There is a scene in the second episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race season 9 when Valentina is asked about her Virgin Of Guadalupe candle (SPOILERS to come).
‘I’ve really been praying to her every single night just to watch over me and guide me through this process,’ the young first-generation Mexican American says.
‘Everyone gets to have a drag mom but I feel like my [Virgin of Guadalupe] is my drag mom.’
Her words are actually very beautiful. It’s a personal and revealing moment, showing how a person’s faith can give someone drive and support to do well.
But the editing treats Valentina’s confessional like she is kooky and bizarre.
The mariachi music in the background is offensive and unnecessary, ‘othering’ Valentina in a way that puts her in a stereotypical ‘Latinx’ box.
And then if the producers’ intentions weren’t clear enough, a clip of a Trinity Taylor confessional is used saying: ‘She crazy!’
Anyone who knows anything about the making of television could probably tell Trinity could have been talking about any queen and at any moment during filming, but spliced in there makes it look like she’s talking about Valentina.
It’s an editing trick designed to encourage the audience to agree to the narrative: Valentina’s faith is something to mock.
I am not part of the Latinx community, or even someone of faith, but the entire scene was incredibly uncomfortable.
Valentina is not trying to convert anyone, or tell anyone how to live their lives because of her religion. But the narrative made it look like her prayer was silly, and to make her more ‘foreign’ to the average white suburban viewer. This may not have been their intention. Drag Race is an entertainment show first and foremost, and you need to find ways of telling a story and introducing the audience to the cast of characters. It is still one of the greatest, if not the greatest, LGBTI shows for diversity and representation on TV. On this occasion, it just felt a little misguided.
Religion can be a powerful thing. It can give people community, closure, and a conduit for people to seek happiness in their lives.
What is prayer, really, even from an atheist perspective? If you’re praying, you might be taking a moment to reassure and seek strength. If it’s through God, the Holy Spirit or a Virgin of Guadalupe candle as a way to channel that strength, then how is that a bad thing?
Religion, because it is so powerful, becomes dangerous when it becomes political. Once it attempts to influence our politics, laws and officials, or it orders us how to dress, behave or who to love, then that’s when it often comes up against the LGBTI community. That’s when, yes, the preachers which claim same-sex marriage is going to destroy Earth are worth mocking.
For religion, or faith, is not in itself evil. Churches that want to control your life are.
‘I’m trying to show the glamour, the elegance, the sophistication, the intellectual, romantic, beautiful side of Latin culture that needs to be respected,’ Valentina told LA Weekly.
‘Especially in such a tough time when the community of mine has been considered bad people, illegal immigrants, rapists and criminals, all I can really do is show how much love and admiration I have for my community and my culture.’
Valentina, right now, is providing a flame not only for her community and culture but for the future. If every person of faith was religious in the same way Valentina is, then the world would undeniably be a brighter place.
Joe Morgan is the editor-at-large for Gay Star News. You can follow him on Twitter.