When it comes to choosing a gift they’ll actually want, there’s two things you should know about the drag queens in your life. Firstly, it’s a demanding job — queens will often do back-to-back appearances and juggle performing with full-time jobs. “I had a four-hour show on a Friday recently, and then went from that to a four-hour shift at a karaoke bar,” says Just May, a drag queen and self-titled “World’s Premier Geri Halliwell Impersonator” who has been working in the industry for eight years. Secondly, all the queens we spoke to said they get through an inordinate amount of makeup and beauty products, meaning they would likely be delighted to receive their favourite cleanser or an eyeshadow palette in their stocking this Christmas. We spoke to three UK-based drag artists to find out what they’d like most for Christmas, and went through the Strategist archives to find some of the best products recommended to us by queens, such as Lawrence Chaney, Farrah Moan, and Katya.
All the queens we spoke to mentioned skin-care products as the product they’d “most like to be gifted this Christmas.” And perhaps unsurprisingly, cleansers, peels, and serums designed to remove makeup were top of their lists. Chai T Grande said she’d love to be gifted a bottle of The Ordinary’s AHA peel (which we’ve written about before). “Once a week I use an exfoliating serum or mask — just to really ensure there’s no leftover makeup sitting on my skin, which can clog pores. The Ordinary’s blood/vampire mask always does the trick”. The mask is strong — the Ordinary suggest leaving it on for just ten minutes, and only using it once a week.
For a gentler (but still hard-working) product, Just May says she swears by the Ultrabland cleanser by Lush. “I love everything they do, I’m a total lush baby,” she says. “But their cleansers are particularly effective. This one just melts away my makeup; in two fell swoops, an hour-and-a-half’s worth of makeup is completely off.” It contains ingredients such as almond oil, rose water, and honey.
“It’s true, I did get the entire cast of RuPaul’s Drag Race season nine into this product — and from what I’ve heard, most still use it,” says Farrah Moan, who has become something of a skin-care guru in the drag community. “It’s a very expensive product, but it’s so great for drag queens. The acids in it really help with razor burn on your neck and face, which is paramount when it comes to what we do. We shave almost every day when on tour or performing a lot. Some are lucky and don’t experience quite as much irritation. But I tell those, like me, who have sensitive skin and get razor burn easily to try this. It’s formulated with lactic acid. It is strong, though. I always recommend some excellent sunscreens along with it because Good Genes will make you more susceptible to sunburns.”
“I love this product as it helps with my oily, acne-prone skin — which, as a drag performer, is arguably the worst combination,” says Asia Thorne. “The bars we perform in are so hot, which causes you to sweat and sweat. I wear very thick makeup, which consists of layers of foundation — base, highlight, then contour — and then you top that with loads of setting powder so it doesn’t move the whole night. All of which is a lot for your skin to deal with. This cleansing mask really helps clean my pores after work.”
Asia also told us a sheet mask — which “I use twice a week, on my days off” — would be a great stocking filler. “I do have large pores, and these help in minimising them. I just love a face sheet and this one in particular is something that I love using. It’s so hydrating! When I know I have a long night or if I have two or more gigs in a night/day, I will use a sheet before I moisturise and then put my makeup on. Makeup stays on better with a moisturised face.”
Lawrence Chaney previously told us they can’t live without this glittery pigment by MAC. “Basically, this is my favourite makeup product ever. That’s a bold statement to make as a drag queen.” Lawrence says “it’s perfect for cutting your crease, especially if you’re in a rush and you’re slapping your makeup on. It’s shiny. It’s silver. It’s chrome-y. It doesn’t transfer, it’s the ideal product. And it can be used not just for drag, but probably a little bit dabbed on as a highlighter, because it’s buildable and blendable. It’s a godsend.”
This liquid liner, made by Lady Gaga and makeup artist Sarah Tanno-Stewart, came recommended to us by Shangela Laquifa Wadley, who told us it was one of her favourite products. “When you’re looking to draw the perfect wingtip, you need a really thin brush in order to be very precise with your art and detailing. This particular liner has enough black pigment in it that the black stays on. You can see that it has a strong black colour, but it also gives you that fine line to create and really draw with.”
“These days, I can’t get in drag without this,” noted Shangela. “It comes in this little silver tube and when I put any kind of coloured eye shadow on after applying it, the colour pops so well that you can clock my eye paint from the back row. Being a lady of colour, sometimes makeup likes to soak into my skin. So if I want the colour to really stand out and pop, it’s important to put a base on so that the makeup has something to lay on top of.”
“There is literally no better feeling than de-dragging after a long day,” says Chai. “But when it comes to removing makeup, I find you have to really scrub multiple times to fully clear your pores — especially considering how much makeup we use, alongside glitter and setting spray” She says an exfoliating brush like the Foreo Luna would make a good gift for any drag artist. “Mine is my saving grace, because it helps fully clear all the makeup from all the little nooks, crannies, and pores without being too harsh.”
And to store all their products: this Made by Mitchell vanity case, which Chai has her eye on. “I just think it looks great, and the compartments can be moved and swapped around depending on what you like.” The notched inserts can be taken out to fit in bigger items, or moved closer together to keep glass bottles from getting damaged. They’re also padded, meaning they provide extra protection.
Asia also said a must-have for any queen was wig glue — specifically Mastix Kryolan glue. “It’s a holy grail of mine,” she said, adding that, due to its small size, a queen’s glue will often go missing. “This is the glue a lot of queens use, and we’re always borrowing each other’s, because they do go wandering.” The glue is applied to lace front wigs after first positioning it on the head. “You need it to keep them in place — we’re very active,” she says.
Just May mentioned that, due to being on her feet for long stints, a gift voucher for a massage would make an excellent Christmas gift. “Often, I might start getting ready at 1 p.m. but not get in until 2 a.m. It’s a long day, I don’t think it’s too much to ask for a deep tissue massage administered by a sexy, bearded man.” She specifically likes Cowshed (she has been booked for gigs at Soho Farmhouse in the past), but Cowshed gift cards can only be redeemed at their Primrose Hill branch. For a non-London queen you could try Treatwell or Urban Massage.
As an alternative, how about a handheld massager? Katya Zamolodchikova told our sister site about the “splurgy” Hypervolt massager she bought herself. “The thing pays for itself in, like, four tries because getting a massage is expensive. There’s various levels of intensity and also different attachments to target different things. There’s a flat one, a round one, and a prong that looks torturous — and is — to accommodate the different shapes of the musculature. I use the big round ball the most. It’s like a catchall. It’s good for everything.” Though it is pricey, it’s notably cheaper than a Theragun.
The Strategist UK is designed to surface the most useful, expert recommendations for things to buy across the vast e-commerce landscape. Read about who we are and what we do here. Our editors update links when possible, but note that deals can expire and all prices are subject to change.