RuPaul’s Drag Race is currently airing its tenth season, with this season’s ratings completely annihilating previous seasons’ averages. Oh, and RuPaul himself has just won an Emmy for Outstanding Host for a Reality or Reality-Competition Program. It’s extremely evident that what started out as a low-budget show with an unforeseeable future has now turned into a global phenomenon. RuPaul’s Drag Race not only acts as an entertainment outlet, but also allows contestants to gain a celebrity status and loyal following.
If you’ve not seen this programme, you’re definitely missing out. Each episode sees the queens being set a unique challenge. From acting and singing to dancing or creating an outfit. One by one, they are eliminated until a winner emerges. That’s not before the bottom two of each episode ‘lip sync for their lives’, where they battle it out by lip syncing to a chart hit to remain in the series. Along the way, we get to see extreme creativity from the contestants, but we also really get to know them as humans. These queens have such interesting life stories, and as a viewer, you can’t help but root for them. From revelations of abusive upbringings to being disowned for being transgender, this show gives a spotlight to often neglected issues.
Drag Race stands out because of all of these features. In a reality television-obsessed generation, this programme showcases not only real people but real talent in such a variety of forms. It has only increased in popularity and has given the contestants a platform to reach so many. Gone are the days where drag queens were seen as a little bit scary and niche – when the only well known entity was in fact RuPaul himself. Now, these queens are becoming famous, reaching the attention of global celebrities and setting up completely stable careers as moguls. They are a force to be reckoned with.
They are slowly but surely cementing themselves into the mainstream market. Take the top three of season 6. Firstly, runner-up Adore Delano, the fan favourite. Her debut album “Till Death Do Us Party” smashed its way into the Billboard Hot 100. Adore has well over a million followers across her social media accounts and continues to grow and act as an influencer. Her drag persona is an outlet for her to sell her music and stand out in the market. Now onto the season 6 winner, Bianca Del Rio, who has a similar number of followers. Bianca currently has a headlining stand up comedy show that is touring the world, and she also starred as the main role in feature film Hurricane Bianca that met instant acclaim. The last of the top three of season 6, Courtney Act, has also shot into glittering success. She has become the face of American Apparel, was the first drag performer ever to sing live with the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra, and is now embarking on political missions, most recently going to a Donald Trump rally as a fully fledged drag queen.
The fashion industry has also welcomed the drag queens with open arms. They really are versatile in that they can give androgyny and full glamour, as well as an over the top presence that cannot be found elsewhere. Season 7’s Pearl has signed with Wilhelmina Models as a male, female, and makeup artist. She has also appeared on the cover of Dazed and Confused magazine as well as modelling for Harper’s Bazaar. Season 7’s Miss Fame has worked extensively with industry leader Pat McGrath, making her mark on the beauty industry. She also has over 350,000 YouTube subscribers where she posts regular tutorials. Designers Marc Jacobs and Jeremy Scott have both been guest judges on episodes, highly expressing their admiration for the art of drag. Jacobs actually used contestant Milk from season 6 in his SS16 campaign.
Miley Cyrus also worked with many of the contestants for her 2015 VMAs performance where an army of drag queens stole the show with choreography and attitude, yet another example of drag queens leaving their mark in the mainstream market. VMAs, magazine covers, Billboard charting albums – the list could go on and on.
With the empire of RuPaul’s Drag Race continuing to expand, and the social media following of the queens reaching cult status, one thing is for certain: drag queens are one hundred percent here to stay. They can act as fashion icons, comedy pros, or simply a glittering escape from the reality of life. They are a colourful and aesthetically pleasing force to be reckoned with. In ten years’ time, who knows just how far they can migrate into the mainstream. One thing’s for sure: RuPaul’s Drag Race and the art of drag itself will remain as captivating as ever.
Words: Jamie Cartwright
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