Photo: ‘RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars 7’
It’s kinda weird, right? An all-winners season of a competition show? Isn’t the point to win so you don’t have to return for an All Stars? Like ‘RuPaul’s Drag Race’ season 6 winner Bianca Del Rio said, “Take notes, girls, if you do it right the first time you don’t have to come back.”
Supposedly, this is the search to find the “Queen of All Queens”. So, what are they going to do when they have ten more seasons of winners? Are they going to have a second all winners season and find the second queen of all queens? That isn’t really a queen of all queens then, is it?
The main goal of ‘Drag Race’ nowadays doesn’t seem to be about exposing new queens/different drag to the world. It seems to be about feeding the fans more content no matter what. And I think this upcoming all-winners season confirms it more than ever before.
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What is ‘RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars 7’?
For those of you who don’t know, ‘RuPaul’s Drag Race’ (aka ‘RPDR’), is a drag queen competition show created, judged, and produced by RuPaul Charles, who is arguably the world’s most famous drag queen. Since 2010, the show has become a worldwide phenomenon with 14 American seasons, six ‘All Stars’ (technically, seven, if you include ‘UK vs the World’), and over a dozen international spin-offs, making a whopping 35 winners of ‘RPDR’ across the globe. Now, RuPaul has invited eight of them back to fight for the title of “Queen of All Queens’.
Fans have been asking for a winners season for years. I wasn’t one of them, but the idea was appealing. I pictured the final season of ‘Drag Race’ being an epic smackdown between all of the previous winners of their respective countries. But I knew not all of the winners would want to return to battle it out, so I figured, logistically, it would never happen and moved on.
However, a week before the finale of ‘RPDR’ season 14, I was reminded that this franchise doesn’t care about “logistics”, it cares about feeding the audience a nonstop supply of ‘Drag Race’: On April 13th, it was announced that there would be – “for the first time in ‘Drag Race’ herstory” – an all-winners season to find the Queen of All Queens. And I thought, “but, wait, we haven’t even heard who won season 14. So, only some winners are competing. Wow, how many winners did they get?”
Eight. They got eight winners, three of whom are from other all-star seasons, and only one of whom is from an international season. So, they could only get four American queens who won their original season to come back. Well, what does that say about the show
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The Returning Winners
Our returning queens are as follows:
Raja, winner of ‘RPDR’ Season 3
Jinkx Monsoon, winner of ‘RPDR’ Season 5
Yvie Oddly, winner of ‘RPDR’ Season 11
Jaida Essence Hall, winner of ‘RPDR’ Season 12
Monét X Change, winner of ‘RPDR All Stars’ Season 4
Trinity the Tuck, winner of ‘RPDR All Stars’ Season 4
Shea Couleé, winner of ‘RPDR’ All Stars’ 5
The Vivienne, winner of ‘RPDR UK’ Season 1
Unlike my previous two articles on ‘RuPaul’s Drag Race’, I will not be doing an extensive rundown of each drag artist because, well, they’ve already won! But I do think it says a lot about each contestant that they accepted the invitation to return.
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Winners of their OG Seasons
First off, it makes sense to me that Raja and Jinkx would have an interest in being on the show: Although both of them have been involved in the franchise since their reigns (on segments like Fashion Photo Ruview, The Pit Stop, Binge Queens, etc), they haven’t competed since the early 20 tens. In season 4, the show had upped the prize money to $100,000 and started to tape their finales in front of live theatre audiences, something that Raja never experienced and Jinkx was only the second subject of. The culture of ‘Drag Race’ has also changed: Words and phrases associated with queer slurs have been removed, the prizes for challenge wins have changed from jewelry to cash, and unlike in 2011 and 2013, the contestants are well-aware that millions of people are going to be watching them. It’s basically an entirely new game.
As for Jaida and Yvie, they know what the game is. Not only did they just win their seasons in only the past three years but they did most of their drag while ‘RPDR’ was airing, making the show a well-known goal of theirs rather than something they stumbled upon like Raja and Jinkx.
Both Jaida and Yvie’s reigns were interrupted by COVID-19. The finale and reunion for season 12 were filmed over zoom calls and Yvie’s bookings all went on hold, so neither of them really got to celebrate their victories until much later, making their returns pretty sensible to me.
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Winners of ‘All Stars’ Seasons
Apparently, winners of ‘All Stars’ count as winners who can compete to be the Queen of All Queens. Which, initially, confused me terribly (Seriously, I was complaining about it nonstop and scratching my head). Why would we want to bring back someone who has competed twice? Why wouldn’t we want to bring back only the people who competed once and beat it the first time?
But, as I’ve been writing this, I start to understand the choice. These queens are, in fact, winners! Shea Couleé rightfully earned her title as the winner of ‘All Stars 5’, and Trinity the Tuck and Monet X Change shared their win for ‘All Stars 4’. They had reigns and crowns and scepters, and I think it does make sense to have them come back for a chance to continue to prove themselves. So, I take back what I said. I think ‘All Stars’ winners can compete to be the queen of queens.
And for competitors that were counted out the first time to return a third and prove again why they are a threat makes for a good story arc. We’d get to see their development over the course of three seasons rather than two, and see how a second-time-around winner fares against a first-time winner.
