Since it first aired all the way back in 2009, RuPaul's Drag Race has developed from a low-budget reality show into a cultural phenomenon. This drag-centered competition has millions of passionate fans from all around the world and is still going strong almost a decade after its launch. Turns out a lot of people love looking on as a group of drag queens battles it out for the impressive title of "America's Next Drag Superstar!" Some impressive looks hit the runway, a lot of shade is thrown, and more than a little bit of drama ensues. What's not to love?
However, even hugely popular shows like Drag Race have their darker side. Behind the scenes, a lot of questionable stuff goes down that RuPaul would prefer to keep a secret. Nothing is ever as straightforward as it seems, and the glitz and glamour that's presented on the show is often a cover for stress, shady behavior, and shocking situations. It's hard to look at Drag Race in the same way when you hear about what goes on behind the scenes. Here are just some of the surprising secrets that past queens and other 'informants' have let slip in the past...
For years now, it's been rumored that the outcome of each season of Drag Race is fixed. Apparently, RuPaul and Logo TV producers select which contestant they want to win before filming even begins. There's no way of proving this is the case, of course - it could just be hearsay.
However, back in 2015 an alleged show 'insider', according to realityblurred.com, claimed that while not all Drag Race drama is pre-planned, a lot of it most definitely is. This anonymous Redditor 'proved' their credentials by correctly spoiling the Season 7 top three queens.
They then claimed that the season's elimination order had been fixed all along. Were they telling the truth? I guess we'll never know. However, it's certainly possible that Ru would want to fix the show to make it as gag-worthy as possible. It'd bring in more viewers, after all! Ru has denied all of these allegations... But then she would, wouldn't she?
Okay, to be slightly fair to RuPaul here, we've all been in one of those situations where we can't for the life of us remember someone's name. However, as the host of a TV show that features some pretty uniquely-named competitors, you think she'd have made at least a slight effort to remember who everyone is! Apparently not, though - forgetting names seems to be a pretty common occurrence for poor Ru. We don't know whether it's because she doesn't care about her queens enough to learn their names, or because she just has a poor memory. Either way, on her podcast "What's The Tee?" Ru often can't quite remember who various past Drag Race stars are. She once blatantly forgot Nina Bo'Nina Brown's name while she was still a contestant on the show! Talk about short-term memory loss...
While Drag Race may just look like fun and games to its viewers, it's actually a very stressful and isolating experience for its contestants. Security both on and off-set is tight, and the queens are pretty much cut off from the outside world during filming. They're not allowed to use their phones or have visits from friends and family.
A tape is placed across their hotel room doors at night so that producers can check whether they've been sneaking out or not! The current queens have Season Four alumni Willam to thank for that - more on that situation later...
Numerous queens have spoken out about the loneliness they felt while filming Drag Race, and by the sounds of it, their complaints are justified. Being unable to speak to or see anyone who isn't a part of the show's team for weeks on end must get pretty tough. Sure, it prevents spoilers from leaking, but shouldn't the contestants' welfare come first?
RuPaul has a habit of looking totally stunning both in and out of drag. Seriously - her stylist is a genius! Whether Ru is rocking a sharp suit or a gorgeous gown, she takes our breath away. However, her looks on the catwalk aren't quick or easy to achieve. In fact, it takes a whopping SIX HOURS of work for her to get ready before each episode of Drag Race is filmed! On an episode of Hollywood Today Live, Ru revealed to host and fellow Drag Race judge Ross Matthews that she could be ready in an hour if she tried. However, she and her wardrobe and makeup team like to make an event of the process! Ru makes her way to the Drag Race set at 6 am each morning to allow plenty of time for getting ready. She tests out a lot of gowns and makeup styles before deciding which is best for the occasion. It all sounds exhausting, to be honest!
There have been plenty of feuds between Drag Race queens over the years, many of which are still referenced to this day. Who can forget Sharon Needles' bust-up with Phi Phi O'Hara, or Shangela's "sugar daddy" rant to Mimi Imfurst? While some of these arguments were pretty clearly born of obvious animosity between the queens, it's been alleged, by Vulture, that some were in fact scripted.
A good catfight adds drama to any show, so it's no surprise that RuPaul and her fellow Drag Race producers would want to throw some in there for good measure.
Queens are instructed to ask each other questions that are designed to be inflammatory. Even worse, the queens' confessionals are often edited to sound shadier than they actually are! While most so-called 'reality' shows often stage the occasional dramatic moment, some fans have been complaining that RuPaul has taken things too far.
In the past, Drag Race has been subject to some serious leaks of information. The identities of the final three queens or even the show's winner have somehow become public knowledge before the finale airs, ruining the surprise for everyone. In an attempt to combat this, multiple endings to the show are now filmed that crown different winners. Each of the final three gets their 'moment' in the limelight, without being told if they've actually won or not. Their reaction to winning is totally faked: for all they know, they could have come second or third! This was proven in a video showing Trixie Mattel watching AS3 live and actually finding out she won! Only the actual winning queen is told of the final result, and even then they only learn this after the finale has been filmed. Everyone else has to wait until the episode airs on TV to see which ending was the 'real' one. Harsh, but effective! It's practically impossible for the result to get leaked now.
