RuPaul’s Drag Race has taken television by storm and has been successfully flaunting the most fabulous and fierce queens on our screens for almost a decade now. You can forget America’s Next Top Model; this show will out-fashion and out-drama Tyra and her girls any day of the week.
Taking a group of the most talented drag queens out there, RuPaul puts his stars through the works, from sewing challenges to diva battles where the contestants lip-sync for their lives. This is truly reality TV at its sparkliest, and it’s no wonder it’s drawn a cult following and scads of awards to boot.
The contestants that take part in Drag Race have a lot of rules they have to follow. It’s no cakewalk becoming “America’s Next Drag Superstar”, and even the most unruly queens have to toe the line.
Get ready to see how these Queens werk as we spill the tea on what really goes on in the Drag Race world. Don’t sashay away if you want to know the crazy lengths these fierce drag queens go to in order to be crowned the winner, as today’s category is "rule realness."
Here are 15 Crazy Rules RuPaul’s Drag Race Queens Have To Follow.
15 Cut Themselves Off From The Outside World
One of the strictest rules Ru’s queens have to follow is not exposing themselves to the outside world. Part of the magic of Drag Race is that it is all kept secret, from who’s taking part in the competition to who is going to have to sashay away at the end of each episode. RuPaul can’t risk the queens coming out more than they already have, so fierce measures are put in place in order to prevent his contestants letting anybody know they’re taking part in the reality TV show.
So stringent is this rule, that if it is broken, it can lead to immediate disqualification. This was best seen with the infamous Willam incident, when we saw the season 4 hopeful get sent home packing for going against Ru’s wishes. Willam was the first and only queen to be disqualified, and the reason she got booted out was for telling her husband she was taking part in the show.
According to an interview with Willam Belli in Entertainment Weekly, she ended up sneaking her husband into her hotel room despite the strict rule that forbade this: “I told my husband I was doing a non-union horror movie in Europe [...] and he didn’t believe me. He was like, ‘Why you gotta take all this drag?’ So I lied, and he followed me to the hotel. The first night, he walked on my door, and it was a delivery!”
Willam had repeated visits from her husband and thus, was eventually kicked off of the show.
14 Don't Know Where They Are When Filming Begins
Secrecy is of the utmost importance when the filming of Drag Race is taking place and the contestants are strictly prohibited from telling anyone, even their spouses and family members, that they’re involved in the competition. This need for silence and secrecy was clearly seen when Willam was disqualified from the show for having told her husband about his involvement in the reality TV program, and for having met up with him multiple times at the queens' secret hotel location.
In Ruvealed, a behind-the-scenes interview with the drag queens of RuPaul's Drag Race All Stars 2, Coco Montrese and Roxxxy Andrews revealed that they had no idea where the hotel they were staying in was, calling it an “undisclosed location”.
Alyssa Edwards said: “They took us off the plane, blindfolded us, and got us here to the hotel so nobody would know where the girls are.”
The contestants are also instructed to keep their blinds shut in their hotel rooms, and must stay in their rooms at all times. A lot of precautionary measures are taken in order to ensure the queens are well-hidden and disorientated, in order to avoid any kind of spoiler slip-ups from happening during the filming of the highly-anticipated show.
13 Contestants' Doors Are Taped Shut To Prevent Them From Leaving
If these preventive measures we’ve seen so far weren’t enough to convince you just how seriously RuPaul takes secrecy on the show, then the fact that the lovely queens are literally taped into their hotel rooms should be.
Granted, we’re not talking about the queens being taped up to a chair or anything - that would probably be a very different kind of show.
What the production team started doing was putting a piece of tape over each contestant’s door at night, to see in the morning if any of the contestants had left their room.
Apparently this extreme patrolling method was put in place after the Willam-husband fiasco during the filming of season 4. The producers want to be sure the queens are behaving themselves and adhering to the rules, so by putting tape over the doors, the producers can see if the pieces of tape are intact the following morning.
To be honest, the queens spend so much time with each other throughout the day, that a lot of them are likely to want to have some peace and quiet and privacy at the end of the night. Then again, as we’ve seen with Willam, there’s always one who wants to break the rules, so this tape method is a good insurance trick to make sure those queens stay put.
