Wednesday, April 24, 2024

I Went to a Drag Show in Animal Crossing

What do you wear to a drag show in Animal Crossing? Especially one being watched by thousands online? Anyone who’s watched Drag Race knows an entrance look is important, so why should Miss Büch Bay be any different?

Of course, my own preparation is nothing compared to the pageant contestants and its organiser, Twitch streamer Justin Moore. One of the founding members of the Rainbow Arcade team (see our interview here), he’s been hosting drag pageants for his viewers in Animal Crossing for the past couple of weeks. Now I’m honoured to be a guest on the island to view season three first-hand.

“It was the start of social distancing, and a lot of people – myself included – were looking for ways to connect with each other,” Moore tells me. “The first ‘season’ of the runway started as just one of a few events that we planned on Animal Crossing and the runway was a huge hit with everyone that I decided to keep doing it weekly!”

So how does it work? Justin preps the island of Büch Bay with a runway stage lined with roses and adorned with golden bouquets, and benches either side for the competitors to watch. There’s even a workroom area at the back, complete with mirror and sewing table for any last-minute tweaks. The contestants are then invited to the island via Dodo code for their chance to prance the runway in their best New Horizons couture, while host Justin plays any requested music on stream and comments live on each lewk. Viewers vote via poll for their winner. It is WILD.

Having watched the preparations on stream, it’s finally time for my entrance. And so, wearing my best homemade Pikachu meme jumper, Ed from Ed-en arrives with ‘Pro Reviewer’ stamped on his passport, ready to snap some photos.

One by one, the queens arrive in their entrance looks. It includes Joeydan from Terabithia wearing a casual look, describing himself as the trade of the season. Dameion from Wolfhaven flies in wearing a pilot outfit, landing like fresh tilapia. Joey from Latifah (aka Zombie), meanwhile, is in all-black, not wanting to give anything away.

Once all six contestants arrive, it’s time for the main event. Drag Race has nothing on this show. There’s drama, there are stunts, there are reveals. Wigs are snatched. There’s a Shangela-style return from season one contestant. Nicholas. And it’s a global affair, with entrants from the US, Sweden, South Africa and more. With 500k bells up for grabs – and a tiara of course – the stakes are high, the pressure is on. 

The first round is a riot of gags and goopery. Nicholas begins in basic white girl spa realness, before morphing into a cyberpunk getup, here to hack your computers and the competition — literally — with an axe. Nova serves fermented herring Swedish fish with multiple hilariously-named mermaid-inspired looks and a fish wand. Dameion goes from Twitch to witch in a butchy Porn Hub t-shirt and Twitch cap that’s just a facade for his Bayonetta eleganza, complete with open back and sexy glasses. Zombie gives us Walmart realness into a fatal cutie, dropping roses as they go. Rou makes us dizzy as a perpetually twirling genderqueer fairy, with what looks like anal beads on their head. Lastly, in topical Tiger King fashion, Joeydan is dressed in some Joe Exotic get-up before transforming into nemesis Carole Baskin in a tiger print outfit, dropping suspicious skeletons on the runway. 

The crowd (Twitch chat) goes wild. Moore is crying with laughter. Tens, tens, tens across the board.

“I’m constantly speechless at the level of creativity everyone is bringing to their Animal Crossing runway fashion and reveals!” says Moore. So am I. Between fashion looks, cosplay, fantasy, and topical comedy, we’ve got all forms of drag covered. It’s all utterly surreal.

After an audience vote, the final four step up for round two. Dameion gives us a taste of Midsommar, with head to toe flowers and Chun-Li hair. Rou is in a full cat outfit, pussy on fire. Joey is in cherry-inspired fashion. But it’s Nova who steals the show in not only a Sarah Palin outfit, but a George Wash-My-Thong patriot look. Joey at least wins Miss Congeniality, but in a shocking twist his Switch battery dies and he’s unable to collect his winnings.

“This is absolutely the most fun I have ever had streaming, and I know everyone who watches has been really enjoying it,” Moore tells me. “Even if we can’t all hang out together due to the times, these streams and competitions have been one way for us all to come together, laugh, and throw our worries away, even if just for a little while.”

Even during these unprecedented times, New Horizons has made the unbearable feel the complete opposite, providing a way to connect to others digitally. Though he’s not alone in creating drag pageants in the game, Justin Moore’s competitions have allowed the community to truly excel in their creativity and support for one another. It helps that it’s all good fun too.

So what is it about Animal Crossing that makes it so popular with the LGBTQIA community?

“I think Animal Crossing allows us to express our creativity in ways that we may not feel comfortable or safe doing in our outside lives,” says Moore. “Sure, the game is cute and a beautiful little piece of escapism, but it also just allows you to be you and express yourself in so many different ways with almost no judgment.”

That sense of escapism shows in the thousands of fans Moore has on Twitch and Twitter. The reaction has been so overwhelmingly positive that he plans to continue with a new season each week throughout April, before launching into All Winners and All-Stars competitions.

Who will be back back back again? Perhaps that Bayonetta look will get a second chance…But in reality? My money’s on the spinning fairy.

Check out the full Animal Crossing drag show, as well as our favourite looks, below. Alternatively, you can watch it all on Moore’s Twitch channel.

Watch AC:NH Bunny Day & RUNWAY ⟡ Runway 6pm ET ⟡ AMIIBO CARD !giveaway from justin_nick on

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