Doretta Lau on drag queen Manila Luzon, marketing, and Rupaul’s Drag Race All Stars 4
All hail Manila Luzon. (Spoilers ahead for all things Rupaul’s Drag Race.)
She may not have won the All Stars 4 crown, but in my opinion she’s the queen who has gotten the most out of her appearance on this season. She’s teaching a masterclass in marketing. There is so much a writer can learn from how she used Rupaul’s platform to grow her audience.
Let me break it down for you. Yes, yes, I know this is some serious late-stage capitalist talk, but would you rather make money from your art or have to grind it out in an office?
Fineapple Couture on the Manila Luzon YouTube Channel
Manila is doing so many things right by making this video series about the looks she wore on All Stars 4. Each video was released after the corresponding episode aired.
This is what she accomplishes with this video:
- Connecting to directly to audiences
- Controlling her narrative
- Creating and owning her own content
- Spotlighting her collaborators
- Referring to her book, which she is selling on her own website
She’s so savvy. She knows that people associate her with the colour yellow, she so made sure her first look on the show was yellow. Plus the sharp blazer in this video! (Note the pin on the lapel, which is for sale on her website. Very subtle.)
The look also references something she wore on a previous season, a wink to old school fans. And we’re reminded that boy Manila, Karl Westerberg, is a hottie.
Showcasing the Looks on Instagram
When I saw this look on the runway, I thought: here is the winner of the season. This Instagram pic isn’t a screencap of the show, it’s from a photo shoot she did herself. Again, this is content that fans want and allows Manila to keep growing her own platform while making sure she’s highly visible during the run of All Stars 4.
Spilling the Tea
Ru said my ORIGINAL Curves & Swerves Runway look was in “bad taste” and production told me to wear my back up. I was really looking forward to wearing this gown that I think celebrates a perfectly normal human experience! Many of my fans are young women who may feel pressured by society to be embarrassed by periods. It’s empowering to teach young women about their bodies, encourage them to celebrate them AND to question people who tell them not to! My goal with this look was to normalize menstruation by looking sick’ning even if I was on my period! Instead, i decided to wear the beautiful quilted dress you saw in the episode because it is not my show, it’s Ru’s. But because of Ru, I have my very own platform to speak for myself and show you all my interpretation! ❤️ my Period Gown is by @theladyhyde
Everyone is attracted to controversy like a shark when there’s blood in the water. Plus we love hearing behind the scenes gossip. So after the Curves & Swerves episode aired, Manila told fans the outfit she wore on the show was a backup and revealed the first choice dress on Instagram.
View this post on Instagram
The Manila Doll: the Spaghetti Dress 🍝 Don’t confuse this plastic princess with Barbie; she’s obviously Manila Luzon with her signature blonde streak and her crazy crossed eyes. This doll is the first doll in the new Fineapple Couture Doll Collection wearing a scaled down Spaghetti Dress designed by Marco Marco. ON PRE-SALE NOW at manilaluzon.com
A few weeks into All Stars 4, Manila announced a doll, which fans can pre-order. Note that it comes under the “Fineapple Couture” brand and again there’s a nod to her collaborator Marco Marco.
People sometimes forget that marketing is about selling. It’s not about getting attention for the sake of attention. If you’re going to sell, you have to have product ready to go. All Stars 4 filmed in the summer of 2018 and it seems that Manila went into high gear over the three months before the air date to prepare for this moment in the spotlight.
The Go Fish Music Video
Timing is key in marketing. The crowning moment in Manila’s marketing game is when she dropped the “Go Fish” music video on the day she was eliminated from All Stars 4 by Naomi Smalls.
All the things she did right for the video:
- Getting it sponsored
- Inviting Naomi Smalls play the Queen of Hearts in the video, ensuring that fans would go wild
- Wearing her elimination look and doubling down on the card game metaphor, while making it all about drag (queens, fishiness)
- Reuniting the Heathers from season 3: Raja, Delta Work, and Carmen Carrera
She also dropped playing cards with her own art. This is seriously masterful.
Engaging with Fans
Manila shows us how to engage with fans, show gratitude, model good sportsmanship, while setting firm boundaries and showing support for fellow queen Naomi Smalls.
View this post on Instagram
Showing love for fans by posting fan art is another form of good audience engagement. It shows gratitude, and also people will keep making fan tributes in hopes of having work showcased on an Instagram account with a lot of followers.
Making Us Think What If
The week after she was eliminated, she posted the look she would have delivered on the runway had she still been on the show. It guarantees that the conversation stays on narrative: “Manila is so talented. Manila was robbed.”
Couldn’t have done it without all 1 million of you! Salamat!!! https://t.co/ru7MlKajdY
— Manila Luzon (@manilaluzon) February 11, 2019
All this hard work has reaped tangible results. Before the first episode of All Stars 4 aired on December 14, Manila had 605,356 followers on Instagram. On February 11, she hit a million followers. With a platform this size and the work ethic to continue to create content and product, she is guaranteed a well-paying career in drag. Like I said, there’s so much writers can learn from how she handed this opportunity.
I can’t wait to see what she does next.
Doretta Lau on Hasan Minhaj Netflix videos.