Things I like: RuPaul’s Drag Race
About two years ago, my friend invited me to join him and several other people to watch the season premier of LogoTV’s show RuPaul’s Drag Race (heretofore referred to as RPDR for brevity). Many of us were unsure of what we were getting into, but there was food, there was drink, and there were friends all crowded into the small room to watch, so it couldn’t be that bad, right?
Not that bad? It was freakin’ amazing!
If you’ve never heard of it, RPDR is a reality show akin to America’s Next Top Model—except better because the contestants are drag queens. They are much better entertainers, much more talented, and much more dramatic than the contestants on most reality shows I’ve seen. When I first watched it, we started with the promo clips of interviews with each contestant, and I was surprised how these ladies could out-lady many biological ladies. It was a wonderful sample of what was to come when we then followed up with the first episode of the season.
The episodes are typical reality show style with games, tests, and challenges that play to the contestants’ strengths and weaknesses. What makes it different from other reality shows is that it is one of the purest forms of entertainment I’ve ever seen. There’s humor, there’s music, there’s beauty, and there’s so much drama! Contestants play through the challenges, walk the runway, and then at the end of the episode, two girls do lip sync performances to stay on the show. Then Ru tells one, “Shanté, you stay,” and the other, “Sashay away.” There are tears and hugs, and the loser writes a message in lipstick on the mirror of the queens’ work room where they put together their brilliant runway couture.
The queens each struggle to find a niche that suits their strengths: the jokers joke, the divas strut. The winner is typically the most well-rounded talent and the most entertaining of all the queens. Some of them excel at glamour, some of them are best at humor, and others just ham it up by being adorable or friendly the whole time.
Meanwhile, RuPaul herself is a brilliant entertainer. She drives the train, and she is a multitalented performer who could have a show to herself based just on her charming personality. The recurring lines that pop up in every show are catchy and pun-tastic; e.g. “Condragulations”, “Don’t fuck it up!” and “Lip sync for your life!” Celebrity judges also shower the catwalk with tons of bad puns and goofy jokes, and it’s awesome.
My favorite part is usually the last half of the episode. I enjoy watching the queens walk down the runway, and sometimes I’m surprised that a man in a dress can be a better example of feminine beauty than anything you’d find in a Victoria’s Secret catalog. The illusion is the most fascinating part for me, and then watching the bottom two lip sync for their lives is also great.
If you have any experiences with drag or RPDR, leave us a comment and tell us all about it! Likewise, if I’ve gotten anything wrong or proliferated any misconceptions about drag culture, please feel free to address it in the comments. I promise not to play my straight-white-male, life-on-easy-mode card and say, “It’s okay, I’ve got a friend.”