Distinguishing between realness and fakery on RuPaul's Drag Race can seem like an exercise in futility. The drag arts are after all based on cinched waists, contoured faces, and carefully crafted personas. But behind layers of makeup and sky high wigs there are also honest moments of pain, compassion, and growth. RuPaul's Drag Race brought the ancient art of drag onto the main stage and into the mainstream.
The show has had an immense impact on the drag community and championed a broader understanding and appreciation of the form. One of the show's judges, Michelle Visage, singled out Drag Race's ability to educate about the LGBTQ+ experience as its main strength. Drag queens have historically been at the forefront of the gay rights movement, but in spite of their tenacity, they have often found themselves shunned by the rest of the community. The success of RuPaul's Drag Race has strengthened their voices within the community and solidified the show's creator as a spokesperson on LGBTQ+ concerns.
RuPaul's Drag Race is not just a vehicle for change, it is also a weekly installment of unabashed entertainment. As is often the case with reality television, the show does not shy away from fanciful editing or juicy drama. Through the ups and downs of its nine-year run, RuPaul's Drag Race has stirred up controversy and intrigued audiences. This list will break down online rumors and cast member revelations to discover the realest and fakest sides of the competition.
Here are the 10 Fakest Things About RuPaul’s Drag Race (And 10 That Are Completely Real).
20 Fake: RuPaul's Clever Commentary
The first season of RuPaul's Drag Race is clouded by a hazy filter and is only referred to as"The Lost Season". One tidbit of information has however remained from these initial days of filming. In season one, contestant Tammie Brown got into a heated argument with RuPaul about the judges' critiques. Tammie later told the press that Ru is fed lines through an earpiece during filming.
Her comments may stem from her feud with Ru, but they were later backed up by a second contestant. In an online post, Willam from season 4 made a similar claim. “I look forward to appearing on a game show again, maybe even for World of Wonder- but this time as a host who doesn’t wear an earpiece and gets told what to say,” the former contestant wrote.
19 Real: The Crew's Excitement
RuPaul's Drag Race usually features a drag makeover where unsuspecting volunteers get spackled and sparkled up into fully fledged drag queens. In season nine, the show's crew members participated in this stretch of the competition.
The scruffy cameramen and boom operators had no qualms about dressing up and seemed positively elated about their drag makeovers.
A behind-the-scenes interview with the crew confirms their enthusiasm. When they talked to a journalist from Billboard about working on the show they could hardly contain their excitement. Assistant director Duncan White added that he loves seeing the show on TV and is amazed by what they manage to pull off each week.
18 Fake: The Cocktails In The Untucked Lounge
RuPaul's Drag Race has grown into an entertainment behemoth. The show has spawned a yearly DragCon event and the spin-off shows Drag U and Untucked. Drag U fumbled to a halt after three seasons, but Untucked is still going strong. Untucked captures everything that goes down between the girls after they come off the main stage. To add to the relaxed backstage vibe of the show the girls can sip on complimentary cocktails while they wait for the judges' verdict.
In reality, the cocktails do not appear to be much more than window dressing.
After Jujubee's reported intoxicated lip sync performance in season two the drinks in the backstage area have reportedly been watered down. The messy performance ended up saving Jujubee, but the show's producers still decided it was better to avoid having to potentially herd a dozen tipsy drag queens to and from the stage in the future.
17 Real: The Pressure
Drag Race contestants need to display a wide range of talents to earn the crown. From one day to the next, they have to learn choreography, memorize lines and conjure up memorable runway moments. If that is not enough in itself, they have to do it all in heels. Each season is filmed in just four weeks, which gives contestants little time to adapt to the show's stressful environment.
A few contestants have even had to bow out of the competition because of the intense pressure.
In the beginning of Drag Race: All Stars season two, fan favorite Adore Delano left the show after some harsh critiques from the judges. The following season of All-Stars saw BenDeLaCreme throw in the towel as well. Despite her expectional performance, BenDeLa struggled to cope with the pressure of sending her fellow competitors home.
16 Fake: Mama Ru
Competing on RuPaul’s Drag Race is a once in a lifetime experience for drag queens. Participating on the show means they get to showcase their take on the art form to a global audience and tell their story to millions of viewers. For the show’s creator, Drag Race is mainly about building an enterprise and a legacy.
These contrasting desires are deemed to clash and have left some queens feeling disillusioned from their interactions with Ru. Pearl expressed her disappointment with RuPaul in an interview, citing an incident where she was told to save what she had to say for the cameras. Some contestants may be looking for a motherly figure in Ru to guide them through the experience, but the drag icon is more concerned with creating a compelling and honest narrative on screen.
