At the heart of the Emmy award-winning and global pop culture juggernaut TV show “RuPaul’s Drag Race” are the queens: the talented crop of creatives who compete for the crown each season.
Contestants from the show have gone on to star on Broadway, walk runways in Europe, take roles on TV and in film, as well as perform alongside Madonna in some cases. Few people have the intimate understanding and access to them as fashion photographer Marco Ovando, who just released his book “The Dolls Volume 2.”
“When I did the first one, it was mostly a compilation of work that I’ve done with a small group of queens,” said Ovando, who also shot several queens for WWD’s Pride cover. Since then, “RuPaul’s Drag Race” has continued to explode. “After the first [book] came out, I started working immediately on the second book, but I wanted to make sure that I featured more of the girls, because there’s so many of them that I admire.”
A testament to how popular the show and queens are: Ovando’s first book was reissued three times, selling out each run. “It just made me think that there is so much more to show,” he explained.
The initial book’s success gave him an even more intimate level of access, which he poured into book two with behind-the-scenes images of the dolls on red carpets, getting ready for shows, and more.
“One of my favorite chapters is the behind-the-scenes, because it’s access that no one really has,” he said. “I make them feel comfortable around me, creating shots that no one can see. What happens behind the curtain is so important.”
Split into four sections, “The Dolls Volume 2” begins with portraits of top queens. Included are winners such as cover doll Aquaria (Season 10), Yvie Oddly (Season 11), Jaida Essence Hall (Season 12), Violet Chachki (Season Seven) and newly crowned Season 15 winner Sasha Colby. Readers move into “The Shows” and “The BTS” (behind the scenes), where Ovando has shared exclusive photos from their tours and the popular Las Vegas residency, “RuPaul’s Drag Race Vegas Live.” He rounds it out featuring the dolls in their element as guests at premier events like the Met Gala. The book ends with the final section, “The Parties,” with photos from fabulous parties around the globe.
“Fashion now is such a big part of it all,” Ovando said. “When I photograph, I use my fashion photography background and drag scene knowledge — combining both and elevating it to an editorial fashion shot.”