Across 10 seasons and over well over 100 queens, RuPaul’s Drag Race has gone from being a cult sensation to full-blown addictive television. Spawning some of the 21stcentury’s best catchphrases, fans have watched in awe as RuPaul Charles’ America’s Next Top Model clone has taken over LGBT culture and beyond.
Even after its forgettable season 1, Drag Race is arguably performing stronger than ever as it has continuously grabbed headlines and found itself an elusive spot on the Netflix roster. Many contestants have auditioned from the early days of RPDR, while others have been selected by the general public. Either way, the show had made drag superstars out of some and forgettable faces out of others. Overseen by RuPaul, there have been those who have shone and those who have vanished into the depths of reality TV hell.
With as much drama behind the scenes as on the runway, RuPaul's Drag Race has provided many memorable winners and losers over its run. Although the various queens have continuously raced for the crown, those words of, “You’re a winner, baby” aren’t always what they seem. The prize money may have risen from $20,000 to $100,000, but it doesn’t give queens a golden ticket to everlasting fame.
Whether audiences are Shangela supporters, Tyra taunters, Latrice lovers, or Alyssa adorers, RuPaul’s Drag Race still remains one of the most controversial reality shows of all time.
With this in mind, here are 16 RuPaul’s Drag Race Losers Who Became Superstars (And 4 Winners Who Flopped).
20 Alaska - Superstar
The secret they hear an extended “Hi!” fans immediately think of Alaska 5000. The drag persona of Justin Andrew Honard, Alaska auditioned for every season of Drag Race until she made the lineup of season 5.
As well as being the other half of season 4 winner Sharon Needles, Alaska became part of the Rolaskatox trifecta.
Controversially taking second place to Jinkx Monsoon, season 5 was the start of Alaska making it big.
Alaska has had a successful singing career alongside Willam and Courtney Act as one-third of pop group American Apparel Ad Girls and has released two solo albums. Beating Detox and Katya to first place, Alaska got her time to shine in All Stars 2 when she became the second drag queen to enter the Hall of Fame.
19 Adore Delano - Superstar
Another drag queen packing a punch with the vocals, Adore Delano, aka Danny Noriega, started as a contestant (out of drag) on season 7 of American Idol.
Although Adore was something of a messy queen on her season, she was taken in by Bianco Del Rio and eventually improved her skills. Noriega struggled with his “hog body” on season 6, but as Adore won over the likes of Michelle Visage and RuPaul.
Returning for All Stars season 2, Visage’s relationship with Adore took a complicated turn. Struggling with her own confidence, Adore turned to Visage for advice after the judge’s harsh critiques. Visage basically said, “If you can’t handle the heat, get out of the kitchen,” prompting Adore to eliminate herself in episode 2.
Still focusing on drag and her singing career, Adore released her third album in 2017.
18 BeBe Zahara Benet - Flopped
Thanks to season 1 being officially seen as a pilot season by RuPaul, winning Drag Race wasn’t always a fast-track to stardom. Only nine contestants competed in 2009 when BeBe Zahara Benet beat Nina Flowers to become the first ever winner. Dubbed the forgotten winner, Benet has had sporadic appearances in RuPaul's Drag U and a cameo in Erasure’s re-release of “A Little Respect.”
This wasn’t the end of the road for BeBe when she became the surprise tenth contestant on 2017’s All Stars season 3. There were raised eyebrows over Benet’s involvement as the first winner to be invited back to compete again.
Benet undeniably skated through the competition as continuously “safe, and nabbed 3rd/4th place with Shangela.
Since her All Stars debut, Benet has been pursuing a Kickstarter campaign to gather funding for her documentary Being BeBe.
17 BenDeLaCreme - Superstar
Season 3 of All Stars was unofficially dubbed The BenDeLaCreme show thanks to Benjamin Putnam.
Sliding as season 6's Miss Congeniality, BenDeLaCreme was an unlikely return for All Stars who exceeded all expectations. Known for her burlesque revues and stage shows with Seattle greats like Jinkx Monsoon, this "terminally delightful" queen would’ve undoubtedly have made it into the All Stars finale if she hadn’t dramatically eliminated herself in one amazing lip sync for your legacy.
