Mrs. Kasha Davis first came onto my radar similarly to the way many others discovered her: through season 7 of RuPaul’s Drag Race. Her signature line, “there’s always time for a cocktail,” thrust her into the limelight. This catch phrase marked her as a memorable and quotable queen, despite being the fifth one sent home on her season. But what of Ed Popil, the real-life performer behind the drag persona? Workhorse Queen acts as a dramatic and insightful exploration of Mrs. Kasha Davis from top to bottom—I can safely say I learned more about her in any given moment of this fascinating documentary versus any single episode of Drag Race.
Opening with a montage of convention appearances, signings, and public events, we get a glimpse into Mrs. Kasha Davis’s future, before we are plunged into Ed’s past. At 47 years old and hailing from Rochester, NY, Ed looks back on his past with a sense of nostalgia and appreciation. Ed grew up in Scranton, PA—a town with barely a gay footprint. He married the first girl who said yes. The story about his parents’ reactions when he came out as gay to them is both shocking and horrifying. I began to truly appreciate how far we have come as a society.
Inspired the most by his mother, an Italian diva, Mrs. Kasha Davis was born out of Ed’s desire to be an entertainer. From a sparkling spot called Mothers, a drag family was created that included Ambrosia Salad, along with Drag Race stars Darienne Lake and Pandora Boxx. Mrs. Kasha Davis auditioned for every single season of Drag Race before ultimately making the lineup for season seven, however, the dream was not everything Ed hoped it would be.
The most fascinating aspect of this documentary is the exploration of the divide between those who have made it onto the show and those who have not. This division practically invalidates local queens when fans come out solely to support the successful Drag Race queens, while ignoring all other talent. There is a pool of thousands that never make it onto the show at all. With limited spots on television, it is a sad reality that some drag queens are completely pushed to the side and never get their chance. RuPaul’s Drag Race “shifted the entire drag world” after its debut, turning popularity into a bizarre metric that should not even apply. If one loves drag, they should support all performers despite their level of fame. Aggy Dune, a close friend to Mrs. Kasha Davis, shares that she is disheartened and upset that she never made it on RuPaul, and is heavily concerned about the growing divide in the community.
Another thing I loved was the full documentation of Mrs. Kasha Davis’s relationship with Drag Race as a whole. We bear witness to her very first audition tapes, and countless others she made over the years leading up to her actual acceptance on the show. Helping her film every single audition along the way was Ed’s husband, always a voracious supporter of his drag persona. Various personas from the show pop up to give some perspective too, including season six winner, Bianca del Rio, and fan favorite, Darienne Lake. Ed was ultimately very disappointed in his performance on Drag Race, but regardless, it sparked a surprising chunk of fame where he was stopped for photos nearly everywhere. Bookings were outrageous, and his calendar was brimming with options—up until it wasn’t.
By delving into Mrs. Kasha Davis at rock bottom, when the drinking began getting out of control, Workhorse Queen evolves into more than just a fluffy documentary. It shows us there is always a price that comes with fame and following your dreams. Eventually things turn back around, thanks to Ed’s difficult work in rehab and his decision to make a change. Married for over 14 years, Ed decides to make the necessary changes primarily to repair his relationship with his husband. The positivity brimming from this documentary made me realize one thing with certainty: I would love to have Mrs. Kasha Davis as a friend. She just seems like the absolute sweetest human being, and I am thankful for this beautiful documentary for finally sharing her story with the world.
Workhorse Queen screened at the 2021 Bentonville Film Festival.