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Florence Hines: The Drag King

Florence Hines

The Drag King

(18??–1924, USA)

Drag queens! You know them! You love them! I don’t miss Rupaul’s Drag Race EVER! Obsessed with Katya! Trixie! Jinx! Bob! Kim Chi. Alaska. Manila Luzon. WHO ARE YOUR FAVE QUEENS?

But enough about drag queens. Let’s talk about historical drag kings.

If you were a female performer back in the day of minstrel shows, vaudeville and burlesque, you could make a decent living as a male impersonator.

For some women, it was a job (and a very cool one). For some, it was a chance to fuck with gender roles and express queerness in a publicly acceptable way.

Many male impersonators portrayed a “dandy.”

He was a moneyed type, overly concerned with fashion and etiquette, and easy to make fun of.

(If you’re looking for a rabbit hole to dive down, this Wiki article about dandies is a great option.)

When a white woman played a dandy, she got men in the audience to laugh at themselves and each other.

But when a black woman like Florence Hines played a dandy—this was REVOLUTIONARY.

When Florence donned her suit and tie, she was resisting the stereotypical portrayals of black men onstage.

She was NOT reinforcing the offensive depictions of black men that regularly occurred in minstrel shows. She was dressed to the nines and singing songs about being rich. She was high society.

And she was FUNNY, too!

In a review of her 1890 performance, the newspaper the Freeman called Florence “the greatest living song and dance artist.”

In their book, Out of Sight: The Rise of African American Popular Music 1889–1895, the writers Lynn Abbott and Doug Seroff say that “Hines’s male impersonations provided the standard against which African American comediennes were compared for decades.”

Please read more about Florence Hines: