The now-iconic reality show, RuPaul’s Drag Race, premiered in 2009 — a different time when drag culture wasn’t as understood by the masses. It took a few years to garner some mainstream stream, but the critically acclaimed series finally started winning awards, like a whopping 9 Primetime Emmys. In an extensive 2018 profile of the diva delight in 2018, The New York Times perfectly explained the show’s rise to fame. “When Drag Race first began, it seemed like a fun window into an underground culture, but over the nine years it has aired, the show has evolved to reflect America’s changing relationship to queer rights and acceptance.”
One of the main draws of the series is the colorful cast of talented drag queens — who keep evolving and dazzling viewers season after season. As executive producer Steven Corfe told Variety, “The key thing we look for in a drag queen’s audition tape is authenticity — strong sense of self. Forget copycats and clones — we want someone who’s not afraid to reveal what makes them unique.” It’s that authenticity that gives the queens a long-lasting career as the fabulous starlets they are.
So before you sashay away, take a look at what some of the most iconic RuPaul’s Drag Race contestants have been up to today.
Trixie Mattel has been killing multiple birds with one stone
Trixie Mattel has been a fan-fave since winning Season 3 of RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars. Since then, she’s kept busy, landing her own Viceland comedy series, The Trixie & Katya Show, with fellow drag queen and friend, Katya Zamolodchikova.
While she’s not hilariously talking about anything and everything for the cameras, Mattel also found the time to release a documentary, Trixie Mattel: Moving Parts, which focused on a more serious side of her life: her dark childhood and turbulent friendship with Zamolodchikova.
Clearly not one to rest on her laurels, Mattel is also a talented folk artist, having released two albums: “Two Birds” in 2017, and “One Stone” in 2018. Speaking to Rolling Stone, the blonde-haired beauty introspectively dished that although the albums are related to one another, they’re supposed to be listened to separately. “It’s always been intended that the listener hears them [as] a breakup … The first album is like, ‘Something was done to me, why me, someone hurt me.’ And then “One Stone” is a lot more mature and it’s a lot more like, ‘Well maybe the problem is you, maybe you bring things on yourself.'”
Katya Zamolodchikova blitzed through her rough patch
Katya Zamolodchikova has been laughing it up with her pal Trixie Mattel on their Viceland show The Trixie & Katya Show, which, according to Billboard, was “inspired” by their YouTube show UNHhhh. It hasn’t been all fun and games for Zamolodchikova, however. In a separate piece, the same outlet reported the drag queen got real on an episode of the Whimsically Volatile podcast, sharing that she checked herself into rehab in January 2018. She’s admitted to drug use in the past, so while this reveal probably didn’t come as too big of a shock to some fans, perhaps the state of exactly how low she went was surprising. “It was rock bottom,” she said, adding, “You have the bottom of the barrel, I was the sludge under the barrel.”
Thankfully, through her turbulent time, the Russian-impersonating starlet had her closest queens supporting her — including Trixie Mattel. Speaking to Digital Spy, Mattel said, “It’s difficult but if you’re somebody’s real friend I don’t think there’s really a flip side. It’s like any affliction, of course, it’s awful but there’s no way around it, you just have to go through it. It was difficult for us in a professional sense, because we are partners and because we have obligations to one another.”
Like any dedicated diva, however, Zamolodchikova jumped back into work, with a 2019 tour called Help Me I’m Dying, which includes comedy, dancing, and even an elaborate violin performance.
This RuPaul's Drag Race contestant's life has been a total hurricane
Bianca Del Rio wooed fans as the sassy Latina in Season 6 of RuPaul’s Drag Race, taking home the coveted crown. Since then, she’s been tremendously busy, doing her insult stand-up, acting, and even writing her own self-help book. Her biggest movies, as of this writing, saw her playing the lead, first in Hurricane Bianca, and then the follow-up, Hurricane Bianca: From Russia with Hate.
As for her book? Leave it to Del Rio to hilariously title it Blame It on Bianca Del Rio: The Expert on Nothing with an Opinion on Everything. Opening up to Good Morning America, the snarky starlet bluntly explained, “Advice is always unwarranted. People give it to you whether you want it or not. Especially with social media, people feel the need to tell you or school on you how your life should be. But the best advice I think usually doesn’t play into effect till later.”
With her fame reaching mainstream heights, the acid-tongued Del Rio has been called a role model by some. Her response? Thanks, but no thanks. Speaking exclusively to Digital Spy, she declared, “I’m a man in a wig who is an entertainer, I’m not a role model. I don’t want that responsibility and how dare anyone put you on that platform.” While it’s unclear whether or not the queen was being sarcastic, she’s definitely not looking to be censored.
Bob the Drag Queen has used her fame to be an activist
Bob the Drag Queen, Season 8 winner of RuPaul’s Drag Race, has enjoyed being on the big screen since leaving the show, landing a role in the musical comedy flick, Cherry Pop, and her stand-up special, Bob the Drag Queen: Suspiciously Large Woman. Gushing to LA Weekly, she summarized her globetrotting life since slaying the series. “I got to travel the world. Also [I got to] collaborate with other artists, working with queens who I’ve really admired for a long time.”