As avid Drag Race fans will know, each episode of the show involves the competing queens showcasing a themed outfit on RuPaul's runway. As they prance up and down the stage, Ru and her fellow judges often make witty or catty jokes about the outfits they're seeing. Ru, in particular, is infamous for her so-bad-they're-good puns.
Everyone has always assumed that the jokes are a spur-of-the-moment thing fresh from the mind of RuPaul herself. However, it's emerged that this may not be the case.
Drag Race Season One competitor Tammie Brown has alleged that Ru's jokes are actually fed to her through an earpiece! The show's producers have neither confirmed nor denied this rumor. However, it's important to note that Tammi isn't the most reliable source. She's notoriously bitter about her unsuccessful Drag Race stint and could have made this story up out of malice. Who knows!
Willam is one of the most controversial contestants in RuPaul's Drag Race herstory. She spoke out about all the tea while on drag race in an interview with Ew.com. She remains the only queen to have been disqualified from the show, leaving in a dramatic fashion in Season Four. In front of the other contestants, Ru called Willam out for breaking the rules of the show - apparently, she enjoyed a visit from her husband in her hotel room, something that's strictly forbidden. After vomiting on-stage, Willam left the competition... Until that season's reunion! She returned to spill the beans on both her elimination and her thoughts on the other queens. While this unexpected return to grace shocked Drag Race viewers at the time, it's now been suggested that the whole thing was a setup. Willam has claimed that it took two hours of negotiations for her return to the show to be confirmed. She was apparently given scripted lines designed to generate the most drama and was basically forced to kick up a fuss by Drag Race producers. Wow! Whatever the circumstances, the Willam incident remains one of the show's biggest controversies.
As we've previously established, each episode of Drag Race involves the competing queens showcasing a gorgeous outfit on the runway. They walk back and forth to the music - always a RuPaul song, of course - while the judges give their commentary. It looks like a seamless process to us viewers!
However, it's actually a more complicated process to film than you'd think. Each queen actually has to walk the runway twice - once to the music, and once with the judges giving their comments.
Awkwardly, the lack of music on the second walk means that the contestants can hear every single word the judges are saying! Even if the comments are less than complimentary, the queens have to keep walking and keep smiling. We can only imagine how difficult that must be...
On every single season of Drag Race, there's that one queen that manages to make herself a whole load of enemies. Whether they're outwardly rude to the other contestants or secretly shady, this mean queen quickly becomes the "villain" of the season. Everyone loves a bad girl, after all - it makes sense to include a Regina George in a room full of Cady Herons! However, a few of the villainized queens have taken issue with the way they were portrayed on the show.
Phi Phi O'Hara did an interview with Vulture and claimed that her scenes were edited to make her look more aggressive than she actually is. Likewise, seasoned queen Milk has objected to her 'edit' in the most recent season of RuPaul's Drag Race Allstars, claiming that it made her look arrogant and delusional.
Of course, only people who've encountered these queens in real life will know whether it really was just an edit, or if they're actually mean girls. We'll have to draw our own conclusions!
Back in Season Five, a lot of Drag Race fans were thrilled when the gender-fluid, narcoleptic, unashamedly weird entertainer that is Jinkx Monsoon won the season. Jinkx had initially been looked down on and repeatedly dismissed by the other girls, who assumed that Monsoon would be easy enough to take down. However, Jinkx proceeded to storm through the season's challenges, eventually beating Alaska and Roxxxy Andrews to the crown. Jinkx was a fan-favorite and an advocate for eccentrics everywhere.
However, after Season Five had concluded, it emerged that they may have had an unfair advantage over the other queens. According to fellow queen Detox, and HuffingtonPost, Drag Race producers decided early on that they wanted Jinkx to win the season. However, they were concerned that their chosen winner's makeup skills weren't up to scratch. To make up for this, Detox was allegedly asked to secretly do Jinkx's makeup. Now, Detox is known for causing drama and has been accused of fabricating this story - most prominently by Jinkx. This could have actually happened, or it could be one queen being bitter that their competitor won the show. We'll never know.
Filming Drag Race is essentially like entering Drag Camp for its contestants. They're put up in hotels and spend most of their days filming, sewing, arguing, and performing. Of course, much of this time is spent on the Drag Race set - a place that's apparently not entirely welcoming for those with unique dietary requirements.
Most meals are provided by the show's catering team, but this is allegedly not a good thing for vegetarian queens. According to past contestant Willam, his fellow competitor Sharon Needles ate nothing but "bread dipped in ranch" for four weeks after caterers failed to provide her with a veggie option.
