One of the best things about PaleyFest is getting to learn all about the fun, behind-the-scenes secrets of your favorite TV shows. It’s no surprise that the show with the most charisma, uniqueness, nerve, and talent, RuPaul’s Drag Race, is fairly complex to make. During the RuPaul panel in Los Angeles at PaleyFest LA, the producers and judges revealed what has made them cry, gag, and yell “Yaaas Gawd!” over the years:
1) Originally the show looked a lot different
RuPaul’s Drag Race first came to life over 10 years ago but, in the early stages, it wasn’t even a race. RuPaul didn’t want to do a reality competition show because he felt that those types of shows were far too mean. However, the producers convinced him that a show filled with a bunch of catty drag queens wouldn’t be mean, but more snarky and entertaining. What the producers didn’t expect were for the queens to bring so much heart to the show, thus turning RuPaul’s Drag Race into one of the most endearing and positive shows on television.
2) The earlier queens were picked to appeal to a mainstream audience
If you think the queens from seasons 1 and 2 are a lot tamer compared to the queens from season 11, you’re not imagining things. The producers specifically picked queens that would help introduce an audience unfamiliar with drag to the magical world of death drops and kiki’s. They also didn’t want to pick anyone who was too extreme, fearing that they would drive away potential viewers. RuPaul had to fight just to get the eccentric Tammie Brown on who was considered “too weird” by producers. It wasn’t until Sharon Needles appeared in season 4 that the producers decided to bring on more quirky and outrageous queens.
3) The producers have cried at the same moments you have
Just like all of us watching at home and in bars, the producers wept when fan favorite Ongina admitted she was HIV Positive on season 1. However, that wasn’t the only moment when tears fell. The producers also cried when Roxxy Andrews admitted that her mother left she and her sister at a bus stop when she was three years old. While some fans thought that Roxxy did this to save herself from elimination, the producers – like RuPaul and judge Michelle Visage – couldn’t believe that a parent could do that to their child, and were truly touched by Roxxy’s confession.
4) Michelle Visage Loves that the Show Brings Families Together
While some of the queens’ backstories are admittedly bleak, their courage in sharing them is helping others. Michelle Visage, who is the mother of a queer child, loves seeing parents with their queer children at DragCon and Drag Race events. And despite the many queens who have rocky relationships with their families, others have actually grown closer to their loved ones thanks to the show.
5) It’s hard to tell who will do well
While many fans tend to pick their favorites in the first episode (even going so far as to participate in Drag Race fantasy leagues), the judges honestly have no idea who will sink and who will swim. Due to the sheer pressure put on queens and the insane filming schedule (each episode is filmed in two days!) a queen’s performance can vary wildly by the day. Thus the judges don’t tend to pick favorites, and are often as surprised as you are when an otherwise stellar queen falters.
6) The judges have a lot of dream judges
Michelle Visage revealed that all of the guest judges who have been on the show volunteered to be there and had a blast in the process. The judges have a few more folks who they would like to appear on the show, including Madonna, Judge Judy, Michelle Obama, and the notorious Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
And a final fact to goop you
RuPaul really wants the Dolby Theater (where the Oscars are filmed) to be called the El Pollo Loco Theater. Really.
Season 11 of RuPaul’s Drag Race is currently airing Thursdays on VH1!