The following article may contain spoilers from past RuPaul’s Drag Race episodes.
About The Show
The talent show for drag queens called RuPaul’s Drag Race has been broadcasted since 2009. It was created by drag queen and singer RuPaul, who’s also the host and part of the jury of the show. Currently the jury of the show also exists of Michelle Visage, Ross Matthews and Carson Kressley.
RuPaul’s Drag Race’s jury from left to right: Ross Matthews, Michelle Visage, RuPaul, Carson Kressley
In the talent show, drag queens compete against each other in mini and maxi challenges per episode. The mini challenge is usually a small themed quick challenge that has a winner who gets a price and usually gets a small advantage for the maxi challenge. The maxi challenge takes more time for them to prepare, and this can be a video challenge, music challenge or a catwalk/look challenge for example. Every week, the bottom two have a lip sync battle in which they need to convince the jury at least one of them gets to stay. There have already been 10 regular seasons this far and 3 spin-off episodes with the past contestants called RuPaul’s Drag Race: All Stars. The format is ruled by drama, exaggerated situations, incredibly chic homemade costumes and a touch of emotional conversation about the hardships of being queer in the current United States of America.
The Show’s Slang Influencing Pop Culture
From beating your face (applying the perfect amount of makeup on the face), to referring to history as herstory (playfully replacing the “his” with “hers” to imply a feminine reclamation of the word), the list of slang that took over the internet is broad. Greeting each other with, instead of a regular Hi!, “Hieeeee” (A greeting, characterized by a distinctive prolonged “e” sound). You can only imagine, with existing websites dedicated to being a dictionary for the words that originate and became popular through RuPaul’s Drag Race, the impact of the show is quite big.
Watching the queens compete, with a dose of words like spilling tea, yas queen and realness, feels for many as diving into an entirely new linguistic world. Little do know the origin of the slang, since they were borrowed/stolen from especially communities of color, which has been going on for a long time. It was only a matter of time before the slang was massively taken on worldwide by queers but also cis straight people seem to like the taste of it. Since internet culture is always putting meaning into words which can be evocative and funny, in the time of the meme it’s only obvious drag lingo goes a long way.
Not only the slang is extremely popular, but drag’s position in pop culture saw a change around the 1990s, when vogueing (dance style based on fashion shows and poses from magazines) was the first drag trend to be taken on from drag culture. It was later used by Madonna, who hired drag dancers to teach her how to do it and she even released a song called “Vogue”.
Impact Viral Culture On The Show’s Popularity
It doesn’t take long, until a format like RuPaul’s Drag Race and its continuous supply of new words, sayings and fashion trends is picked up by the internet and propelled forward in a viral way. Between season seven and nine, the show has seen an increase in ratings of approximately 600.000.
It was only a matter of time before the show would be constantly quoted in talk shows and of course all over the internet. During the shows itself, the contestants who usually already had a sort of a following on social media, they still maintain their social media accounts and comment on the events that take place in the show each episode. Thus, creating a full experience for fans, which accelerates the popularity of the show due to it being up to date and a full picture.
Some of the biggest memes taking over the internet happened recently. When a contestant of the show, Vanessa Vanjie Mateo, was eliminated after a lip synch battle. Whilst exiting the runway to exit the stage, she kept saying “Miss Vanjie….Miss Vanjie”. It was only a matter of time before the internet was stacked with memes and viral tweets about the newly found slur. When people see this viral tweets, their interest may be sparked which creates great prosumer marketing for the talent show.
— cozy blessed asian (@tribranchvo) March 31, 2018
Big stars like Christina Aguilera, Lady Gaga and also famous YouTube stars like Tyler Oakley, Kingsleyyy and Anthony Padilla also appeared on the show. Because of the show’s popularity, they make their appearance on the show, but also by being on the show for an episode, fans of these stars will also learn about the show which is great promotion for RuPaul’s Drag Race.
How The Show Uses Its Current Influence 4 Good
When watching the show, you can find yourself tearing up over the heartbreaking backstories of the contestants. The topic being queer in the current United States of America, and the hardships that come along with that, are often discussed among the contestants. Contestant Dusty Ray Bottoms opened up about how his family, once he came out to them, even sent him to conversion therapy, which to this day often still is a big issue in America.
Besides that, the contestants of the show often play into the current political climate in a comedic way but with a harsh undertone, poking at political leaders and tense situations between countries. During the epic Snatch Game, in which contestants are sat at a panel and need to play a character, contestant Aquaria had a very clever impersonation of Melania Trump.
When on June 26 (2016), a deadly mass shooting took place in the Pulse Night Club in Orlando, Florida with a count of 50 people losing their lives, this was a massive shock for the LGBTQ+ community. The gay club was a hot spot for drag performers and some of the RuPaul’s Drag Race contestants even had some ties to the tragedy. It is very important that conversations, like these on Drag Race, take place to at least wake up some people about the tragedies still taking place to this day due to a weak gun control in America.
It is extremely well done that the show recognizes its influence, on not only pop culture, but now the scope is so much broader with the entire world watching what unravels on the talent show. It is only to be respected how the show values social and political topics to be discussed to use their influence in a good way. With All Stars 4 coming up, we are only looking forward to seeing how the impact of this well put together show will unfold.