Drag Race UK is here and queer

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By Emily Tuson, 2nd Year, History of Art

Ru Paul’s Drag Race made its UK debut and it is a roaring success. 10 queens transform the American show into something that celebrates everything that is quintessentially British.

After years of waiting, RuPaul’s Drag Race UK has finally arrived, and it is a wonderfully British triumph. The beloved American reality show has undergone a few tweaks - no cash prize and untucked features within the main episode - but essentially remains the camp extravaganza we all know and love.

It's a baptism of fire for American viewers, with the first queen entering the werk room being the self-proclaimed ‘trollop’ Baga Chipz. Her introduction is a verbal assault of British-isms, including knickers, knockers and shag. Nine other queens - making the 10 person line up slightly more accessible for new viewers than season 11’s 15 girls - follow her.

Episode 1's judging panel featured Alan Carr, RuPaul Andre Charles, Andrew Garfield - in comically wide trousers, and Michelle Visage | BBC / RuPaul's Drag Race UK

A wide variety of drag styles are represented, from artsy makeup queen Blu Hydrangea, to old-fashioned showgirl Davina de Campo. We also meet the youngest ever queen to compete on the show, Scaredy Kat, who at 19 has only been doing drag for 11 months. She is also bi and the first queen to compete with a girlfriend, a fact that the other queens seemed shocked by but are very accepting of.

We are blessed with what may now be my favourite entrance ever - sorry Laganja Estranja - ‘Vinegar Strokes,’ who announced that ‘I didn’t become a little bit of a slag, I became a total slaaaag’, at which everyone in my flat lost it.

The highlight though was imagining an American audience’s bafflement

The first photo shoot, which - spoiler - Scaredy wins, is ‘off with her head’ themed, but acts more as a vehicle for banter between Ru and the contestants. Baga explains what ‘gobshite’ means and we are treated to ‘The Vivienne’s’ flawless Kim Woodburn impression.

One slight disappointment is that the first challenge was not a design based but featured pre-made looks. There is some good mirror chat though, as Gothy talks about her insecurity over her teeth and Vinegar easily steps into the mum role talking to Scaredy about her lack of experience. Baga and ‘The Vivienne’ already know each other and I can see a close bond forming.

Runway time! First category is Queen of your Hometown. My favourites are Crystal’s Pearly King and Queen, Victor and Rolf inspired, three-day bender look as well as ‘The Vivienne’s’ homage to Pete Burns.

This isn’t representative of the UK or its drag scene

The highlight though was imagining an American audience’s bafflement when Sum Ting Wong walked out dressed up as an actual shopping centre/bull to represent Birmingham. The second category featured outfits inspired by The Queen. The most successful looks are the more humorous, left field ones, such as Sum Ting Wong’s stamp, Blu’s pound coin and ‘The Vivienne’s’ hunting Queen.

On to the judging, and Michelle and Ru are joined by Alan Carr and evident Drag Race super-fan Andrew Garfield, who seems to be having the time of his life. His puns and comments - ‘she puts the sex in Essex’ - are so bad they’re good, and his advice to Gothy Kendoll about how to battle her nerves are heart-warming.

Gothy is clearly in the bottom, her nerves got the better of her and I’ve never seen a queen look more reluctant when walking down the runway. Joining her is Vinegar, whose vibrant personality was at odds with her basic and rather cheap looking outfits. ‘The Vivienne’ wins and is rewarded with a ‘Ru Peter’ badge, with Sum Ting and Baga praised for their presentations.

The Werk Room is reminiscent of the US set | BBC / RuPaul's Drag Race UK

The lip-sync to ‘New Rules’ isn’t one for the history books but Vinegar steals the show and is a clear winner. I liked Gothy but she really didn’t seem to have the confidence needed to compete. The Vivienne stands out at this point as a front-runner, but my personal favourite is Crystal – I hope we get to see more of her next week.

Overall this was a fabulous first episode, reminding me of the vintage seasons of the US version, with slightly less polish than recent seasons but lots more fun. My one criticism surrounds the line-up – out of ten queens the only racial diversity comes from Vinegar and Sum Ting. This isn’t representative of the UK or its drag scene. Hopefully it will be addressed in future seasons, which I am already looking forward to; Drag Race UK was a roaring success.

Featured: BBC / RuPaul's Drag Race UK


How do you think Drag Race UK stands up to its US counterpart?

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