In a world exclusive, meet the ten queens battling it out to be the UK’s first ever drag superstar.
Ladies and gentlemen, start your engines, because the official cast for the highly-anticipated debut season of RuPaul’s Drag Race UK is H-E-R-E, here! This October, ten sickening queens will sashay down the runway and compete for the title of the UK’s first Drag Race Superstar on BBC Three. RuPaul will return as host and main judge alongside best squirrel friend Michelle Visage, as well as newcomers – and British icons – Alan Carr and Graham Norton.
“Oh my goodness, when they see this show, they are going to flip,” RuPaul said in a statement. “And I predict that we will be doing this English edition of Drag Race for many years to come. I think also, audiences around the world are going to start to require the English version, because it’s different, it’s the same but it’s different. There’s a different tone.”
Since Drag Race pranced onto our screens back in 2009, the show has introduced fans to over 100 gag-worthy queens, all of which have gagged us with their charisma, uniqueness, nerve and talent (and synergy, but we don’t talk about that). While it’s often been said that drag will “never be mainstream”, the series has become an international phenomenon, earning 23 Emmy Award nominations with three consecutive wins for Mama Ru as Outstanding Host.
The show also made HERstory when it became the first television series to win Emmy’s for the latter and Outstanding Reality-Competition Program in the same year. HERstory honey! So, it comes as no surprise that the BBC will be opening its doors to showcase the finest drag that Britain has to offer, and after kiki-ing with the queens, it seems like it will be as British as mothertucking possible.
From a host of exciting guest stars (including Cheryl, Geri Halliwell and MNEK); to the iconic Snatch Game, which will no doubt feature impersonations of several British pop culture staples (we’re keeping our fingers crossed for Gemma Collins!); to the chart-topping British anthems that will be lip-synced to on the main stage, there’s plenty to look forward to.
Explaining what makes the new version different from the American original, Michelle tells us: “The kids are all from the UK and the talent and the things that we do are very British, we’re not there to make it American, otherwise we’d do it in America. It’s very American to do the looks, but very British to put performance first, and I celebrate that, being an old school girl myself. I’m really excited for the world to see what they have to offer. I think it’s going to be huge and I’m telling you, this show is going to be on for years.”
Here, in a world exclusive interview and shoot, we meet all ten competitors of RuPaul’s Drag Race UK. They spill the T on their drag journey, how this version differs from the original US show, and what we can expect from this long-awaited British invasion. Have you started your engines? It’s time to meet your queens…
Baga Chipz – 29, London (@bagachipz)
“I’m a very British drag queen, very fish and chips, mushy peas,” says Midlands icon Baga Chipz. “I love Coronation Street, northern humour. I like naff things, Martine McCutcheon, SuBo, Hear’Say, all that kind of stuff.” For non-UK readers, this is as British as it gets. The legendary performer, who’s known in the UK scene for her appearance on Drag Queens of London and her regular role as a Porn Idol judge at Heaven, defines her drag style as “comedy camp” and “a tart with a heart, common as muck, who always has a fag in her hand while drinking a gin and tonic”. Baga decided to enter Drag Race UK because she wants to see a resurgence of old school queens who can hold their own on a mic, much like season 11 alum Nina West. “You will get references from me about Liza Minelli, Tina Turner and Bette Davis, so I bring the humour and the camp to the series,” she reveals. “You need to be a performer, you can’t just look good. I’ve seen queens who look like Naomi Campbell who go on stage and the audience are like, ‘What can you do?’” She compares Drag Race UK to “winning the lottery” and a “brilliant business opportunity”, citing the success of other alumni such as Bianca Del Rio, Adore Delano and Courtney Act, all of whom have achieved huge, mainstream success since their season six debut. This season, Baga will be “the aunty who says, ‘Oi you two, sort it out!’” and admits that fans will either love her or hate her. “I’m a cross between Honey Boo Boo and Vanjie. It’s constant buffoonery. Everyone has a personality, but I’m that times five.”
Blu Hydrangea – 23, Belfast (@bluhydrangea_)
After stumbling across the second season of Drag Race on E4, Blu Hydrangea – who was only 12 years old at the time – knew she wanted to follow in the footsteps of iconic contestants such as Raven and season three alum Manila Luzon and launch her bid for drag superstardom, while also being a “beacon of light” for Northern Ireland’s LGBTQ community. “Queer culture in Belfast is oppressed,” Blu says. “You still have violence in the streets against homosexuals, it’s a scary place to do drag, but I want to show kids growing up that it’s okay to be gay in Northern Ireland.” Blu hopes to “gag the children” with her eclectic, cosmic cartoon aesthetic and to showcase the Irish sense of humour with “a lot of shade!” She describes the season one cast as having a “sisterhood” but teases a major “bust-up that will be made into great merchandising”. The 23-year-old expresses excitement, in particular, for the catchphrases Drag Race UK will deliver as well as its authentic portrayal of British culture. “I don’t want to offend anyone, but British drag is just quintessential drag isn’t it? It’s camp as tits,” she admits. “Right out of the gate, we’re showing British culture, British landmarks, it’s British from the get-go.” Although she is – in her own words – a “social media queen”, Blu aims to shed that preconceived image and prove to audiences that she’s an accomplished performer, but jokes that it won’t matter unless BBC Three supplies fans with subtitles for her strong Irish accent. “Hopefully I’ll get to prove to people that I’m not just a face, I’m not just a shoulders-up,” she says. “I’m a fully fledged queen and I’m a flamboyant human being ready to conquer the world through drag, honey!”