A frequent collaborator with indie director Wes Hurley, DeLa is also a keen actress. Although some may find her a little sickly-sweet, she constantly adds a spoonful of spice to all her appearances.
16 Manila Luzon - Superstar
Manila Luzon was a firm favorite on season 3 of Drag Race before losing to the formidable talent of Raja. Known for her signature Mallen Streak, Manila has one of the most iconic looks of all time. Whether it be dressing as a pineapple or as Marie Antoinette, Manila was always at the top of her game on the runway.
Tragedy struck when Manila’s partner Sahara Davenport passed away, but Luzon dedicated her single "Eternal Queen" to her.
Manila is so recognizable, Long Island-based toy company NiniMomo even released a pineapple doll in her likeness.
She returned for All Stars and paired with Latrice Royale, but the duo bowed out earlier than anyone expected. Both have carried on with their drag careers and Manila can frequently be seen alongside other famous Drag Race stars.
15 Trixie Mattel - Superstar
Trixie Mattel has soared to the top as the plastic-fantastic comedy queen from season 7. After the showstopping success of season 6, Trixie's return in season 7 was a definite letdown. Eliminated in episode 4, she was brought back but succumbed to the returning contestant curse. Given another shot at Drag Race greatness, she thankfully made it into All Stars season 3.
Although some saw Mattel as an undeserving winner, it has propelled her further.
Before winning All Stars, Mattel’s popularity skyrocketed thanks to World of Wonder web series UNHhhh.
Co-starring with Katya Zamolodchikova, the pair are a comedy double act who've won a legion of fans. UNHhhh was so popular, it evolved into Viceland’s The Trixie & Katya Show.
On top of her drag, Mattel is a huge fan of country music and has released two studio albums of her own.
14 Courtney Act - Superstar
Pop singer, reality contestant, and TV personality, Courtney Act is more than a drag queen with a pun for a name. Shane Janek’s alter ego is known as the thunder from Down Under and one queen who has taken her career further than most.
Before she joined Drag Race season 6, Courtney became the first openly LGBTQ reality TV contestant ever when she appeared on the first season of Australian Idol in 2003.
Courtney continued to bring drag to the forefront of today’s TV schedules. On Celebrity Big Brother, she took 49.43% of the final vote and the floor with the other finalists.
As well as being a foreign correspondent for Australian news site Junkee, Courtney Act also appeared on MTV’s Single AF.
13 Chad Michaels - Flopped
Being the first winner of All Stars, Chad Michaels returned from being season 4’s runner-up to finally take the crown in 2012. Although Michaels is the drag mother of Morgan McMichaels, she is no drag relation to season 10’s Kameron Michaels.
It looks like sailing by on looking like Cher isn’t enough to propel you to the top.
Apart from appearing in a The Handmaid’s Tale-style parody for All Stars season 3, Michaels has remained in the background of the show. She may return for the usual reunion episodes and continues her drag career, but tends to appear as “Cher impersonator” in shows like Jane the Virgin and 2 Broke Girls. Sadly, she is known more as being someone else rather than being her own entity.
Michaels is admittedly good at being a Cher lookalike, but what else is there?
12 Alyssa Edwards - Superstar
When anyone says Drag Race royalty, Alyssa Edwards is one name that continuously pops up. Finding her stardom as 2010’s Miss Gay America, Alyssa Edwards was spectacularly stripped of the title and started a bitter feud with Coco Montrese.
Appearing on season 5 of Drag Race, Alyssa’s impressive dance skills made her a fan-favorite and a controversial “lovely fifth alternate.”
Edwards lives in Mesquite, Texas, where she runs Beyond Belief Dance Company. Back as Alyssa mode, she appeared on All Stars season 2 and locked horns with Phi Phi O’Hara in one of the show’s most shocking moments. Edwards also starred in web series Alyssa’s Secret and had cameos in both Hurricane Bianca movies.
Alyssa Edwards continues to be one of the most recognizable Drag Race alumni and is easily deserving of her all-star status.
