Three city lawmakers have introduced legislation that would order Big Apple officials overseeing museums and nightlife to appoint a laureate of the city’s bustling drag performance scene.
Drag has long been an integral part of Gotham’s gay nightlife scene, but has soared to new prominence in the popular conscious thanks, in part, to the highly popular reality-TV contest, “RuPaul’s Drag Race.”
If passed, a drag laureate would be picked every year by the Commissioner for Cultural Affairs in consultation with the head of the Mayor’s Office of Nightlife, all with the goal of helping to boost the local LGBT business community and promote the city’s arts scene, supporters say.
The bill would provide the laureate — to be named before Jan. 30 every year — with a stipend and “in-kind resources” to cover the costs of the duties associated, though no dollar amount is specified in the legislation.
“The drag laureate would serve to champion and highlight the contributions of the drag community in New York City’s business, arts and cultural spaces,” said Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Queens), the chief sponsor of the measure, which is also backed by Councilmen Carlos Menchaca (D-Brooklyn) and Ben Kallos (D-Manhattan).
The bill does not say how the administration would select the laureate, but Van Bramer said after the hearing that he envisions a type of competition that could attract press and the public’s attention.
“It would sort of be a mini RuPaul’s Drag Race,” he said of a possible selection process. “It’s a lot of fun, if we allow ourselves to have some fun with this.”
Van Bramer said the administration would set the budget amount.
All three lawmakers are leaving the City Council at the end of the year under term limits.
“A drag laureate role in our city would validate the art form,” said Marti Cummings, a famed drag queen and gay rights activist, who ran in the Democratic primary to represent the Upper West Side and Morningside Heights on the City Council.
“Drag is an art form that has no box to hold it in,” he added. “It’s an art form that not only supports so many businesses, but it’s an art form that also helps to teach and educate people.”
The legislation was first introduced in January and received its first hearing Tuesday, where it was left pending.
Van Bramer said the City Council Speaker’s Office has not yet set a date for vote.