RuPaul Paid Tribute To Judy Garland And Her Contributions To The Gay Liberation Movement

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RuPaul, the host of the favorite reality TV show for aspiring drag queens, RuPaul’s Drag Race and RuPaul’s Drag Race – All Stars, paid homage to Judy Garland in the recently aired episode of RPDR – All-Stars with a make-over challenge with the competing queen’s ‘best Judies’, where he took the opportunity to educate the young queens and the audience alike on the legendary star and her influence on the gay liberation movement of the 1960s.

“Now it has been 50 years since Judy passed and on the night of her funeral, in June 1969, the Stonewall Riots occurred. Fed up with police harassment, the patrons of the Stonewall used their grief over Judy’s death to rise up and fight; and the gay liberation movement was born, ” Rupaul said as he introduces the main challenge to the competing queens.

In this episodes, the competing queens have to make over their ‘best Judies’ or their best friends, which was inspired by how the people back then used to ask “Are you a friend of Dorothy’s?” as a secret code to help closeted people identify each other. The main challenge also includes a lipsync performance in honor of Judy Garland.

The show commenced with a ‘Lipsync for Your Legacy’ performances of the top two queens Naomi Smalls and Monet Xchange to Judy Garland’s “Come Rain or Come Shine.” (READ: Lost for the Third Time: Manila Luzon Eliminated From Drag Race, Again)

One of the greatest star Hollywood has ever produced

Judy Garland, whom Ru referred to as “one of the greatest stars Hollywood has ever produced” was a multi-awarded singer, dancer, actress, and vaudevillian in the 1930s until her death in 1969, who rose to stardom in her roles in highly acclaimed movies Meet Me in St. Louis, The Wizard of Oz, and Presenting Lily Mars.

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One of the most acclaimed movies of all time, The Wizard of Oz, was starred by Judy Garland as Dorothy. Image from Flickr

She had received multiple awards and distinctions during her 40-year career when she won or was nominated for awards for her work in film, television, music, and on stage. She has had an Academy Awards for her juvenile performance as Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz and a Best Actress nomination for her role in the A Star is Born. Furthermore, Garland has received a Tony Award for her record-breaking concert run at the New York’s Palace Theatre. She was also inducted in the Grammy Hall of Fame for six of her songs including the soundtracks of her most iconic films.

Grieving for Judy Garland’s death gave birth to the gay liberation movement

Judy Garland is widely considered a gay icon. The Advocate has dubbed her “The Elvis of Homosexuals” because of gay men’s admiration of her ability to perform, the way her struggles mirrored the struggles of the gay men and drag queens of her time, and her death being one of the most significant driving force for gay men to fight against the harassment of the authorities in what we all now know as the Stonewall Riots.

Several connections were being made between the death of Judy Garland and the dawning of the gay liberation movement in the 1960s as historians suggested that there were several patrons of the Stonewall Inn during the night of June 27, 1969, went to drink at the bar after they came from Judy Garland’s funeral. Some even suggested that the Stonewall Inn, having no alcohol license, requires its patrons to sign in with a pseudonym and “Judy Garland” is one of the most widely used.

stonewall was a riot
Stonewall riot gave birth to the gay liberation movement of the 1960s. Photo from Flickr

Decades later, Time Magazine reported that “the uprising was inspired by a potent cocktail of pent-up rage (raid of gay bars were brutal and routine), overwrought emotions (hours earlier, thousands have wept at the funeral of Judy Garland) and drugs.”

Meanwhile, some historians tried to downplay this claim by saying that there are only few Judy Garland fans in the Stonewall Riots and that those who were there didn’t have time to involve themselves in fandom for they are busy trying to survive both police brutality and the AIDS crisis. Nonetheless, Lorna Luft, Judy Garland’s daughter pointed out that her mother was “a huge, huge advocate of human rights” and that it is in Judy Garland’s nature to find that rioting is appropriate.

For RuPaul, the connection was clear, and he’s here to pay tribute to one great gay icon that has influenced his life, career, and relationships. /apr

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