If you’re not watching RuPaul’s Drag Race on Netflix, you’re doing reality TV wrong. A pop culture phenomenon, the show is a platform for drag queens, handpicked by Mama Ru (pictured above) to showcase their charisma (C), uniqueness (U), nerve (N) and talent (T) in a bid to be crowned America’s next drag superstar. From pageant queens to look queens, comedy queens to Goth queens, fishy (ultra-femme) queens to androgynous queens – RuPaul’s Drag Race has been graced by a variety of drag styles.
With 12 seasons of Drag Race and five seasons of All Stars under its belt, the show has seen some of the fiercest queens sashay, shantay and slay the main performance stage of Drag Race. As the brand new season 13, which dropped on January 1 and releases a new episode every Friday, continues, we take a look back at our favourite queens, in no particular order, who belong in the Drag Race hall of fame.
Bianca Del Rio
Drag Race Appearance: Season 6 (Winner)
Blame it on Bianca Del Rio to make us fall in love with her bitch with a heart of gold persona. Considered the winner of winners by Drag Race fans, this insult comic, who describes herself as “Don Rickles in a dress, but prettier and not as old”, is also the first Latinx winner of the show. Bianca can read a fellow queen to filth, sew a dress like no other, did one of the best Judge Judy impressions on the show’s Snatch Game challenge and is arguably the most quotable, hilarious and astute queen in the herstory of the show. But she didn’t just rest pretty on her win. She went on to star in two Hurricane Bianca movies (with appearances by fellow queens like Shangela, Katya and Alyssa Edwards); wrote a book Blame It on Bianca Del Rio: The Expert on Nothing With an Opinion on Everything; performed her It’s Jester’s Joke tour at UK’s Wembley Arena and Carnegie Hall in New York City; starred in the West End musical Everybody’s Talking About Jamie and is one of the most followed queens on Instagram with over two million followers.
Drag Race Appearance: Season 4, All Stars Season 1, All Stars Season 4
Large and in charge. Chunky yet funky. Bold and beautiful. Meet Latrice Royale. One of the most loved fan favourites, Latrice is one of the few queens to have been on Drag Race three times. The winner of season four’s Miss Congeniality, Latrice is a powerful lip sync queen who will leave you gagging with her roast of fellow queens. What many don’t know is she also serves as a manager for queens such as Kennedy Davenport and Alexis Mateo. We will always love her for leaving one of the most inspiring messages after her elimination in season four.
Drag Race Appearance: Season 5, All Stars Season 2
Alyssa Edwards is a riot. The walking meme queen from Texas, renowned for her big, glamorous hair and signature tongue pops is among the most well-recognised and loved queens from the franchise. Alyssa was responsible for some of the most iconic and hilarious reactions on both her seasons. Who can forget her response of back rolls when fellow contestant Jade Jolie shaded her body proportions, or her calling out frenemy Coco Montrese’s orange makeup? Or the way she calmly put everyone’s favourite villain to hate, Phi Phi O’Hara in place during All Stars season 2? Alyssa is also a trained dancer and was the star of Netflix show Dancing Queen. Her sickening dance moves gave us some of the most memorable lip syncs for your life battles. Alyssa is also part of the Haus of Edwards and serves as drag mother to Shangela, Laganja Estranja, Gia Gunn, Vivienne Pinay and Plastique Tiara, all of whom have competed on the different seasons.
Shangela Laquifa Wadley
Drag Race Appearance: Season 2, Season 3, All Stars Season 3
All it took was a dazzling smile accompanied by an enthusiastic “Halleloo” and multiple appearances on Drag Race for Shangela Laquifa Wadley to cement a place in our heart and this list. Shangela was the first contestant eliminated the first time she appeared on Drag Race thanks to her lack of experience compared to the other queens. However, she worked on her drag, re-auditioned, was invited back for season three in which she made it to the top five. After that, she only soared up the popularity ladder with a stellar showing on RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars Season 3, guest-starred on Community and Glee, collaborated with Ariana Grande on her song NASA, and hit it out of the park with her Beyoncé medley lip sync at the 2019 GLAAD Media Awards that earned her a standing ovation from Queen Bey herself.
