RuPaul’s Drag Race, the bedazzled, padded, love-yourself empowerment anthem of a TV show, has always been a breath of fresh air, resuscitating joy, love, and fierceness into its audience’s often dying spirits with each new season.
These days, that breath is more of a dramatic gasp, a desperate choking for life and, more poignantly, love at a time defined by bleakness, dividing hate, fear, and dread. Times like these may require more heavy-lifting than Drag Race’s usual runway of lip-synching, snatching goddesses. It needs drag superheroes. So Ru has enlisted her All-Stars. Thursday night, the third crop of the bunch came to the rescue in the RuPaul’s Drag Race: All Stars 3 premiere.
While RuPaul’s Drag Race has, in an arc that is improbable bordering on impossible in this overstuffed television landscape, become more popular, more entertaining, and more critically celebrated—work that Emmy, Ru—its crowning achievement was its victory lap at the height of that surging popularity, the second outing of RuPaul’s Drag Race: All Stars.
For all the talent and pageantry, an undercurrent of purpose is ever-present. This isn’t as much a reality competition as it is a movement by way of group therapy.
Through the contestants’ journeys, the audiences work through the pains and the pleasures of coming out, being rejected by society, finding a tribe, owning your fabulousness, mending relationships, and finding yourself. The icing on the cake was the top-to-bottom fierceness of the show’s top-tier talents, sashaying weekly on our TVs right up until the dawn of Election Day.
Drag, of course, is an inherently political act. This season promises to be explicitly political at times too: Nancy Pelosi will be one of the guest judges.
And so it was particularly inspiring, perhaps necessary, and certainly cathartic, when the next season of queens took the baton from the season 2 all-stars and continued that marathon mission of Ru’s: Everybody say love; love yourself, ’cause how the hell how you gonna love somebody else; we’re all born naked and the rest is drag.
They waved that proverbial flag straight through to the finale, in which flower petals rained down that message from inside winner Sasha Velour’s wig. The marginalized? The ones feeling unseen by the administration? The ones fearful of what the political climate might mean for the future? Your tribe is here for you. They’re fierce, they’re talented, and they’re full of love, too.