Inspiration can strike in the most confounding ways. For Jackie Huba, it happened when she was channel surfing and landed on RuPaul’s Drag Race. Huba, a customer loyalty consultant and speaker who was going through a period of professional boredom and felt "stuck," was captivated by what she saw.
"I couldn’t believe I was seeing people creating these fierce, fabulous female characters, inviting all the confidence, and looking amazing, and being a better woman than me," she says. "I was like, ‘I want to be like that. What can I learn from these folks on how to be like that?’" she says.
From there, she started to immerse herself in the world of drag, getting to know drag queens and trying to learn from them. She even created her own drag persona, Lady Trinity, and has performed "many times," she says. She even did a TEDx talk about unleashing the power of your inner drag queen.
Huba says that the experience, which she describes in her forthcoming book, Fiercely You: Be Fabulous and Confident by Thinking Like a Drag Queen, helped reinvigorate her, making her bolder and more confident. When she felt the tendency to doubt herself, she thought about what Lady Trinity would do. She interviewed 17 top drag queens for the book and discovered six personal branding secrets drag queens know that apply to virtually everyone.
Huba recommends thinking of the brand you wish to develop as your "alter ego," just as many drag queens develop big, bold personas.
"If you're a good drag queen, you think about a 360-degree view. Who is this person? What is their name? What is their backstory? What are their personality traits? How would you describe them?
"You craft your persona with intention. It has to be authentic, but it also has to stand out and stand for something. You need to develop a fully rounded character," Huba explains. Answer those questions about yourself as a first step.
We live in a visual world, and when people see you, they form immediate opinions about who you are, Huba says. Drag queens know this and dress the part. Huba changed her personal style to help make her more confident in various situations and better project the way she wanted other people to see her. She worked with a department store stylist and found a few pieces that made her feel great about herself. The stylist told her that she wasn’t dressing "as fierce as you really are," she recalls.
"No one had ever called me fierce, and that’s what I wanted to be," she says. It’s a new take on "power dressing," where your clothes match the persona you’re building.
"Drag moms" are experienced drag queens that give support and advice, while helping to shorten the drag queen learning curve, Huba says. A drag mom is a good mentor who gives you advice layered with firsthand experience, who can personally understand what you’re trying to do and help you refine your message. Such mentors and advisers can be invaluable as you craft your personal brand, Huba says.
Drag queens put themselves out there in audacious ways every day, so they need be able to take risks and manage rejection, Huba says. When people see that you’re confident, they’re more likely to trust you, which is an important element of personal branding. But confidence isn’t just a feeling—it’s the ability to take action through fear. Drag queens try new things all the time, taking small risks that make them able to take bigger and bigger risks successfully in their acts and in their personas, because they know they’re able to pull them off.
Whether it’s an external critic or that little doubting voice inside, we all need to overcome the fear of failure or thinking that we’re not good enough, Huba says. Drag queens get a lot of criticism from people who disapprove of or don’t understand what they do.
Most learn to shake off this criticism "with a flip of the wig," Huba says. Knowing that there are other people who endure similar criticism and are able to shake it off is helpful. Huba recommends giving your critic a name and literally telling it to go away as an exercise in getting over rejection or setbacks.
Today, most of us engage in personal branding through personal interactions, social media, online presence, and in other ways. Just as drag queens perfect everything from their look to their signature catchphrases, we should all be checking the image that we put out into the world to ensure it’s consistent with our personal brand, Huba says.
It’s also important to be authentic, too, she says. When the image is too contrived and doesn’t show some of your humanity, you may lose trust. One of Huba’s drag queen friends broadcasts to her fans while putting on her makeup, showing how she evolves into her persona.
"You get people to learn more about you when you're ‘offstage,’" she says.