Drag culture can be so intriguing, and it has been a popular topic for years. It’s no surprise that people who are new to drag might find certain terminologies puzzling or difficult to understand.
This is where the term “fish” comes in – one of the most common terms in drag language. For many people outside the world of drag, this slang word can be confusing or even offensive when used out of context. But within the drag community, “fish” is an important aspect of the artform and refers to something entirely different than what you might think.
“Fishy” means looking feminine or identifying as a female, having desirable female characteristics, such as soft features, full lips, high cheekbones, etc.
In this article, we’ll explore the history behind this terminology and its place in drag culture. This information will not only help non-drag performers better understand their lingo but also provides a deeper understanding of what makes drag performances unique.
So sit back and enjoy because by the end of this read, you’ll have a newfound appreciation for the origin and use of fish in drag culture!
History of the Term “Fish”
The Origins of the Term
“Fish,” in drag culture, is a term used to describe someone who appears exceptionally feminine. The origin of this term can be traced back to the Polari language, which is a form of slang spoken by gay men in 20th century Britain.
In Polari, the word “fish” was used to refer to women. This was likely because fish were seen as slippery and elusive creatures, much like how some men perceived women at the time. Over time, gay men began to use the term “fishy” to describe other men who appeared effeminate, which eventually evolved into its current meaning when applied specifically to drag performers.
The Evolution of the Term over Time
Due to the evolving nature of language, the term “fish” has taken on different meanings over time. In the early days of drag culture, it simply referred to a performer’s ability to convincingly portray a feminine persona. However, more recently, the term “fish” has been associated with an elevated level of glamour, sophistication, and beauty within drag circles.
This shift in meaning can be attributed to the growing mainstream popularity of drag culture, which has led many performers to focus more heavily on creating stunning looks and exaggerated caricatures of femininity that are geared towards entertaining broader audiences.
The Popularity of the Term in Drag Culture
While the use of the term “fish” may have originated from a somewhat derogatory place, many drag performers now wear it as a badge of honor. Being called “fishy” is seen as a sign of having achieved a high level of success within the community.
For example, queens like Alyssa Edwards and Trinity K Bonet have made references to being “fishy” in their performances, embracing the term as it relates to their polished and feminine looks. As drag culture continues to gain mainstream recognition, it’s likely that the use of this term will become even more widespread among performers and fans alike.
“If I walk out looking fishy, they think she is about to kill it.” -Alyssa Edwards
How Is “Fish” Used In Drag Culture?
The Definition Of “Fish” In Drag Culture
When it comes to drag culture, the term “fish” is used to describe a queen’s ability to look like a cisgender woman. It is typically associated with queens who create flawless and feminine looks, referred to as “serving fish.”
The origin of the term “fish” in drag culture is unclear, but it may have originated from the stereotype that women smell like fish. Over time, the term has evolved to include any queen who can successfully pass as a woman.
The Importance Of “Fishiness” In Drag Performance
The ability to appear “fishy” is essential to many drag performers, especially those competing in pageants or showcasing their talents on stage. Despite the increasing diversity within drag culture, there is still a perceived ideal of what a beautiful and glamorous queen should look like, and appearing more feminine or “fishy” is often seen as an advantage in competitions and performances.
Drag performers use makeup, padding, wigs, and other techniques to enhance their features and create a more feminine appearance. However, some performers reject the idea that looking fishy is necessary for success in drag, and instead celebrate and exaggerate characteristics that are traditionally seen as masculine, such as facial hair or muscles.
The Different Ways Queens Interpret And Use “Fish”
While “fish” is most commonly associated with physical appearance, some drag performers have expanded its meaning to include personality traits. For example, a queen might describe herself as “fishy” based on her confidence, charisma, and ability to command attention on stage.
In addition, the term “fishy” has also been reclaimed by members of the LGBTQ+ community as a way to celebrate and uplift individuals who may not fit traditional societal expectations of gender expression or sexuality.
“Fish to me means feminine beauty. It’s an art form where you take what society considers low-class, being a drag queen, and turn it into something beautiful.” -Trinity The Tuck
“fish” is a complex term in drag culture that has evolved over time to encompass more than just physical appearance. While some performers prioritize appearing fishy in their performances, others reject the ideal and use the term to describe different aspects of their personality and artistic expression. Ultimately, the meaning of “fish” in drag culture continues to evolve alongside the larger conversation around gender identity and expression.
What Are The Characteristics Of A “Fishy” Queen?
The Importance Of Femininity In “Fishy” Queens
“Fishy” is a term used in the drag community to describe queens who blend their masculine traits with femininity to create a polished, natural-looking appearance. One of the defining characteristics of a “fishy” queen is an emphasis on femininity. This means that they highlight and accentuate their feminine features such as curves, softness in their face, and gracefulness in their movements.
A “fishy” queen’s ultimate goal is to appear as if she were a biological woman, so she uses body contouring techniques like padding, corsetry, and breast forms to achieve this effect. Creating the illusion of curves is essential for achieving the fishy look, which requires creating a cinched waistline and a fuller bust area. They also use makeup to highlight cheekbones, lips, eyes, and eyelashes that have a seductive quality about them.
