“It’s a broad church isn’t it?”
So spoke my friend Clare as we sat patiently waiting for the RuPaul’s Drag Race Quiz to start in Central Manchester. Never a truer word was spoken. Gay men, straight women, gay women and straight men of all ages jostled to get into the subterranean bar which had been decorated to celebrate all things Drag Race related.
For the uninitiated, I’m not talking about racing cars in Daytona, I’m talking about drag queens in Los Angeles. Ten years ago, queen of the drag scene RuPaul (of Supermodel fame) started a small show in response to the reality shows sweeping the world such as America’s Next Top Model. But this had a difference, the chicks were guys and the glamour was turned up tenfold. Slowly but surely a social revolution took place and ratings soared higher and higher, soon powerhouses such as Netflix and VH1 picked up syndication and beamed the show internationally.
Ten seasons and three seasons of All Stars later and the world has gone drag crazy. I stumbled across the show almost by accident, I was asked to interview Head Judge Michelle Visage and put a season on as research. Little did I know I was opening the door of my life to the likes of Jinkx Monsoon, Alaska Thunderfuck and Bianca Del Rio to name but a few.
Even Mama Ru can’t have known what an industry he would create when he first uttered those immortal words “Gentleman start your engines and may the best woman win”. For drag queens who rise to the top, there is the promise of endless world tours, merchandising, recording contracts and maybe not fame yet but most definitely infamy. The best bit is you don’t even have to win, you just have to be remembered.
Leading the charge of these killer queens has to be Courtney Act, no stranger to the UK psyche as the winner of Celebrity Big Brother 2018 and our latest nation’s sweetheart, even though she’s Australian but there are plenty nipping at her Loubitons such as Adore Delano with her 1.5m Instagram followers or YouTube sensations Trixie Mattell and Katya.
So what is the secret to its success? Mainly it is positivity. The market is saturated with shows which bring out the worst in people for us to laugh at but in the main Drag Race pushes the queens to be the best they can be. That’s not to say there aren’t some bitter rivalries, this isn’t RuPaul’s Best Friend’s Race. The most uncomfortable to watch was in Season 5 with Roxxy Andrews’ attempt to take down Jinkx Monsoon come what may. Most of the time, Mama Ru presides with a fair yet firm hand and assisted by her judging panel, guides the good and not so good to be the best version of themselves. The judging panel is the best barometer for the success of the show. As a viewer in the UK, a lot of the extra special guest judges I’ve never heard of but as the ratings grow, so do the names with Lady Gaga and Christina Aguilera recent visitors to the Werk Room. Come on Madonna, where are you?
We’ve seen more than 100 queens walk through the doors and more challenges and looks than you can flick your wig at but the culmination of every show is always the Lip Sync For Your Life Showdown where the bottom two queens compete on the runway to impress Ru and hear the longed for words “Shantay You Stay” or the dreaded “Sashay Away”. Did I ever think watching a defeated American drag queen sashaying from the runway would reduce me to tears? No I didn’t. Has it? Many times.
If you’re tempted, sadly Netflix has seen fit to take away seasons 2-7 but you can still wet your whistle with seasons 8-10 which should be enough to get you hooked. Once you’ve fallen down the rabbit hole with the rest of us, Drag Race alumni will be lip syncing for their lives at a city near you or you could hit YouTube and the many music videos on offer, Alaska’s are probably the best. The only way is up for this army of glamazons and their leader is clearly intent on world domination with a live action comedy in the pipeline as well as the forthcoming cartoon Drag Tots starring Ru, Bianca, Latrice Royale, Valentina and Detox. Surely it’s only a matter of time before we see Tara Reid flee in the face of “Dragnado”.
We even have Ru t-shirts appearing in Primark this summer so the mainstream is catching on people. Get in now and learn the lingo, no tea no shade it will be the best move you’ve made my squirrel friend.
Oh and if you ever want to flush out a fellow drag race fan on the train, the bus or a plane, just shout “Vanje”, they will reply. We can’t help ourselves.
Ten facts to start your Drag Race journey
- Drag Race Lego could be coming soon, the proposal is being considered.
- Jonathon Ross is working on bringing a UK Drag Race to the screens
- The queens walk the runway twice, once with the music and once with the judges commentary, that explains why they don’t always react to the shade thrown at them.
- They film the whole season over a four week period, no wonder they look more and more tired when they enter the work room.
- During their time on the show, the queens aren’t allowed access to the outside world. It’s become a tradition for drag watchers to see who drops from social media to guess who will be coming up in the next season.
- Ru may look flawless on the runway but it takes six hours to bring that look to the viewers.
- Some looks have been too much for the producers, a zombie Princess Diana, Anne Frank and Whitney complete with white powder all got refused.
- None of the queens have met Mama Ru until the first episode which is why they all look so giddy when he first appears.
- In Season 6 Vivacious had her own head-headpiece called Ornacia. Ornacia has become so popular amongst fans she has her own Twitter account and is currently appearing at Drag Con in Los Angeles. Not bad for a polystyrene head.
- The queens are given an Ipod at the start of each season with all the future lip syncs on so they can learn the words, so there’s no excuse. Valentina we’re looking at you.
Remember these facts are from the internet so they could just be a load of rubbish.