I was embarrassingly late to the party with RuPaul’s Drag Race.
I finally arrived on a visit to Toronto to see my best Canadian friend Shih-Ming Yao. We were lying in his bed, recovering from a big night out.
“Let’s watch some Drag Race?” he suggested. I knew of RuPaul’s Drag Race -- the reality TV show hosted by drag icon RuPaul -- but I’d never invested any time in watching it. Ming, though, had several seasons ready to go on the hard-drive of his MacBook.
I was hooked from the first episode.
Drag queens are entertainers, so it’s fun watching them do anything. Ming jumped around the various seasons, showing me some of the best episodes, the most sickening lip-syncs, and the fiercest death-drops.
When I got home I was on the case, catching up on all the seasons (except Season 1, which I’ve only seen glimpses of); I even watched the spin-off series Drag U. By the time the most recent season of RPDR came around (Season 6, won by Bianca Del Rio) I was a total aficionado. I'd watched nearly every episode, the Untucked behind-the-scenes companion piece, the YouTube updates, and even the AfterBuzz panel discussion following each episode. RuPaul’s Drag Race is simply great TV.
But RuPaul’s Drag Race is a lot more than just a zany reality show. It takes you behind the scenes, behind the make-up, the wigs, the costumes, and the huge personalities that go into being a drag queen -- which is one of the toughest jobs in the entertainment industry.
There is a lot of drama, a lot of tears, and personal stories shared, but ultimately the show’s message is one of empowerment, self-belief, and self-worth. One of RuPaul’s many mantras is: “If you can’t love yourself - how in the hell are you going to love somebody else!”
It sounds straightforward enough, but if you’ve ever tried to analyze what went wrong in a failed relationship then you’ll know that looking in the mirror is the first place to start.
The winner of RPDR Season 3 was the uber-stylish Raja. Towards one of the final episodes of the season, each of the contestants was asked what winning the competition would mean to them. For me, Raja’s answer perfectly encapsulated everything that I had been feeling for years but never found a way to express:
“In winning this competition, I would like to be a role model for all those little boys who are teased, who are bullied, who don’t know how to express themselves creatively yet. I wanna tell them, ‘It’s okay to say f*** you, and do whatever you want to do.’”
“The power of ‘f*** you’” said RuPaul, nodding and smiling.
RuPaul’s Drag Race has become so successful that the contestants from the show are now some of the biggest names in entertainment - world tours, sold out shows, guest appearances at Pride events all over the place.
Entertainers. Role Models. People. The queens of RuPaul’s Drag Race are the living embodiment of the power of “f*** you.”