RuPaul’s Drag Race is an absolute phenomenon. With over 10 years on television, Drag Race has taken the art of female illusion in queer nightlife and made it a household topic the world over. 


James Robinson is a self-proclaimed “super fan” of all things Drag Race. But the Alabama resident has taken fandom to a new level as he works toward getting tattoos of the autographs of each contestant who has been on the storied show.  


“Don’t interrupt me while I’m watching Drag Race,” Robinson warns.


The idea came back in 2013 when Robinson reached out to Chicago based artist Chad Sell, asking if he could get his work tattooed on his body. Sell gained notoriety with the Drag Race fan base for making art from some of the looks that constants wore on Drag Race


Sell’s work of season 3 queens Alexis Mateo and Yara Sofia inspired Robinson. These divas are special to him, and are two of his favorites.


“He drew half of their face and he drew them with these vibrant colors, so I asked him if I could use them for tattoos,” Robinson explained.


Sell agreed, starting Robinson’s tattoo journey. “He could not grasp I was going to put those pictures on my skin,” joked Robinson.


“At first, I guess I wasn’t sure how to feel – I have such mixed feelings about each piece, and for lots of my illustrations, there are certain things I wish I could fix,” Sell recalled. “Obviously, that’s not an option once someone has something permanently etched in ink onto their body. But nowadays, it makes me happy to think about my art floating around in the world in that way.”


The detail in Sell’s art is what drew Robinson in. When discussing Sell’s work of season 5 queen and All Stars 2 winner, Alaska Thunderfuck, Robinson said, “The teeth are detailed. The eyeshadow is detailed. The tattoo is the exact same thing. It’s so well done.”


Not only was Robinson inspired by Sell’s work, but also the queens' careers and journeys, which all led him to get Sell’s work permanently tattooed. Indeed, Sell’s art has been seen in a lot of places.


“A lot of queens have used my art on shirts and merchandise, so it’s such a pleasant surprise seeing that work show up in unexpected places! It’s like we’re part of a secret drag society flashing our credentials to each other,” said Sell.


After 10 seasons of Drag Race, Sell has shifted his focus from drag-centric  art (releasing books, The Cardboard Kingdom last summer and Doodleville next year), which brought Robinson to move from his specific works to the autographs from the queens.


“I have portraits that I get so many compliments on, I wanted something else,” Robinson said, settling on the autographs of the Drag Race stars.


The journey of autograph tattoos kick-started with RuPaul’s Drag Con, where Robinson had already procured autographs of the queens, so decided to get those tattooed. He’s been diligent on his mission of getting each entertainer's signature tattooed, getting an average of five autographs every two weeks.


Currently, Robinson has 79 autograph tattoos of Drag Race queens, and even with season 11's recent announcement, Robinson has worked with a friend who already has the autographs of four of the soon-to-be Drag Racers. He also has tattoos from some queens that have stopped performing since Drag Race, such as season 6’s Magnolia Crawford.


Robinson’s tattoos have made him a quasi-celebrity. When attending Drag Con, he was approached because people had seen him online and knew about his tattoos. A journalist from the Los Angeles Times even approached Robinson and asked to do a quick profile on him. At the same convention, Drag Race season 9 and All Stars 4 queen, Trinity Taylor was floored (literally) that he had her tattooed on his thigh. 


While attending a season finale taping, Robinson was approached by a group of people who said they were from London, where they follow Robinson along with the queens. He says every time he gets a tattoo it gets better and better. 


The autographs have come from Drag Con, seeing the queens at performances, and with the help of a friend who had over 80 signatures from the Drag Racers prior to Robinson’s decision to get the autograph tattoos. 


Not suprisingly, someone with so many tattoos, especially tattoos of drag queens, finds themselves on the receiving end of many questions. According to Robinson, even the queens are in disbelief of what he is doing. Nevertheless, they summon their "creativity, uniqueness, nerve and talent" and grab a pen. Season 4 queen Alisa Summers, season 8’s Acid Betty and Dax ExclaimationPoint, and season 9 winner Sasha Velour are are just a few of the many who have been surprised and honored that Robinson wants to get their autograph tattooed.


“A lot of people say it’s a lot of dedication, and it is. A lot of people think I’m crazy for doing it, but I don’t think I’m crazy. To me, it’s just me and my personality,” Robinson said.


But the taboo views that some may have of Robinson haven’t stopped his liberation in his self image. He says he’s always showing off, and he’s been confident. 


Being a Drag Race super fan, Robinson loves the art of female impersonation, explaining, “I love drag - I used to do it,” but admits he would rather watch drag than do drag. The art of transforming one’s self from who they are into a persona captivates him. He loves drag, loves any form of drag, noting the Boulet Brother’s Dragula.


As Drag Race has expanded with new franchises, so has Robinson. He reached out to the host of Drag Race: Thailand, Art Arya and Pangina Heals, to get their autographs tattooed. Despite their surprise, they obliged and reacted with, “There it is.”


Even with all of his portraits and autographs, Robinson says he still has free space for more autographs. After he gets all of the autographs, he plans on shading the open space in with watercolors, which he plans to cover his entire body. “Probably my whole body will be shaded,” he mused.


“My body is dedicated to Drag Race. It means a lot to me, it’s all me and 100 percent dedication. That show is super amazing,” Robinson said.



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