That's not okay! In the same interview, Willam suggested that the catering team were only given $75 to feed twelve grown men each day. No wonder their food options were lacking in any variety...
Just like any competition, Drag Race has a lot of contestants who ultimately don't go on to be winners. Over nine seasons of the main show, over 100 queens have competed - and only nine have won. That's a lot of disappointed drag queens!
While many competitors on the show were remarkably gracious when their time to leave came, others have been vocally critical about the circumstances of their elimination. In fact, a few queens have accused RuPaul of setting them up to fail.
One of these is Thorgy Thor, who was eliminated shockingly early on in the current season of All Stars. Thorgy claims that Ru deliberately gave her a boring part in a group performance to hasten her exit from the competition. A lot of outraged fans actually sided with Thorgy on this one! Ru had better be careful - she doesn't want to alienate her fanbase too much...
Only long-term Drag Race fans will remember the brief period in which Merle Ginsberg sat on the show's judging panel. Merle's time on Drag Race was short but sweet: fans praised her well-thought-out critiques of the queens and their runway looks. However, she was ultimately replaced by Ru's best friend Michelle Visage from the show's third season onwards. Many fans felt that it was cruel for Ru to toss Merle aside for Michelle like that. However, it's now been discovered and revealed by paradoxxx, that Merle was only ever intended to be a temporary judge until Michelle became available! At the time of Drag Race's first season, Michelle was stuck in a contract with a CBS radio station and thus unable to star on the show. When she finally broke free of her radio job, Michelle was able to take her place as Ru's right-hand woman. Merle clearly doesn't have any hard feelings about the situation - she returned to Drag Race in Season Seven as a one-off guest judge!
Generally, each season of RuPaul's Drag Race is broadcast over the course of three months. Each episode is presented as a new 'week' in the show, giving the illusion that filming lasts for this amount of time as well. However, the reality couldn't be more different! Each season of the show is actually recorded in just four incredibly hectic weeks, and each on-screen 'week' is two or three real-time days.
Episodes are filmed back-to-back, with the queens regularly pulling 12-hour shifts on the Main Stage. While that would be tiring for anyone, imagine doing that in full drag and huge high-heeled shoes! It can't be comfortable.
However, this is the cheapest way for the show to be produced, so it's the one that Logo TV went with. No wonder contestants find the whole experience so draining! They must barely get a moment's rest!
In recent weeks, RuPaul has been caught up in a controversy surrounding her attitude to transgender individuals participating in Drag Race. Vox.com reported that while numerous contestants have come out as trans either during or after their time on the show, only Season Nine queen Peppermint was fully 'out' when she was first recruited for the show. Ru claimed that in general, transgender women shouldn't be allowed to take part in drag culture, as they're not 'masculine' enough to provide the shock value needed. Peppermint was an exception as she had not yet completed her physical transition when filming began. This angered a lot of trans activists - including Peppermint - who accused Ru of being exclusionary and borderline transphobic.
This isn't the first time the show has been under fire - the segment "You've Got She-Mail" had to be removed from past seasons following complaints from trans activists over the use of a negative anti-trans slur. While Ru has now apologized for her comments, a lot of transgender activists feel it's too little, too late.
Out of all of the Drag Race "villains" to grace our TV screens, Phi Phi O'Hara has to be the most controversial of all. O'Hara - real name Jaremi Carey - has caused problems for the show both on and off-screen. In Season Four, Phi Phi was portrayed as something of a bully to a lot of her fellow queens. She especially clashed with the season's eventual winner, Sharon Needles, getting into a memorable shouting match with her adversary.
In All-Stars 2, Phi Phi was brought back for what many fans saw as a shot at redemption. Unfortunately, she quickly proved that she hadn't changed at all: she verbally attacked and manipulated many fellow contestants.
Once the show had begun to air, Phi Phi claimed that she'd been misrepresented by producers. She got her revenge by revealing numerous on-set secrets and threatening to spoil the outcome of the season. Needless to say, this didn't go down well. Phi Phi's reputation has never quite recovered.
While RuPaul's Drag Race has given many up-and-coming queens a valuable chance to showcase their talents to the world, not every contestant has stayed close to RuPaul after the cameras stopped rolling. In fact, Ru is no longer on speaking terms with some of the queens she recruited for her show.
For example, Season Six queen Courtney Act revealed that Ru had blocked her on Twitter, presumably because Courtney had questioned the transphobic nature of the "You've Got She-Mail" segment.
Controversial queens Willam and Phi Phi O'Hara are also on less than great terms with Ru, although it's easy to see why considering their past behavior. In general, Ru seems to clash with any queen that offers up criticism of her show in any way. While we understand wanting to block out needless negativity, some of these queens have given constructive opinions on how Drag Race could be improved. Sadly, Ru doesn't seem to care about what they have to say!