Mayor Breed announces application launch for San Francisco’s first Drag Laureate

San Francisco’s first-ever Drag Laureate program will support a drag performer who will serve as an ambassador for San Francisco's LGBTQ+, arts, nightlife, and entertainment communities
November 17, 2022

San Francisco, CA — Mayor London N. Breed today announced the launch of the application for San Francisco’s first-ever Drag Laureate program. The San Francisco Public Library (SFPL) will provide the chosen artist with a $55,000 stipend over the course of the 18-month term to support their work and community engagement. The program was first announced in June as part of Mayor Breed’s then proposed two-year budget. Since passing, a working group comprised of City departments and community partners have been developing eligibility criteria and requirements for the new position.

The Drag Laureate will embody San Francisco’s historic, diverse and inclusive drag culture, elevating the entire community on the national and international stage. Those who want to apply to be the City’s first Drag Laureate should apply by January 16, 2023. After applications close, a vetting committee made of representatives from City Departments and community groups will review the applications and bring finalists to Mayor Breed who will make the final selection.

“San Francisco’s commitment to inclusivity and the arts are the foundation for who we are as a city,” said Mayor Breed. “Drag artists have helped pave the way for LGBTQ+ rights and representation across our city, and they are a part of what makes our City so special. Investing in programs that continue their legacies and create opportunities for the next generation of drag performers to thrive help us to celebrate our city and this community. I want to thank the drag community, Human Rights Commission, and Public Library for their work, and I look forward to crowning San Francisco’s first Drag Laureate.”

Some responsibilities of the Drag Laureate of San Francisco include:

  • Helping develop and promote the role of the Drag Laureate
  • Serve as spokesperson for the LGBTQ+ Community of San Francisco
  • Participate in community-based Drag programs and events that reflect and honor the diversity of San Francisco
  • Partner in an official capacity with various city agencies and community organizations throughout the full 18-month term, including during Pride Month
  • Produce Drag-centered events and programming centered on celebrating and supporting San Francisco’s dynamic and diverse LGBTQ+ community in collaboration with San Francisco Public Library, Friends of the San Francisco Public Library, the San Francisco Arts Commission and community partners
  • Ensure San Francisco's rich drag history is shared, honored, and preserved
  • Help promote and select the next Drag Laureate towards the completion of their 18-month term

“San Francisco would not be the beacon for LGBTQ rights it is without drag artists,” said Supervisor Rafael Mandelman, “This program is an appropriate recognition of the essential role drag plays in our queer culture, and I look forward to seeing who will be named our first Drag Laureate.”

In order to qualify, applicants must submit a written and video application and be able to demonstrate and meet the following requirements:

  • Be a full-time resident of the City and County of San Francisco
  • Be at least twenty-one (21) years of age by the application deadline
  • Have fundamental knowledge of San Francisco Drag History
  • Show enthusiasm and love for San Francisco and demonstrate the ability to serve as its ambassador
  • Have a background in Community Activism, Engagement, and Philanthropy
  • Ability to work collaboratively with wide range of people from various backgrounds
  • Able to organize, produce and manage events/projects from start to finish

The vetting committee helping to select the Drag Laureate is made up of various City Agencies including the Human Rights Commission (HRC), Library, Entertainment Commission, Arts Commission, Grants for the Arts (GFTA), Office of Transgender Initiatives (OTI), and the HRC LGBTQIA+ Advisory Committee in collaboration with community partners including individuals affiliated with or part of the Transgender District, Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, Castro Cultural District, Bay Area American Indian Two-Spirits, Grand Ducal Council of San Francisco, Imperial Court of San Francisco, Drag Story Hour, Rebel Kings of Oakland, GLBTQ+ Asian Pacific Alliance (GAPA), and more.

“I can’t think of any other city with a drag community more talented, diverse, inclusive and exciting than San Francisco,” said Sister Roma. “As a member of the Drag Laureate vetting committee I’m relying on my 35 years of experience as a drag activist, fundraiser, public speaker, event producer and entertainer to present Mayor Breed with the very best candidates to represent our city.”

The idea for a drag laureate program stemmed from San Francisco’s LGBTQ+ Cultural Heritage Strategy, a community-driven effort to honor the legacy, nurture the well-being, promote economic opportunity, and ensure the longevity of San Francisco’s LGBTQ+ community. Then Supervisor Scott Wiener sponsored the ordinance to create the LGBTQ+ Cultural Heritage Task Force.

The taskforce identified the needs and concerns of the LGBTQ+ community, articulated critical goals to address these needs, and presented a set of recommended actions to be undertaken by the City and local organizations.

“San Francisco’s Drag Laureate program is a wonderful celebration of our drag queens,” said Senator Scott Wiener. “Drag performers are an amazing representation of the LGBTQ community and they contribute so much to our city. I’m thrilled about the launch of this program, and excited to see who is crowned Drag Laureate.”

“As a drag performer myself, I know the transformative nature of this art form, unlocking power through finding a voice as an artist and mobilizing our LGBTQI+ community as an activist,” said Michael Nguyen, a member of the HRC LGBTQIA+ Advisory Committee and chair emeritus of the GLBTQ+ Asian Pacific Alliance (GAPA). “San Francisco has long been a place where queerdos have used drag as a platform to create international movements, from the International Imperial Court System and the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence. I am proud we are able to pay homage to our past, recognize a drag performer for their talents and impact, and build a future for even more drag activist spaces throughout San Francisco.”

Among the suggestions included in the report, it called for innovative programing including “the creation and funding of LGBTQ+ artist residency opportunities or the development of City Drag Laureate positions to recognize the significant longstanding and ongoing contribution of drag artists to San Francisco’s culture.” Since the issuing of the report in August 2020, the Human Rights Commission has re-established its LGBTQI+ Advisory Committee. This working body has spearheaded this effort alongside Mayor Breed.

“It is great to live in a city that recognizes and celebrates diversity and awards and honors those differences,” said Human Rights Commission Executive Director Dr. Sheryl Davis. “I look forward to all that we will learn from the selected Drag Laureate.”

“I am excited to see this plan move forward to proclaim a Drag Laureate for San Francisco, an important recognition for our entire community, akin to our city’s Poet Laureate,” said City Librarian Michael Lambert. “San Francisco Public Library has always been at the forefront of collections, services and celebrations for the LGBTQIA community, thanks to our ground- breaking Hormel LGBTQIA Center at the Main Library.”