This obsession’s been going on some time, but I couldn’t go on without mentioning the legend that is RuPaul and the glorious, witty, campy electric storm that is Drag Race. It’s all but taken over my life, especially given that eight series had happened before I even got to episode one.
Oh, it’s a blast. I watched Tyra Banks scrape the barrel of modelling-show shake ups for 21 goddamn seasons before finding out that it’s all been done better, and by a dude in a dress. RuPaul milks all the best bits of Tyra’s schtick (overdramatic inflection, nonsensical catchphrases) but ropes in entirely funnier and more A-list co-judges – in the first couple of seasons alone we had Vanessa Williams, LaToya Jackson, Debbie Reynolds and Lily Tomlin -and that’s before we even get to the frankly sickening* contestants.
It turns out, drag queens are hilarious. The talking heads and tearful feuds between the girls are almost the best bit – THE best bit is Snatch Game, the best episode of every series, closely followed by each bottom two’s opportunity to LIP-SYNC FOR THEIR LIFE. It’s way less dumbed down than ANTM (no moronic repeats of *every* tiny bit of drama) and also genuinely touching – RuPaul manages to be both icy and maternal, and I love how each episode’s loser is given a proud tribute before she instructs them, in feline tones, to ‘Sashay away.’
And they’re talented. While ANTM showcased starving Russian mail-order brides struggling to complete lame shopping ‘challenges’, Drag Race champions fierce models, actors, comedians and presenters. Its queens can cobble together a couture gown and headdress from just candyfloss or curtains, make-over a straight dude, give a dead-ringer of a Cher impersonation and flawlessly lip-sync an obscure Donna Summer song before the night is through. Plus, the wordplay on that show is just fantastic.
*Best of all, it’s introduced me to a whole new culture, a whole new vocab. I now know that ‘fishy’ means convincingly feminine (and that not everyone wants to be it), ‘sickening’ means insanely fierce, ‘reading’ is firing off carefully-crafted insults, and ‘tee’ is gossip (see also RuPaul and Michelle Visage’s chaotic but charming podcast What’s the Tee). Yaaasass, hunty.
Full credit has to go to my bestie Tom, who badgered me to watch it ages before I finally did, and loved it. He also tells me there’s a drag bar in New York where they screen Drag Race finals- a sure stop on my next visit.
Bring back..my girls
Five of my favourite contestants (so far..)
4. Manila Luzon
I fell for Manila’s impeccable couture creations and Imelda Marcos vibe the minute I saw her. This goofy queen was fresh-out-of-the-box made for TV. Shout out to that bumblebee dress made of wigs…
Quite the dark, dominatrix type, Raven wasn’t my usual type of queen (think Miss World). But with her bitchy sense of humour, understated drawl and excellent comic timing, she made some of the best observations in her season. I’m raven-ous for more.
Unpadded chest, tattoos, high fashion, gravelly voice: Raja refused to conform. But she was a Vogue-worthy wonder, in her tribal ensembles and her dollar-bill couture. Also, she’s a really, really hot guy: enjoyably confusing.
Oh, it’s gonna be tough to beat Jujubee. This savvy little bundle of Asian sass reminded me of me: she’s a little short, she’s smarter than she looks, she’s not afraid of big hair and she will read a bitch to FILTH. She didn’t win (A TRAVESTY) but showed an uncommon amount of warmth and sisterliness, as well as throwing a healthy amount of shade. All hail queen Jujubee!
RuPaul’s Drag Race is on Netflix. Warning: this will change your life.