Drag Race ‘a safe space to explore gender identity’

Andrea Diaz-Ariza/Contributing Writer

“Start your engines, squirrel friends!” It’s time for the Drag Race season 9 finale and it is going to leave you gagging, hunty!

RuPaul’s Drag Race is a reality competition series where drag queens from across the country prove they are worthy of being crowned “America’s Next Drag Superstar.”

Contestants go through a series of challenges that test their skills in areas like makeup, costume design and comedy. For each challenge, a panel of judges select a winner along with two contestants they are willing to eliminate.

The bottom two then “lip sync for their life” and whoever wins gets to stay in the competition. Contestants are narrowed down the top three, where RuPaul selects the winner for the season (and recipient of a year’s supply of cosmetics along with $100,000.)

The show prides itself on having unexpected twists. Since RuPaul has the final decision on eliminations, he has made sure audiences are entertained when watching.

Decisions like bringing back eliminated queens and double eliminations are what keep fans loyal and bring in newer audience members.

Although RuPaul’s Drag Race and drag culture are becoming more recognized, it was far from that decades ago. Drag became a form of expression for the LGBTQ community when they felt stigmatized by society.

It gave the community a safe space to explore gender identity and be themselves without judgment.

While other films and shows have exposed audiences to drag culture, RuPaul’s Drag Race has reached to a much larger audience.

In fact, RuPaul was awarded an Emmy for the show in 2016. Drag Race may be popularizing drag queens, but the show stays true to some traditions. Challenges like “reading” fellow queens or lip synching are fundamental parts of drag culture.

Season 9 saw contestants performing in many exciting challenges. From recreating Lady Gaga’s looks and having her as the guest judge for the episode, to transforming the show’s crew members into drag queens, there was never a dull moment.

And of course, who can forget the lip synch performances served by the bottom two? While each season has their standout lip syncs, it was the dramatic slip-up by front runner Valentina that left its mark on season 9.

Not only did she fail to memorize the song’s lyrics, but RuPaul was forced to reset the lip synch after Valentina refused to take off her mask. While the moment showed a different side of Valentina, audiences still consider her a favorite for her looks and charisma.

Drag Race has been around for almost a decade and has launched the careers of queens like Sharon Needles, Alaska, Jinx Monsoon, Trixie Mattel, Katya Zamolodchikova, and Kim Chi.  

These queens travel the world performing and entertaining audiences with their charisma, uniqueness, nerve and talent.

In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, RuPaul explains how Drag race has affected the LGBTQ+ community and stories of real courage from each of the queens.

Andrea Ballestas, senior majoring in international business and marketing says that she began watching the show because it looked fun, “But the more I watched it, the more my respect for the queens grew.

They have to be skilled in so many areas, it’s amazing to see how multifaceted they are.”

I asked Victoria Ramirez, a sophomore majoring in biology, about who her favorite queen was this season. “Valentina, for sure. She’s just so beautiful and graceful. I was so sad to see her go! But overall I’m glad to see a Hispanic queen on the show who’s become a fan favorite.”

Drag Race fans are eagerly looking forward to the crowning of the season 9 winner. For the first time in “herstory”, there is a top 4 rather than top 3, so the finale is guaranteed to keep audiences on the edge of their seats.

Tune in to VH1 on June 23 to find out who is America’s Next Drag Superstar and as RuPaul famously says: “May the best woman, win!”

Photo retrieved from Flickr.

Who do you think will be America’s Next Drag Superstar?

Shea Couleé
Sasha Velour
Trinity Taylor


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