*This post contains very small details about RuPaul's Drag Race U.K. season 1 episode 1 — we would not call them spoilers. Non U.K. readers can watch the show on WOW Presents Plus or Logo.
The contestants on RuPaul’s Drag Race can make a lot of money. When you add in all of the gifts and prizes, queens can really come away from the show with a fully-equipped bag. Of course, that doesn’t count any endorsements they pick up after the show from their notoriety. But that’s not the case in the new RuPaul’s Drag Race U.K.
On the season’s debut episode, we are introduced to the 10 competing queens. They are fine enough. There’s a bisexual, baby queen names Scaredy Kat who is dating a bio queen and just got started in the business. She’s such a baby queen, in fact, that she’s never performed on stage before. There’s also competitors like The Vivienne who, a few years ago, was named by RuPaul herself to be Drag Race’s U.K. ambassador. It’s quite the line up! But after all of the introductions, Ru herself (well himself, in this case) emerges to welcome the contestants.
“Welcome to the first-ever RuPaul’s Drag Race U.K,” Ru said for his opening address. “I’ve personally selected each of you because you represent the rich past and the bright future of drag in the United Kingdom.” The host went on to call the assembled group the “21st century global identity,” essentially calling them a mix of cultures, gussied up in makeup and glitter. Ok, but what about the money?
“At the grand finale, the winner will be crowned the U.K.’s first Drag Race Superstar,” Ru said. “Then she’ll be whisked off to Hollywood to star in her very own digital series, produced by the hit-making team that created RuPaul’s Drag Race.” Wait what?
This is no shade to World of Wonder, the amazing team behind Drag Race, but for the past few seasons the prize for winning the show has been a “grand prize of $100,000” — the most recent winner Yvie Oddly also bagged a year’s supply of Anastasia Beverly Hills cosmetics. Even if you go back to the first season of the show (which you can now do on Hulu,) Ru offers up a feature photo spread in Paper Magazine, a portrait taken by renowned photographer Greg Gorman, a headlining slot on an Absolut Vodka tour across the U.S., plus a cash prize of $20,000. So what gives?
While some (mostly Americans) speculated that the lack of financial compensation came from lack of budget, it’s actually because television works differently across the pond.
As RuPaul’s Drag Race UK is a BBC show, they actually can’t have any sponsorships. The show airs without commercials (or adverts as the Brits call them) and can’t sport any paid endorsements. Looks like Ru can take a break from saying “courtesy of” for one out of every five lines she speaks!
The rule isn’t only for the grand prize though. This also will explain why, at the end of the episodes, when the winner of the week is announced they don’t get some fancy weekend trip to Iceland (which probably wouldn’t be that fancy to a European anyway., but instead get a Ru Peter Badge. The award's name is a play on the BBC’s Blue Peter badge, given out for a children’s show of the same name.
But that’s it, that’s all. Hopefully after the show, someone can hook them up with a deal or something — love WOW Presents Plus, but if you check their lineup, queens get shows there whether they win or not — to make it worth their while. Or maybe the infamous Ru bump on Instagram will do the job.