In her spare time, the queen also speaks out as a gay rights activist, using her fame to attend protests and speak to multiple publications. In that same LA Weekly interview, she explained her involvement in a group called Queer Rising. “They said, ‘Do you want to get arrested for your cause?’ and I was like, ‘Yeah, sure!’ So we blocked traffic in Bryant Park to call attention to marriage inequality … I was in jail for like 30 minutes.”
As time goes on, Bob the Drag Queen seems hopeful at the progress of the LGBT community. In an interview with The Daily Beast, she explained, “I love the progress of the queer rights movement in the last 50 years. I would love for it to truly include our trans siblings more … I think the trans community is the last community in the queer community to truly gain the respect they deserve.”
Alyssa Edwards is having the time of her life as a dancing queen
Although she didn’t win RuPaul’s Drag Race in Season 5, or the Season 2 of All Stars, beauty pageant-style queen Alyssa Edwards was still a fan-favorite — certainly milking her fanbase into a fruitful career. A trained choreographer and dance teacher, she’s the owner of Beyond Belief Dance Company in Texas. With her business, Edwards has managed to turn it into a Netflix show titled Dancing Queen, where she prepares adorable divas-in-the-making for a dance competition.
What makes Dancing Queen so unique is that it follows Justin Johnson (aka Alyssa Edwards) outside of drag, giving viewers a perspective on how he blends his two lives together. As Johnson said in an interview once (via Vanity Fair), “I think too it’s easier for me, because I have a whole other life. I do my shows and my touring, and I kind of go home. Alyssa stays up in her room, and I put on my dance-teacher hat.”
Besides dominating TV screens, Edwards has also ensured she’s on our laptops, too. Starring in the YouTube web series, Alyssa’s Secret, the poised queen covers topics that couldn’t be farther apart — from Tinder dating, all the way to ebola.
The first ever RuPaul's Drag Race contestant is still fabulous
The first contestant to get eliminated during Season 1 of RuPaul’s Drag Race, Victoria “Porkchop” Parker is still an icon. Speaking to Billboard in 2018, she cleverly put it, “I was on the show for one full episode, and I have milked that 15 minutes of fame for the entire 10 years since then.”
Making the most out of it she certainly did, and, according to People, she even danced alongside Miley Cyrus for the 2015 VMA’s. Taking the stage with more fellow iconic RuPaul’s Drag Race contestants, the queens channeled their inner Mileys complete with tongue-wagging and neon colors. The result? Even RuPaul tweeted, “SLAY QUEENS, SLAY” with a countless supply of crown emojis.
Not all of her 15 minutes of fame have been so jovial, however. Porkchop also appeared on an episode of E!’s Botched — a show that focuses on fixing plastic surgery disasters. Per the Daily Mail, it turns out, many moons ago, the drag queen got silicone injections by a nurse in the basement of a plastic surgeon’s office. With her skin giving off an inflammatory response, the result was a bump in her nose — a huge insecurity she carried for years. Finally, after one shocking discovery of a decaying nose and two surgeries, Porkchop has the confidence she’s missed for years.
Raja has rubbed elbows with some of pop culture's finest icons
With her defined cheekbones and what Diesel describes as “legs for days,” Raja won Season 3 of RuPaul’s Drag Race — becoming the first (and only) Asian-American winner of the series. Speaking to the outlet, she explained life since winning the fabulous series. “When Drag Race happened for me, I was sort of at my wits end … I felt like I needed to concentrate on being a great makeup artist, and put the drag on the back burner. And then the universe laid an opportunity in my lap.” It’s definitely been opportunity after opportunity for the queen, as she’s done makeup for such high-profile clients such as Dita Von Teese, Pamela Anderson, and Adam Lambert.
Like many other drag queens, Raja is also involved in a variety mega-cool projects. She appeared in an episode of The Simpsons, and has even starred in Blondie’s music video for the song, “Fun.” Talk about iconic goals.
The California native knows she’s a creative spirit at heart, too. In an interview with Instinct Magazine, she says what she’d be doing if she wasn’t a makeup artist or drag queen. “I would always be doing something creative, that’s for sure … I am a fabricator, I’m a designer, I make things, I constantly create.” We don’t know about you, but we’re so excited to see what this legendary diva has in store for us next.
This RuPaul's Drag Race contestant is still as bold as her profane name
Alaska Thunderf**k was the runner up of Season 5 of RuPaul’s Drag Race, causing her to come back and claim the crown in Season 2 of All Stars. After gaining so much exposure from both reality TV shows, the diva who once iconically said, “I am a queen who takes trash and I turn it into treasure” has definitely been utilizing all she has to make her career explode.
Turning her sights to music, Alaska is an electronic artist, releasing albums with some of the most in-your-face titles out there. Case in point? Her debut album was called Anus. Even better? It’s good. Becoming the number one dance album in 2015 in America was no small feat, especially for someone from a reality TV background. Four years later, and with four albums then under her belt, she spoke to Pride about her sound, describing it as, “Hard electronic beats, songs about taboo body parts and lewd sexual acts, some total nonsense, and of course lots and lots of swear words.”
