By James Brischetta
*NOTICE* This article discusses past and present seasons of the competition show RuPaul’s Drag Race and RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars. Spoilers ahead.
The newest season of the Emmy Award-winning competition show RuPaul’s Drag Race premiered just a few weeks ago on February 28th. The show, for those who haven’t watched, goes a little bit like this: 1) Drag Queens compete in challenges, 2) One of the bottom two performers are eliminated each week via a Lip Sync battle, 3) Drag Queen Matriarch RuPaul, from the final four contestants, picks each season’s winner of $100,000 (among other prizes).
The show is known for its drama, and deservedly so. There’s usually one large dramatic event that defines each season (and that warrants the infamous “Drag Race Drama Background Music”), the most recent example being Sherry Pie’s disqualification from Season 12, before she even premiered on the show, amid catfishing allegations. Other examples include Asia O’Hara killing a bunch of butterflies on stage during the Season 10 finale, Willam’s shocking disqualification on Season 4, and most controversial, Nina Bo’nina Brown not getting Blac Chyna in Season 9’s “Kardashian: The Musical” episode.
Though there’s one external drama that has followed the show through its last few seasons: race relations. The “Drag Race Hall of Fame,” home to every Queen that has previously won the show, is fairly diverse. In fact, more Queens of color have won the mother show than white Queens. But the show’s spin-off, RuPaul’s Drag Race: All Stars, where Queens who have previously competed on the main show get a second chance at the crown, does not follow suit. Of the five Queens who have won All Stars, only one of them, Monet X Change, is a Queen of color. This has been a huge topic of discussion among the show’s viewers, who have criticized the show and RuPaul for only crowning white Queens in the first 3 seasons of All Stars. Season 4, the latest season of All Stars, saw the crowning of the series’ first Queen of color, only for Monet’s crowning to be overshadowed by the franchise’s first-ever double-win, with a white Queen.
The observation that the show was only crowning white queens began to surface during the premiere of the third season and racist accusations toward the show’s production began with Trixie Mattel’s crowning at the end of that season. I do agree that race played a factor in the decision making of All Stars, but not until All Stars 4; and I can explain why.
Chad Michaels won All Stars 1, but because it was the spin-off’s first season, I don’t think that race could’ve played a factor. There was no racist pattern to adhere to yet (Also, anyone who watches the show knows that All Stars 1 doesn’t really count at all).
Alaska won All Stars 2, but again, I don’t think race was key in Ru’s decision here. Alaska had the most wins of the season, and at that point, in the entire franchise’s history. Coincidentally, three of the top 4 Queens were white, so chances were a white Queen was going to be crowned that season anyway.
Trixie won All Stars 3, but I’d say Ru was forced to pick her. This season’s ‘Jury Twist’ allowed the eliminated Queens to vote on the top two, of which Ru would decide who the winner was. The eliminated Jury ruled out Shangela, a Queen of color and the season’s front-runner, leaving Trixie Mattel and Kennedy Davenport for Ru to choose from. Kennedy is a black Queen and Trixie is half Native American but identifies as white. Trixie was runner-up to Shangela, while Kennedy performed poorly for most of the season. So again, I don’t think Ru had much of a choice.
That brings us to All Stars 4. The top four Queens were Monet X Change (Queen of color: 3 wins), Trinity the Tuck (White: 4 wins), Monique Heart (Queen of Color: 3 wins), and Naomi Smalls (Queen of Color, 1 win). Ru decides to crown both Monet and Trinity.
Twitter. Freaked. Out.
Some viewers claimed that the show only picked Monet because they had to, others claimed the crown should have only gone to one of the Queens, and a select few kept to a firm “Manila was robbed #Life’sNotFair”. Whatever their opinion, the viewers were mad and the show’s final four were flooded with hate comments and threats. Aquaria, the winner of Drag Race’s season 10, responded to the fanbase’s riots with this:
“Please stop tagging me or using my name in your disgustingly negative posts about last night’s results or competitors. I’m horrified by some viewers’ response to these four talented queens and it has made me so genuinely sad that people feel okay sharing these opinions and hate.” (@Aquariaofficial on Twitter)
The decision to doubly crown Monet and Trinity, I believe, is the only time race was taken into account. I speculate Ru wanted to crown Trinity for her record but didn’t want to deal with the backlash of viewers criticizing another white All Stars winner. It made it seem like Monet won because she had to. The other problem was, Monet’s win was made insignificant, almost insinuating that a Black Queen could not win All Stars on their own. If Ru had crowned one Queen or the other, I think there would have been less retaliation. A multitude of fans also came out to say the same thing I am: that this season was less deserving than others of a double crowning and that they had thrown out the option simply to shush the fans’ criticism of a white Hall of Fame.