After five seasons and sixty-one sickening drag queens, Rupaul’s Drag Race has seen its fair share of lip syncs, shade and a whole bunch of fake titties. Some queens we’d rather not remember. (Rebecca Glass…Huh?) But most have become proud children of RuPaul’s growing media empire, a community of trannie fiercness waiting to takeover the world. In honor of the fifth season finale airing on Monday, May 6th, I compiled a list of my favorite ten Drag Race queens, including two who will be competing for the title of America;s Next Drag Superstar. Honorable mention to some of my favorites who just missed my top ten: Manila Luzon, Nina Flowers, Pandora Boxx, Detox, Ongina and Dida Ritz.
10. Alaska Thunderfuck
Alaska came onto Drag Race with a giant chip on her shoulder: she was and is the boyfriend of last season’s winner, Sharon Needles. Add to that the fact that she had previously auditioned for every season of the show and been rejected. Alaska probably had more to prove from the get-go than any other queen in Drag Race history. Thankfully, she was more than capable of stepping out of her famous boyfriend’s shadow and establishing a persona that was all her own. Alaska used her trademark nasally voice and weird sense of humor to become the dark horse of season five. The queen of trash and treasure might take the crown…unless some narcoleptic Seattle Jewess grabs it first.
9. Bebe Zahara Benet
Back in season 1, before the entire gay community knew that Drag Race was appointment television, the show was a little more…low-rent. (The season’s first challenge, “Drag on a Dime,” now seems like an inside joke.) The production was certainly cheaper and so was the cash prize—a quarter of what it is today. But you’d never know that looking at Bebe Zahara Benet. Always looking like African royalty, Bebe stomped over other worthy competitors (Ongina, Nina Flowers) to snatch the crown. No other queen in five seasons of the show has deserved to inherit RuPaul’s Glamazon throne more. She deserves a place on this list for her “Face Face Face” rap alone.
8. Latrice Royale
One of the few criticisms Drag Race has received is for its poor representation of plus-sized queens. Over the course of the first three seasons, we had bigger queens who were unpolished (Mystique Summers Madison, Stacie Lane Matthews), boring (Victoria Porkchop Parker, Delta Work) or just plain fucking crazy (Mimi Imfirst). Latrice Royale was so fabulous, it almost seemed like she was cherry picked to make up for her predecessors. Loaded with almost as many catch phrases as RuPaul (“The shade of it all”, “Good God girl, get a grip”, “God is a biscuit, let him sop you up”) and a back story so tragic you couldn’t help but root for her, Latrice presented herself as a big, black, gorgeous goddess, immune to the shade Santino would sometimes throw at her makeup. Large and in charge, chunky yet funky, Latrice Royale only fell short of the final three because of some ridiculous clause that every season finale must include a villain (damn you, Phi Phi). Although, her elimination did provide the most emotional goodbye in Drag Race herstory.
Drag Race is a show that knows what it is: It’s a silly, campy reality show on a cable channel most people have never heard of, featuring drag queens lip sync battling. It’s the first reality show that’s truly embraced its shamelessness in a fun, smart way, which is what makes Willam the perfect contestant. Calling Willam just a fame whore would almost be doing her a disservice; Willam elevates being a fame whore to an art level. Willam took a challenge in which the queens had to decorate mini Pride Parade floats and covered hers with pictures of herself! Willam pretended to cry on the runway and THEN name checked Loretta Divine, who was sitting right in front of him, reminding her they worked together on an episode of Boston Public! Willam got herself kicked off of the show by intentionally breaking the rules because she thought that would make her more infamous than winning! Willam is an evil genius.
Jujubee has been named the Susan Lucci of RuPaul’s Drag Race, coming in third place, both in season two and All-Stars. But, regardless of her perennial runner-up status, Juju is one of the few real winners to come out of the show. While girls like Willam or Sharon Needles might be acquired tastes, everybody agrees on Jujube’s fierceness. Her natural charm and humor might disarm you into thinking she’s not the most badass of bitches, but her fishy runway looks and face-melting lip sync abilities will remind you she’s not to be underestimated.
5. Chad Michaels
It’s almost not fair that Chad Michaels was allowed to be on Drag Race considering his pedigree; as producer of Dream Girls, the longest-running female impersonator revue in California, and the preeminent Cher impersonator in the world, Chad was basically the ringer of season 4. His performance as Cher was (and probably always will be) the best Snatch Game performance of all time. He quickly became defined by his professionalism, but that word doesn’t begin to give justice to his skills as a performer. The most consistent queen of the season, he would have easily taken the crown if it wasn’t for one particular scrappy underdog…
After the epic season 2 finale throw down between Jujube, Tyra and Raven, season 3 felt like a bit of a bust. Not because the season lacked creativity or drama, but because Raja was far and away the best queen, and any outcome other than her victory would have been a series-derailing travesty. Raja was never the most believable female impersonator, but she didn’t have to be. Her balance of high fashion, wit and performance chops proved more than enough to place her on a pedestal next to her two fishier predecessors.
Nobody does bitchiness better than Raven. In the past couple of seasons we’ve seen a series of unpleasant bitches, unable to back up their shade with talent; Raven is not one of those queens. Runner-up both in season 2 (in which she should have beaten the beautiful, but personality-less Tyra) and All-Stars, Raven is the most deserving loser in the bunch. A tall, imposing spider woman, she might have seemed too intimidating, if not for equally impressive humor and overall fierceness. When Raven read a queen, it never seemed to come from a place of jealousy or bitterness, just a deserved superiority.
2. Jinkx Monsoon
Regardless of whether Jinkx ends up taking home the season 5 crown, (I think she will, but Alaska has a good chance too) she’s already secured a major win for all the freaks and weirdos out there. One of the strangest elements of this season has been the Great Pageant/Camp Drag Debate of 2013. Last season, when Sharon Needles trounced the fishier, but less interesting Phi Phi O’Hara, I thought we had heard the last of this. But for weeks, we’ve listened to queens from the pageant world of drag (Roxxxy Andrews and Coco Montrese, most notably) trash Jinkx for her less refined looks and old school drag sensibility. In a community of gay men, many of them racial minorities, dressing up like women, you’d think there would be a little less criticism for being different; but, I guess you’d be wrong. Regardless, Jinkx Monsoon has risen above her detractors and used her quirkiness, wit, comedic precision and retro style to become one of the most interesting queens the show has ever seen.
1. Sharon Needles
Speaking of Sharon Needles, she’s the best. I feel like I shouldn’t have to explain why, but I will anyway. First of all, she’s smart as shit. Her knowledge and love of drag and gay culture is only matched by RuPaul herself. After this season’s Snatch Games, in which a bunch of the queens revealed they didn’t know who Little Edie was, it’s clear that we need more queens like Sharon (and Jinkx and Chad) who actually know their history and can cite references beyond Britney and Lady Gaga. Second, she’s funny as shit. Her plastic surgery victim ensemble, her Michelle Visage impression, basically everything that comes out of her mouth: all gold. Every runway look is a perfect mix of goth and glamour. She has a goddamn heart, for fucksake, which is massively impressive given the staged crying jags that pop up on every other runway and episode of Untucked (I’m looking at you, Roxxxy). After three seasons of high fashion Glamazon winners, Sharon Needles proved that drag can still be punk and weird and dirty.
Now, go catch up on this season before the May 6th finale at Logo TV!
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