RuPaul’s Drag Race is the best reality television show on the air. No question. Hands down. No contest. Those who know me well know that I am an avid reality TV show watcher from the days of Real World to Rich Kids of Beverly Hills. I have calmed down since my days of Real Housewives but still watch every episode of America’s Next Top Model, Food Network Star, Shark Tank, and others I will not name… but back when I was still watching Millionaire Matchmaker and What Not to Wear there was a show on Logo that was just getting started. If you don’t know who RuPaul is – shame!
RuPaul is a pioneer in the drag world and definitely the most well known queen out in mainstream media. Now, there are of course many groundbreaking queens who came before and influenced Ru – then Ru made an empire and knew it could grow even bigger. It’s like Ru woke up on day and said, I need an heir! Or several! and made RuPaul’s Drag Race. Drag Race brings together queens from around the country to compete for a chance to be the next drag queen superstar. The best thing is, when they win – they legit become superstars. I mean, how often do you see winners of America’s Next Top Model or The Voice?
I could go into each queen and who are my favorites *cough* Jujubee *cough* or a clip show of RuPaul’s greatest moments “Chantay you both stay!” but that would take me beyond the limits of one article, so instead I’m going to talk about the elements that make Drag Race the best reality TV show ever: its Charisma, Uniqueness, Nerve, and Talent.
First off, the drama is real… the drag queen community is tight knit and large, but everyone knows everyone, so, of course, queens come on the show with already established beef – Alyssa Edwards and CoCo Montrese; Farrah Moan and Eureka O’Hara; Rolaskatox and everyone else; and Ru knows how to play up the tension with surprise comebacks. And who could forget the all stars’ coveted two-way mirror reveal?! Yes, the show has all stars.
But Drag Race understands the ridiculous nature of reality TV and leans; no death drops into it, never taking itself too seriously. Which is ironic because drag is such a serious culture, one that is bold and unapologetic in a society that endangers the lives of those who participate. Drag Race understands the joy in queer life that needs to be embraced. The “Pitch Perfect Puppetry” challenge consists of queens styling puppets after each other and putting on a puppet show. I will never forget Alaska’s puppet imitating Roxxxy, “There’s a tear away under my tear away!”
Then – the library is open. This is a challenge in which queens read other queens. If you don’t know what reading is here’s the urban dictionary to help.
Sunglasses are required for this section. For Black ppl who don’t know, it’s like when a group of your friends would circle up to roast on each other or tell the best yo mama jokes, but these jokes will read you like an open book and expose all your prose… and it hurts! But it’s all love.
RuPectators sit on the edge of the seats each season waiting for the snatch game. This challenge is where the best and worst queens thrive or die in delightful game show fashion, and queens get to show off their best celebrity impressions. Snatch game parodies the popular “Match Game”: Ru posts a question to the contestants and judge, queens write down their best answer. If the answer matches that of the guest celebrity judge, they get a point. Although none of the points matter — the only thing that matters is how clever your celebrity impersonation was. A queen’s choice of celebrity could change everything. Some think they can play Celia Cruz and all you hear are crickets. Many a sad impression have sent a queen home, and it is the best part watching the winners’ stellar performances and cringing at the failures terrible fall.
Drag Race puts the base in your walk. If you love fashion and innovations in style, this show takes Project Runway to the ball. Queens are given several challenges throughout the season, mini challenges to give certain queens advantages in the main challenges, and main challenges ranging from, music videos and skits to full on musicals – but the piece de lê resistance is the runway. Queens are given themes such as Faux Fur Realness, Club Kidd, night of 1,000 Madonnas, plus so many others, and must sissy that walk down the runway in their original pieces. And Lord help the queen who comes on not knowing how to sew, but girl they work it out. These pieces will bring out the fierce in your own personality, you become the most opinionated fashion critic when it comes to looks on the Drag Race Runway.
I adore the structure Ru has made for herself on this show, she makes all of the final decisions. Her panel of judges and guests discuss and give input, but in the end it’s Ru’s decision. “Silence!”
Once the challenge is done, the runway has been strut, the judges deliberated — Ru decides the bottom two who will engage in a head-to-head (insert a Ru witty joke here) lip sync to keep their spot in the running for America’s next drag superstar. Aren’t you excited just hearing about it!? ‘Cause it is everything you believe it is, and more. This is where you see talent shine or diminish. And, damn, Drag Race got talent when the time comes to lip sync… for your life! You live for the lip sync to find out who gets to “Shantay you stay” and who “sashay’s away.” These queens have to give it all on the cat walk to prove they got the Nerve and Talent to stay in the competition. Some give performances that you will remember forever, whether they blew your mind or how sad it was to watch them be defeated. It’s truly where the magic happens. So much drama is spilt on that stage, planned and unplanned.
RuPaul’s Drag Race, with all its charisma, pushes queens to grow outside of their comfort zones, exposing their true potential, and birthing a superstar — if they can hack it. It is so influential it inspires the next generation. Bob The Drag Queen is literally a Drag Race baby, starting drag just from watching the show. You better walk into the room purse first!
Even though it brings a lot of laughs and all the drama — no tea, no shade, no pink lemonade, real life is brought to the little screen for each of these queens. True stories of the harsh realities growing up queer are revealed in front of the make-up mirror. Every episode you hear just a bit more of what the lives of these performers was like growing up, how they found support or touching stories of the families who stand by their side every day. I’ve seen parents who have disowned their children send reconciliation videos on RuPaul’s Drag Race. Still, Drag Race never takes itself too seriously, and in a harsh world of hate, we need RuPaul’s Drag Race to keep us sane. Just waiting on that Drag King spin off to bring it all full circle.
In the end, the prizes are a fierce $100,000, the title of Drag Super Star, and other spoils, the competition is tough, and Michelle Visage’s boobs are unrelenting, and there are a never-ending number ways to start a word with Ru – it’s Rutastic. Whether you’ve seen them or not, start from the beginning and fall in love with the show for the first time or the newest time. Your life will always be better for it.