On the air since 2009, RuPaul’s Drag Race has spun ten seasons and spinoffs such as RuPaul’s Drag Race: All-Stars and RuPaul’s Drag U, as well as the side-show Untucked. Over one hundred queens have been introduced to the world by the franchise, jump-starting prominent careers in the music, comedy, and live entertainment fields. However, despite being a promising platform for LGBTQ performers, Drag Race is still a reality competition at its root, sending contestants home every week based on how well they performed in the series. Most of the time, at least.
In standard Drag Race seasons, the queens have to lip-sync for their lives in order to stay in the competition. In All-Stars seasons, contestants lip-sync for their legacy and the winner gets to decide who will be eliminated that week. Thus, like most other reality competitions, RuPaul’s Drag Race is not shy to controversy when it comes to its elimination process
. There have been various moments in the franchise when a queen was sent home for unexpected or even dubious reasons, leaving fans in complete shock and opening up conversations about whether producers actively set up certain contestants to be eliminated during a particular week.
This is RuPaul’s Drag Race: 15 Queens Eliminated For Unexpected Reasons.
15 BENDELACREME - SELF-ELIMINATION
During the six episodes of RuPaul’s Drag Race: All-Stars 3 that BenDeLaCreme was on, she won the main challenges five times. However, being an All-Stars season, this also meant that Ben had to pick a fellow contestant to go home five times, which began to take a toll on the queen.
On the sixth episode of All-Stars 3, BenDeLaCreme won the main challenge once again and lip-synched for her legacy alongside BeBe Zahara Benet, who was the other winner of that week. The two queens had to pick between Trixie Mattel, Shangela, and Kennedy Davenport to eliminate a contestant, which drove Ben to create one of the most shocking moments in the entire franchise: eliminating herself.
Despite not being the first time that a contestant eliminated herself during an All-Stars season, this moment was particularly unexpected due to how well Ben had been performing.
If anything, she was set up to win All-Stars 3, and her self-elimination came as a heartbreaking moment for fans.
The rest of RuPaul’s Drag Race: All-Stars 3 struggled to deal with the BenDeLaCreme-sized hole that was left due to the queen’s elimination. The Top Two was made up of Trixie Mattel, who had won two challenges, and Kennedy Davenport, who had only won one. In comparison to Ben’s five wins, it all felt a little bit off.
14 MIMI IMFURST - GETTING PHYSICAL WITH INDIA
Season 3 was responsible for a quote that would follow RuPaul’s Drag Race for years to come: "drag is not a contact sport."
On the season’s third episode, Mimi Imfurst and India Ferrah landed on the Bottom Two for underperforming on the main challenge. They were told to lip-sync for their lives to Thelma Houston’s “Don’t Leave Me This Way”, and India was clearly upstaging Mimi by leaving the runway and performing right in front of the judges’ panel. A threatened Mimi decided to also step down from the runway and take things one set further.
She literally lifted India and carried her fellow contestant on her shoulders.
“Get her off of me,” India yelled out.
As the lip-sync ended, RuPaul very adamantly stated that “drag is not a contact sport,” eliminating Mimi Imfurst and setting the precedent that contestants are not allowed to do that to one another during the competition. However, India Ferrah only managed to stay for one more week, as she was sent home by Stacy Layne Matthews on the very next episode.
After that controversial elimination, Mimi was seemingly ignored by RuPaul and the TV show until she was invited back for the first season of All-Stars.
13 VALENTINA - KEEPING HER MASK ON
Perhaps the most unexpected elimination in the entire history of RuPaul’s Drag Race, no one saw it coming that Valentina would be eliminated during her first-ever lip-sync. The queen had been slaying the competition during the entire ninth season, and when she was put in the Bottom Two alongside Nina Bo’nina Brown, fans quickly jumped to the conclusion that Nina – who had been struggling on an emotional level for weeks – would be sent home.
Well, no one was counting on the fact that Valentina did not know the lyrics to Ariana Grande’s “Greedy”.
To hide the fact that she did not know the lip-sync song, Valentina decided to keep wearing the mask that was part of her bullfighter outfit.
RuPaul proceeded to stop the lip-sync and said, “This is a lip-sync for your life, we need to see your lips.” To which Valentina replied, “I’d like to keep it on, please.”
“It’s a lip-sync. What part of that don’t you understand?” RuPaul shot back, and Valentina proceeded to take off her mask.
As the lip-sync resumed, it became clear that the contestant did not know the words to the song, which cleared the way for Nina Bo’nina Brown to easily defeat her.