15 Real: The Conflict Between Contestants
Drag Race promotes acceptance and doing what you love no matter what other people think. Despite these altruistic ideals, the drag community is also full of sharp-tongued reads and epic levels of shade-throwing. For all of Drag Race herstory, differences and slights have sparked conflict between contestants both in front of the camera and out of the limelight. One of the franchise’s most noted troublemakers, Phi Phi O’Hara, has tread into tumultuous waters on more than one occasion.
In season four, Phi Phi got into a heated discussion with Sharon Needles and the animosity between the two was not just played up for the show.
They allegedly had to be transported in separate vehicles and kept away from each other off-camera for the rest of the season.
14 Fake: Valentina's Miss Congeniality Title
When Valentina was crowned Miss Congeniality it led to an exceptionally feisty moment between the contestants. Fellow cast member Aja, who had previously expressed her disapproval of Valentina, was the first to voice her objections. Farrah Moan quickly piled on with complaints of her own over her and Valentina's broken friendship.
As none of the other queens came to her defense, it became clear that none of them found Valentina particularly congenial.
Aja later clarified that she had warned Valentina beforehand about her objections. She added that they had become friends after the show, but was careful to point out that she still does not think Valentina is nice in any way. The heated moment during the reunion spurred the ladies to spontaneously rename the award "fan favorite".
13 Real: Michelle Visage's Caring Ways
Whereas Ru keeps his distance, Michelle Visage seems to care a great deal about the competing queens. Visage has been involved with the community since she was a teenager and wants to bring out the best in every competitor. Although her critiques can come across as overly blunt, Visage has explained that she pushes the contestants so that they can reach their maximum earning potential when they leave the show.
An anonymous poster who claims to have participated on the show unequivocally confirmed Visage’s motherly dispositions online. Willam has also revealed that Visage let contestants use her personal dressing room to get ready for the show’s reunion. Visage's tough exterior, like most of the show's illusions, appears to only be skin deep.
12 Fake: The Talking Heads
As Drag Race evolved, it also became more refined.
In the show's early seasons, eagle-eyed fans could once in a while spot a mash-up of different talking heads.
Reality editors often splice together sound bites to create coherent statements, but if they are too sloppy viewers will notice their handiwork. In recent years, contestants have had to change into the same outfit for all of their talking heads. This allows editors to arrange what they say in whatever order they see fit. Despite their efforts, viewers can still spot slight changes in shaving and hairstyles if they pay attention.
11 Real: The Sisterhood
Although catfights and blow-ups often take precedence over more tender connections on the show, RuPaul's Drag Race has also created many lasting friendships. Fans of the show will likely remember Bianca Del Rio mentoring Adore Delano in season six or the heartbreaking lip sync between best friends Jujubee and Raven.
Most of Drag Race's alumni consider the friendships they have gained the show's biggest reward. Sasha Velour has said that she walked away from the show with lifelong friends. Chi Chi DeVayne also revealed that a lot of the camaraderie between contestants never make it onto the show. According to the bayou queen, the contestants were all over each other the moment they stopped filming.
10 Fake: The Drag Stars' Bodies
Drag has questioned gender norms and how we present ourselves to the world for decades.
Many drag artists consider their body a canvas that they use to create a look or a character.
Padding, corsets and contouring are common techniques that drag artists use to modify their appearance, but some queens have taken their alterations a step further. Several of the contestants on RuPaul's Drag Race have also undergone plastic surgery or had facial injections. RuPaul celebrates plastic surgery on his show and thinks there is no reason to be ashamed about a little medical maintenance.
9 Real: The Touching Backstories
The stars of RuPaul's Drag Race are talented entertainers who know how to work a room. They often have large fanbases before they come on the show and their numbers quickly grow as new audiences get to know the artists. On top of being charismatic and unique, the drag queens have lived through difficult circumstances and have compelling life stories to tell.
On the show's first season, Ongina opened up about being HIV positive and shattered personal and public taboos surrounding the disease. Dusty Ray Bottoms also used the platform the show provided to talk about the trauma inflicted on her in gay conversion therapy. RuPaul's Drag Race offers viewers a unique insight into LGBTQ+ issues through the show's remarkable contestants.
8 Fake: The Order Of Elimination
While the title sequence rolls on an episode of RuPaul's Drag Race, many fans take to Reddit to discuss the week's events. Among these eager commenters you can even find some who have insider knowledge. In 2015, a user who professed to have specific information about the show's inner workings surfaced.
According to the Reddit poster, the elimination order of the competition was rigged to create intriguing storylines.