Drag Race Appearance: Season 5, All Stars Season 2 (Winner)
Before she was on Drag Race, fans knew Alaska as Sharon Needles’ then-boyfriend. Sharon won season four of the show and Alaska, who had auditioned every year since the show’s inception, was finally invited to join the cast of season five. While she served up dishy looks and displayed comedic chops, many feel Alaska was hindered by latching onto the mean girl clique of the season Rolaskatox – comprising fellow contestants Roxxxy Andrews and Detox. However, they were defeated by the season’s loveable weirdo Jinkx Monsoon. A similar situation repeated itself during All Stars Season 2 when it came down to Rolaskatox vs Katya, you’ve guessed it, that season’s loveable weirdo. However, strong showing throughout the season, including bringing to life her gutter mouth alter ego Lil’ Poundcake, ensured a crown on Alaska’s head.
Drag Race Appearance: Season 6, All Stars Season 2 (Self-Eliminated)
After Alyssa Edwards, if there’s one queen who’s given us an array of catchphrases, it’s Adore Delano. To be honest, they won us over when they said, “For all the other queen who tell me I’m not polished enough, they just need to know I’m polish remover, bitch.” One of the youngest queens on their season, Adore wasn’t new to reality TV. They’d participated on American Idol in 2008, but out of drag, as Danny Noriega. On Drag Race, Adore sailed through the acting and singing challenges, but had a hard time sewing. Constantly spewing out phrases such as “Party”, “Chola”, “Hog Body (with reference to their own)”and “I’m a Libra”, Adore endeared themselves to the judged, viewers and fellow contestants with their honesty, charm and vulnerability. We were surprised, and then delighted, at the unexpected friendship they struck up with Bianca Del Rio (they’re BFFs till date), and it was one of our favourite things about season six.
Bob the Drag Queen
Drag Race Appearance: Season 8 (Winner)
Apart from Bianca Del Rio, there was rarely a season where a frontrunner was as obvious as in the case of Bob the Drag Queen. An unabashed comedy queen who seemed to follow in Bianca’s footsteps (they’re both from New York City), Bob obliterated her competition in the acting and comedy challenges, while also serving incredible looks on the runway. Yes, she obviously couldn’t match up to Kim Chi’s artistic vision or Naomi Smalls‘ model looks (and those never-ending legs), but her personality, sass and charm more than made up for it. She absolutely killed it on Snatch Game as Uzo Aduba and Carol Channing and became famous for her “Walk into the room purse first” catchphrase.
Drag Race Appearance: Season 10 (Winner)
Aquaria was a queen to contend with even before she appeared on Drag Race. Popular on Instagram for her extremely fierce and fashionable looks, she had made a name for herself in the New York City club scenes at a very young age. On the show, while most of her fellow competitors made the mistake of dismissing her as an overconfident look queen, Aquaria proved, challenge after challenge, that she was applying the judges’ critiques and was here to slay. Like Bianca Del Rio, Aquaria never had to lip-sync for her life and surprised everyone, including herself, by winning the Snatch Game with a very irreverent portrayal of Melania Trump. In 2019, she along with season seven winner Violet Chachki became the only drag queens to walk the pink carpet at the Met Gala. That same year, she was also part of Rihanna’s Savage X Fenty Beauty fashion show at the New York Fashion Week.
Drag Race Appearance: Season 7, All Stars Season 3 (Winner)
If anybody should get an award for the most-improved Drag Race alum, it’s Trixie Mattel. Not only did she debut on season seven, which all fans will agree was one of the most boring, but also held the distinction of being eliminated twice on it. She got her redemption, however, when she won All Stars Season 3 (which Shangela deserved to win, but we’re not going to go there). Trixie’s persona is based on her love for Barbie dolls and all things pink, in case you couldn’t tell from the name and her drag aesthetic. A massive social media fan following (over two million on Instagram), famous web series such as UNHhhh and the Trixie & Katya Show with fellow season queen Katya and her own line of cosmetics have launched her into the big league.
Drag Race Appearance: Season 7, All Stars Season 2
Yekaterina Petrovna Zamolodchikova aka Katya is just your average Russian bisexual transvestite hooker. And also the best thing about the truly awful season seven. Katya, who, to nobody’s surprise won Miss Congeniality, was the perfect mix of nonsense and comedy tinged with an exaggerated Russian accent. Her most vulnerable moment on the show came when she broke down in a chat with her fellow queen over her struggle with sobriety and anxiety. An adept gymnast, Katya showed off her comic timing and acting skills when she played Bjork in the Snatch Game for All Stars 2. Along with Trixie Mattel, Alaska, RuPaul and Jinkx Monsoon, Katya has her own Funko Pop! figurine.