This week we look back at RuPaul’s Drag Race looking back on its own first season. Five years from now, we should look back at this.
Normally it’s my practice not to cover recap/behind-the-scenes episodes of shows. One: I’m already doing recaps, so why do the work twice? Also, since it’s usually a reality game show that gets this kind of treatment, if the clips didn’t make the first cut there must have been a reason.1
However, this episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race was more than a clip show. Along with a significant herstory lesson, we also got exposure to what would be future stars in the Drag Race universe. Enough preamble, let’s get to the awesomeness.
Know your herstory. One of the important things to note about this show: this is the most mainstream drag will probably ever be. Back in 2009, it is quite possible this is the first real exposure people had to this particular community, its conventions and its history.2 RuPaul opens this episode with a photographic history of notable drag queens, including Marsh P Johnson, who threw one of the first bricks at the Stonewall riots. Other queens featured were Divine, Lady Bunny, the cast of Paris is Burning, and a few you may recognize from the drag challenge episode of Project Runway.
Before they were stars. Audition videos can be hit-or-miss, but what’s interesting about these clips are the number of queens who later appeared on the show. Many of the clips are from season 2 queens Pandora Boxx, Raven, Sahara Davenport and Nicole Paige Brooks. No one for season 3 or 4 was featured,3 but we did see season 5 contestants Detox and Alaska. Hiiiiiiiiiieeeeee.
Tricks of the trade. BeBe offered a quick tutorial on cooking: allowing makeup on your face to settle so that the next layer blends more naturally. We also get a tucking tutorial from Jade, who is probably not the best source for this particular information.
Catchphrases. This season alone featured seven different catchphrases:
- Charisma, Uniqueness, Nerve, Talent
- Gentlemen, start your engines, and may the best woman win.
- The time has come for you to lip sync for your life.
- Don’t fuck it up.
- Extravaganza eleganza!
There have been so many more in the ensuing years. Although Twitter was around when the show first started, all these phrases existed without a hashtag in front of it.
Backdoor pilot.4 Although there was plenty of footage available of the queens sitting in the green room waiting for the RuPaul’s verdict each week, the concept of Untucked did not fully form until season 2. One of the pop-up graphics mentioned that the producers kept finding themselves distracted by the conversations the contestants would have as they decompressed. From the clips we see everything looks jovial, but add alcohol and a pink furry box and you have excellent companion programming.
- Either it wasn’t interesting or does not have anything to do with the overall story. It’s usually the former. ↵
- It’s worth pointing out that VH1 was rerunning the show after a day or so after the initial broadcast on Logo, so there was a much larger potential audience. ↵
- They may not have applied, or maybe their videos were crap. How would the producers have known? ↵
- Dirty! ↵