11 Miz Cracker - Superstar
This salty sister who really took the “biscuit” when it came to being a comedy queen, Miz Cracker was a firm favorite from season 10’s roster of talent. When Bob the Drag Queen is your drag mother, that puts you in pretty good stead to rise to the top of any season.
Continuing Bob’s style of New York humor, Miz Cracker was a standout of season 10 and now has her own #JusticeforCracker hashtag.
Unfortunately, Cracker was shockingly eliminated by lip sync assassin Kameron Michaels in week 11. Miz Cracker looked like she has the skills to go all the way this year, meaning that her bowing out in fifth place is one of the biggest shocks in Drag Race’s nine-year history.
Leading the other season 10 queens in social media presence and popularity, if Cracker doesn’t have All Stars written all over her, no one does.
10 Katya Zamolodchikova - Superstar
Your dad just calls her Katya! There’s no denying that Yekaterina Petrovna Zamolodchikova has taken the drag circuit by storm since appearing on an otherwise forgettable season 7.
With a wicked sense of humor and a caring side, Katya was robbed when she only placed fifth. However, this is nothing compared to the uproar surrounding All Stars season 2. Some say Katya losing out to Alaska is the biggest travesty to ever face the show.
Outside Drag Race, Katya has starred in Hurricane Bianca 2 and alongside Trixie on their own show. Sadly, she recently took a break due to a psychological breakdown.
Katya has openly spoken about her mental health and substance issues, so let’s wish her a speedy recovery as she gets back on the road to being one of the fiercest RPDR stars ever.
9 Latrice Royale - Superstar
She's a plus-size queen with an even bigger heart. Who doesn’t love Latrice Royale and her infectious laugh?
Turning his life around after a stint in prison, Timothy Wilcots took on the persona of Latrice and chuckled her way into season 4 and the first All Stars. Paired with Manilla Luzon, the couple bowed out against Raven and Jujubee.
Latrice has remained a fixture of Drag Race since, as well as becoming an ordained minister and an avid supporter of equal marriage.
She maintains a close relationship with other big names, like Willam. The duo appeared in an off-Broadway Sister Act parody called Mister Act in 2016.
Rumors even say that Latrice was asked back for All Stars season 3, which would’ve made her the first queen to ever get two shots at the spinoff series.
8 Violet Chachki - Flopped
Although the likes of Katya and Trixie have since grown into much bigger personalities, season 7 was frankly boring. To make matters worse, Violet Chachki was then given the crown.
Since Drag Race, Chachki has continued to pursue her music career and did have the honor of walking for Moschino at Milan Fashion Week, but has shied away from life as a winner.
Disliked by her fellow queens on the show, Chachki’s personality is as big as her waistline and makes for a forgettable winner. Although she had the aesthetic to come up with some incredible runway looks, it all seemed to be a little style over substance.
With Violet taking over from Bianca Del Rio, it was always going to be a hard act to follow.
7 Aja - Superstar
One artsy queen who can also turn a lip sync with her jaw-dropping dance skills, Aja is a relative newbie to Drag Race stardom.
Famous for season 9’s "Linda Evangelista" rant at Valentina, Aja became an internet sensation thanks to various remixes of that iconic moment. As well as releasing four solo singles in under a year, Aja has also appeared in several drag music videos alongside the likes of Bob the Drag Queen and Phi Phi O’Hara.
Although Aja was read for her use of FaceTune to alter her public image, she bounced back and continues to amass thousands of new followers.
Most recently, she appeared in H&M’s 2018 Pride OUT Loud campaign.
This is one fresh-faced 24-year-old who is sure to keep making a name for herself away from the bright lights of RuPaul’s runway.
6 Vanessa Vanjie Mateo - Superstar
She was eliminated in the first episode and still got mentioned in nearly every episode after that. There hasn’t been Drag Race notoriety like Vanessa Vanjie Mateo since Porkchop Parker made a name for herself.
The iconic “Miss Vanjie” became a highlight of not only season 10, but one of the best moments in the show’s herstory when she ingraining her name into everyone’s minds.
