it, but like so many of the other Camp outfits of the night, it could have gone even further, especially for a fashion minded queen like Violet. What about a dress made entirely of silken gloves? 

It’s important that three Drag Queens walked the Met Gala red carpet for the first time. As Lena Waithe reminded us, Drag Queens were the pioneers of modern camp. It’s an enormous shame that they couldn’t live up to their potential.