12 ADORE DELANO - MICHELLE WAS TOO HARSH
There was little doubt that Bianca Del Rio would be crowned the winner of season 6, but that does not mean that Adore Delano wasn’t a close second. Adore, who had previously been a contestant on American Idol, only saw her music career truly break out after appearing on RuPaul’s Drag Race. She quickly became one of the franchise’s most unanimously adored contestants, and it came as no surprise when she was announced to appear on the second season of RuPaul’s Drag Race: All-Stars.
What did come as a surprise is that Adore Delano’s All-Stars 2 journey would come to an abrupt end in a very short period of time. On the very first episode, upon hearing the judges’ harsh critiques, Adore broke down and spun out of control emotionally.
The queen mentioned not being prepared to be judged that way by Michelle Visage, who she had toured alongside and developed a friendship with after being a contestant on Drag Race season 6.
However, at the end of the day, All-Stars 2 was still a reality competition, and Adore Delano clearly hadn’t thought it through. The queen proceeded to quit the show in the second episode, marking the first time a contestant had ever quit RuPaul’s Drag Race.
11 WILLAM - SNEAKING VISITS WITH HER HUSBAND
Willam was the first – and so far, only – contestant to have ever been disqualified from RuPaul’s Drag Race due to explicitly breaking the rules established by the producers.
During the eighth episode of season 4, Sharon Needles (who was dressed like a devil) and Phi Phi O’Hara (who was dressed like an angel) found themselves in the Bottom Two. They lip-synched to The Weather Girls’ 1982 hit song “It’s Raining Men” and gave the judges one of the fiercest and most memorable lip-syncs in the history of the franchise. Then, when it came time for RuPaul to announce whether Sharon or Phi Phi would go home, a different announcement was made: Willam was being eliminated – or, better said, disqualified – for breaking the rules.
After the episode aired, Willam owned up to her mistake, explaining that she indeed had broken the rules. While on Drag Race, the contestants are expected to be isolated from the rest of the world, and no one must know that they are recording. Willam, however, had been regularly inviting her husband to come to the hotel where the contestants were being held, breaking both rules at once. The producers eventually uncovered what Willam had been doing, and the queen was disqualified from the competition.
10 MONIQUE HEART - DIDN'T PREPARE FOR LIP-SYNC
By the seventh episode of season 10, The Vixen had been starting multiple fights and landing in the Bottom Two for a second consecutive week. As she was pinned to lip-sync against Monique Heart to Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Cut To The Feeling”, there was no doubt in anyone’s minds that The Vixen would be sent home by Monique, who had been giving the show great runway looks and an extremely likable personality.
Monique Heart did not know the words to “Cut To The Feeling”.
The queen did her best to mask that fact by performing several complex dance moves, but it was quite clear that, unlike The Vixen, Monique had not been ready to lip-sync for her life. “The b---- didn’t just stand there,” Monique justified, and while she makes a fair point, contestants are expected to know the lyrics to the songs that they lip-sync to.
Like Chi Chi DeVayne on season 8, Monique Heart often pointed out that she did not have as big of a budget and closet as most of the other contestants, and thus had to make her own clothes from scratch for each of the show’s runway challenges. The queen’s overall justification for not knowing the words to the lip-sync is that she was too busy making clothes.
9 CHARLIE HIDES - BROKEN RIB/STOMACH PROBLEMS/STANDING?
Monique Heart’s “The b---- didn’t just stand there” comment was a very pointed remark to season 9’s Charlie Hides, who upon landing in the Bottom Two, quite literally just stood there and waited for RuPaul to eliminate her. Charlie lip-synched against Trinity Taylor to Britney Spears’ “I Wanna Go” and, unlike Trinity, she did not give the judges a performance worth remembering.
After the episode aired, Charlie Hides has come up with various excuses as to why she did not move. The broadest – and most believable – excuse is that Charlie, being a U.K.-based drag queen, is used to singing live during her performances and was not equipped to lip-sync well. However, Charlie Hides has also mentioned that she had a cracked rib during that episode, citing that she had cracked her rib during that season’s cheerleading challenge. Then, during season 9’s reunion, it was also revealed that Charlie had mentioned having stomach problems during that infamously bad lip-sync.
Cracked rib, stomach problems or otherwise, Charlie Hides unexpectedly “just stood there” and did not gave the judges a performance worth saving.
Despite Charlie’s clearly defeated attitude, Trinity Taylor gave the judges a stellar lip-sync performance that proved that she was worth keeping around.
