Welcome to my first recap of RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars Season 7 – All Winners!
Wow, that’s a mouthful!
I’ve been recapping and commenting on Drag Race both here and on Reddit since Season 6 in 2014. It’s amazing how much the conversation around Drag Race (and drag, in general) has changed in that relatively short period of time.
When I first started talking about drag online there was an emphasis on “female illusion.” Drag queens who presented a more believable (or, “unclockable”) presentation of exaggerated femininity tended to be more revered. That included their hair and make-up as well as their body.
A term that was often used at that time was “fishy” or “fish,” in the context of “she is the fishiest queen in the cast” or “she is serving pure fish.”
(That term has rightfully been called out for its misogynist roots. Yes, even gay men dressed as women can be misogynists. You can find me using the term in older posts, but it’s not something I would say today.)
(Similarly, “unclockable” tends to be associated with trans people “passing” as their gender and isn’t a term we need to use for drag artists (nor should folks outside of the trans community be using it to talk about trans folk.)
Linked to that emphasis on femininity, Drag Race had a perverse stance of devaluing or even barring woman contestants, whether they were cis or trans. The perspective that RuPaul espoused at the time was that having breasts or a more-traditionally feminine face or figure provided too much of an advantage compared to male-bodied contestants who ostensibly had to work to create that illusion.
That’s not the conversation we’ve having around Drag Race anymore.
The change has come from boundary-shattering Drag Race contestants; from other shows like Dragula and We’re Here; and from the Drag Race fandom itself. We have now seen trans women compete and win across multiple Drag Race franchises, as well as the first cis woman compete on Drag Race UK. Dozens of queens have come out as trans, non-binary, and/or gender-fluid, some on camera during the run of their seasons. And, the fandom and the judges are no longer demanding breasts and padding as a baseline requirement for “good drag.”
That doesn’t mean Drag Race is now a perfect platform. It still relies on the performance of womanhood, which has inherent problems. While to some queens that equates to a celebration of womanhood, for others it remains an exaggeration or caricature. Drag Race still has trouble appreciating drag artists who aren’t presenting glamorous feminine drag. It still has a homogenizing effect on drag around the world, to which it has now added an element of colonization with its vast set of international franchises. And, RuPaul and Michelle Visage still come from a set of pop culture and style references primarily rooted in the 60s, 70s, 80s, and 90s – before many of today’s drag artists were born!
Despite all of those detractions, the juggernaut of Drag Race is still elevating the work of dozens of queer artists around the world every year. I watch because I revere them and their talents. I love that the show has transformed into a celebration of their artistry rather than a catty, drama-filled reality show.
Of course, drag artists still come with some catty, drama-filled moments. That’s part of the proud herstory of drag! The show just isn’t as obsessed with manufacturing them anymore.
If Drag Race has increasingly become more celebration than competition, All Stars is it’s biggest annual bash. That makes this first-ever All Stars “All Winners” series is a “Platinum Jubilee” of drag (or a “Quarter Quell,” depending on your perspective).
This new season features a decade’s worth of winners: eight artists who were originally crowned from 2011 through 2020.
That’s not every winner, nor is it every fan favorite winner, and some folks are grouchy about the heavy-hitting queens who abstained or were passed over. Yet, it’s a stellar cast of artists at the height of their craft, and it becomes evident very early in this episode why only eight of them are competing.
(The missing winners are Chad Michaels, Bianca del Rio, Violet Chachki, Bob the Drag Queen, Alaska Thunderfuck, Sasha Velour, Trixie Mattel, and Aquaria. Note that James FKA Tyra no longer performs in drag and Sharon Needles has been accused of some racist and predatory behavior that will probably keep her away from the brand for some time. Meanwhile, Lawrence Chaney, Kita Mean, Kylie Sonique, Symone, & Krystal Versacé were all either newly-crowned or not-yet-crowned when this was shot. Plus, reportedly, queens Ru did not personally crown are not yet eligible for this franchise, which knocks out English-speaking international winners like Angele Anang, Priyanka, Envy Peru.)
With all of that out of the way, it’s time to recap Drag Race All Stars Season 7, Episode 1 – “Legends”!
Whether you are a Drag Race veteran or you’ve never seen the show, I’ll cover every step of the episode in detail. In this premiere, the queens have to write a verse for a brand new Ru song, and I dare you to find another recapper who is a songwriter who has written more than 400 songs!
Plus, at the end of the recap I’ll update my pre-Season power rankings to reflect Episode 1!
Racers, start your engines! And, may the best drag queen… win!