This forgotten Oscar-nominated LGBTQ+ film explores a beautiful and unexpected friendship

Scarlet (L) and Miss Peach (R) in Oscar-nominated The Lady In Waiting

In the moving 1992 short film The Lady in Waiting, New York residents Miss Peach and drag queen Scarlet learn to confront their prejudices.

With the 2023 Oscars just around the corner and much-needed conversation building around the importance of onscreen representation, one forgotten Oscar-nominated film is more relevant than ever.

Written and directed by Teen Wolf‘s Christian Taylor, short film The Lady in Waiting made waves during the nineties, despite only getting its own IMDb page two years ago.

It made history as one of a handful of LGBTQ+ themed films to ever be nominated in the best live-action short category at the Academy Awards; and despite being largely forgotten in pop culture, it’s undoubtedly a hidden gem.

Starring Virginia McKenna as Miss Peach and Rodney Hudson as Black New York drag queen Scarlet, the film follows the pair on one fateful night as they get trapped together in a lift after a citywide blackout. Before long, they form an unlikely bond as they realise their shared humanity.

Their friendship gets off to a rocky start, with Miss Peach asking Scarlet: “How can you do that in public? What one does in their private life is their own affair but to flaunt it in public is not right.” Sound familiar? But Scarlet shows she has just as much bite, telling Miss Peach to “mind your own f**king business”.

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As the lift falls down in a dramatic drop, Scarlet helps rescue the two from their worrying predicament, even as Miss Peach tells her: “You are the most alien person I have ever met”. Frankly, Scarlet is a badass, shimmying out of a broken lift, breaking into an apartment using nothing but a hairpin and helping heal Miss Peach’s sprained ankle. Is there anything she can’t do?

Despite the cultural clash, Scarlet remains unapologetically herself. “I like it, I like the perfume and I like the attention,” she tells Miss Peach.

As Miss Peach opens up about her own problems in life, giving the “best years of her life” to a cheating husband, the two grow closer, with Scarlet advising Miss Peach to “realise what you have and then enjoy it.” In a moment of tender connection, Scarlet gives Miss Peach a glamorous makeover before the part ways, prompting Miss Peach to reevaluate her values.

It’s a simple plot, but one that is especially timely given the rising tide of anti-LGBTQ+ legislation and rhetoric, even as drag queens and the wider LGBTQ+ community call for unity.

In the three decades since The Lady in Waiting aired, we have seen how representation of drag, particularly Black drag culture, has exploded on screen.

Pose. (FX)

In 1995, the first major Hollywood blockbuster centring drag queens, To Wong Foo Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar, hit the big screen. The film follows three drag queens travelling across the country from New York to Hollywood, exploring the prejudices they overcome along the way.

In 1990, meanwhile, groundbreaking documentary Paris Is Burning about 80s ballroom culture had a defining impact upon the drag community, and would later go on to inspire Emmy-award winning 2018 series Pose. The noughties, of course, saw the rise of RuPaul’s Drag Race, which remains on its path to global domination.

Earlier in February, drag neo-noir revenge thriller Femme premiered at the Berlin Film Festival, showing the innovative ways filmmakers are tackling similar themes around bigotry decades later.

This year, Night Ride will continue the legacy of pushing boundaries at the Oscars with its nomination in the short film category. The short follows Ebba, who is forced into a moral dilemma when one of the passengers, Ariel, suffers transphobic abuse. It is a powerful testimony to the strength of allyship against hate.

The Lady in Waiting is available to watch on YouTube.