8 EUREKA - BROKEN KNEE
Season 9 introduced a multitude of incredibly talented queens, including Eureka, who seemed to be set to go very far in the competition. However, Eureka broke her knee during the infamous cheerleading challenge of season 9 and was deemed incapable of moving on in the competition after a doctor’s examination. Her elimination took place on the fifth episode of that season, after Farrah Moan and Cynthia Lee Fontaine lip-synched for their lives and managed to both stay.
Eureka’s elimination marked the first and only time that a RuPaul’s Drag Race contestant was eliminated due to a physical injury, something that is entirely more common on a reality competition such as Survivor. However, RuPaul and the show’s producers decided that it was only right to extend an open invitation for Eureka to come back to the series a year later, for season 10, after her knee was properly healed. As the season 10 lineup was revealed, Eureka was indeed included, and her return to the show has been seen as both an advantage and a disadvantage.
As previously mentioned, Charlie Hides also claimed to have broken a rib during the cheerleading challenge, but unlike Eureka, the contestant showed no signs of any damage during the show.
7 PANDORA BOXX - PAIRED WITH MIMI IMFURST
Pandora Boxx was one of the highlights of RuPaul’s Drag Race season 2 and, despite placing fifth in the season, the queen went on to win the Miss Congeniality title voted by fans. With so much popularity surrounding her, it came as no surprise that Pandora was chosen to be featured in the first RuPaul’s Drag Race: All-Stars season.
However, fans were not ready for what would actually happen during that first All-Stars season, which infamous for having the most controversial rule change in the history of the franchise: the contestants would compete in pairs.
Pandora Boxx, a fan favorite, was forced to team up with Mimi Imfurst, who was not particularly liked by the judges to begin with.
They were called Team Mandora, and on the very first episode, they had to lip-sync against Chad Michaels and Shannel (Team Shad). Chad, who was also a fan favorite, went on to win that first All-Stars season, which means that Pandora did not stand a chance to win that first lip-sync.
Up to this day, the elimination of Pandora Boxx on the very first episode of All-Stars 1 is among the most unexpected moments of the franchise. The first All-Stars is largely regarded as the worst Drag Race season ever, and a large part of that notion has to do with how Pandora was treated.
6 HONEY MAHOGANY & VIVIENNE PINAY - DOUBLE ELIMINATION
Nearly every reality competition on television has employed the trope of “double eliminations,” where two contestants are sent home at the same time. However, it wasn’t until the fifth season of RuPaul’s Drag Race – which aired in 2013 – that RuPaul would bring that shocking twist to her own franchise.
It all went down on the fourth episode of season 5, when Honey Mahogany and Vivienne Pinay landed in the Bottom Two and lip-synched against one another to Britney Spears’ “Oops! I Did It Again.” To be fair, the two queens did a very poor job at lip-synching to such an iconic song, and it would’ve been a stretch to save either of them for outperforming the other contestant.
“They’re both lacking energy. It’s Britney Spears, bring it!” Alyssa Edwards commented before RuPaul sent both Honey and Vivienne home.
The Honey Mahogany and Vivienne Pinay double elimination set a precedent that was not regularly explored on the RuPaul’s Drag Race franchise. A double elimination only happened again on Drag Race season 8, as Dax Exclamationpoint and Laila McQueen lip-synched to Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive” and were both sent home on episode 2. Additionally, RuPaul’s Drag Race Thailand had a double elimination on its very first season, sending home contestants JAJA and Amadiva on the show’s sixth episode.
5 ACID BETTY - SHE FELT "THE WATERS"
The legendary New York City drag queen Acid Betty was part of RuPaul’s Drag Race season 8, and many fans were quite certain that she would make it very far in the competition. However, Naomi Smalls sent Acid home on the season’s fifth episode, causing quite a stir among Drag Race fans.
After the episode aired and fans reacted the way that they did, Acid Betty gave an interview to the Huffington Post and said, “I wasn’t surprised because you can kind of feel the waters and they weren’t really going my way.” The contestant’s unexpected elimination on Drag Race also caused her to reflect on future plans, mentioning that she wanted to move forward being an artist, not just a drag queen anymore. In regards to the alleged resentment that Acid Betty held against RuPaul and the franchise, the queen has stated that they were simply rumors, and she has since attended various events related to Drag Race, such as RuPaul’s DragCon.
However, Acid Betty’s elimination remains as one of the most unexpected and undeserved outings in the history of the series, and many fans have eagerly awaited to see the queen return for an All-Stars season.
