Hold on to your Wig
Legends, statements, and stars were made at the 2019 Tribeca Film Festival, as the annual New York City event hosted the colorful world premiere of HBO’s sdrag documentary Wig — chronicling the contemporary resurgence of drag icon Lady Bunny’s influential queer performance festival, Wigstock — Saturday night. In addition to director Chris Moukarbel (Gaga: Five Foot Two) and producer Neil Patrick Harris, RuPaul’s Drag Race stars Willam Belli and Alaska, LGBT recording artists, and local drag performers hit the Spring Studios stage for a breathtaking performance featuring acrobatics, leafblowers (no, really) and — you guessed it — wigs. See EW’s exclusive photos from the event in the gallery ahead.
Red carpet realness
Director Chris Moukarbel poses with his Wig collaborators — all of whom worked to showcase New York City’s rapidly diversifying nightlife scene, where the styles of drag mainstays like Lady Bunny and Flotilla Debarge converge with progressive-minded newcomers like Charlene Incarnate. Throughout 2018, Moukarbel captured the process of mounting Wigstock’s return after the festival ceased annual presentations following the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks — and how the mainstream invasion of drag has impacted the craft.
Dressing the stage (literally)
Flotilla Debarge and Lady Bunny — who founded Wigstock nearly four decades ago — introduce the evening’s performers after the world-premiere screening of Wig.
A lacefront like this
RuPaul’s Drag Race All-Stars 2 champion Alaska and season 4 graduate (and A Star Is Born actor) Willam Belli sang a gorgeous ballad about hairpieces with season 6 alum Courtney Act (who curiously remained “backstage” — wink, wink — to sing her verses).
Blowing your mind (and the hair covering it)
While softly crooning about expensive hair (the pair sang “A Lacefront Like This” to the tune of Kelly Clarkson’s “A Moment Like This”), Alaska and Willam briefly exited the stage, only to return carrying leafblowers (which they promptly aimed at each other’s faces and skirts, for dramatic effect).
Alaska and Willam bow out
The Drag Race alums’ performance drew an enthusiastic standing ovation from the crowd. Both queens also appear in Wig, with Alaska’s Wigstock performance appearing during the film’s adrenaline-fueled concert sequence. Willam, however, appears in a hilarious segment that sees him recounting his experience with RuPaul’s Drag Race and a terrifying brush with a “crackhead” who broke into his house (and, as a result, almost got stabbed by a fully painted, fully drag-ified Willam).
Neil Patrick Harris and husband David Burtka attend the Wig premiere
Producer Neil Patrick Harris channeled his Hedwig and the Angry Inch character — whom he performs as during one of the film’s segment — on the Wig red carpet alongside his husband, David Burtka, who also appears in the film to help Lady Bunny prepare to launch Wigstock’s comeback performance in late 2018.
Kevin Aviance radiates
Dance music performer Kevin Aviance also appears in the film to discuss his recovery from a violent hate crime that put him in the hospital with a fractured jaw in 2006. The film also shows footage from various LGBT rallies held in support of Aviance following the incident, which reportedly saw up to seven men (only four were arrested) beating and robbing the recording artist as he exited the Phoenix nightclub in Manhattan’s East Village.
Though the film chronicles a dark period in Aviance’s life, the performer continues his craft on stages around the world — including at the Tribeca Film Festival, where he descended into the crowd for a high-energy performance of his experimental dance tracks that had the crowd clapping along to each beat.
How I Met Your [Yaas, Mama!]
Check out Neil Patrick Harris (on the right) getting into Kevin Aviance’s groove.
The higher the hair...
As the saying goes: The higher the hair, the closer to… busting your bank account, as Lady Bunny’s signature (gargantuan) wig looked as towering as it does expensive.
I'll take a (Bobby) Samplsize in every color
New York City queen Bobby Samplsize injected circus-style acrobatics into her performance, tip-toeing over a line of glass wine jugs while making over her dance partner (pictured) with colorful wigs, heels, and tucking panties.
The future of drag is here
The breakout star of Wig is underground drag artist Charlene Incarnate. Her performative style honors her drag foremothers, who graced Wigstock stages of years past.
Charlene the god(ddess)
Charlene’s work has largely centered around her gender transition. Wig even features a scene where she receives a hormone shot live on stage. Similarly, her stripped (literally) Tribeca performance commented on societal lines separating genders: Sure, her breasts (and genitals) were fully exposed, but she made sure you were only looking at her gorgeous, expressive face as she lip-synced the hell out of Natalie Cole’s take on “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds.”
Charlene nails it
Most of Charlene’s clothing, however, remained on her body for the duration of the performance — as did her impeccable set of crimson nails.
Diva of the ages
Among fresh faces on the drag scene, drag royalty was also in attendance at the Wig premiere, as Darcelle XV — nearly 90 years old — watched from the crowd as those who’ve flourished on trails she blazed twirled on stage.