RuPaul’s Drag Race is an American reality TV show that began in 2009, in the search for “America’s next drag superstar”. RuPaul, a stalwart in the drag industry, acts as the host, mentor, and judge for the show. The competition revolves around drag queens who are given two challenges every week, following which eliminations take place until there is one drag queen remaining.
Drag queens are men who transform themselves into women through makeup and costume and perform, usually in the form of dancing. When the show first came out, the drag industry was more of an underground indulgence which a select few people knew about. Today, it has transformed into more of a mainstream industry, with drag queens getting due credit for their hard work and talent.
With the growth in popularity and audience of RuPaul’s Drag Race, people have become more aware of the skill required for drag and have minimised the shunning of drag as a ‘lesser’ industry. The show displays not only the professional side of things, but also gets up close and personal with the contestants. Throughout the eight seasons, the contestants have revealed teary details about their lives. For instance, a contestant in Season 1 revealed that she was living with HIV, whereas in Season 2, a contestant came out as transgender. More commonly, there have been discussions of families, both those who have been supportive and those who have abandoned their drag queen children. Through these stories, RuPaul’s Drag Race successfully humanises a community of people we consider to be ‘the other’. It portrays their problems as similar to ours – leaving their families and children behind to compete for success, overcoming hardships to do what they truly want to, and pushing on in a world which seems determined to hurt you.
The show isn’t always serious, though. RuPaul has a series of catchphrases that add hilarity and grandeur to an already over-the-top reality show. In recent years, the show has inspired a couple of spin-offs, most notably RuPaul’s Drag Race: All Stars. The discussion of it in mainstream media, such as podcasts and Youtube videos by popular social media stars has encouraged more people to delve into previously unchartered territory. The majority of the contestants have been gay men, whose discussions present a new lens through which the audience views gay men. Their problems are no longer trivialised, and the hardship that they have gone through, and continue to go through on a daily basis, is highlighted. The presence of transgender contestants has also added to discussion around the LGBTQ community.
In this way, a show that started off with a niche audience has successfully entered the mainstream and has contributed immensely to the portrayal and representation of the LGBT community. As a reality TV show, it packs the perfect punch of entertainment and drama along with emotion.
Image Caption: RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 7 Poster
Image Credits: OUTtv