RuPaul’s Drag Race creates America’s next drag superstars while The Boulet Brothers’ Dragula places an emphasis on horror-inspired drag queens. However, twin brothers Ashley and Brandon Wright noticed that a certain genre of drag was not getting the platform they felt it deserved, leading them to them to create the YouTube series “Camp Wannakiki.”
The series recently featured Paris LuRux, the youngest contestant on season two of “Camp Wannakiki” at just 23 years old and a local of Vestal, New York.
Each episode consists of a summer camp-type activity and a talent show that rewards a prize to the winner and eliminates the lowest-judged performer. LuRux, whose stage name is an amalgamation of Paris Hilton and artist La Roux of “Bulletproof” fame, spent her time on the show completing obstacle courses and creating unicorn- and UFO-inspired looks for episodes one and two, respectively. While she was eliminated in the second episode of season two, placing 11th out of 12, she said the bonds she created on “Camp Wannakiki” stick with her.
“I was expecting a lot of the girls to be like, ‘This is a competition, I’m here to win, I don’t care what you say, I don’t care about this person, like, end of the day, we’re not friends,’” LuRux said. “But that’s really not how it was. It’s a giant sisterhood. Everyone was so encouraging, everyone was so supportive. I still talk to all the girls today, like I was literally just on the phone with some of them.”
Ashley Wright, co-creator of “Camp Wannakiki” who also serves as a judge on the show in his drag persona, Apple Brown Betty, said supporting one another is a tenant of the show’s values and emphasized that “fun and friendship” is the goal, rather than “backstabbing.”
“We were like, ‘Why doesn’t anybody make a show about campy drag queens, because those are the drag queens I like, the funny ones,’” Wright said. “So we were like, ‘Wouldn’t it be funny if someone did a show and put it in a summer camp? Oh, that would be hilarious!’ and next thing you know, we’re calling campgrounds.”
But coming up in the drag community, LuRux felt that she didn’t have anyone to guide her other than herself.
“Because I started at such a young age, a lot of the older queens that were already in the business didn’t wanna be a part of the younger queens because we’re young and reckless and do stupid stuff,” LuRux said. “Also, when I started, YouTube wasn’t really a thing, so I couldn’t just look up, ‘how to do a smoky eye,’ so it was very much self-taught, trial and error.”
LuRux began doing drag at an early age, which limited her ability to get involved in the more established drag scene.
“I started doing drag when I was 16 years old and there weren’t many places where I could perform so I would basically only do teen shows,” LuRux said. “I’m a cheerleader, so I pull a lot of inspirations from cheer and old high school movies, especially ‘Mean Girls,’ like Regina George is a huge inspiration, the very empowered women.”
LuRux performs once a month, typically at The Cave in Binghamton, and she said she’s noticed a substantial turnout from Binghamton University students. Citing an 80-20 split at her shows between students and local residents, she said their energy fuels her performances.
“In a drag setting, we definitely feed off of the energy you give us,” LuRux said. “If you’re just like, standing there watching, we feel that and we’re like, ‘Am I doing something wrong? What do I need to change?’ But when you’re like screaming our names and clapping and cheering, we give our everything, we give our 100 percent.”
As much as LuRux enjoys performing for the students of BU, she thinks it’s time to move on to a bigger city. Competing on a show like “Camp Wannakiki” can catapult a performer to fame, and LuRux says she’s ready to explore the world outside upstate New York.
“Living in Vestal is kind of difficult when it comes to drag because Vestal is like, literally nothing — there’s nothing there besides the college,” she said. “It’s just very hard because like, being so small, people in Vestal are so narrow-minded and not many people accept drag. But when it comes to drag, I really don’t care what people say. If you don’t like it, don’t watch it.”
Drag is becoming more mainstream, but it still remains a niche community, and each performance is a chance to spread the word. While LuRux herself may not have had a mentor, she said helping others explore the art that she loves so much is a driving force for her performances.
“I’m actually currently talking with a student who reached out to me about starting drag,” she said. “I love helping people, especially if they want to try something new. Drag is a wonderful art form, and I advise people to try it at least once in their life because you’ll be surprised by how fun it is.”