“I think ‘fish’ should only be applied when someone is definitely passing and looks convincingly female.” -RuPaul Charles
The Role Of Makeup And Fashion In Achieving “Fishiness”
In addition to highlighting femininity, “fishy” queens use makeup and fashion to emphasize their femininity further. Highlighting femininity through clothing involves choosing items that are form-fitting, elegant, and classic to convey a sense of refinement and taste. Dressing well makes a difference because the carefully chosen clothes can make the fishy queen more attractive and provide her with confidence.
Makeup is another incredibly significant aspect of fishiness. Applying makeup expertly decidedly enhances a “fishy” queen’s masculinity without erasing it altogether, making them transformatively convincing girls. Making sure that their skin looks groomed and flawless is a critical aspect of achieving the “fishy” look. This requires applying foundation smoothly, concealing blemishes or discolouration.
“Fishy means beautiful-that you look like a woman.” -Sasha Velour
Finally, perfecting the art of tucking has become somewhat of an obsession among fishy queens. Tucking refers to hiding male genitalia between your legs securely. It’s undetectable from outside clothing and adding another layer of authenticity to their transformation. Interestingly, this part of the transformation process goes beyond dressing up for drag performance. The act of putting on feminine clothes can be cathartic and allow them to explore different parts of themselves outside of drastic gender roles.
Is “Fish” Offensive? Understanding The Controversy
The use of the term “fish” in drag culture has been controversial for many years. While some consider it a compliment, others find it offensive and derogatory. This controversy stems from the history and evolution of the term, as well as differing perspectives on its use.
The Origins Of The Controversy
The word “fish” has been used in drag communities since at least the 1960s to describe an individual who convincingly presents as female. It is thought to derive from the phrase “to smell fish,” meaning that someone’s genitals are not male. Historically, this was considered a demeaning comment towards transgender women, implying that they were not actually female.
In recent decades, however, the term has taken on different meanings within different drag communities. Some performers view being called “fishy” as a badge of honor, indicating their ability to pass convincingly as female. Others still find the term problematic and avoid using it altogether.
The Different Perspectives On The Use Of “Fish”
Those who support the use of “fish” argue that it can be empowering when reclaimed by individuals who identify with it. By taking ownership of a previously degrading term, performers can subvert its original negative connotations. In this way, the term can serve as a form of self-expression and community identity.
On the other hand, opponents of “fish” see it as perpetuating transphobic stereotypes. They argue that using terms traditionally associated with femininity, such as “fish,” reinforces harmful gender binaries and undermines efforts towards true inclusivity and acceptance of all gender identities.
The Importance Of Context In Understanding The Controversy
As with many issues, context is key when it comes to understanding the controversy surrounding “fish.” While some drag performers may embrace the term as part of their identity and community, others may feel uncomfortable with its use. Additionally, it’s important to consider the broader societal implications of using words that can be perceived as derogatory or dehumanizing.
The best way forward may be for individuals to have open and honest conversations about their perspectives on terminology like “fish” within the context of drag culture. By acknowledging differing viewpoints and respecting personal boundaries and preferences, we can work towards building a more inclusive and accepting society.
How To Achieve A “Fishy” Look: Tips And Tricks
The Importance Of Contouring And Highlighting
In drag, “fishiness” refers to a highly feminine and glamorous appearance. One of the key elements in achieving this look is contouring and highlighting. Contouring involves using makeup to sculpt your features by creating shadows and depth, while highlighting adds brightness and dimension.
To achieve a fishy face, start with a matte foundation that matches your skin tone and apply it evenly across your face. Then use a shade of foundation 2-3 shades darker than your skin tone to create contours along the hollows of your cheeks, temples, jawline, and nose. Blend well to avoid harsh lines. You can also add highlighter to the high points of your face, such as your cheekbones, forehead, and Cupid’s bow for an extra glow.
“Contouring and highlighting are essential techniques for creating a dramatic and feminine look in drag.” – Raja Gemini
The Role Of Wigs And Hair Accessories In Achieving “Fishiness”
A large part of the “fishy” look comes from perfectly styled hair that accentuates your feminine features. Wigs are a staple in drag because they allow you to transform your hairstyle quickly and easily. Choose a wig with long, flowing layers or soft curls to enhance your femininity.
When styling your wig, make sure to tuck away any flyaways or frizz to keep your hairstyle polished. You can also use hair accessories like headbands, flowers, or tiaras to add even more glamor and sparkle to your look.
“A good wig is essential for any queen who wants to embody pure fishiness.” – Violet Chachki
Creating a “fishy” look involves perfecting the art of contouring and highlighting to sculpt your face into a more feminine shape. Pair that with flawlessly styled hair, and you’ll be ready to turn heads at any drag event.
- Start with a matte foundation
- Create contours using darker foundation
- Add highlighter to high points of face
- Select long, flowing wig or soft curls
- Tuck away flyaways and use hair accessories for added glamor