For the past couple of years, three outrageously charismatic drag queens have been making one of the most revealing shows on TV. In each episode of the Emmy-nominated HBO docuseries We’re Here, Shangela, Bob the Drag Queen and Eureka O’Hara – who all rose to fame competing on RuPaul’s Drag Race – travel to a small town somewhere in the United States. When they arrive, often to an uncertain welcome, each queen adopts a local ‘drag daughter’ to mentor. After some careful coaching and fabulous makeovers, they all come together to perform a cathartic one-night-only drag show extravaganza in front of their community.
It’s a deceptively simple premise that could have become kitschy reality TV. But in fact, the sensitively handled series is deeply compassionate in the way it tells real life stories about people finding strength and self-expression, often in the face of heinous prejudice. In doing so, it also challenges a lot of preconceived ideas about the very real divisions that cut across America, including some of those held by the queens themselves.
“The big thing about We’re Here is breaking down stereotypes,” says Shangela, her infectious energy radiating across a video call from Paris, Texas. “Not only the stereotypes that people have about us in the queer community, but also the stereotypes that we have about others, whether it’s about them being from a small town, or being from a red or a blue state.”