New York on Film: The Queen

When: Thursday, October 12, 2023, 6:30pm

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Crystal LaBeija and a fellow drag performer yell at the camera in a still from thge queen. On the right, a headshot of the drag performer Aja who gazes seductively at the camera.
Still from The Queen next to image courtesy of Aja

Introduced by Aja!

Join us for a screening of The Queen (Frank Simon, 1968, 68 min). More than 40 years before RuPaul's Drag Race, this ground-breaking documentary about the 1967 Miss All-American Camp Beauty Pageant introduced audiences to the world of competitive drag. The film takes us behind the scenes with the contestants as they rehearse, throw shade, and transform into their drag personas in the lead-up to the big event. A vibrant piece of queer history, the film's final scene featuring drag queen Crystal LaBeija is an origin moment for the Ballroom scene. Crystal’s experience of racism competing in the white-led drag pageant captured in The Queen informed her decision to found the House of LaBeija, heavily featured in the trailblazing documentary Paris Is Burning (1990).

The film will be introduced by musician and drag performer Aja, who you may know from her appearances on the 9th season of RuPaul’s Drag Race and RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars! Aja portrayed Crystal Labeija in the Snatch Game on RuPaul's Drag Race: All Stars Season 3, who is featured in The Queen. In the film, Crystal Labeija calls out the racial bias of the pageant scene. She would go on to form the influential House of LaBeija.

The program begins with the short film Square Times (1967, Rudolph Burckhardt, 6.5 min).  This mid-20th century experimental short traverses a typical Saturday night on 42nd Street circa 1966 from dusk to dawn: take in the glamour, the garbage, the hot dogs, the movies, the sex and the violence in the air. Music by The Supremes. 

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Event Timeline:
6:00 pm - Doors open; drinks & popcorn available for purchase
6:30 pm - Welcome remarks.
6:35 pm - Screening of short film Square Times (6.5 min)  
6:45 pm - Film introduction by Aja
7:00 pm -
Screening of The Queen (68 min)
8:10 pm - Film program ends
9:00 pm - Museum closes

This screening is part of our year-long series, New York on Film: Decade by Decade, programmed by Jessica Green. The series accompanies the Museum's new centennial exhibition, This Is New York: 100 Years of the City in Art and Pop Culture

About Aja:
Best known for her appearances on Rupaul's Drag Race, All Stars and Legendary, Aja hails from Brooklyn. Raised in Bedstuy, Aja has become an international role model for people of all backgrounds. Raised by her Puerto Rican and Trinidadian adoptive family, Aja is of Puerto Rican, Nigerian and Egyptian descent.  All her music and performances are profoundly influenced by her Afro-Latino and NYC roots.  Aja is currently involved in the International Ballroom scene, walking categories such as Runway and Vogue performance. As a trans woman, she continues to challenge stereotypes and perceptions as a model, mogul and influencer.

Important Event Logistics

  • Please contact with any questions or ticketing issues.
  • All sales are final; refunds not permitted. Exchanges and credit for future programs only. Programs and dates may be subject to change. 

New York on Film is the centennial year edition of the Museum's ongoing Moonlight & Movies series.

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