Pop Culture Confessional is a weekly column where our writers can divulge and indulge in their most deeply embarrassing cultural passion — and then tell you why it actually rocks. Everyone has a few dirty little secrets. Only the truth shall set us free.
I’m a bit of a reality TV junkie, which could be a confession in itself. I’ve been through 20 seasons of tribal councils and have gotten to know some Real Housewives across the country. But in my almost 10 years of seeing people get voted out, be backstabbed by their “friends” and win fantastic prizes, I’ve never seen anything quite as outrageous, hysterical or fabulous as RuPaul’s Drag Race.
Legendary drag queen RuPaul serves as host, mentor and judge on this search for “America’s next drag superstar.” Logo TV’s reality competition is like Project Runway, America’s Next Top Model and Miss America all rolled into one, but with drag queens. In each episode, contestants compete in challenges that test their “charisma, uniqueness, nerve and talent,” ending in a final runway show where one drag queen will be asked to “sashay away.”
Forget living on a deserted island for 40 days or eating insects. RuPaul’s Drag Race is by far the most difficult reality competition to be a part of. Contestants must do their own makeup, make their own clothes, learn song lyrics, lines and choreography – all while transforming into another gender. Sorry James Brown, these drag queens are the hardest working men in show business now.
Why did it take so long for someone to come up with this? Gathering a bunch of drag queens together and watching them compete and interact is reality TV gold. These people are larger-than-life for a living. Not only is the hair bigger, but the drama and hilarity are too.
The series has just completed its second season, full of over-the-top challenges, such as turning a RuPaul doll into a “Tramp Doll,” competing as burlesque dancers at a Hollywood night club and filming a “country-fried commercial.” One of the funniest episodes so far has been “Golden Gals,” where the contestants transformed older men into their “drag mothers.” You can just imagine the hilarity in trying to teach them how to dance in high heels, but you wouldn’t expect one of the hardest challenges was keeping one of the men from taking off his stars-and-stripes bikini. Just when you think RuPaul’s Drag Race couldn’t get any crazier, it always does.
The best part is that no one on the show takes themselves too seriously. Towards the end of each episode, RuPaul announces that “It is time to lip sync…for your life,” in an exaggerated, serious manner very similar to Tyra Banks on Top Model. The bottom two contestants have one final chance to prove they deserve to stay with a comically overly dramatic sing-off.
In one of the most memorable sing-offs, season one contestant Shannel, dressed as Medusa, and fellow competitor Akashia gave their best with Whitney Houston’s “Greatest Love of All.” Shannel must have forgotten she wasn’t really a woman as she enthusiastically jumped, and her stringy green headpiece fell off. But in a moment that has since defined the show, Shannel kept singing and tore off her fake chest to prove her passion for drag. RuPaul could only respond with, “Oh my goodness, the drama continues.” Needless to say, Shannel’s wardrobe malfunction bought her another day in the competition.
Aside from the fierceness and the glamour, the show really does have some heart. Most of the contestants on RuPaul’s Drag Race have said that drag has helped them battle depression and find their true selves. It was shocking to hear this season’s funniest contestant, Pandora Boxx, talk about her suicide attempt and how finding drag helped her find happiness. If being in drag helps these men feel better and more confident about themselves, there is nothing wrong with or peculiar about that, in my opinion.
I sometimes get a little jealous of these drag queens. They are so confident and fabulous, it makes me want to look like them, and I’m a real woman. I would give up watching all of my other reality TV shows just to watch RuPaul’s Drag Race. It may be one of the most outlandish, bizarre and ridiculous shows on TV, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.