The British spinoff of RuPaul’s Drag Race is now on its second season and it is already pushing the envelope of drag. On the latest episode of the competition reality show, the typically prim and polished A’Whora stalked the runway in a formfitting, 3D printed exoskeleton.
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The theme for the runway that night was “Pre-Herstoric Drag”, which included one-too-many animal prints and a lot of bones, but there was nothing quite like what A’Whora donned—no bones about it. The drag queen wore a 3D printed mask and corset designed using 3D scans of her face and body and then wrapped herself in a fur coat. The result was a look that screams Queen of the Stone Age.
Behind the personality that is A’Whora is Worksop, U.K.-born George Boyle, who told the judges on RuPaul’s Drag Race UK, “This outfit is one of the most intricate things I’ve ever made, I had it 3D printed to every contour of my body through a scanner. This mask is even shaped to every dimension of my drag makeup.” A’Whora reported to Independent.ie, “I use things such as 3D printing during the show, different ways fabric can be manipulated and fabric can be sculpted. I tried to really showcase as many different fashion techniques and abilities, to show what I can do through the use of clothing.”
The work was created by U.K. designer el_samu.obj. According to the artist, he had just one month to design and create the entire look. First, A’Whora’s face and body were scanned using a Sense 2 3D scanner before modeling was performed in Mudbox and Maya. Sam let us know that it took a total of 300 hours to print, on his CR-10s 3D printer using FormFutura Extrafill PLA, and then sanded the look to completion.
“I just gave it a sand, used a Dremel with engraving bits and hand sanded it all over,” el_samu.obj said. As for the shading quality you see on the prints, A’Whora said on Instagram, “I painted the bodice myself using dry powder paints to achieve a distressed/aged look!”
3D printing has made its way into fashion consistently, particularly through the work of Iris van Herpen, who has been fabricating high fashion looks for more than seven years. On a related note, competing drag queen, Bimini Bon-Boulash, dressed as bacteria for her pre-herstoric look alongside A’Whora, claiming inspiration from van Herpen, though no 3D printing was involved.
It has also walked the runways of reality TV before via Project Runway, where contestants had to make 3D printed textiles using now-defunct Cube 3D printers from 3D Systems. Former contestant Justin LeBlanc also used 3D printing in his final collection on the 12 season of the show. This also isn’t the first time 3D printing has been used on RuPaul’s Drag Race, as season 10 winner Aquaria wore a skeleton mask 3D printed using selective laser sintering by Shapeways. This author also enlisted the help of a 3D modeler to attempt a 3D print of Manila Luzon, with mixed results.
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We may see future queens on Drag Race UK take on 3D printed accessories because el_samu.obj has been printing up a storm for queens in the area. He say he got into this niche in part through his friend, drag queen Stella Marbles, for whom he makes masks (see above).
“Me and Stella used to work together at a pub, one day a friend of mine found an old Colido DIY 3D printer in the street and I traded it for a bottle of wine, after doing some hobby printing Stella asked if I could do her something for her drag/club kid stuff, word of mouth was strong enough that I got to quit my pub job and make bits of nonsense for drag queens all day,” el_samu.obj said. “Stella’s entire bit is masks, so I ended up making a lot of them at the start, now I’m branching more into animatronics.”
el_samu.obj is still working on his website. COVID-19 has impacted his business, naturally, as it has limited live drag performances, an issue that Scottish drag queen Lawrence Cheney also mentioned on the show. So, while drag has faced a downturn, el_samu.obj has been designing animatronics for non-drag clients with a goal of one day making movie props.
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