12 Don't Know Who They're Competing Against
It’s clear that there’s tight security when it comes to the contestants revealing their Drag Race antics to their friends and family, but oddly enough the queens are kept in the dark about who else is competing alongside them in the show too.
We’ve seen the measures that are taken in order to prevent the girls from blabbing about their time on the reality TV show to those they know, but when they arrive at their "undisclosed location” hotel, they’re also meant to be shut away from the other queens there, in order to keep their competition quiet.
The queens are supposed to keep the blinds shut in their hotel rooms to make sure they don’t accidentally see someone else who’s competing against them. In Secrets Ruvealed, the behind-the-scenes glimpse into the pre-filming lives of the drag queens in their hotel rooms before All Stars 2, Alaska revealed: “They told me I’m not allowed to open the blinds because then I might see other contestants, like, across the way, and we’re being kept in secret from each other.”
The queens are therefore left to wonder who they might be up against in the competition, and hypothesize about who their toughest rival might be.
11 Phones are strictly prohibited
Most people these days are glued to their phones, and for many, it can be difficult going one hour, let alone one day without staring into their portable screen. However, those competing on RuPaul’s Drag Race have to learn to live without their phones pretty quickly, as all cellular devices are strictly prohibited from being used while on the show.
This again has to do with the drastic measures taken to ensure secrecy during the filming of the show, as no contact with the outside world is allowed for the queens during their stay.
With no phones, no internet, no contact with anybody allowed, not even with other contestants, this doesn’t leave the queens with very much to do while they’re stuck in their hotel rooms. While many might suggest this to be a good time to catch up on some reading, it seems like most of the contestants just wile away the hours with the only device they are allowed to have in their room: a TV.
On RuPaul's Drag Race All Stars 2: Secrets RuVealed, Ginger Minj said: “I don’t have a phone. I don’t have Internet. I have a television with Golden Girls on a loop, which is fabulous.”
10 The Five Suitcase Limit
Anyone who’s ever watched RuPaul’s Drag Race is aware of the extraordinary clothes and makeup the competing queens adorn themselves with for every episode. Some of the costumes they wear are ridiculously intricate and detailed, oftentimes with huge, over-the-top accessories to make sure their outfit stands out from the crowd.
Considering the amount of stuff we see these queens wearing, you’ll be shocked to know that all Drag Race contestants have to keep to a strict five suitcase limit.
A lot of the dresses and costumes these drag queens wear are ornate and multi-layered, so how they manage to squeeze all of these gorgeous clothes into five cases is truly astounding.
You’d think the amount of makeup they use while on the program would take up one whole suitcase alone, so this limitation on their resources and what they end up being able to produce from it is really very impressive.
Wigs, shoes, clothes, makeup - they're all packed up into suitcases that don't seem very big when you seem them on the show. It just goes to show that drag queens are even more impressive and remarkable than you initially thought, and these gals are truly superwomen in their own right.
9 No One Knows Who The Final Winner Is Until The Finale Airs - Not Even The Winning Queen
By now we know that secrecy is the most important thing to RuPaul when it comes to this reality TV show. Just like special measures are taken to ensure the contestants remain hush-hush while on the show, careful tactics are put in place too in order to make sure no one knows which will queen will win the finale. Not only is the audience kept in the dark about which contestant will win, but the competing queens are also kept from finding out who will get the crown too.
In order to ensure that the winner remains a surprise to everyone, the finale is filmed multiple times - once with each of the finalist queens being crowned the champion.
Only RuPaul and a select few other people will know who the final winner is, and this also means that the winning queen has to wait until the episode airs to find out if she’s won, keeping her out of the loop like all the rest of us mere mortals. It must be a strange experience to act like you've won the crown, only to find out you were just acting later.
Clearly, there’s no such things as too much secrecy for RuPaul, which makes the show and its finale all the more exciting.
8 Punishingly Long Filming Hours Each Day
Despite it looking like the Drag Race queens are bonding and catfighting with each other for months, in reality it only take about four weeks to film an entire season of the show. The wonders of television!
