Randy Barbato and Fenton Bailey have worked with drag iconfor more than 25 years, and much has changed in the LGBTQ community since the '90s. Barbato and Bailey, who founded World of Wonder (WOW) Productions, created "RuPaul's Drag Race" in 2009 and then launched RuPaul's DragCon in Los Angeles in 2015, the first drag convention in history.
Now, Barbato and Bailey, who had over 40,000 attendees at April's DragCon in Los Angeles, are bringing the fun to New York on Saturday and Sunday for the first time ever. They say it feels like a "homecoming" for them.
"RuPaul's career really flourished and began in New York and WOW, the company that produces DragCon — we all started in New York," explained Barbato.
Bailey said it should feel like a homecoming for attendees, too.
"The idea is very much baked into '' — it's about finding your family, your tribe," he explained. "DragCon provides the opportunity to find your family, find your tribe in real life. It's exciting for people to have a physical place to meet their heroes — the queens. It's a great get-together. It feels very much like a family event. You will see on the floor people who come with kids, teenagers bringing their family — it's a family affair."
The debut New York DragCon will feature 25 panels and dozens of speakers including RuPaul, Bob The Drag Queen, Joanne The Scammer, Todrick Hall and Big Freedia.
Barbato alluded to the Trump administration and said of DragCon, "It's about lightness at a very dark time. There will be incredible panels that range from useful takeaway tips about makeup and wardrobe to incredibly political and historical panels."
Naturally, DragCon is also a celebration of "RuPaul's Drag Race," which moved to VH1 for its ninth season.
"It's really become a cultural phenomenon and it's kind of connected with people who appreciate not only the artistry of drag but the tenacity of the human spirit," said Barbato. "In comparison to other competitive reality shows, everyone is a winner on this show. Over the course of nine seasons, there's been over 113 drag queens who are all out there working not only all over America, but all over the world. They've become celebrities and stars, so DragCon celebrates the success of this show."
Barbato said he's most looking forward to Sunday's gospel service at DragCon.
"It reminds us all of what we have in common, in that ideas like drag and Christian are not mutually exclusive and can actually come together," he said.
Bailey said he's most excited about a giant inflatable "squirrel friend," a running theme on the show.
"We've commissioned a giant 15-foot inflatable squirrel," he said. "I've always been a big fan of plushies and inflatables so I'm very excited to get my pic taken."
RuPaul's DragCon takes place at the Jacob Javits Center in New York City on Saturday and Sunday.