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Realistic Actor in Drag Queen Performances in Film

Updated on November 23, 2017
Rachelle Williams profile image

I'm Rachelle, a.k.a "TheMotleyChick," a lover of eclectic but ordinary people, situations, and topics. I love sharing helpful resources.

Jack Lemmon, Tony Curtis, Marilyn Monroe in "Some Like It Hot"
Jack Lemmon, Tony Curtis, Marilyn Monroe in "Some Like It Hot"

When we think of actors in drag, visions of Martin Lawrence and Flip Wilson immediately spring to mind; for some of us, images of Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon appear.

These actors are funny and most of their roles in drag are legendary.

When we think back to these performances, we can plainly see that they are actors in comedic drag roles.

However, a few actors have given superb drag performances that have a ring of believability… a certain Rupaul-esqueness (a real-life drag queen) that makes them seem either realistic as drag queens or totally believable as a member of the opposite sex.

Ving Rhames - Holiday Heart (2000)

Ving Rhames is a well-known black actor who frequents action hero type supporting roles because of his beefy stature.

However, his turn as a drag queen in the title role as Holiday Heart (2000) is completely believable.

In the film, Holiday, opens his home to the daughter of a crack addicted woman (Alfre Woodard), and the trio form a bond which resonates throughout the film.

Although Ving Rhames’ role is overlooked in the annals of Hollywood history, no one who has ever seen the movie will soon forget it.

Ving Rhames: Scene from Holiday Heart

Robin Williams - Mrs. Doubtfire (1993)

We all know that Robin Williams is a gifted actor, but his role in Mrs. Doubtfire (1993) is a standout performance.

How many people can say that they would even suspect that “Euphegenia Doubtfire” was a male in drag if they met her/him in real life?

It cannot be easy for a hairy, somewhat burly man to portray a woman and get away with it - Dustin Hoffman tried it as “Tootsie” in the ‘80s, and it was cute, but Hoffman was totally unbelievable as a woman. However, Robin Williams’ turn as “Mrs. Doubtfire” definitely hit the bull’s-eye.

Cooking Scene from "Mrs. Doubtfire"

Tyler Perry as "Madea"

Some people may object to Tyler Perry’s inclusion as “Madea” in the realistic category. However, for many of us, “Madea” is a highly realistic caricature of our mothers, grandmothers, aunts and matronly neighborhood fixtures we grew up with - this connection is what makes “Madea” a totally believable character, and it is this familiarity that keeps her close to our hearts.

Madea is full of wise cracking remarks, and totally outrageous behavior, but her advice is sage, and her behavior is a reflection of the life she has lived. Also, although she doesn't like to show it, she genuinely cares for the people in her life and her neighborhood.

If you do not think Madea has made a lasting impression in the consciousness of America, the next time you hear someone refer to a police officer as "the po po," know that Tyler Perry's Madea helped to make the term popular.

Tyler Perry as Madea

John Leguizamo in "To Wong Foo Thanks for Everything Julie Newmar" (1995)"

In To Wong Foo Thanks for Everything Julie Newmar (1995), it is Patrick Swayze and Wesley Snipes that drew most of the hype.

The hype was mainly due to the fact that Patrick Swayze is… well (sadly, was) …. Patrick Swayze, and Wesley Snipes in all of his manliness, made for a terribly unattractive drag queen.

However, John Leguizamo’s portrayal as “Chi Chi” had an air of authenticity to it. Just about anyone who has ever known real-life drag queens will admit that they have experienced a few “Chi Chi’s” in their life - just ask.

Hillary Swank "Boys Don't Cry" (1999)

Although her character bore no remarkable resemblance to the real-life Brandon Teena, the transgender male upon which the tragic story of Boys Don’t Cry (1999) is based; Hillary Swank made quite a realistic boy.

Swank was given the Best Actress Oscar not at the 72nd Academy Awards, critical acclaim, and most importantly, her performance helped to shed light on a deadly culture of hate against lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and transgender persons (LGBT).

Which Performance Was the Best Actor in Drag Performance?

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