Several days ago, Netflix announced they would be releasing 29 original movies this year. For me personally, Netflix originals have been hit or miss. From the corny teen romance films such as “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before,” to comical masterpieces like “BoJack Horseman,” Netflix has provided all kinds of favorites and even questionable series. However, because I obsessively watched 6 seasons of “RuPaul’s Drag Race” on Hulu, I couldn’t help but be curious about RuPaul’s new show “AJ and the Queen” that popped up on new releases on Netflix.
The Life of RuPaul
If you don’t know much about who RuPaul is, just know that he has rocked the world with his singing, tenacity, and drag. Born RuPaul Andre Charles in 1960s California, he was destined for fame and stardom. At 12 years old, he knew Hollywood would be his ultimate goal. Entertainment Weekly quotes RuPaul, “I moved to Atlanta when I was 15, went to the School of Performing Arts, worked in my family business [selling used cars] for six years, and then started my act.”
All That’s Interesting states that in Shakespearean times [late 1800s] men would often dress as women to play female parts in productions. Female impersonators known as Onnagata in 17th century Japan also brought light to this practice. “Drag” in the 1980s meant looking as feminine as possible, and New York was the centerpiece for the era of the Drag Queens.
RuPaul began his journey in New York with a rebellious, punk style of drag, but was back in Atlanta after six months. Despite this, he never stopped grinding, and after moving back to New York, then to Los Angeles, and back to San Diego, he finally ended up on top of his career in 1993. According to Biography, “He continued recording music, received a modeling contract with MAC Cosmetics, appeared in movies such as Blue in the Face and The Brady Bunch Movie, and landed his own TV talk show, The RuPaul Show, which ran until 1998.” Along with developing his glamazon supermodel persona, he also represented the gay rights movement at the 1993 LGBT March on Washington.
Fast forward to moving on from the club life (1994), meeting his future husband (married in 2017), and creating the mainstream-million-dollar TV competition RuPaul’s Drag Race (2009), we now come to 2020 with his new hit Netflix Series, AJ and the Queen.
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My Thoughts on AJ and the Queen
SPOILERS AHEAD: “AJ and the Queen” is a heartwarming series about acceptance and self-worth. The premise of the show according to Netflix Official is, “While traveling across the country in a run-down RV, drag queen Ruby Red [Robert] discovers an unlikely sidekick in AJ: a tough-talking 10-year-old stowaway.” The show’s narrative ran a little off course throughout the 10 episodes, but every show had a meaning and even a life lesson. Robert and AJ drive from New York to Texas with trouble following them every mile. Even though AJ is only ten with a mouth of a sailor, her sass and charm grab your attention from the beginning. Coupling her and Robert’s backstories will pull at your heartstrings, and the bond they develop through the course of the show will have you in tears.
At the beginning of the series, we see Robert beat down because his boyfriend stole the money he saved up to pay for his very own nightclub. His best friend, Louis, encourages him to find a new reason to get up in the morning and reassures him that life is not completely over. Robert sets out on a journey to perform in drag shows to make more money but gets a wonderful surprise when 10-year old AJ begs to come with him. With a mother on the streets and nowhere to live, AJ sets her mind on coming to Texas with Robert so she can possibly live with her grandfather. The story starts out a bit slow, but after the first two episodes, you start to feel a genuine connection with the main characters.
I loved the show, not just because of RuPaul, but because the story is filled with love in many forms. Robert’s lifelong best friend Louis is goofy but always has Robert’s back. He has proven time and time again that even at our lowest there is a way to get up and keep trying. AJ has trouble connecting to others coming from a broken home. However, she is able to find comfort in Robert and opens up to him and others in each city. And without giving too many spoilers for the ending; every step of the journey has the duo touching people’s hearts with their personalities and authenticity. Some episodes were drearier than others but having fun in the midst of being chased down by your vengeful ex-boyfriend and his con-artist counterpart was also important.
The episodes are almost an hour long each, but not once did I click away. You begin to understand why AJ wants to be independent even though she clearly adores her drug-addicted mother. You also empathize with Robert and why he has so much love for his ex even though he stole $100,000 from him. Then you get to see the show explain how people are more complex than what we think. Humans are complicated! There are factors in the show such as sexual orientation and socio-economic status that should be considered when getting to know a person. Everyone has a story, and the understanding that Robert has for others (when he is struggling to understand himself) is a quality that not many have. Nonetheless, I was bawling my eyes out in the end. The show is exactly what I expected from RuPaul. Constant humor, genuine love and appreciation, vulnerability, hardship, and perseverance through it all. The road trip was a rollercoaster at times, but for me, RuPaul and producer Michael Patrick King did not disappoint. The cameos of Queens from the last 11 seasons of RuPaul’s Drag Race were also a plus.