12 fabulous shows for RuPaul fans
There are drag queens and then there is RuPaul. Born 17 November 1960, RuPaul Andre Charles – yes, his real name, just like Prince – can pretty safely be named the most iconic drag queen of our time.
Unusually, in a world of big hair and big eyelashes where many adopt personas and new identities on stage, his name stays the same whether he’s in a sequinned frock with legs up to there, or a suave immaculately tailored suit and gleaming pate. Which makes it a bit tricky to apply the appropriate pronoun. Queens in drag should always be addressed as “she” but RuPaul is on the record as saying he doesn’t mind.
RuPaul’s personality is also seamless; in or out of drag, he/she is larger than life, and while bitchiness is stock in trade for this business, RuPaul can dish it, but also has an arsenal of uplifting catchphrases.
“If you can’t love yourself, how in the hell are you gonna love somebody else! Can I get an amen?” is one of the most famous catchphrases from RuPaul’s Drag Race, the original reality competition series in the franchise. It’s got 12 seasons under its garter belt.
To get your LGBQTIA+ swans in a row, a drag queen is a man impersonating a woman, using clothing and makeup. Mannerisms are usually exaggerated, mostly respectfully, sometimes not. Drag queens are associated with gays but not restricted to gays. You also get drag kings, but that’s another story.
RuPaul’s Drag Race, the original, exploded onto television screens in 2009 in a burst of rainbow glitter. Glitzy and glamorous, it took us to the runway and backstage into the dressing rooms to love and learn more about these fabulous beings.
All the Drag Race seasons are on Netflix, as well as four spinoff series. For all your drag viewing pleasure, there are also scripted series, one starring RuPaul, documentaries, makeovers, stand-up comedy and more on Netflix and on Showmax. Here is our list.
AJ and The Queen (Netflix)
RuPaul stars as Ruby Red, a drag queen who has been saving for her own club. After she’s ripped off, she sets off on a cross-country road trip to perform at dive bars in small towns, to try to recoup her loss. A 10-year-old girl stows away and they of course form an unlikely friendship. RuPaul created this scripted series with Michael Patrick King of Sex and the City fame.
Dancing Queen (Netflix)
Alyssa Edwards (née Justin Dwayne Lee Johnson) is a Drag Race Season 5 alumnus, who also went on to appear in All Stars. “She’s a lot. The Netflix reality series Dancing Queen, which follows Alyssa/Justin through her/his offstage life running a dance studio in Mesquite, Texas, is at its best when it’s illuminating precisely how all of [waves arm in a big circle] that manages to fit into a relatively prosaic suburban existence,” says National Public Radio.
Hurricane Bianca: From Russia With Hate (Netflix)
If you need to be reminded not to take life too seriously, this is for you. When Texas teacher Richard is lured to Russia under false pretenses by his enemy Deb, his drag alter ego Bianca soon turns the country upside down.
Bianca del Rio aka Roy Haylock has been voted the most powerful drag queen in America, and has visited South Africa twice for live stage performance tours.
A beautiful, heartwarming series set in 1980s New York City in the ballroom culture of African-American and Latinx drag queens. It’s created Ryan Murphy, and Billy Porter goes down in history as the first openly gay black man to win an Emmy for Lead Actor in a Drama Series.
RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars (Netflix)
The All Stars are the fan favourites from past seasons of Drag Race – and by favourite we also mean they can be the biggest villainous bee-atches of all. Seasons 4 and 5 are available to stream.
RuPaul’s Secret Celebrity Drag Race (Netflix)
RuPaul’s Drag Race superstars Trixie Mattel, Bob The Drag Queen, Monét X Change, Nina West, Alyssa Edwards, Asia O’Hara, Trinity The Truck and Kim Chi – Ru’s “drag daughters” – take 12 celebrities under their boas and teach them the art of drag. There’s a big cash prize in every episode, which goes to charity of course. Celebs include Vanessa Williams, Loni Love, Riverdale’s Jordan Connor, and Dustin Milligan from Schitt’s Creek.
RuPaul’s Drag Race Holi-Splay Spectacular (Netflix)
There has to be a Christmas special, right? This is hilariously full of double entendres and in-jokes; you’ll never hear “Ho ho ho” the same way again. The show features a cast of fan favourites from previous Drag Race seasons.
“You need to make sure you watch this special as RuPaul and Michelle Visage lip-synced for their lives, we are still gagging!” said Gay Times UK.
RuPaul’s Drag Race Untucked (Netflix)
Hmm, all right, this is a bit delicate. Those in the know, know where a drag queen puts “it” but in this case, untucked doesn’t mean bits will be popping out (although one can never rule it out entirely) but instead, the series takes viewers behind the Drag Race scenes to see what happens off the runway.
Season 11 and 12 secrets are available to stream.
Super Drags (Netflix)
Oh, what fun! A Brazilian adult animated series about three gay men who work at a department store during the day. When danger calls, however, they transform into drag superheroes Scarlet Carmesim, Safira Cyan, and Lemon Chiffon to defend the gay-mecca of Beltbuckle Bay.
It wasn’t a big ratings success, and was cancelled after one season, but when compiling a comprehensive drag list, it’s a must to include.
The Queen (Netflix)
Netflix tells us “From wartime drafts to evening gowns, this candid time capsule documents a 1967 beauty pageant that offers an inside look at competitive drag.”
From The Decider: “The Queen is a documentary chronicling the five days leading up to the 1967 Miss All-America Camp Beauty Contest, a drag pageant organized by a then 28-year-old queer rights activist known as Flawless Sabrina. The film, directed by Frank Simon and funded by pageant judge (and pop art legend) Andy Warhol, is a portrait of a New York City that’s rarely captured on film.”
The review is titled a “Jaw-Dropping Artifact of Lost Queer History” and a worthy addition to your watch list.
Trixie Mattel: Moving Parts (Netflix)
Drag Race has been a launch pad for many careers, as you will notice throughout this article.
Trixie Mattel (Brian Firkus) was in Season 7, and then won All Stars 3 in 2018. This documentary traces the highs and lows of 12 months of Trixie’s drag career, including juggling the All Stars win and her own personal projects. “It’s a poignant take on ephemeral fame,” says Film Inquiry, which is the loveliest phrase you’ll hear today.
When HBO gets on board with a movement, you know it has gained legitimacy. Similar to Drag SOS, this six-part unscripted series follows small-town residents as they’re recruited and trained to participate in a one-night-only drag performance. If you’re a Queer Eye fan, We’re Here is the one is for you!
It has a 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and Thrillist says: “Even through a screen, viewers can see that the connections formed are genuine, a byproduct of mutual openness that doesn’t disappear when the cameras do.”