The Show You Need To Binge-Watch This Week: RuPaul’s Drag Race

Back in the 90s RuPaul became known as the Supermodel of the World. Today he’s regarded as the most commercially successful drag queen in America – and that was before he launched the Emmy award-winning RuPaul’s Drag Race back in 2009. Back for its tenth series, the talent show retains its cult following and remains as relevant as ever. Here’s why it's still essential viewing, a decade on…

What’s the premise?

The show that launched a thousand gifs and catchphrases, RuPaul’s Drag Race is a talent show with a difference. Think America’s Next Top Model, but with drag queens, sequins and a sense of humour. In each series, RuPaul sets out on his quest to search for the queen who can show off their charisma, uniqueness, nerve and talent in style, eliminating at least one competitor per episode. The contestants must complete a mini-challenge (usually out of drag) before being set a main task for the week – this could be anything from creating a themed drag ‘look’ from scratch (zombie apocalypse couture from season four remains an SL favourite) or coming up with an entire musical complete with costumes, choreography and comedy, to transforming a collection of elderly, beardy men into fabulous, high-heel toting queens.

After completing their runway extravaganza, Ru and his co-judges, Michelle Visage plus a rolling cast of guests (previous judges have included Lady Gaga, Sharon and Kelly Osbourne, Chloë Sevigny, Pamela Anderson, Rose McGowan, Adam Lambert, Olivia Newton-John, Ariana Grande, Marc Jacobs, Gigi Hadid – we could go on) whittle the queens down to the bottom two, who must lip-sync for their lives – usually to an absolute 80s banger. The format might sound simple, but it’s one that works and one that allows the drama to unfold in spectacular fashion.

What’s new this series?

“To celebrate a decade of Drag Race we’ve pulled out all the stops. The queens, the challenges and the shenanigans are off the mother-tucking charts,” said RuPaul in a pre-series statement. He wasn’t lying. Those who, like us, still can’t get enough will be thrilled to learn that each episode is now a full-hour long. And Untucked, the behind-the-scenes programme that shows all the (unedited) drama is back after a break. Sharpen those claws.

Elsewhere, the Werk Room (the collection of booths where the queens work on their costumes, rehearsals and make-up) has had its own makeover. And after being sent home early for popping her knee during the cheerleader task last year, Eureka O’ Hara is back. Considering she was never in the bottom two and often in the top three, we’re expecting big things.

Then there’s the roll-call of guest judges. So far this series we’ve been treated to Christina Aguilera, and Courtney Love, while upcoming judges throughout the season will include Lena Dunham, Shania Twain, Kate Upton and Ashanti. We can’t wait to see the queens’ faces.

Will I like it?

The world appears to be split into two categories; those who love Drag Race, and those who’ve never seen it. It almost goes without saying that existing fans of the show are going to lap it up, particularly after this year’s fairly disappointing RuPaul’s Drag Race: All Stars 3 (all our faves had already been in the previous two).

But there’s much for new fans to find here. Queer Eye devotees, take note: much like this year’s unlikely hit, this is way more than a makeover show. Throughout the seasons, we’ve learned more about Stonewall, the 80s AIDS epidemic, drug abuse, transgender rights and the gay nightclub shooting in Florida than we have from any news outlet. The beauty of the show is that we see the queens out of drag more than we do as their alter-egos (the same goes for Ru). And it’s beneath the makeup and padding that the true person, in all their complicated and brilliant forms, is really seen. Viewers might tune in for the bitch-fights and glamour, but they stay for the education.

What’s also heartening, is that the show actually nurtures the talent it grows. Unlike many reality contests where the finalists are largely never heard of again (ahem, The Voice) many Drag Race stars have gone on to have incredible careers, each with the support of the worldwide drag community. Down in Brighton alone, on any given night of the week Club Revenge might be hosting one of Drag Race’s finest. With numerous outfit and wig changes, flawless lip syncs and one-liners that cut you open, theirs is a class act that merges all the best bits of music, dance, comedy and the catwalk. Trust us, they’re the new rock stars.

Where can I watch it?

Episodes 1-4 of season ten are available to stream on Netflix now, with new episodes being added every Thursday. All previous series are also available to watch in their entirety. Au revoir, weekends.

Visit Netflix.com 

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