Any fan of RuPaul's Drag Race will tell you that it's the smartest, most creative, hilarious, and heartfelt reality show on television. But what about RuPaul's Drag Race behind the scenes? Is it as outrageous as one might expect? Are Ru and the gang as enchanting as they appear onscreen?
Well, yes. It should come as no surprise that the show that brought the art of drag to mainstream audiences is just as fascinating behind the camera. The secrets of the making of RuPaul's Drag Race not only highlight the stunning originality of this show, but the massive amounts of heart, talent, and humor that have gone into it making it a cultural icon. It has become the quintessential definition of must-see television, and viewers have been along for the wildest and most fun ride imaginable. Where else but on Drag Race could one learn the proper way to do a wig reveal, unlock the mysteries of breastplates and padding, and discover the joys of death-drops, tongue-pops, and reading your competitors? Drag lingo is essential to understanding queens, and its found its way to the mainstream in all the best and most utilitarian ways.
Pop on your best wig and check your tuck: it's time to take a sequined deep-dive into RuPaul's Drag Race secrets.
The first season of Drag Race was a markedly different show than what you see today. The camera lens, which appeared to be smeared with a thick coating of Vaseline, captured a rough-around-the-edges competition that sometimes worked — and sometimes didn't. But one of the most surprising elements of the show's first season — which, because of its relative weirdness, is often referred to as "The Lost Season" — was its filming location: Ru's garage. Ru has talked openly about the budgetary limitations placed on the show, and during the filming of Season 1, before it was a cultural touchstone, no one was willing to throw extra money their way. But necessity is the drag-mother of invention, so Ru's garage became the Season 1 set.
Unsurprisingly, RuPaul has a dressing room fit for a queen. Actually, two dressing rooms fit for a queen. One holds gowns, the other holds suits. The gown room is, also not surprisingly, a fashionista's dream, containing rows of gowns and shoes, a tableful of jewelry, and a large makeup station. Oh, and a seven-foot-tall mirror. The room with the suits — most of which were custom-made by Klein Epstein & Parker — contains outfits for Ru's male persona.
As with any television show, filming is a long process. To pass the time, the cast and crew sometimes play dirty charades between takes. Ru, as proven by his social media, is sort of obsessed with the game. On his phone, he keeps a running list of ideas for words and phrases to act out in the game, including gems like How I Wet Your Mother and Sperms of Endearment. Dirty charades have long been a favorite pastime for Ru. He's even held dirty charade parties.
When Drag Race was in the early stages of development, its producers had a very different vision for the show than what RuPaul originally imagined. As a result, Ru had to fight for the show he wanted to make. "Producers were just looking for the nasty side of the human experience, and I definitely didn't want to be a part of that," he told the New York Times.
Eventually, he had to compromise and include some typical competition-reality-show elements — but he didn't compromise when it came to the network. At first, Logo wanted to dictate the types of queens the show featured; for instance, they resisted the inclusion of the delightful oddball Tammie Brown in Season 1. But Ru stood firm on this and many other points — and the rest is herstory.