Like a reverse Mayflower covered in hairspray, RuPaul’s Drag Race is coming to the UK. BBC Three and World of Wonder announced on Wednesday that the groundbreaking, Emmy-winning reality competition will be adapted for British television with RuPaul hosting, although hopefully not doing an accent.
“It is a dream come true to extend our royal family to the United Kingdom with our partners at BBC Three,” RuPaul said in a statement. “I am beyond excited to celebrate the massive charisma, uniqueness, nerve and talent of the Queen’s queens. And before anyone asks, yes, we would be thrilled to have Meghan Markle join us, as we are already preparing a ‘Royal-Mother-To-Be’ runway challenge.”
Like America, the UK has drag roots deeply embedded in its culture, intricately woven into to the country’s punk history. “Drag in the UK is routed in performance and cabaret, we don't have the same pageant history the US does so there's an instant difference,” says British queen Cybil War, who throws a monthly party in London called Cybil’s House. “There's no denying that Drag Race has had an influence on UK drag but we're a really diverse community that's maintained that punk vibe.”
Over 10 seasons (and soon to be four seasons of All Stars) in America, Drag Race has helped create a new standard for drag that clearly springs from its pageant routes — from wigs to stoned tights to seven-minute performance track mixes, most queens in the U.S. adhere to the type of drag seen on television, although of course a more underground counterculture has long existed and continues to thrive. In the UK, a more punk form of drag is the norm, and British queens like Cybil War are hopeful Drag Race adapts to fit British Drag rather than aiming to change it.
“If you're going to do a UK version of the show you have to honor the essence of what's unique about drag in the UK,” says Cybil War. “The UK's Next Drag Superstar can't and shouldn't be selected by the same criteria as America's Next Drag Superstar. The histories are too different.”
This isn’t the first international edition of the show: earlier this year, Drag Race Thailand premiered on LINE TV with a group 10 contestants, co-hosted by Thai/Taiwanese drag queen Pangina Heals and stylist Art-Araya In-dra.
Whatever the form it takes, queens are excited to see British drag getting the recognition it deserves.
"I’m so excited that Drag Race is coming over this side of the pond — it’s a glimmer of hope and glitter for Brexit Britain," says UK queen and nightlife impresario Jodie Harsh. "I know RuPaul is in for a treat — the queens over here are so talented and diverse."
“I think it's great to see the show finally coming to our shores and can't wait to see our community finally getting it's moment in the spotlight,” adds Cheddar Gorgeous, another UK queen. “2019 will be the year of British drag!”
RuPaul’s Drag Race will premiere in the UK in 2019.
Editor’s Note: This piece has been updated to include comment from an additional source.