RuPaul’s Drag Race is a reality competition series centered around the world of talented drag queens. With the fabulous RuPaul serving as the host and motherly mentor for the drag stars, this series can be compared to America’s Next Top Model, with similar practices of walking runways, looking snatched and facing sudden elimination all in the name of winning the title of America’s Next Drag Superstar.
While on the PaleyFest blue carpet, I got a chance to speak with iconic judges of RuPaul’s Drag Race, Carson Kressley and Ross Mathews. The topic of the recent college admissions scandals came up, so I asked them “amidst all of these college scandals, people are kind of down in the dumps about why they’re really here, so what advice do you have for college students that want to break into the business and also want to keep the confidence to be their fiercest selves”
Carson and Ross were quick to reply with uplifting messages. Ross advised that “you can’t let [the scandal] get you down in the dumps. There’s going to be a lot of harder sh*t that’s going to happen to you, so let’s toughen up and thicken our skin a little bit… this is just a little head-wind, but head-wind is what propels successful people! So if you face any adversity, you just want to elbow your way to the front of the line and make it happen.” Carson followed up with similar adive: “Don’t let Aunt Becky get to you that way! Stay focused because you know things like that—they’re super annoying and the whole thing was really gross, but you can’t let that affect your life. You’ve got too much other stuff to do… So stay focused on your own stuff and be your authentic self, and there’s no stopping you.”
To begin the panel, the charismatic and glammed up host, Aisha Tyler, welcomed to the stage the executive producers of RuPaul’s Drag Race and the fabulous judges as well. After everyone was rushed onto stage, fans got a sneak peak of the upcoming episode titled, “Trump: The Rusical”. The episode definitely had fans cackling in the audience and gave us a deeper insight into the dynamic between the Season 11 queens. It’s not surprising that next week’s episode will go all the way when it comes to making fun of the current administration in government power.
From day one, RuPaul’s Drag Race has been a show that was unapolagetic and unafraid of tackling larger societal issues with the glam and witz of their contestants, guests and judges. When discussing the progressiveness of the show, Kressly commented that “humor is so disarming… when people watch the show, they forget about preconceived notions, and they just see people tying to do well and live their life and their dreams. It’s a fantastic way of being subversive, and it takes away the fear.”
The show also serves as source of education, as Michelle Visage noted that Drag Race “is also doing an incredible thing for parents trying to understand their queer kids—the term ‘queer’ being said with nothing but love of course.” This show has always been understood as a safe space, both on set and for the viewers and fans partaking in it. It can be seen as a queer channel bringing families together.
When discussing the show’s evolution, executive producer Tom Campell revealed that originally, RuPaul did not want the show to be another conniving competitive reality show. While the competitive aspect of the show was not avoided, the unique factor was how much heart and kindness came about from it. All of the camederie and love comes from the amazing casting strategies. When it came to casting, RuPaul stated that “[We] never really know about what they reveal. It’s like casting a boy and you want the comedy queen, the inginue queen, the construction worker queen, etc. But the magical result of casting happens throughout the season when the queens reveal their personal stories during the challenges.”
Viewers of Drag Race have come to understand that drag, as a form of expression, can be very dangerous and is not easily consumed by the political climate. RuPaul said that when they were doing initial castings early on in the development of the show, they were worried about Drag Race being palatable to general audiences, but in the end, the main goal was to celebrate and elevate the art of drag.
In the midst of extreme bigotry that we’re facing in the country right now, Michelle and RuPaul discussed the goals and outlooks for season 11 of Drag Race. Michelle stated that ever since the show started airing, the shift in society has been unreal: “When I first started getting out there, I would be predominantly where I was raised, in the gay bars. Now you see a bunch of young kids who are all dressed up as their favorite queen and in drag, and when you see a parent standing next to them… it really feels like we have a hand in changing things.” RuPaul then expressed that Drag Race “is an example of how we integrate and behave with on another” and that drag as a practice is a “reflection of what a global universe looks like”.
One of Michelle’s final comments on the panel was “We live in a world where drag is loved, but what we can’t forget is that this show is a show because of one person: RuPaul”. This led to a standing ovation from everyone in the audience. It was clear that all the fans related to that statement and had a deep appreciation for Ru and the rest of the panel for putting together such quality and eye-opening content every week. Tune in to new episodes of RuPaul’s Drag Race every Thursday night on VH1.
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