Taco Bell Drag Brunch Goes Corporate

CHICAGO. When the drag brunch ended last Sunday at one of the Mexican restaurants here, the artists made their way through a crowd of about 40 party people who were simply tipsy from Brunch Punch.

But this was no standard brunch; it was a Taco Bell Drag brunch. And it wasn’t the microphone in the lead queen’s hand; it was a big toast breakfast with burritos. This queen, a Mexican-American performer named Kay Sedia (pronounced quesadilla), hosted the Taco Bell Cantina a block from Wrigley Field, wearing a frilly, bodycon dress with the Taco Bell logo on her stomach.

In the 45-minute show, Kei Sedia pissed off the crowd (mostly young, mostly white) and danced with her fellow performers: transvestite Tenderoni and Queens Miss Toto and Aunt Chan who tore him apart. as a Taco Bell cashier in the “She Works Hard for the Money” and “9 to 5” mashups. Burritos (with sausage, bacon, or vegetables), hash browns, and Cinnabon Delights donut holes lay on dinner tables in shimmering boxes. The sound of Taco Bell’s trademark “bong” was interspersed with a game of drinking.

Skyler Chmielewski, who came to celebrate her 19th birthday, was shocked. Picking up a collapsible Taco Bell Drag Brunch fan, she declared her first drag show “breathtaking”.

“I am at a loss for words,” she said.

There may be more fun ways to spend a day at Taco Bell, but it’s hard to imagine how. The five-city, 10-show Taco Bell Drag Brunch tour, which arrives just in time for June’s Pride celebrations, is arguably the most popular combination of drag culture and dinner — a “phenomenal” step in the evolution of drag culture, Joe said. E. Jeffreys, resistance historian.

“He stepped over a boundary that was not there before, into an exciting new accessible space,” said Mr. Jeffreys, who teaches theater studies at New York University and The New School. (He wasn’t at any of the chain’s branches.)

Taco Bell Drag Brunch is the latest attempt by corporate fast food chains to capture the attention of LGBT consumers. Last year, Taco Bell named renowned rapper Lil Nas X as its “chief influencer” and Burger King said it would donate 40 cents from every order of its Ch’King sandwich to the LGBT Human Rights Campaign in June. group of lawyers.

However, the political landscape may change. The creation of “transvestite story hours” for children in public libraries around the country has sparked protests and some cancellations. In April, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed into law legislation to remove Disney World’s special tax status after the company opposed the so-called “Don’t Say Gay” bill, which restricted or banned discussion of sexual orientation and gender identity. in Florida public schools.

The challenge now for corporations is to figure out how best to support a brand-loyal consumer group without alienating conservative consumers or legislators. (Taco Bell is moving its branch to Florida, but is not among several companies that have raised concerns about recent legislation there and in other states.)

Many fast food brands are taking part in this year’s pride. Chipotle and Shake Shack plan to donate a portion of their proceeds in June to LGBTQ organizations, and the Taco Bell Foundation is providing a grant to It Gets Better to expand resources to train a workforce for LGBTQ youth.

Jillian Oakenfull, professor of marketing at Miami University, Ohio, said the current political debate over gay and transgender issues does not necessarily reflect consumer opinion. When it comes to queer acceptance, she said, “Generation Z demands it.”

According to Dr. Oakenfull, hosting transvestites “is no longer a risk” and if corporations get irritated with using transvestites as a marketing tool, “it doesn’t come from the people they care about.”

When Taco Bell posted a photo from a Las Vegas brunch on Instagram, she drew negative comments. But so far, complaints about the show, like breakfast salsa, have been mild.

The tour kicked off in Las Vegas on May 1, then traveled to Chicago and Nashville before moving on to New York on June 12 and Fort Lauderdale, Florida on June 26. older, are kept in Taco Bell Cantina restaurants because they serve alcohol, unlike other Taco Bell restaurants.

According to a company representative, all orders – more than 550 – were quickly received in April by participants in the Taco Bell “Fire Tier” bonus program, the brand’s most loyal customers who received the first dibs.

Robert Fischer, Taco Bell’s senior production designer, said the drag brunch idea originated a year ago at Live Más Pride, Taco Bell’s resource group for LGBTQ employees, and reached the company’s chief executive, Mark King, who gave it the green light.

Mr. Fischer, who founded Live Más Pride, said his managers understood that if Taco Bell’s organized drag brunch seemed legitimate, the company had to act like it was invited to be part of the LGBT community, “not like Taco Bell took the pills for tacos.”

The company has signed Oscar Quintero, who goes by the name Kay Sedia and lives in Los Angeles, as the tour’s drag host and hired local drag artists to perform with her in every city. (Taco Bell declined to say how much the tour cost or how much the talent was paid.) The performers made sure their language and material was clean and apolitical enough.

“I have a lot of people on social media who come from different political and religious backgrounds, and yet they find in their hearts the desire to enjoy my work,” said Mr. Quintero. “When people get into politics, I just say, ‘Let me be the escape.’ ”

Drag’s relationship with food dates back to the mid-20th century, when drag revues in bars and restaurants catered to predominantly natural audiences. Historian Jeffreys estimates that drag brunches emerged in the early 1990s, during the second decade of the AIDS crisis. Perry’s, a restaurant in the Adams Morgan neighborhood of Washington, D.C., has hosted drag brunches since 1991 and remains popular.

Today, in many cities, drag brunch is a must-have weekend event, a bachelorette party and birthday prank. Food and drugs continue to intersect in new ways, from food delivery services to charcuterie parties.

For some drag history keepers, the Taco Bell brunch is the commercial torpedo that finally sank the subversive art form.

But others believe that the ship sailed long ago. thrust is Now it’s become mainstream, said Harry James Hanson, co-author of Drag Legends, a new book featuring photo portraits of drag elders.

“When it comes to corporate drag brunch, it’s right in the drag queen’s wheelhouse,” Mr. Hanson said. “They are the same cultural ambassadors.”

Maybe that’s what’s happening at Taco Bell. Eventually, the company introduces the drag show to an audience that wouldn’t otherwise go to a drag show were it not for an invitation from Taco Bell.

Blake Hundley, a 25-year-old straight father, said he drove three hours from his home in Dubuque, Iowa, to be first in line for the second of two shows in Chicago—not surprising given he runs a Taco Bell fan site. , LivingMas.com, and eats at Taco Bell three times a week “at a minimum.”

After the show, Mr. Hundley said that his first drag brunch was amazing and that he would return if the fast food chain accepted another one. “My life is with Taco Bell,” he said.

If not everyone is delighted with her show, then the company is happy with it. Drag brunch is “not tied to politics or concerns about backlash,” said Sean Tresvant, chief brand manager for Taco Bell. “It’s about being authentic.”

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