The user claimed that Katya was sent home early to keep a "villain," in the form of Kennedy Davenport, around for the final four. They also wrote that lip sync battles were edited in favor of whoever production preferred to keep around. Considering that Katya and Kennedy's battle was one of the tightest matches in Drag Race herstory, there might be some merit to these anonymous statements.
7 Real: The Consequences For Breaking The Rules
Drag Race dismissed Willam from the competition during its fourth season without any explanation. The show later revealed that he had received visits from his husband while they were filming. Drag queens who participate on the show are not even allowed to tell their friends and family where they are, let alone entertain them in their hotel rooms.
Willam's dismissal was a clear indication to future contestants that the producers were serious when it came to the rules of the game. After his transgression, producers took steps to make sure something similar did not happen again. Adore Delano said on a podcast that her door was sealed with tape during the night so that producers could see if someone had sneaked out.
6 Fake: The Edit
In all iterations of reality television, the edit is most often to blame when someone is unhappy about how they came across. RuPaul's Drag Race is no exception to the rule and several former contestants have spoken out about their presentation.
Former contestant Max says he was made to look crazy during a fainting spell. RuPaul told him to sing a few lines while he rested on the edge of the stairs to recuperate. They later edited the footage to look as if he spontaneously broke into song.
The Vixen fell victim to similar machinations.
An exchange between her and Asia O'Hara ended up looking like a pep talk by the latter, and all of The Vixen's statements were reportedly left on the cutting room floor.
5 Real: The Sewing Challenges
The challenges on Drag Race intentionally trip up certain contestants according to fan theories and online gossip. Acting challenges are the easiest to rig, while sewing challenges are the trickiest to sabotage. Judges can call the taste level of any given queen into question, but that is about as much interference a sewing challenge makes room for. There is nothing to hide behind in these challenges and if a queen does not know her way around a sewing machine it will become blatantly clear.
With that said, the contestants can still find a way to sabotage themselves. Asia O'Hara managed to put herself into the bottom during a sewing challenge despite being the most talented seamster out of the bunch. Instead of focusing on herself, she ended up dedicating all her time to help her competitors.
4 Fake: Crowning The Winner
Everyone is a winner on RuPaul's Drag Race. And for the top three, this is literally the case. The show's finale is filmed before it airs and to avoid spoilers all three finalists are crowned during taping. The team behind Drag Race apparently does not believe that a room full of drag queens can keep a secret and have chosen to play their cards close to their chest until the very end.
The finalists usually find out if they have won when they watch the episode on TV along with everyone else.
For the season six finale they even filmed a dual crowning with Bianca Del Rio and Adore Delano. The prospect of a double win certainly sounds intriguing, but it probably did not make Courtney Act feel confident about her chances.
3 Real: The Contestants' Surprise On The First Day
The show tries to keep each season's cast strictly confidential. Contestants cannot tell anyone that they will be participating, and they must make up lies to their loved ones about their whereabouts.
Casting decisions are not only hidden from the public. When the contestants arrive, producers separate them until filming begins. Even in the comfort of their own hotel room they have to be careful not to catch a glimpse of their fellow competitors. It is not until they step into the werk room that they discover who they will be competing against. Their surprised reactions to their cast mates are therefore some of the realest moments on RuPaul's Drag Race.
2 Fake: The Order
Before the finale, viewers are treated to a reunion episode where contestants discuss the season.
Although the episodes appear to be in chronological order, a cast member from last season has stated otherwise.
In a private conversation on Instagram, The Vixen confirmed that the reunion actually took place on the day after the finale. The Vixen's claims could explain Asia O'Hara's emotional responses during this year's reunion. If the reunion was in fact filmed post-finale, O'Hara knew that she probably would not win because of her wardrobe malfunction. With little to lose, she also had no hesitations about challenging RuPaul's opinions on The Vixen's behavior.
1 Real: The Show's Impact
The realest aspect of RuPaul's Drag Race is without a doubt its impact on audiences and on the public debate. It has turned drag into a global industry and transformed its contestants into international superstars. It has sparked debate within the LGBTQ+ community and familiarized viewers with the ins and out of drag culture.
Most importantly, it has brought the struggles and triumphs of LGBTQ+ individuals into living rooms across the world. RuPaul's Drag Race has openly shared about the tragedies that have affected the community, like the attack on Pulse in Orlando, and it has also allowed viewers to partake in the splendor and sass of drag entertainment. The show has earned numerous awards and inspired millions of fans throughout its time on the air.
What are some other real or fake aspects of RuPaul's Drag Race? Let us know in the comments!