The rise of drag on Twitch

Mashable 26 Jun 2020 11:12
With the closure of clubs during lockdown, drag queens have been taking the show online. But it didn't start there.
With the closure of clubs during lockdown, drag queens have been taking the show online. But it didn't start there.
Image: vicky leta / mashable

Mashable is celebrating Pride Month by exploring the modern LGBTQ world, from the people who make up the community to the spaces where they congregate, both online and off.

To say these last few months have been a hard time for performers would be an understatement.

As the coronavirus pandemic really took hold around March, and government-mandated lockdowns saw businesses shuttered, artists and performers took a big hit. Musicians found their tours cancelled. Art exhibitions were postponed. And drag queens found themselves without a stage. 

So, like many performers during this time, some took it online, including Atlanta-born, Los Angeles-based drag queen and Dragula Season 2 winner Biqtch Puddin', who ran the first ever digital drag show on Twitch in late March.

Around 20 drag performers joined the show, including RuPaul’s Drag Race stars Alaska Thunderfuck and Rock M. Sakura, with a suggested $10 donation and any tips to be sent through to each queen's chosen payment platform, whether Venmo or PayPal. Four months later, Biqtch Puddin' is still streaming weekly shows every Friday night on Twitch from her home in Studio City, Los Angeles, which is still under California's government lockdown. 

So, she got to work, immediately thinking of online streaming giant Twitch, a platform Biqtch Puddin' had already been keen to break into. But performing in different Californian cities like San Francisco or Los Angeles during the week or non-stop touring with Dragula had made it hard to get a regular streaming show going. “I've been trying to be a part of Twitch for a very long time,” she says. “I know to be successful on Twitch, you need to have a consistent schedule. I stream off and on here and there. But when [lockdown] happened, I was like, OK, I think we can actually do it on Twitch. I've been familiar with the platform and I know they're accepting of LGBTQI content creators."

The rise of drag on Twitch during the pandemic comes as no surprise to the platform itself, either. In May 2020, Twitch actively grew their drag creator base, launching the Twitch Drag Community Development Program, run by the platform's director of community and creator marketing, Erin Wayne (a prolific streamer herself, who goes by Aureylian).

After Twitch loosened its restrictions on non-gaming content to general culture videos in 2018, the platform updated its community guidelines and targeted harassment both on and off the platform, declaring at the time, "Hate simply has no place in the Twitch community." Twitch has pretty robust terms of service, as well a full suite of moderation tools, and they employ human moderators to respond to user reports. Plus, streamers themselves can set chat rules and ban specific words (or if necessary, individuals) from their chat, enlist their own human moderators, or use the machine learning AutoMod tool to identify and block inappropriate content.

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Biqtch PuddinLos AngelesVenmoWillamWayne
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