4 THORGY THOR - CONSPIRACY THEORY
Just like season 6 was all about Bianca Del Rio, season 8 was all about Bob The Drag Queen. Thorgy Thor, who competed with Bob on season 8, became known for being constantly annoyed by – and somewhat jealous of – Bob, often telling her to shut up and/or stop doing something. So when Thorgy joined RuPaul’s Drag Race: All-Stars 3, a season that did not have Bob The Drag Queen, many fans were felt hopeful that she would finally have a chance to show her talents and get out of her head.
As All-Stars 3 went on, it seemed like Thorgy Thor was still somewhat in her head. When the “Divas Lip Sync Live” episode came on and Thorgy was assigned to imitate Stevie Nicks, the queen started to question whether producers were actively trying to set her up to fail and be eliminated, despite outright saying that she loved Stevie Nicks and would love to impersonate the singer for the challenge.
As Shangela lip-synched for her legacy against BenDeLaCreme and won, she chose to send Thorgy home, which prompted Thorgy to start being shady toward Shangela in the same way that she used to be with Bob The Drag Queen.
3 VIVACIOUS - SPLIT GROUPS
Speaking of legends, Vivacious is a drag queen who has been in the business for many decades and was featured on RuPaul’s Drag Race season 6. In a baffling lip-sync against April Carrión to Selena Gomez’s “Shake It Up”, Vivacious apparently fell short and was sent home, despite being a clearly more talented contestant than April, who was sent home the next episode.
During one interview, Vivacious stated that she believes that splitting the queens into two groups hurt her chances in succeeding, and that she had to remain true to her “club kid” aesthetic at all times. Famous for her “mother has arrived!” quote, Vivacious was expected to go much, much further in the competition, and certainly no one foresaw that such a weak opponent like April Carrión would be the one to send her home.
One of Vivacious’ head-pieces became famous in the Drag Race franchise and even received its own name, Ornacia. On the third season of RuPaul’s Drag Race: All-Stars, Vivacious’ legacy lived on, as Ornacia was brought up by Trixie Mattel when speaking about one of BeBe Zahara Benet’s head-pieces. BeBe, who seemed clueless about the Drag Race seasons that followed her own, did not seem to know who Ornacia was, which prompted the other contestants to laugh.
2 CYNTHIA LEE FONTAINE - SECOND-CHANCE ELIMINATION
It is no secret that RuPaul has a soft spot in her heart for certain queens, and that was definitely the case WITH Cynthia Lee Fontaine, mostly known for her “Cucu” catchphrase and for being voted by fans to receive the Miss Congeniality title on season 8.
After placing 10th on season 8 and battling cancer shortly after the season was filmed, Cynthia Lee Fontaine was invited to join season 9 and bring her charisma, uniqueness, nerve, and talent back to RuPaul’s Drag Race. The queen’s addition to the fold was the big surprise of the first episode, titled “Oh. My. Gaga!”, which featured Lady Gaga as a guest judge. Because it was her second time on the show and the judges seemed to be enamored by everything she said and did, most fans were certain that Cynthia would make it very far in the competition. Thus, it came as a shock when she was eliminated on the sixth episode, once again placing 10th on a season.
Despite having an equally poor performance on the show during season 9, Cynthia Lee Fontaine went on to embody the spirit of what it truly means to be a “Ru Girl,” spreading positivity toward all of her fellow Drag Race sisters.
1 ALYSSA EDWARDS - SANTINO'S SHADE
Alyssa Edwards is a drag queen who is mostly known for her perfectionism. She is a pageant queen who prides herself on always looking her best. So it is somewhat ironic that, while on season 5, her time on RuPaul’s Drag Race ended due to a bad look on the runway.
On the ninth episode of season 5, with only six contestants left, the runway challenge was to come up with looks that felt like “Latin glamour.” All of the girls dressed in their best Latin-inspired looks, but Alyssa Edwards’ outfit was particularly weak. How weak?
Judge Santino Rice called her dress the worst he had seen in the entire five seasons of RuPaul’s Drag Race.
Then, all of the contestants voted for Alyssa as the next queen who should go home, which all but sealed the deal for RuPaul to eliminate her.
The lip-sync that sent Alyssa Edwards home was against Coco Montrese, her longtime Texas nemesis. The two queens lip-synched to Paula Abdul’s “Cold Hearted”, but even Alyssa’s irresistible charisma was not enough to make up for her weak runway performance that week. After being eliminated, the queen proceeded to write “Always and forever, Alyssa” as her farewell message on the workroom’s mirror, creating what would later become one of her biggest catchphrases.
Did we miss any surprising reasons for eliminations on RuPaul's Drag Race? Share them in the comments!