A queer cowboy, fashion royalty and drag queens leading the way - Conor Behan's pop culture picks

GCN's resident king of all things pop culture is here with some top picks to cheer us up as summer moves on.

Split screen of a drag queen, a cowboy with a fringed mask and an older black man

Summer, or whatever version of it we had this year, may be over but if you need something to ease yourself through the ever-changing weather and ever-changing headlines, then maybe this mix of queer pop culture picks will give you something new to think about.

The Chiffon Trenches – André Leon Talley

In the fashion world, few have had a career as interesting and groundbreaking as André Leon Talley. From his long running stint as an editor-at-large for Vogue to his beginnings as a fashion journalist working for Warhol’s Interview magazine, Leon Talley has been a fashion pioneer breaking ground as a Black gay man in a notoriously white industry.

If you’ve seen Talley in documentaries like The September Issue, you’ll know he’s as big a character as the fashion designers he’s friends with. That unique voice and wit is splashed all over his gripping memoir, The Chiffon Trenches. Despite early press reports honing in on his commentary on his relationship with Vogue editor Anna Wintour, The Chiffon Trenches is not a scorched earth tell-all but rather an honest and heartfelt look at a fascinating career.

Talley isn’t afraid to name drop or ruffle feathers (his frankness about his long lasting and often tumultuous friendship with Karl Lagerfeld is refreshing) but he’s also contemplative and insightful. Sure, some may not be interested in Talley’s photographic memory for describing outfits and name dropping, but underneath this glitzy, absorbing tale is a moving and honest story.

Show Pony – Orville Peck

Queer country star Orville Peck has found quite the pop culture following over the last couple of years. Clad in a fringe mask that obscures his features and always serving a full cowboy look, Peck’s aesthetic is a clever, hip take on country style. 2019’s debut album Pony saw him tour the world (he played a sold out Irish show last year) and now, on new EP Show Pony, Peck teases his next musical steps as he joins a major label (Columbia).

That next step includes a show-stopping duet with country icon Shania Twain on ‘Legends Never Die’ – a rousing pop country track with a suitably glossy video (that features Drag Race star Jaida Essence Hall). The other tracks nod to Peck’s established sound, moody tracks that reference longing and desire, like ‘Drive Me, Crazy’, the tale of two truck drivers cruising each other, or a slowed down mournful reimagining of Bobbie Gentry’s country classic ‘Fancy’. If you’re new to Orville Peck, Show Pony is a great introduction, if you’re a fan it’s an indicator that there’s no stopping this rising star.

We’re Here

Confession: despite my love of trashy TV, a lot of makeover television leaves me cold. Even the feel-good phenomenon Queer Eye was one I wasn’t able to buy into. When news of a new HBO series featuring Drag Race queens helping locals in small town America put on a drag show I feared the worst (the show is now airing here on Sky One and Now TV).

Thankfully, We’re Here proved me wrong in spectacular fashion. Bob the Drag Queen, Shangela and Eureka headline the series and are assigned would-be performers for a drag show that will close out the episode. The show is beautifully shot and eschews the usual cheesy makeover show setups and tropes. The focus on performance means the show celebrates what makes a great drag show and allows a varied group of participants find something in drag for them.

With powerful stories treated with a thoughtfulness often missing from this genre, We’re Here is feel good TV at its best.

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