Fierce Confidence: Unleashing My Inner Drag Queen


How to build confidence and self esteem. What I Learned From RuPaul

My stepson, Simon (a.k.a. Serenity Heart), has me hooked on a show called RuPaul’s Drag Race. Never hear of it? You’re missing out, let me explain.

It’s a reality television program where drag queens compete in an elimination-style contest for cash, prizes and the title of “America’s Next Drag Superstar.” The cast of 14 of incredibly beautiful queens competes in weekly challenges that lead up to a themed runway fashion shows. Judges then choose the bottom two queens to go head to head in a contest of “Lip Sync For Your Life” It’s my favorite part of the show and kind of like watching two trains heading for each other; in your heart you know something tragic is about to happen, but you just can’t stop watching.

As a white, straight, middle-aged guy who grew up in a Christian home during the homophobic decades of the 70s and 80s, I’ve had to challenge and change many of my beliefs. Twenty years ago, never would I ever imagined myself gleefully cheering on the contestants of a drag queen reality show. And yet today, I find the whole thing…inspiring!

I find it inspiring because while the show is a competition, complete with high drama and outrageous personalities, underneath it all is a narrative that unveils the struggle for confidence and self-love.

It doesn’t’ matter what others think, it only matters what you believe about yourself.

Confidence is something I’ve searched for my entire life. It’s why I joined the ARMY right out of high school, why I’ve read hundreds of self-help books and why I spent a hundred grand on grad school. I did all of this just to learn the lesson that RuPaul teaches to his contestants: It doesn’t’ matter what others think, it only matters what you believe about yourself.  

Here’s are a few things I’ve learned from RuPaul about confidence:

Be creative: RuPaul says, “Don’t be afraid to use all the colors in the crayon box.” I’ve learned that it’s ok to be different, that creativity is something I express as my gift to the world. If I’m not out there sharing myself, then what’s the point of living and growing?  

Be who you know you can be: RuPaul says ”When you become the image of your own imagination, it’s the most powerful thing you could ever do.” If you want to get anywhere you have to have a dream. Our ideas are born from our imagination of what could be. By bringing our dreams to fruition, we invoke our power to author our stories.

Remember who you are: RuPaul says, “Rise up and be fearless like a Maasai warrior. Stake your claim in this lifetime. Remember who you really are. Unleash the dragon and let these b*tches have it!”  When we remember who we are, we stay true to ourselves. This gives us the ability to press forward in the face of any adversity with the intensity of a warrior.

Get out of your own way: RuPaul says, “The biggest obstacles I’ve ever faced are the ones put there by me.” I get in my way when I listen to the voice in my head that says, “You can’t do that, you’ll look stupid, no one is interested in what you have to say.” Getting out of my own way means getting out of my head and tell the inner critic to shut up.

Be mentally strong: RuPaul says, “True wealth is having the knowledge to maneuver and navigate the mental obstacles that inhibit your ability to soar.” Emotional intelligence is essential in becoming mentally healthy. Learning to understand my emotions, where they come from and what they are for is a tremendous asset that grows and pays off in dividends that can’t be measured monetarily.  

Choose joy and gratitude: RuPaul says, “Fulfillment isn’t found over the rainbow—it’s found in the here and now. Today I define success by the fluidity with which I transcend emotional land mines and choose joy and gratitude instead.”  I can’t tell you how this mental shift has changed my life. By choosing to focus on gratitude and finding joy in the little things I have discovered a spiritual peace of mind like never before.

Respect others so you can respect yourself: RuPaul says,  “The amount of respect you have for others is in direct proportion to how much respect you have for yourself.” Perhaps one of the biggest life lessons I’ve learned is to stop judging people. Everyone is just trying to figure out this thing called life. As I’ve tried to empathize and respect others I’ve found that my self-respect has increased ten fold.

Love yourself first: RuPaul asks, “If you don’t love yourself, how the hell are you going to love someone else?” It all starts with loving ourselves. When I learn to love myself I am living from a place of abundance. How can I even know what love is if I don’t first and foremost love myself? I’m not talking about selfish narcissism, but rather growing my love for others as an outpouring of the love I have for myself.

In the end, confidence is the ability to vulnerably share who you are on the inside by wearing it unapologetically on the outside. That takes tremendous courage.  Who then isn’t more courageous than a drag queen? Perhaps that’s why they call themselves “fierce”.

  • David A Diaz

    Thank you for this!! I am gay, and also have a gay brother, who lives with my parents. My mom watches RuPaul’s Drag Race with him every week! I often call them after the show and talk about who won, who was sent home, and what we thought of it. And even though it’s a competition, we watch it more for the artistry, the creativity, and yes, shining a light on folks and lives that mainstream America maybe isn’t that familiar with. Through the show, we see how intolerance hurts these sons, and how acceptance (and even better: celebration!) strengthens not only them, but their entire families. Thank you for being open, for being supportive, for being loving. Serenity Heart is a friend of mine, so I know you’ve done a great job as a stepfather. In the words of RuPaul, “Everybody say LOVE!”