‘Labouring in the image’: celebrity, femininity, and the fully commodified self in the drag of Willam Belli

O'Connell, Rachel (2020) ‘Labouring in the image’: celebrity, femininity, and the fully commodified self in the drag of Willam Belli. Celebrity Studies. pp. 1-17. ISSN 1939-2397

[img] PDF - Accepted Version
Restricted to SRO admin only until 4 January 2022.

Download (383kB)

Abstract

This essay explores the mediagenic drag style of Willam Belli, a contestant from Season 4 of Ru Paul’s Drag Race (2012) and a YouTube performer, as a set of reflections on navigating the ‘demotic turn’ (Graeme Turner) in contemporary celebrity. I propose that Willam’s drag foregrounds the work (labour) and working conditions that lie behind the ‘werq’ on Drag Race. His drag both exemplifies and comments upon the feminised ‘labour of visibility’ (Brooke Erin Duffy’s concept) and practices of self-commodification that the contemporary attention economy demands, particularly of girls, women, and feminine/femme/feminised subjects. Taking up Judith Butler’s (1990) suggestion that drag reveals the processes by which gendered identities are constructed, I argue that Willam’s drag seems to reveal how the ‘labour of visibility’ is currently constructing contemporary femininities. His output constitutes an embedded, enmeshed, and complicit commentary on the construction of a commodified, hypersexualised version of femininity in the contemporary economies of reality television, social media, and digital self-entrepreneurship.

Item Type: Article
Schools and Departments: School of English > English
SWORD Depositor: Mx Elements Account
Depositing User: Mx Elements Account
Date Deposited: 04 May 2020 08:03
Last Modified: 20 Aug 2020 13:30
URI: http://sro.sussex.ac.uk/id/eprint/91131

View download statistics for this item

📧 Request an update