Despite having drag royalty Alexis Mateo as her drag mother, Vanessa wasn’t quite as polished and failed to beat Kalorie Karbdashian-Williams in the lip sync. While Kalorie faded into nothingness when eliminated the week after, Vanjie has continued to pop up everywhere.
Vanessa has since appeared on the social media accounts of Ru herself and has gathered fans like Katy Perry Kathy Griffin. Vanjie, can you hear that? Season 11 is calling your name.
5 Detox - Superstar
Basically a walking advert for Mugler, Detox had everyone clocking her in memorable challenges like the kid’s TV show and her astounding silver screen queen look.
Considering season 5 and All Stars 2 had a mass of talent, Detox still held her own among the other big personalities.
Somehow upping her runway looks even further, Detox slayed the runway every week with her All Stars outfits and is also one of the few queens to have a challenge based on one of her looks.
Touring with Vicky Vox and Willam before Willam jumped ship to AAA Girls, Detox sang on memorable parody songs like “Chow Down” and “This Boy is a Bottom”. Her other claim to fame is being a background star in music videos for the likes of Lady Gaga, Ke$ha, and Rihanna.
4 Shangela - Superstar
Stepping out the box more times than fans can count, Shangela Laquifa Wadley has returned to Drag Race more than anyone. Despite being the first queen given the boot in season two, Ru saw something in the humble country girl and brought Shangela back for season 3. Going on to be a highlight of the show, Shangela made it into the "2010 Top Terms We Learned on Reality Television” thanks to her infectious “Halleloo!”
Coming into her own for All Stars 3, Shangela made a name for herself, despite not winning the crown.
Shangela’s electric personality has seen her through a music career and as the USA commentator for the Eurovision Song Contest 2018.
She'll also appear alongside Lady Gaga in the movie A Star is Born - the title of which seems extremely relevant.
3 Tyra Sanchez - Flopped
Every show needs a villain, and although the likes of Acid Betty, Mimi, and Phi Phi have all jostled for that title, the honor should probably go to James William Ross IV, aka Tyra Sanchez.
Audiences struggled to understand what Ru saw in Tyra over Raven and the public dislike towards the winner has continued ever since.
Ruffling feathers off the show, Tyra had a spat with fellow winner Raja after Sanchez racistly referred to her as Abu - the monkey from Aladdin. Sanchez also hit headlines when falsely announcing that Morgan McMichaels had died and also told one Twitter user to take their own life when they called her annoying on social media.
Most recently, she was banned from 2018’s DragCon after threatening fellow queens with violence and then made a bomb threat towards the convention - talk about a sore winner!
2 Willam - Superstar
Appearing as Cherry Peck on Ryan Murphy's Nip/Tuck was just the start of Willam Belli’s illustrious road to stardom. Taking season 4 of Drag Race by storm, Willam was an early favorite to win but was explosively eliminated in the show’s most shocking episode.
Willam has had a successful acting career before and after Drag Race, becoming one of the richest drag queens out there.
Elsewhere, YouTube show Willam’s Beatdown is a hilarious take on modern society and represents Belli at her venomous best. Thanks to her book Suck Less: Where There's a Willam, There's a Way, her own perfume, and an upcoming talk show with some of her famous friends, Belli continues to be a mainstay of the drag scene thanks to her thousands of followers on social media.
1 Raven - Superstar
Another queen who had the crown pulled from underneath her was Raven. Some fans are still struggling to see how Raven hasn’t been crowned a winner.
Returning for the first All Stars, Raven’s sisterly bond with fellow superstar Jujubee became a highlight of the series and led to that heart-wrenching performance of Robyn’s “Dancing on My Own”.
Although Raven is dubbed the “Queen of Runner-Ups,” she has remained a firm favorite of Ru and the fans. As well as doing Ru’s makeup on the show and being a creative producer since All Stars 3 and RPDR season 10, Raven appeared in Vanity Fair's "100 Years of Drag Fashion.”
She currently co-hosts Fashion Photo Ruview alongside Raja where the two shady queens tear the fashion world apart with their signature sass.
Who are your favorite RuPaul's Drag Race winners and losers? Sound off in the comments below!