Racers, Start Your Engines: The Cast of RuPaul’s Drag Race is All Revved Up
Since its humble beginnings in 2009, RuPaul’s Drag Race has upped its cash prize by a whopping $75K, won 19 Primetime Emmys, and hired better editors to get rid of the washed-out Season 1 camera quality. More impactful than that, however, is that the show originally intended to be a satire of competitive reality TV such as Project Runway and America’s Next Top Model has changed the channel of the genre’s culture. This has never been more clear in the show’s ongoing 13th season, which features the most diverse, eclectic, and flamboyant set of drag queens to ever grace the small screen. Learn more about this season’s lucky 13, their accomplishments, and the history they’re making.
(Note: This article uses she/her pronouns to refer to this season’s contestants. When in drag, which is how I will be addressing them, all of this season’s queens use she/her pronouns to describe themselves. Out of it, they use he/him pronouns.)
The term “lip sync assassin” is bestowed upon the queen who comes into each lip sync armed and dangerous with choreography that redefines the body’s capabilities, and their own unique swagger that separates their performances from the rest of the pack. This season, that queen is Denali. She’s lip synced in all three of the episodes she’s competed in, and has proven that she is among the most lethal lip sync assassins - both in heels and ice skates. Her childhood in Alaska has ensured that she’s most at home in the cold, where she’s competed on America’s national figure skating team.
Elliott With 2 T’s
Elliott With 2 T’s didn’t always have a frontrunner’s standing in the eyes of both the judges and her fellow contestants. She began her journey on Drag Race by being voted off the show by the other Pork Chopped queens, yet little did they know that RuPaul had other plans for her. Elliott joined the ranks of the winner’s circle, and proceeded to outperform nearly every one of them in their group musical number. Reality television drools over an underdog story, and this season, that arc is hers.
Gottmik is used to being behind the scenes as a world-class makeup artist who’s created unique looks for celebrities like Lil Nas X. Now in the spotlight as a contestant herself, Mik’s stomps on the runway are footsteps into the history books, as she is the first transgender man to enter the Werk Room. Her tenure on the show thus far has fostered impactful discussions on gender dysphoria. This milestone is, of course, one to be celebrated, yet deserving of just as much celebration is the couture Gottmik brings to the runway. And, of course, her makeup is perfect.
Typically, a “filler queen” is one who isn’t considered to be a contender for the title of America’s Next Drag Superstar. However, with her entrance into the competition, Joey Jay has reclaimed the title, embracing the impression others have of her and her drag as “basic.” Joey admits that they’re “not wrong… I can’t eat spicy food, I love Vanessa Carlton…” While she may call herself this season’s “filler queen,” a better moniker for her is that of a dark horse.
Dubbed the “Mackie Doll” due to her extensive collection of Bob Mackie apparel, Kahmora Hall is undoubtedly the most classically beautiful queen to partake in this season. It takes time to look that good, though - Kahmora is notorious for taking up to 6 hours at a time to do her makeup. Unfortunately, Drag Race doesn’t allow for nearly that much time, which caused her to be late to the first runway. Make that fashionably late, as the couture she presented more than made up for her tardiness.
New York City-based Kandy Muse is no stranger to the internet - she went viral for her “Sitting Alone in the VIP” meme. As a contestant on the show, she’s continuing to break the internet. Her confessionals this season have been reposted, retweeted, and reacted to thousands of times, with one-liners like “everyone can be a drag queen but not everyone can be a star… I’m a star.”
The Drag Race judges and fans alike have been singing the praises of LaLa Ri. Like her home state of Georgia, she is peachy keen to take the crown. And with her infectious energy, unique sense of style, and passionate lip syncs, the drag family jewels may very well be hers. From jade green snakeskin to glimmering gold lamé, no pattern is too vibrant for her to bring to the runway.
Despite only having done drag for a year and a half, Olivia carries herself with the stature of a seasoned professional. And that she is, in the realm of musical theater. A trained actor, Olivia has starred in professional productions and feels just at home in the orchestra pit as a pianist. Her musicality and charisma have propelled her among the top-ranked queens this season, and her ear-to-ear grin is contagious.
While some of the other queens this season are in a new relationship with reality television, Rosé has already become its main squeeze. As a member of the drag queen girl group Stephanie’s Child, she auditioned for America’s Got Talent, and her subsequent rejection led to a few choice words in Simon Cowell’s direction. Now Rosé is changing her tune, and she’s hitting all the right notes, both literally and figuratively. She deftly balances the scales of glamour and comedy, doling out haute-couture looks and heated one-liners in equal measure.
Symone, the self-proclaimed “Ebony Enchantress,” has America under her spell. Arriving to the competition in a dress constructed of Polaroids of herself, Symone has confidence in spades. This self-assurance has led her to victory in both challenges she’s competed in thus far. Her magic was cultivated in small-town Arkansas, where Symone spent her childhood before moving to Los Angeles and pursuing drag full time.
While Tamisha’s claim to fame is as the matriarch of the Iman drag dynasty, she’s more than just someone’s drag mother. Her lip sync against Symone to a Janet Jackson song garnered the attention of the singer herself, and Tamisha’s prowess as a performer spans three decades. Those decades have recently been fraught with hardships - Tamisha was originally meant to appear last season, but a colon cancer diagnosis stopped her in her tracks. She’s been open about her medical history on the show, with her emotional discussions watering more than a few eyes.
Despite what her moniker implies, Tina Burner much prefers to reside in the realm of shade. Her one-liners are laced with fire, and never fail to roast anyone that they target. Amplifying Tina’s humorous personality is her campy sense of style, with her fashion taking inspiration from pop culture icons such as the Tin Woodsman. And vocally, she’s not too shabby either - she was a member of the boy band 5th Ring, who you can still find on Spotify.
Named for her small hometown of Utica, Minnesota, Utica Queen describes herself as the “Wacky Waving Inflatable Arm Flailing Tube Queen.” These adjectives are a perfect fit for her, with the outrageous outfits she styles herself in. And to top it all off, she designed the majority of them herself. Utica is also the first Seventh Day Adventist to compete in Drag Race, which generated conversation on the role of religion in the LGBTQ+ community, and the role it may play in the coming-out process.