For the third year, thousands of fans will descend upon the Los Angeles Convention Center to celebrate all things drag at RuPaul's DragCon. The two-day event, which opens to the general public on Saturday, April 29, will cover 210,000 square feet of convention floor space and feature over 90 drag queens (many from the hit TV show RuPaul's Drag Race), a bevy of dance divas and celebrities, nearly 50 panels… and of course, the Emmy Award-winning RuPaul herself! The convention is produced by World of Wonder (which also created and produces Drag Race) and welcomed 22,000 attendees in 2016.
"DragCon is everything," says drag performer and former Drag Race contestant Trixie Mattel. "Oh my god… I don't care if you like drag or not, you will after this."
"RuPaul kept saying that we needed to find a way to physically bring together our tribe," says World of Wonder co-founder Fenton Bailey. "We needed to find a way to physically connect like-minded people whose connections were limited to social media. After years of talking about it, we finally decided to just go for it!"
What are some of the key differences between last year's event and this year's shindig?
"The DragCon team spent lots of time and energy this year coming up with ways to make DragCon more experiential," says Randy Barbato, World of Wonder co-founder. "We focused on the details -- from the names of the streets in the hall to the draping of the walls; our goal was to dress the convention space up in drag and extend the experience."
In addition to RuPaul, there will be a cornucopia of queens on hand at DragCon. Everyone from Drag Race winners Raja, Sharon Needles, Jinkx Monsoon, Violet Chachki, Bob the Drag Queen and Alaska 5000, to even honorary drag queen (and Drag Race judge) Michelle Visage.
Here are nine key things to watch for and experience at RuPaul's Drag Con:
Meet RuPaul - Yes gawd, you can meet RuPaul at DragCon! As the convention's website helpfully notes: "When the doors open, head straight to mama Ru's booth, where'll she'll be signing autographs and taking pictures!" In 2016, the diva surprised attendees and exhibitors by roller skating through the convention floor. Might RuPaul don a pair of skates again in 2017? Ru answers: "Does Michelle Visage sleep on her back?" If you miss RuPaul at her booth, you can catch her give the keynote address on April 30.
More Than 90 Drag Queens - More than 90 drag queens are schedule to be featured guests at DragCon, and that includes nearly 80 queens that were contestants on RuPaul's Drag Race. "Everyone is there!" says Shangela, a drag performer and former Drag Race contestant. "It's like the family reunion you never knew you had or wanted, but you're gonna get it honey. And find me by the potato salad." Mattel jokes: "Top to bottom: all the way from RuPaul down to [pause] me. We're all there."
Watch Mattel and Shangela talk about Drag Con and more in a Facebook Live chat with Billboard, below.
Meet Your Faves - Most of the guests at DragCon will have their own booths or tables set up where you can get an autograph, a selfie with a star and buy lots and lots of merchandise. "If people want to go shopping, honey, this is the shopping extravaganza," Shangela says. "Skip the lines and skip the shipping," Trixie jokes. Plus, in addition to a cavalcade of queens at DragCon, the confab will also feature folks like writer/director Darren Stein, YouTubers Miles Jai and Brendan Jordan, Cazwell, and even adult entertainers Brent Corrigan and JJ Knight (hanging out with author Josh Sabarra at his booth).
210,000 Square Feet of Wall-to-Wall Drag - DragCon will consume a hefty amount of space at the Los Angeles Convention Center: 210,000 square feet on the convention floor, to be precise. Among the exhibitors and merchants at the convention (in addition to the bevy of queens that will have their own booths and tables): Boobs for Queens, Human Rights Campaign, It Gets Better Project, Manic Panic, Marco Marco, Obsessive Compulsive Cosmetics and Wigs By Vanity.
Dance Divas - On April 30, CeCe Peniston, Kristine W, Pepper Mashay and Ultra Naté will team up for the Dance Divas of the '90s panel (moderated by, full disclosure, the writer of this story). Combined, the four ladies have earned an incredible 68 hits on Billboard's Dance Club Songs chart.
Live Show Tapings - A bevy of web series from the world of drag will tape live episodes at DragCon, including Hey Qween, Transformations with James St. James, Untucked (with the queens of Drag Race season nine), Alyssa's Secret, Fashion Photo RuView with Raja & Raven, UNHhhh with Katya & Trixie Mattel.
Watch Jerry O'Connell Get a Drag Makeover - Only at DragCon will you see actor Jerry O'Connell get a drag makeover. Ginger Minj, a finalist on the sixth season of Drag Race, is scheduled give O'Connell a fabulous look that is sure to turn heads. (In 2016 at DragCon, Minj made over actor and nerd icon Wil Wheaton.)
Nearly 50 Panels - While getting to meet your favorite queen is certainly a significant reason why many people attend DragCon, there are oodles of informative panels that will be staged. "Map out the panels that you want to attend because that's where the real gold is found," RuPaul says. Among the panels: Teen Vogue Presents: What is Drag In Trump's America?, LGBTQ Youth Fiction Revolution, Born This Way: Coming Out Stories and ACLU Presents: Liberty, Justice and Equality For All. (Of course, there are also lighthearted panels, like Wigging Out: The Art of Amazing Hair.)
"We doubled down on the panels this year which have been carefully curated and produced," says Bailey. "In addition to creating fun and entertaining panels, with spectacular and broad-ranging talent, RuPaul and the entire DragCon team were deeply committed to creating panels that could provide useful ways for people to be pro-active in the current tumultuous political climate."
Fun for the Whole Family (Really!) - "DragCon is a family affair," says Bailey. "Who needs Disneyland when you've got DragCon? This year there will be a KidZone with a bouncy house and Drag Queen story time and face painting!" (At DragCon, fans of all ages are welcome, and it's pretty standard to see families with small kids roaming the convention floor. In fact, kids 12 and under get in free with an adult with a badge.)
"Fenton and I both have kids who we bring to DragCon every year," says Barbato, "and they always have a blast! Now we can let them run free in the KidZone while we go shopping!"