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The One International Winner
And finally, we have our one international queen of the season, the Vivienne, who won her title with wit, beauty, and an exceptional Trump impression. The Vivienne was the first winner of ‘RuPaul’s Drag Race UK’. Unlike her new competitors, however, she didn’t win any prize money with her crown, as per BBC’s rules against commercial sponsorship. So, the chance to strut her stuff to American viewers and potentially win a whopping $200,000 sounds like some pretty great reasons to accept the invitation to return.
But her inclusion confuses me. Not because I don’t think she’s talented, but because now the queen of all queens title can be applied to not just American queens – It’s not “Queen of All Queens of One Part of the Franchise”, it’s “Queen of All Queens in the Entire Franchise”. But, it’s not Queen of the World, because that title was given to Blu Hydrangea when they won ‘UK vs The World’. So, technically, could Blu, the Queen of the Mothertucking World also become the Queen of All Queens in a future season? What are the rules!
Here’s Where it Really Gets Sus
I knew that not all previous winners would want to return or would be asked to return: Bebe competed in ‘All Stars 3’, Tyra retired, Sharon is banned, Bianca, Violet, and Sasha are always touring with their own projects, and Symone literally just won a year ago and would have been filming during her reign. So, I can understand why the producers would have to reach out to second-time-around winners. ‘All-Stars 1’ winner Chad Michaels is much older than the others, ‘All-Stars’ 2 and 3 winners Alaska and Trixie are constantly busy, and ‘All Stars 6’ winner Kylie Sonique Love just won her crown. Process of elimination, we are gifted with these three competitors.
But every piece of logic here for me got questioned when I learned that the beloved season 8 winner Bob the Drag Queen was not even invited to join the all-winners season.
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“I want everyone to know I was not busy,” Bob said, “I literally just did not get a call. They did not reach out to me. So I want everyone to know: I was free as a bird with its tail in the breeze. I was helping Monét get ready, actually.”
This changes things. Bob has very openly said that she would be open to competing on an all-winners season, and she would probably be great TV for it! She has an incredible amount of experience outside of ‘Drag Race’ under her belt right now and is adored by millions of fans everywhere. I would love to see her interact with winners from other seasons.
But knowing Bob wasn’t asked puts the entire season under suspicion: Were the producers not at a loss for competitors? Were they intending on asking both ‘All Star’ winners and international queens from the jump? Who else did they not send an invite to?
Based on the promo and some of their press appearances, it’s clear that they weren’t casting anyone for drama’s sake. In fact, it looks like a bunch of friends just doing a show for fits and figgles. So, why this group of queens? Why this competition? Why, why, why?
Maybe the Fans Didn’t Know What They were Asking For
The ‘RuPaul’s Drag Race’ prompt was simple: to find America’s Next Drag Superstar. The criteria for the said title were a little vague, but we had over a decade of clear-cut winners and losers – and now no one is even really a loser because of how big the show is. And then the show introduced an ‘All Stars’ spin-off, which is common for competition shows, and we had fun watching the chosen runner-ups fight for the crown a second time (and sometimes a third time).
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And soon after, new shows were introduced that are trying to find Canada’s Next Drag Superstar, Spain’s Next Drag Superstar, Holland’s Next Drag Superstar, soon Belgium’s Next Drag Superstar, and more. And these spin-offs will most likely have their own All-Star seasons. All of these additions make sense to the growth of a franchise and the assignment presented.
This all-winners season, however, feels a bit much. I understood the logic behind ‘UK vs The World’, because a Queen of the World is just like another All-Stars franchise with clear rules: It’s all stars from different spin-offs competing against each other. Simple. It makes sense. But an all-winners season that includes ‘All Star’ winners and international winners doesn’t make sense.
The title of ‘Queen of All Queens’ is meaningless if it is a competition with only some winners. Based on this cast and this title, they would need to include every winner from every country, which could only happen once all of the spin-offs are over, which will not happen for decades.
I know, I probably sound extra af right now. But it has been disappointing watching the show that got me through high school and united me with some of my closest friends deteriorate into a program that doesn’t care about what it’s saying and focuses more on the money rather than respecting the fans enough to give them something that makes sense. Season 14 having 16 episodes doesn’t make sense. A double crowning doesn’t make sense. An all-winners season without all of the eligible winners, at least of one franchise, does not make sense.
But, they’re doing their jobs right I guess because I am excited to see what these seasoned pros with money are going to do on the main stage, especially the ones who haven’t been there after all this time. I just wish they thought through the rules more before just obviously throwing something out there for us to consume. I’ve felt for a while that ‘Drag Race’ has been becoming a money-grubber, but this, for me, confirms it.
‘RuPaul’s Drag Race All-Stars 7’ Premieres May 20th on Paramount Plus.
Cast: RuPaul, Michelle Visage, Carson Kressley, Ross Mathews
Created by: RuPaul
Producers: Fenton Bailey, Randy Barbato, RuPaul
By Z Murphy
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Z Murphy (she/they) has a passion for storytelling. As a queer person of color, Z always aims to challenge their readers to look at art in a new light by putting racial and sexual identities in conversation with pop culture. With this dedication to inspiring respectful and insightful dialogue, Z is thrilled to be a part of the Hollywood Insider cohort, a media network that supports content focused on perceptive exploration rather than gossip.