This means that each day of filming is exhaustingly long. Most days, the contestants are expected to endure 11 to 12 hours of filming, and within that time, they’re often all made-up and in drag.
If you’ve ever had to work a 12-hour shift, you know how tired and weak your whole body feels by the end of it, especially your feet. Now imagine doing that in sky-high heels and layers of makeup and glitzy costume fabric. Doesn't sound like an easy feat, does it?
Well, these superheroic drag queens put up with these tough filming conditions day in and day out, and honestly it’s no wonder they start getting crabby with each other. There’s no way they’re feeling fresh and happy by the time the 12th hour of filming rolls by, so a lot of that tension you see could actually be down to them having had enough of standing and dancing in their eight-inch heels.
In fact, in an interview with Phoenix New Times, Sharon Needles said: “Here we were in drag from 7:30 in the morning to 11:30 at night. That's not normal, so the conflict was truly there.” What a drag, huh?
7 Certain Queens Are Told To Help Others With Their Makeup
Looking at the drag queens on Rupaul’s Drag Race, it’s hard not to be impressed by the skill that goes into each contestant’s make-up. The time and dedication each queen puts into her looks is astounding, and most of us wouldn’t know what to do with half of the materials they use to paint their faces.
However, even though every queen we see has her own distinct, singular look and they all look divine, it’s safe to say that a few of them are clearly more expert in the art of makeup than others. For this reason, it’s come to light that the producers of the show will approach certain contestants and ask them to lend a helping hand to some of the other drag racers who might not be as handy with a foundation brush.
In an interview with contestant Detox on the YouTube channel Shade Museum, the queen revealed that she was pulled aside by the show’s producers and asked to help Jinx Monsoon with her makeup. Ultimately, Detox refused to do Jinx’s makeup as she made the point that this is a competition and she didn’t want to help another competitor potentially win, but she did give her some pointers about how to go about her look.
6 The Queens Might Get Hurt - Physically and Emotionally
With every TV show comes a contract, and reality shows come with their own distinct set of rules and clauses participants have to agree to.
RuPaul’s Drag Race requires its hopeful competitors to agree to a certain set of rules and sign a binding legal document that is 51 pages long.
That’s a lot to have to take into consideration before appearing on the show, so the drag queens must thoroughly read this lengthy document in order to make sure they know what they’re getting into by taking part in Drag Race.
While there’s a lot of legal jargon and complicated terms in the contract, one of the rules which is made pretty explicitly clear is the fact that the queens who take part on the show must be aware of the possibility of “physical or verbal aggression” from other contestants, and that therefore all queens must ““expressly assume the risk of any physical or emotional injuries [they] may suffer.”
We know how heated and tense the competition can get, and it’s not unusual for insults to go flying between the queens. While some of this might be considered innocent “shade” or just good old “reading”, there are instances where competitors can genuinely get hurt, both physically and emotionally.
5 The Lip Sync iPods
One of the best things about RuPaul’s Drag Race is watching the queens lip-sync for their lives. Not only do we get to bear witness to some extraordinary dance moves, often featuring some body-defying flexibility, but we also get to watch it all happen against the backdrop of some of the greatest songs we all know and love.
The soundtrack to the lip-sync battles is very diva-heavy, and while we might assume the contestants know most of the songs that are chosen for the battle, it’s still impressive nonetheless when they’re called suddenly to perform a random song and then do so perfectly without missing a word or a beat.
Well, the truth is, the contestants are given an iPod with all the potential lip-sync songs on them, and then a night or two before the episode, they’re told which song they need to prepare. This was revealed to us all by Jaidynn Diore Fierce in a red carpet interview for the RuPaul's Drag Race season 7 premiere.
This is also why we see a lot of the queens listening to music in the workroom - they’re likely preparing their lip-sync battle song, in order to be ready, should they be called upon to strut their stuff and lip-sync like their drag life depended on it.
