Island bookshelf: ‘Drag: The Complete Story’

REPORTER FILE PHOTO
This week Ms. Dempsey spoke with author Simon Doonan to discuss his newest book ‘Drag: The Complete Story.’

“Drag: The Complete Story”

By Simon Doonan

Laurence King Publishing

Simon Doonan, noted style commentator and creative ambassador for Barney’s in New York, spends much of his time at his Shelter Island home. In the next few weeks, his new book “Drag: The Complete Story” will be released. The volume traces the history of drag, the never-subtle transformation of style to entertain, shock and express nonconformist ideas of gender and dressing. The book contains vivid photographs to illustrate some of the most striking examples. The Reporter asked Mr. Doonan to explain how he approached the subject.

What does “Drag” (the book) convey about its importance in the current day? Is it primarily about fashion, freedom, fluidity…would you say?

Drag has never been more explosive and popular than it is today. Between “RuPaul’s Drag Race” and the new gender-identity revolution it is true to say that drag is everywhere.

Are there drag icons you celebrate in the book?

My book is a historical overview which starts in ancient times, goes right through Shakespeare and Versailles, and comes bang up to date. I celebrate everyone from The Emperor Nero right thru to Sasha Velour. My goal was to make history hilarious.

You have been so successful in your career at Barney’s and as a fashion commentator. Yet, in Sara Bliss’ new book “Taking the Leap: Change Your Career, Change Your Life” you discuss wanting to accomplish more as a writer. How challenging was it to write “Drag?”

It took me three years to write “Drag,” but it was a delight. Yes, there was endless research and re-writes, but it was a very entertaining ride.

What will you be writing about next? 

I am working on a self-help book for Phaidon. Stay tuned.

What does Shelter Island offer you? Creative inspiration or a relaxing getaway from the design world — or some of each?

Most of “Drag” was written on Shelter Island during the last two bleak winters. It’s a great place to focus. No distractions. Jonathan Adler and I have been coming here for 25 years and we are still blown away by the beauty and fabulosity of this place.

According to a recent article in New York Magazine, drag is the new “national pastime,” revolving around the most well-known queens following in the high-heeled footsteps of RuPaul. The star of “Drag Race” has placed drag culture front and center, creating a lucrative platform for the most successful and flamboyant performers. With names like Trixie Mattel, Latrice Royale and others that can’t be printed in a family newspaper, they revel in their intricate makeup, wigs, gowns, boots and stilettos as well as their fame.

The publication date for “Drag: The Complete Story” is Sept. 17.

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