For some contestants on “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” their stardom starts and ends on TV. But not for Honey Mahogany, who’s emerged as a multi-hyphenate empress of entrepreneurship, activism, and art.
Though it’s been 10 years since viewers first met Honey Mahogany, with her unique blend of charisma, talent, and activism, she’s continued to use her platform to champion inclusivity, empower marginalized voices, and challenge societal norms. “I love that now some people come up to me and say, ‘I didn’t know you were on ‘RuPaul’s Drag Race,’’” the San Francisco Democratic Party chairwoman told Passionfruit. “There are lots of aspects to me! Drag is a part of me, and so much more!”
She has the resume to prove it. Honey Mahogany is a social worker, a lauded LGBTQ+ non-profit executive, one of the highest-ranking trans leaders in the Democratic Party, the co-owner of San Francisco’s iconic Stud Bar, and a literal rockstar. Her queer, heavy metal band, Commando, has performed at South by Southwest and opened for Big Freedia. They’re now working on their second album.
As a child of Ethiopian immigrants, Honey Mahogany’s background informs her commitment to fighting for the rights of all marginalized communities, including the queer community. She recognizes that intersectionality is essential in understanding the multifaceted struggles faced by individuals who hold multiple, marginalized identities. This understanding fuels her dedication to creating a more inclusive and equitable society where everyone can thrive, regardless of their background.
It’s why she pursued a master’s degree in social work at UC Berkeley. It was during her time at the university that Mahogany had her first experience with drag, trying it out for a student film. This exploration revealed to her that drag encompassed more than just a performance; it became an opportunity to envision a different self and a different world. Now she’s working to create that world—a world that offers justice and equity for all.
Back in the days of Seasons 5 and 6 of RuPaul’s Drag Race, it was normal for contestants to reach 10,000 followers, with some of the most popular contestants earning 100,000. At the time, those numbers seemed astronomical, but the phenomenon felt fleeting. “I used to think, ‘Oh I need to get on this show before they cut it and it’s over,’” she said. She hadn’t imagined the show would make it to its most recent 15th season, with no signs of stopping. Today, “RuPaul’s Drag Race” has reached as many as 750,000 viewers in one episode, and contestants hit half a million followers easily. The 15th season was its most watched to date.
“I never was a big social media person,” she said. While Mahogany was an early adopter of Facebook, she only occasionally interacts with the platform. She’s on Twitter and Instagram, too, but most frequently engages with Instagram. “If I spent all of my time on social media, I wouldn’t have time to actually do the activism work our community needs,” she said.
When she ran for a city supervisor seat in San Francisco, she would spend whole days going from campaign event to campaign event, and her staff would tease her for not having captured any of it on social media. “I was being with the people,” she explained. This really describes her social media strategy.
She shows up in the spaces she enters as an advocate and ally. That leaves an effect on people that encourages them to keep their connection alive on social media. Her social media strategy involves being out in the world and creating, engaging, and meeting with her constituency. These are the experiences that invite people to engage with her digitally. When she shows up authentically and fully in live spaces, naturally the audience wants to engage digitally.
In a candid photo on Twin Peaks, overlooking downtown San Francisco, Mahogany shared a selfie on Instagram with the message: “Really honored to be a Grand Marshall this year for Pride 2023—it’s such an important year. So much to reflect on, especially our history, including the symbolism of the pink triangle that the Nazi’s forced our ancestors to wear, as we see a rise in fascism across this country. We cannot go back. We must fight on and win.”
One comment to this post reads, “Congratulations 👏👏💕⚡️I did not know about the pink triangle. Looked up more about it and will read The Men with the Pink Triangle by Heinz Heger to learn more Thank you for your light & work 🙏🏼,” which clearly demonstrates Mahogany’s effectiveness to educate and inspire through her social media.
“I’ve used social media to fundraise for queer liberation projects, meet new people, and build collaborations,” she began. “I am many things. I guess you could call me a content creator, too.”
Of course she’s a content creator. On Instagram, 53,400 folks follow her, and on Twitter, which she uses as a professional platform, she also has slightly more followers at 53,800. And the posts she makes on TikTok are usually shared on her Instagram too. Across these platforms, fans engage with the handle @honeymahogany.
In some of her posts, she manages to find puffy-shoulder ensembles that radiate pure glamor and artistic prowess. Clad in a breathtaking gown, she exudes an air of regal elegance mixed with avant-garde flair. Her favorite gown features intricate details, such as cascading sequins that shimmer under the spotlight, accentuating her every movement. Every meticulous detail of the outfit was a testament to Honey Mahogany’s impeccable fashion sense. No doubt, this also keeps fans engaging with her on social media.
That same digital community is there when it’s time for her to roll up her sequin-studded sleeves and do the political organizing that’s needed to secure queer liberation.