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SF Announces First Ever “Drag Laureate”

With drag culture under attack around the country, San Francisco names D’Arcy Drollinger as the city’s first ever “Drag Laureate” and official LGBTQ+ ambassador
By - posted 5/18/2023 No Comment

The City’s first-ever Drag Laureate, who was announced at the SF LGBT Center today, will serve as ambassador for San Francisco’s drag, LGBTQ+, arts, nightlife, and entertainment communities 

Mayor London N. Breed joined Senator Scott Wiener, elected City leaders, community members, LGBTQ+ advocates and allies today to announce D’Arcy Drollinger as San Francisco’s Drag Laureate. D’Arcy will serve as spokesperson for San Francisco’s LGBTQ+ community, as well as produce and participate in events and programs that celebrate the City’s rich drag history and diversity.

The Drag Laureate of San Francisco program is a joint initiative of the Mayor’s Office, the San Francisco Public Library (SFPL) and the Human Rights Commission (HRC). D’Arcy  was selected by Mayor Breed among 15 applicants following a vetting process that included an 11-member Review Committee from various City Agencies.

“While drag culture is under attack in other parts of the country, in San Francisco we embrace and elevate the amazing drag performers who through their art and advocacy have contributed to our City’s history around civil rights and equity,” said Mayor Breed. “I am proud to invest in programs that create a platform for individuals who like D’Arcy are sending a message to the nation and the world that our great City is a beacon for acceptance and opportunities for all.”

“I am honored and thrilled to have been chosen as San Francisco’s Drag Laureate, and I am proud to live in a City that is pioneering this position while other parts of the US and the world might not be supportive of Drag,” said D’Arcy Drollinger. “This role will build bridges and create partnerships, while elevating and celebrating the Art of Drag. As the first Drag Laureate, I am dedicated to continuing to uplift my fellow members of the LGBTQIA+ community with the support and backing of the Mayor’s Office, and am looking forward to the positive effect this will have on Bay Area artists and our great City.”

In order to be considered for the Drag Laureate role, the interested individuals needed to fit certain criteria, including being a full-time San Francisco resident, having fundamental knowledge of the City’s drag history, and have a background in community activism, engagement, and philanthropy.

SFPL will provide D’Arcy with a $55,000 stipend over the course of the 18-month term to support their work and community engagement. The program was first announced in June 2022 as part of Mayor Breed’s then proposed two-year budget.

“San Francisco Public Library is thrilled to be part of San Francisco’s first Drag Laureate. The Library has a storied history of supporting the LGBTQIA community, from hosting the first collections and archival center in an urban public library to being the first library to host Drag Story Hour,” said City Librarian Michael Lambert. “The Drag Laureate is now one more way that we foster acceptance, understanding and joy in our diverse community.”

Responsibilities of the new Drag Laureate include:    

  • Helping develop and promote the role of the Drag Laureate
  • Serve as spokesperson for the LGBTQ+ Community of San Francisco
  • Participate in community-based Drag programs and events that reflect and honor the diversity of San Francisco
  • Partner in an official capacity with various city agencies and community organizations throughout the full 18-month term, including during Pride Month
  • Produce Drag-centered events and programming centered on celebrating and supporting San Francisco’s dynamic and diverse LGBTQ+ community in collaboration with San Francisco Public Library, Friends of the San Francisco Public Library, the San Francisco Arts Commission and community partners
  • Ensure San Francisco’s rich drag history is shared, honored, and preserved
  • Help promote and select the next Drag Laureate towards the completion of their 18-month term

The idea for a drag laureate program dates back to 2020. It stems from San Francisco’s LGBTQ+ Cultural Heritage Strategy, a community-driven effort to honor the legacy, nurture the well-being, promote economic opportunity, and ensure the longevity of San Francisco’s LGBTQ+ community.

At that time, then Supervisor Scott Wiener sponsored the ordinance to create the LGBTQ+ Cultural Heritage Task Force. The taskforce identified the needs and concerns of the LGBTQ+ community, articulated critical goals to address these needs, and presented a set of recommended actions to be undertaken by the City and local organizations.

Suggestions included in the report, included innovative programing including “the creation and funding of LGBTQ+ artist residency opportunities or the development of City Drag Laureate positions to recognize the significant longstanding and ongoing contribution of drag artists to San Francisco’s culture.”  Since the issuing of the report in August 2020, the Human Rights Commission has re-established its LGBTQI+ Advisory Committee; this working body has spearheaded this effort alongside Mayor Breed.

The vetting committee that helped select the Drag Laureate included the Human Rights Commission (HRC), Library, Entertainment Commission, Arts Commission, Grants for the Arts (GFTA), Office of Transgender Initiatives (OTI), and the HRC LGBTQIA+ Advisory Committee in collaboration with community partners including individuals affiliated with or part of the Transgender District, Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, Castro Cultural District, Bay Area American Indian Two-Spirits, Grand Ducal Council of San Francisco, Imperial Court of San Francisco, Drag Story Hour, Rebel Kings of Oakland, and GLBTQ+ Asian Pacific Alliance (GAPA).

The Drag Laureate’s official announcement took place today at the SF LGBT Center in the Upper Market neighborhood. Video of the event.

About D’Arcy Drollinger

D’Arcy Drollinger is an actor, writer, director, choreographer, producer and entrepreneur. D’Arcy, whose drag career began in the early 90’s, has written over a dozen original works, including: Bitch Slap, Temple of Poon and Disastrous, as well as the web series Hot Trash. Drollinger’s first feature film, Shit & Champagne, became an instant cult classic. D’Arcy is the producer, director and co-star of the long-running Bay Area holiday tradition, The Golden Girls Live.

D’Arcy is the owner and artistic director of OASIS, which employs 200 individuals and was voted San Francisco’s best nightclub/cabaret. D’Arcy is the executive director of San Francisco-based nonprofit, Oasis Arts, dedicated to providing access and resources to LGBTQIA+ artists. Other credits include: The Producers (first Broadway production), and Hairspray the Musical (first Broadway production). D’Arcy is the creator of Sexitude™, the body-positive, age-positive, sex-positive dance experience based in San Francisco.

Community service is also an important aspect of D’Arcy’s work. During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, Oasis built a parklet and partnered with local restaurants for sidewalk dining drag shows. D’Arcy also created Meals On Heels, which employed out-of-work drag artists who delivered food, cocktails, and socially-distanced lip-synch performances to clients who needed a little “sparkle” during shelter in place.