When the news first broke out that RuPaul would be producing a Drag Race UK, I was far from subdued. I felt sick from anxiety. Being an avid fan of Drag Race in its American format, I had an irrational fear of how we Brits may tarnish the standard of the show. These Queens would no longer be on the other side of the Atlantic, an abstract and distant thought. Instead, these Queens would be from where I was raised – meaning that, in many ways, these Queens were now representing me.
I’d like to think I watch Drag Race like a sport. Throughout each season, you could find me betting with my boyfriend on who I thought would win, who I thought should have won each challenge, yelling at the screen when one of my girls smashed a lip-sync. I became so enamoured with the show I began following the statistics of how many wins a Queen had, how often they were in the bottom two – I would even watch reviews of past Queens discussing each new season. Needless to say, Drag Race is important to me. Hence why I forced my hopes down when Drag Race UK was announced in fear of being disappointed.
I remember how special season 11 had been, as I awaited each episode with bliss anticipation to see whether my girls would survive the next challenge. Watching it in this slow release style somehow made it much more enjoyable, something we scarcely have time for with the popularity of binge watching. But with the BBC taking over the show, this aspect has remained, which lifted my hopes ever so slightly.
But, American humour. How do you put that well established format into British context? My hope was that they didn’t. That they leave as much of the US show in the US and focus on crafting something new. British humour is an enigma the whole world can appreciate, be it positively or negatively; it’s there, and you’ll know it as soon as you hear it.
I didn’t want any of the myriad of techniques American Queens have used to “enhance” their personality. I didn’t want to hear any tongue pops, see any death drops or watch as a Queen creates drama for screen time.
I wanted to see the individuals under the character-types, more than just “the comedy queen”, “the look queen” and “the alternative queen” battling for the crown whilst the others try and keep up. I wanted a good, well-rounded competition that had me at the edge of my seat every episode. I guess you could say I wanted a lot of things. But more than anything, I just wanted Drag Race UK to stand on its own, a testament to the UK drag scene.
With the Queens being in such a similar environment, it took the entire first episode to accept that this was in fact, a very different show. But four episodes in and I know I’ve got what I wanted. The Queens were unabashedly themselves from the start. Many of them care little about their presentation on camera, say much more than they probably should, and all of them are unapologetically hilarious.
But, beneath all the cackle-inducing humour, was a layer of emotion from each of the Queens never really seen before on Drag Race. I had, I admit, felt awkward watching these Queens be so honest with themselves, with each other, and even with the judges, unwilling to hide how they felt in the moment. But quickly that awkwardness changed, as I began to realise that this may be what I was looking for. This was it – multi-faceted individuals beneath one-dimensional characters.
Many of these Queens have been waiting for this opportunity since the US show started, and unlike the US Queens, none of the British cast are involved because of a big cash prize; these Queens are here because they love what they do and how they do it. These Queens want to give their audience everything, and by doing this, they boycott the typical nature of “the look queen” or “the comedy queen” and give you more.
This first season has offered more than I could have ever expected and I fully endorse it to anyone, even if it is just for the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see David Attenborough Drag. My only disappointment is the lack of Scottish representation, with this country having such a diverse drag scene. The last four episodes have left me incredibly unsure where to place my bets, but that doesn’t mean I won’t; Divina De Campo and Baga Chipz, I have my eyes on you.
Thank you, girls, for doing an excellent job so far, and blowing the US season one out of the water in comparison.