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‘Running the Gauntlet,’ in medieval times, meant being subjected to attack by spears, swords, sticks and any number of flying objects. As the individual became physically embattled, running through two lines of angry knights and lords, verbal abuse was hurled along with the missiles. Throughout history, this punishment has become a synonym for meeting a great challenge. Likewise, ‘Throwing Down the Gauntlet’ also derived from the knights of old, where one miffed soul would challenge another to a dual or joust by throwing down his armored glove. No knight, worth his salt, would ignore the challenge. The steel glove was retrieved from the ground and the date would be set for the match to begin. It was a social affair. Townsfolk and the landed gentry alike would come to cheer-on, or boo-at, their chosen champion of the day.

Fast forward a few centuries and a Gauntlet is being dropped again! It’s still a deliciously shiny metal piece of armor, but this time it is bejeweled, it sparkles brightly, and is the diadem that will grace the winner’s hand on finale night! And those vying for the coveted gauntlet are some of New England’s finest Drag Kings and Drag Queens, rookies and veterans alike. The competition is tough, however, but shows have now been running in Boston, Providence and Worcester.

Drag Gauntlet is the brainchild of performer and producer Kandi Dishe. Kandi has her roots in Rhode Island but she has been an integral part of the Drag Scene—producing many shows (drag, burlesque, plays etc.) across New England—for many years. Drag Gauntlet is a bi-weekly elimination competition where a theme is set for each round of the challenge. Contestants are required to develop a concept around the theme, design a ‘look’ and perform to several numbers. Each entrant can choose his/her/their own music to perform to, but it must have some relationship to the theme. Queens and Kings are put through rigorous scrutiny which requires the performers to stand the test of presenting two- to three challenges during a full-length show.

Teasha Boo leads the panel of esteemed judges who score the performers according to certain criteria, and who also critique the contenders on their presentations, their looks and their authenticity to the craft of drag artistry. The two Queens or Kings who find themselves with the lowest scores at any round of the competition, are required to lip-sync, to a predetermined song, in order to return for the next round of the battle.