Besides being a heavy-hitter in the dance music industry, Alaska also uses her voice for a good cause, starting her own pageant in Los Angeles in March 2019 called, “Drag Queen of the Year: A Pageant for Everyone.” Looking to be the most inclusive pageant to date, Alaska said in a statement (per Billboard), “Judged upon the criteria of presence, energy, nuance, integrity, and stunningness, this is a pageant for everyone.”
Vogue took a specific interest in this RuPaul's Drag Race contestant
Valentina may have had the most cringe-worthy exit in Season 9 of RuPaul’s Drag Race. Yeah, we’re talking that stare-down moment between the Latinx goddess and RuPaul herself that left us all in awkward shambles. That being said, the queen known for her telenovela personality instantly became a fan-favorite and hasn’t let her final sashay get in the way of her success.
She’s certainly gained the attention of Vogue, which featured her in a makeup tutorial done on its popular YouTube channel, then gave her the coveted cover spot on Vogue Mexico in the most elegant ensembles that had us screaming with joy.
In other fabulous news? Valentina has also starred alongside Vanessa Hudgens on Fox’s live production of Rent Live! Playing Angel, the beauty, who came out as non-binary in 2019, sees an importance in playing such an important character. “I do take the responsibility of being a gay nonbinary drag queen person taking on a really important iconic role like Angel and I hope [audiences] tune in for it,” she explained in a January 2019 interview with Billboard. “We need to be seen, and we need to be heard, and we need to be fearless,” she said in another Billboard feature. She added, “I really am grateful to this storyline to be seen by a broader audience, and I hope they enjoy it.”
Adore and her mantra of 'Till Death Do Us Party'
A RuPaul’s Drag Race vet who’s pivoted to music more than any of her contemporaries is Adore Delano, a Season 6 favorite who made it all the way to the final three. And it’s no surprise Delano turned to music, considering that before her drag queen reality TV stint, she also competed on American Idol as Danny Noriega, which was his name at birth.
According to Billboard, the grungy goddess released her debut album, Till Death Do Us Party, shortly after appearing on Drag Race. It hit the charts at No. 3 on the Billboard Dance/Electronic charts and at No. 59 on the Billboard 200, making it “the highest-charting album by a Drag Race contestant.” Slay girl, slay!
What makes Delano also stand out from other Drag Race contestants is that she’s a sort of “anti” drag queen. Opting not to do a full-glam look during her shows, the California native dons more of a grunge-inspired look, for which she’s gotten considerable backlash from both other drag queens and “internet commenters” alike. Delano explained in an interview with Altpress, “If you come to one of my shows, you’re coming to a show with a fully thought-out character. I don’t need to ‘use drag’ to further my career. It just so happens that I’m one pretty motherfu**er in eyelashes. I’m a fully thought-out character, so it kind of hurt my feelings, especially in the beginning.”
For this RuPaul's Drag Race contestant, a star was truly born
The only other queen to make more of a cringe-worthy exit than Valentina is Willam, who was disqualified from Season 4 of RuPaul‘s Drag Race. Wait, what? She finally revealed what truly happened in 2018, thanks to Saturday Night Live‘s Leslie Jones. Late to the party and catching up on seasons, the comedian tweeted that she wanted to know what happened, with Willam going into a full-on Twitter dish-sesh.
Besides getting into games of he-said-she-said, the blonde diva has further pursued her career in acting, landing a huge role alongside Lady Gaga in A Star Is Born, which led to the opportunity to walk the Oscars red carpet! When she’s not killing it in front of the camera, Willam is also an author, having written the book Suck Less. Interviewed by Observer, the mag asked the drag queen about her comedic self-help aid, and who she looks up to in her career. “Chris Hardwick. He’s an actor, he’s a host, he’s a musician, he’s a stand-up, he invented Nerdist,” Willam explained. “He created something where there was nothing … That’s what I want to do with my brand.”
As for her beef with RuPaul? That’s not ending anytime soon, considering she claimed she screamed at her former boss in the middle of the street in November 2018. Diva antics, you know?
Courtney Act, the reality TV vet
Since becoming runner-up during Season 6 of RuPaul’s Drag Race, Courtney Act has made regular TV appearances — and she’s made waves on every show she’s been on. First, Act won Season 21 of Celebrity Big Brother UK, and as the BBC put it, she was “praised for the way she’s discussed gender and sexuality.”
Next on Act’s worldwide domination list? Competing on Dancing With the Stars: Australia — where she made history. Although she performed almost solely as Courtney Act, she took the stage for one week’s dance number with partner Joshua Keefe out of drag. According to Billboard, she made it “the first time in the show’s history that two men (who presented male) performed a number together.”
Clearly one with a focus on bringing awareness to the LGBT community, the Aussie-born starlet also hosted to the first-ever UK bisexual dating show called The Bi Life. Drawing comparisons to Love Island, Act explained to Dazed, “We got a group of bisexual, pansexual and questioning British singletons, took them to Barcelona, and put them all in a villa … The sweet thing about this … was that it’s not queer people reacting to the straight gaze. It’s queer people in a space with each other, not having to explain their identity, and feeling supported.”
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