At a regular City Council meeting last night, the West Hollywood City Council unanimously voted to move forward with a proposal for a drag laureate program. The process would select a drag queen (and alternate to a drag king thanks to council member Sepi Shyne) to serve as an ambassador for drag performers, promote arts and culture in WeHo and tackle LGBT nightlife issues, especially at businesses in the City’s historic LGBT district. The Drag Laureate would also serve to highlight and promote the contributions of drag artists to West Hollywood.
The Drag Laureate will be expected to attend various business and civic functions, participate in business mixers and events, and conduct one or more projects that bring awareness to drag culture.
Currently, West Hollywood has a successful Poet Laureate program designed to act as a champion for poetry, language, and the arts. This Drag Laureate program builds upon those same standards with an emphasis to assist local businesses.
City staff reviewed and obtained feedback on the Drag Laureate program from the West Hollywood Chamber of Commerce and the Los Angeles LGBTQ Chamber of Commerce. Their comments were incorporated into the program scope and guidelines.
The Drag Laureate would be an honorary position for the City and would act as a champion for drag culture and arts by creating a unique legacy through civic interactions and business engagements. The purpose of the Drag Laureate program is to raise the status and awareness of drag artists while providing an economic benefit to West Hollywood businesses.
The Drag Laureate’s purpose and expectation are as follows:
- Enhance the presence and appreciation of drag in West Hollywood
- Create a focal point for the expression of West Hollywood culture through drag
- Raise awareness of the power of drag in West Hollywood
- Promote partnerships with local West Hollywood businesses
- Celebrate the spirit of the people and the special qualities of West Hollywood; and inspire an emerging generation of drag artists
The Drag Laureate would serve a two-year term from November 2021 to October 2023 and would work with the City of West Hollywood to carry out the following duties each year:
- Attending and participating in six (6) West Hollywood business grand openings/ribbon cuttings, West Hollywood Chamber mixers or events to support West Hollywood local businesses.
- Organize one (1) yearly event to promote drag culture such as a panel discussion or performance workshop.
- Provide a drag performance at three (3) City events
All official Drag Laureate programs would be reviewed by City Staff for appropriateness
prior to execution.
Similar to the City’s already established Poet Laureate program, the proposed Drag Laureate program will receive an honorarium for their services to accomplish required duties. The West Hollywood City Drag Laureate receives a $5,000 honorarium each year, which is an increase of $2,000 per year compared to the Poet Laureate for the program’s increased scope, required number of appearances, and cost associated with hiring artists.
The application process is open to all, for self-nomination, to be considered for the Drag Laureate position. A completed application and three-minute drag work sample is required to accurately evaluate each artist. Applications will be available online beginning August 30, 2021 at 8:00 a.m. and closing on September 30, 2021 at 6:00 p.m.
Only drag artists with a significant connection to the City of West Hollywood will be considered. Such connections may be that the artist lives in the City, works in the City, has volunteered on a regular basis for community programs that deliver services in the City, and/or has organized or participated in multiple events that were co-sponsored by and/or took place in the City of West Hollywood.
The Bay Area Reporter reports that the Los Angeles County city is the first U.S. municipality to establish such an ambassador for drag performers and LGBTQ nightlife issues. San Francisco may become the second, as the idea is under discussion by City Hall officials and could be brought forward later this year.