4 Answer Dozens of Questions Just to be Considered For the Show
There are countless drag queens who would love to be cast on RuPaul’s Drag Race, but every contestant that applies is carefully assessed and hand-picked for the competition. Part of the process of getting on the show is filling out a detailed questionnaire in order to better get to know the queens in question.
The application includes dozens of questions hopeful drag superstars have to answer, including “How did you get your drag name?”, “Are You Competitive?”, “What are your top 5 lip-sync numbers?”, “Who’s your favorite 80s icon?”, “Who would you do on snatch game”?” and many, many more. The applicants also have to upload various pictures of themselves in and out of drag, and provide a “Dragtastic” casting video where they have to flaunt their stuff and win the casting agents over with their fab realness.
Looking through the questions the hopeful participants need to fill out, it’s clear that there’s an incredibly in-depth approach to seeking out the cream of the drag crop. The show wants to know what applicants are like without their drag, and are looking for detailed answers about the character and the look of their drag personas, as well as how long it takes them to get drag-ready.
3 Get Paid By the Episode
When it comes to reality TV shows, we usually assume people apply to appear on programs because they want exposure or fame. Like any other reality series, the applicants who send in their forms to be chosen for RuPaul’s Drag Race are unlikely to be any different in this regard. Getting chosen to appear on a popular series like Drag Race could be life-changing, and could set the lucky few who get on TV up for great success in their future.
However, another aspect of reality TV is that it’s a paying job. We never really think about these reality show contestants getting paid for appearing on TV, because we likely assume they’re just happy to be there and have a chance of winning. In fact, they are getting paid, just like anyone doing any other job, and in the case of RuPaul’s Drag Race, it’s not too badly paid.
According to the Drag Race contract, “Cast members are paid $400 per episode for their first season, and their pay increases 5 percent for future seasons: $420 per episode for their second season, $441 for their third, and so on.”
As the queens get more exposure if they get cast in future seasons, their rate of pay goes up.
Considering the amount of work they do, though, one has to wonder, should they get paid more?
2 Pay for Their Own Food, Clothes, and Personal Items While On The Show
Many might think that getting paid $400 per episode isn’t too shabby, but it’s worth taking into consideration the fact that the contestants have to pay for pretty much everything else out of their own pockets.
According to the Drag Race contract, the participants are “responsible for providing their own food, drink, clothing and personal items.” Even food? Really, queen?
You’d think that on such a high-profile show as this, the contestants would at least get some free food out of the deal.
While it’s fair that they should have to fork out for their own sequins, fabrics, wigs, etc., shouldn't a basic need like nourishment really be provided?
It seems that perhaps a little food is provided though, but that whatever this may be is inadequate. In a revealing interview with Willam Belli for In Magazine, the former Drag Race contestant admitted there was a little bit of catering provided, but that it was essentially a joke: “This set was rife with untaped wires underfoot, non-regulated food breaks (like $75 to feed 12 men after a 14 hour day). Sharon subsided on bread dipped in ranch for a month while filming because her vegetarian food needs were never met.”
1 Contestants Can't Do Any Other Media For A Year After The Final Episode Airs
As we’ve seen, there are a lot of rules and regulations in the Drag Race contract. From having to pay for their own food and personal items to needing to acknowledging the fact that they might get seriously hurt during their time filming, the drag superstar hopefuls have to give into a lot of demands if they want a part of the on-air limelight.
One of the stricter rules that might prove to be pretty annoying for the contestants who take part on Drag Race is a clause in the contract that states that participants can’t do any other media without the show’s permission until a year passes after the final episode is aired. While this seems pretty limiting, the drag queens are allowed to do live performances and make appearances, that is the main source of most of their livelihoods, after all, but if they do so, they aren’t allowed to mention their affiliation to RuPaul’s Drag Race.
This is pretty tricky, as it’s likely that a lot of the contestants would get booked for gigs and performances based on the fact that they took part in the show. Clearly, for many of the superstars we’ve seen appear on the program, this hasn’t been too much of a problem. But for those who had an earlier exit or didn’t get as much exposure, well this could be problematic for their career.
Did we miss any interesting rules for RuPaul's Drag Race contestants? Let us know in the comments!