Note: This story does not contain any spoilers as it relates to eliminated queens or the winner of RuPaul’s Drag Race U.K. season one winners. So read away!
Well … it’s over. The first season of RuPaul’s Drag Race U.K. has come and gone. Ten queens sauntered through the Werk Rooms, adding to the 140 queens from previous seasons in the U.S. — as well as more from Thailand and a related grouping from The Switch in Chile — along with seven Brit Crew members. The show has been years in progress, with Michelle Visage being its most vocal (and probably hardworking) proponent, but now that it's ended was it worth it?
To put it bluntly, if you come to Drag Race for the drama, Drag Race U.K. is probably not for you! Sure there’s a little bit of it, but the in-fighting, legendary Untucked reads, and strategized scheming is pretty much nonexistent here. Maybe that will come with time (Untucked is not an additional show but is instead content that might appear on the series were this the U.S. show is edited into the actual episode) but maybe it won’t. But what this means is that you watch the show for the drag and the performances. Which brings us to the queens themselves.
As you’ve probably been worn before, there is a polish in American drag — underscored, emphasized, and buttressed by not only Ru’s own presentation as the most well-known drag queen but also the fact that she’s been deciding the faces of dag for a decade. That same polish isn’t yet shared by British drag overall, and that certainly shows up on the show. There are a few look queens on the show like Gothy Kendoll and The Vivienne, but they are vastly in the minority. Instead, you have performers.
One of the ongoing issues with Drag Race, regardless of where its set, is that it doesn’t necessarily allow queens the opportunity to show what they do best consistently. The smart ones learn to work their strengths into any challenge regardless of the objective. This serves well for queens of comedy like Baga Chipz. But it means that for others, who prize their lip-sync talent, we only get to truly see them in their element when they hit the bottom. Take Vinegar Strokes for example.
But while makeup and ballroom culture are not as central to the history of British drag — there is notably no ballroom-themed maxi-challenge this season — there is quite the history of vocal performance, and that comes through on the show. Not only do we find guest consultant MNEK surprised by the vocal range of contestants like Divina de Campo, but the track she appeared on from the show, created in collaboration with a few of the other queens, hit the music charts in the U.K.
Drag Race U.K. is worth the watch if you’re in it for the queens. If you came to see a drag competition, unmired (mostly) by the politics and hate, it’s a quality show! And while they could do with some updates — ahem, more Brit Crew and more challenges the allow contestants to sing — it’s a solid competition and will likely help to raise the profile of the national scene there.
Now. if only that could turn into a cash prize for the winner!