Beauty


A drag queen’s look isn’t complete without a killer wig. Whether they are performing in front of a huge theater audience or vogueing in a crowded underground basement club, the dramatic wigs make the looks that inspire us all to stop, stare, and smile for all the right reasons.

“I believe wigs will always be popular with drag,” says one of RuPaul’s Drag Race season eight’s most beloved participants, Naomi Smalls. “Naomi Smalls is a completely different person than Davis [Heppenstall], and I like to completely transform. Being able to change your hair color, texture, and length by plopping something on your head is immediate satisfaction.”

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Orlando-based drag queen Cara Cavalli adds, “Wigs are a big piece to the puzzle when it comes to creating a female illusion. Just as hair is always an integral part to a woman’s beauty regimen, wigs are just as important to a queen. When planning a look, an immediate question we ask ourselves is ‘Okay, but what hair will I wear with this outfit?’ It’s part of the process.”

But, what exactly does the process really look like? Ahead, three queens divulge to ELLE.com where they shop for wigs, the best tricks for installing them, and tales of hair pieces flying off (gasp) mid-performance.

NAOMI SMALLS

Ruben Chamorro / Adam Ouahmane / Brittany Travis

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I wear a wig every time I get in drag which is normally about three to four times a week. Hair is such a vital part of the head-to-toe look. I come from a cosmetology background and I think it has helped me understand color and proportions. I’m not the easiest wig client, and can be very nitpicky when it comes to things like size, closeness to the face, and warm and cool tones. My hair color has to be complementary to the outfit or the character that I’m looking to achieve.

During the season eight finale of RuPaul’s Drag Race, I had the honor of learning how to secure a lace front by the amazing Bianca Del Rio. Bianca is such a lovely, kind professional always looking to teach anyone interested in improvement. She got me hooked on Kryolan Mastix Spirit Gum Adhesive. My biggest advice for securing the wig: spirit gum, bobby pins, and a prayer.

Todd Diederich and Martin Zee

I’ve lost track, but I have about 30 different wigs. I’ve traveled everywhere from Hong Kong to the middle of nowhere for drag. I’m always scrolling through Instagram, Tumblr, and Google looking for new styles to send to my stylist @wigsandgrace to try to replicate. The funny thing is, synthetic hair is similar to the hair that grows out of a woman’s head. When a wig is brand new, it never does what you want—similar to freshly shampooed hair. But, after performing in that wig, once it’s filled with products and pins after about five times, it really starts to learn how to move with you.

There are so many different synthetic hair finishes, so it’s important to find out which ones work best for your style of performing. When I first started drag, I liked everything long, silky, and down to my ass—modeling myself after supermodel Naomi Campbell. Now, I’m having a lot more fun exploring different shapes and styles. Naomi Smalls, Drag Entertainer, Chicago, IL

My biggest advice for securing the wig: spirit gum, bobby pins, and a prayer.

BIBLEGIRL

Greg Bailey / Instagram / Instagram

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When selecting a wig, there’s a perfect storm of factors to consider: Am I performing? If so, I prefer lightweight styles—layered, slick, and wet-looking shoulder length cuts are a personal fave of mine. This type of cut ensures solid mobility without trapping heat on to my back while I’m throwing my body from wall to wall. There’s less of a chance of tangles or long strands getting caught all up in my face. If I’m not performing and just making an appearance without as much high-octane mobility, then I switch it up. The sky’s the limit as long as the color doesn’t clash with the overall ensemble.

When it comes to wigs, the texture is really important! Generic Halloween store wigs are the perfect example of what looks inexpensive and ineffective, for me at least. The fibers are much more plastic, have a stiff feel and look to them, and truthfully, they aren’t that comfortable. As for brands I love? I can’t give all of my secrets away, but I am happy to share that there are a plethora of lovely lace front wigs offered on Amazon!

Greg Bailey

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I’d say I have upwards 50+ wigs or so. I recently purged a bunch out of my closet as I’ve been in the process of moving on out from NYC to LA. My go-to products when securing my wigs include heavy-duty wig glue and 354 crossed hairpins, but it’s important not to rely solely on pins. My wig has flown off before, and it never gets any less mortifying than that. It’s been a long time since this has happened, so it’s safe to say I have learned my lesson.

I’d say I have upwards 50 wigs.

Back in the day, I used to make my signature hair a clip-on ponytail, and I felt real cute in it. I had a show at a now-defunct bar about four years ago, and I was performing a mashup of Miley Cyrus’ “Wrecking Ball” and Lana Del Rey’s “Summertime Sadness.” When I went in for my final hair flip at the big crescendo of the track right after the bridge, and at peak velocity, that damn ponytail flew off of my head so fast. Embarrassing! Without a wig, I improvised a quick Miley pixie cut, and the audience remained hype without coming down too hard on me for looking like Boo Boo the Fool. The queen who booked me for that show gave me a kind, yet motherly tip: “Baby, I love you but if I book you and that happens again, I will never book you again.” Needless to say, I got her message loud and clear.” Biblegirl, CEO of Dragqueenmerch.com, Drag Queen, Internet Reality Trash, Los Angeles, CA

CARA CAVALLI

Courtesy of Cara Cavalli

I wear wigs everytime I’m in drag, which is roughly about four times a week. I’m a really big fan of monochromatic looks where my hair, makeup, and costume all are the same tone. If I’m wearing a red costume or a red lip, I’m more inclined to pick a red wig because it looks the most cohesive. If I’m performing a Britney Spears song, or a Lady Gaga song, of course, I’ll choose a blonde wig because that’s the vibe of the artist, and it allows the audience to connect with the performance more.

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If it doesn’t hurt, you’re not doing it right!

I have over 50 wigs, and I absolutely love Wigs & Grace. Their wigs have really good density and hairlines that don’t need any additional plucking for realness unless you’re crazy about little things like that. I also love Webster Wigs. They have more styles and colors than any other supplier I’ve worked with. You can always find what you’re looking for. The texture of the wig is so important to me. I’m kind of known in Orlando for having good hair, so I definitely have a reputation to uphold. If the fiber is synthetic, it has to be a good synthetic. There are so many synthetic wigs that are too shiny or look too plastic, and it’s a lot of work to fix that. Sometimes, they can’t be fixed. I like my wigs to look like they’re coming out of my head. The texture needs to believable.”

Courtesy of Cara Cavalli

To put on my wig, if I’m not doing a dancing number, I’ll use Kryolan Mastix Spirit Gum Adhesive because it keeps everything in place. But if I am doing a dancing number, I’ll put duct tape around my head and then use Elmer’s Spray Adhesive to secure my wig. It sounds crazy, but it works. Before I go on stage, I always will give her a couple of hair flips and tosses to make sure everything feels right. In addition to the spirit gum/spray adhesive, I’ll use long hair pins/bobby pins and weave them in. If it doesn’t hurt, you’re not doing it right!” Cara Cavalli, Drag Queen, ODRL Season 4 & Dueling Divas Winner, Orlando, FL



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