If you have never heard of the television sensation known as RuPaul’s Drag Race, you are in for a world of wonder. In my, and millions of others eyes, RPDR is one of the most important shows gracing our TV screens to date. Before we break down exactly why this show is not only entertaining beyond human comprehension, but also one of the most progressive and diverse programs on the air, it’s vitally important to note a few specific word definitions before moving forward.
To paraphrase, a drag queen is defined as a male who dresses as a female for entertainment purposes. There has been a lot of scrutiny as to where the difference lies between drag queen and trans. I think this is cleared up best by a Season 5 contestant on RuPaul’s Drag Race, Monica Beverly Hillz. Monica was the second ever contestant on the series to come out as transgender while on the show. She broke down the difference between the two by simply stating, “Drag is what I do; trans is who I am.” Drag is an art, a form of entertainment. Rather, being transgender is the way in which a human relates to their gender identity. As an avid watcher and proponent for the show, the question of “which is which” has been presented to me multiple times. When answering as a gay, cis-gender, white male, what is stated above is how I choose to engage and provide a small amount of information and education on the topic.
RPDR is essentially a mix of America’s Next Top Model and Project Runway, with a touch of Bad Girls Club, sprinkled with countless tear-jerking Oprah moments, and topped off with savage humor that is unique and incomparable to anything in this universe. There is truly an element in this series for everyone. You will laugh, you will cry, you will cheer, you will yell at your screen, and you will helplessly fall in love with the hundreds of contestants that have strutted into the bright pink work room.
My first viewing of RuPaul’s Drag Race in 2011 was a very formative moment in my own understanding of gender, sexuality, and where I fell in between. Immediately I fell in love with how utterly entertaining and dramatic the show is, but, more importantly, it provided me with an education on the LGBTQA+ community that network television had failed in providing me. RuPaul’s Drag Race made diversity the star. Every shade of human is represented on the show with non-heterosexual being the norm. Drag as an art form is a subculture of an already subversive community. Thus the contestants represent the true diversity prevalent in our current world. Diversity in race, socioeconomic upbringing, masculinity, femininity, and age have all been prevalent from the first episode of Season 1. Eight regular and two All Star seasons later, diversity is still the reigning champ of the series.
I would also like to note that the show is extremely self aware. RPDR knows it’s strengths and acknowledges it’s flaws. As with many humans, the show is learning and evolving as it goes. Similar to “Tyra Mail” on ANTM, Drag Race used “She-Mail” to deliver competitions to the contestants. After season five, the show faced criticism for its use of transphobic rhetoric and chose to replace the segment with a more universally accepted catch phrase: “She done already done had herses.” I greatly appreciate the show listening to its community and responding in a subtle and inclusive way. Again this is a show rooted in a marginalized community so it is important that it stands with and for the advancement of positive, all-inclusive language. It’s a small change that took multiple seasons to occur but I believe it speaks to the heart of the series; a show about celebration, acceptance, inclusion, education, and fierceness.
RuPaul is extremely socially conscious, which I love, but it’s also FUN™. There has not been a boring moment in any episode of the series thus far. The Queens always enter the competition ready to claim their place in Drag Race royalty, win or lose. The fashion is innovative beyond belief, leaving my jaw on the floor over and over (i.e. Violet Chachki’s outfit reveal in S7E1, Naomi Smalls Wizard of Oz look in S8E6, Sharon Needles post-apocalyptic fashion in S4E1, all of Raven’s looks in Season 2, Bob The Drag Queens horrendously stunning purse, Lil Poundcake’s inception, and Roxxxy Andrews’ Wig Reveal just to name a few of THOUSANDS). The humor, while savage and harsh at times, always comes from a place of love and has inspired me to be wittier, quicker, and smarter (i.e. Every season’s “Reading is Fundamental” Challenge and every iteration of “The Snatch Game”). This series has delivered some of the most iconic catchphrases of all time including my personal favorite from any television show ever: “Not today Satan. Not today.” Finally, lip syncs that will prove to you that @god is real (Alyssa Edwards vs Tatianna in All Stars 2…enough said) .
I promise this show is for everyone. It is not niche or for a specific audience. RuPaul’s Drag Race is one of the most universal shows of the 2000s. I cannot recommend it enough to every single person on planet Earth. I’ve learned a vast amount about myself and my community through watching the series a total of five times. RuPaul’s Drag Race has been a constant reminder to strive for excellence always, to never let anyone’s idea of who you are or should be hold you back, to push myself creatively even when I feel like all the odds are stacked against, and, MOST IMPORTANTLY, to love myself.
“If you can’t love yourself how in the hell are you gonna love somebody else. Can I get an amen?!”
Thank you RuPaul and RPDR for being fearless and venturing into uncharted territory. Because of you I will show off my charisma, uniqueness, nerve, and talent each and every day. Your work is inspiring and making a difference, one episode at a time.
SEASONS 4-8 AND ALL STARS SEASON 1 ARE AVAILABLE FOR STREAMING ON HULU.
[I’ve encouraged many to watch RPDR over the past few years and asked a few avid fans what the series means to them now that they are hooked. Below are their eloquent and spot on responses]
- “I love the philosophies of the show. Ru’s mantras of ‘We’re all born naked and the rest is drag’ as well as ‘If you can’t love yourself, how in the hell you gonna love somebody else’ personify what the show is all about. It fosters and encourages creativity through the medium of makeup and satire, what’s not to love about that?! **But make me sound funny and handsome**”
- “RuPaul, in drag and out, is a godsend. She is an innovator, cultivator, and proclaimer of self love. If that’s the only thing she did, I’d be forever grateful. But it’s not – she blessed the world with RuPaul’s Drag Race. It’s a celebration of hard work and self expression. I sometimes find myself timid to pursue creative passions so it’s inspiring to see people share their craft, their vulnerably and with unimaginable talent – in heels no less! It doesn’t hurt these queens are also funny as hell and sassy to boot.”
- “I think the show resonates because it goes far beyond just being fun, flashy, and fierce. It gives a platform for stories that weren’t being told on TV. It takes people and characters who were virtually invisible on other shows and made them the star.”
- “Throughout its eight seasons, RuPaul’s Drag Race has, in my opinion, successfully made a conscious attempt to include queens of color from an intersectional approach. Meaning, the show includes queens who may have expressed their lack of funds as a reason for why their wardrobe does not look like the kind of attire other drag queens flaunt in different parts of the country. Nevertheless, the show recognizes that despite a glamorous wardrobe, the contestant still manages to prove they hold a certain uniqueness about them that shows their passion for this art, and that’s what I’ve enjoyed seeing. Examples: Chi Chi Devayne and Stacy Layne Matthews.”
- “RuPaul and the show has really opened my eyes to an entire culture and community that I previously didn’t know existed. It began the education process for me to learn and explore more about issues in the LGBT community and learn how to be a better ally.”
4ist’s Not-So-Definitive Ranking of Seasons:
- All Stars 2
- Season 6
- Season 1
- Season 2
- Season 5
- Season 4
- Season 8
- Season 3
- Season 7
- All Stars 1
(But definitely recommend watching in chronological order to get the most out of the marvelous series.)