Cheryl Hole – 25, Essex (@cherylholequeen)
Hailing from Essex – the land of “spray tans, vajazzles and the GC [Gemma Collins]” – is Cheryl Hole, the self-described “glam girl on the go” who takes inspiration from Geordie chart-topper and Girls Aloud alum, Cheryl. “I am the performer queen, I am the one that people want to see on a stage,” she confidently tells us. “You know you’re going to get a show and you know you’re going to get production!” The 25-year-old has always had a passion for drag, especially after witnessing Paul O’Grady’s iconic alter ego Lily Savage on the small screen, and with the rise of Drag Race, she realised that it was a viable career option. “It showed a more contemporary take on the art-form, and I realised that I could create the craft that I wanted to. So here we fucking go.” Cheryl wanted to audition for the debut season of Drag Race UK because it’s the “biggest platform in the world” and because she’ll make HERstory as a contestant on its inaugural season. “Why not seize the opportunity?” she adds. “It could be the first and only season.” Cheryl is aware people may compare her drag to legendary contestants such as Alyssa Edwards and Katya due to their quirky humour and ability to command a stage, but assures: “People are very quick to judge the surface before they even hear you speak, but it’s the Cheryl brand that people fall in love with. It’s very strong and stable much like Theresa May, may she rest in peace.” When we ask the dancing diva of Essex how the British spin-off differs to the American original, she explains: “UK drag is very different to the US. Here, we do not take ourselves so seriously and we’ve got a very different sense of humour.” Cheryl leaves our interview on the following defiant statement: “There’s a lot more in my repertoire than just a fierce dancing lip syncing queen. So be ready world, and prepare for drama… and conflama.”
Crystal – 34, London (@crystal.will.see.you.now)
Canadian-born performer Crystal may originate from the North, but make no mothertucking mistake, she is here to showcase East London’s “rough around the edges vibe” by blurring the lines between masculinity and femininity as this season’s reigning “gender-fuck” queen. “I’m not really interested in passing as a woman when i’m in drag, I’m more interested in fucking with the whole system and the binary,” she tells us of her style. “That’s why I keep the chest hair, I think that kind of representation is fun.” Crystal has been practicing drag for over ten years, and adopted her drag name after working for Swarovski; it stuck because it fits her aesthetic as “an 80s super-villain stripper or a villainess from an 80s soap opera”. While Crystal wouldn’t categorise her drag into one specific box, she does label herself as a “stunt queen” who loves to show audiences “something they’ve never seen before” (we are so ready for these lip-syncs). She was inspired to audition for Drag Race because of the impact the series has had on the drag landscape (admitting it was a “no-brainer”) and because she has a desire for US audiences to see the “British sensibility of humour and camp”. Crystal adds: “The queens are probably a lot less polished than what you see on the American version. The sets are the same, the judges are the same, but you’ve got this weird new cast of sisters to watch. I don’t think Americans have any idea what British sense of humour is like, so they’re going to be watching it like, ‘What the fuck is going on over there?’” So what can we expect from Crystal this season? “Pure sex appeal with dabs of masculinity, over the top, extreme, kill a mammoth with your thighs kind of drag.” Severe? Up in here? Yas honey.
Divina De Campo – 36, West Yorkshire (@divinadecampo)
Drag veteran Divina De Campo originally left British audiences slain back in 2016 with an appearance on The Voice, where she delivered a theatrical, operatic performance of Poor Wandering One from The Pirates of Penzance. Now, she’s back with a vengeance. “I hate competitions, hate them,” she laughs. “They’re not my schtick at all. What was the question?” See? A vengeance. Divina has been doing drag for the past 15 years and defines herself as a “camp queen with a bit of proper art shit thrown in… it’s a very serious act”. She explains further: “I’m just me babe, I’m just me. I disappear in a competition, but I think I make an impression! Maybe that’s just my butt cheeks in the werkroom, I’m not sure.” When we question Divina as to why she decided to audition for the series, she answers, quite simply: “Now that’s a box to unpack isn’t it? Why does anyone want to do anything? Why are we here? That’s an existential moment for you there right there isn’t it?” In Divina’s opinion, Drag Race UK lacks the “ drama” of the US seasons, but she’s confident it will provide fans with gag-worthy, soon-to-be iconic memes and scenes. “There’s going to be instances where people say, ‘Oh my God, how did that happen? I wasn’t expecting that,’” the drag queen and opera singer reveals, before adding of her relationship with her fellow contestants: “There’s very little catfighting. We’re very supportive of each other and everyone wants each other to do well. In the US, people take themselves more seriously than they take the work.” On working with the matriarch of drag RuPaul herself, Divina tells us: “He’s exactly what people want from him. He knows what that is, and he gets it.”
Gothy Kendoll – 22, Leicester (@gothykendoll)
“I’m a bit of a chav, I love wearing tracksuits, I’m from Leicester – what do you expect?” declares 22-year-old Gothy Kendoll, although you could be fooled by her gag-worthy, all-black Victorian-esque get-up. “I don’t really fit into what has been shown on Drag Race before,” she boldly states. “I break the mould and I don’t fit into the standard of what British drag is.” Impersonating a woman isn’t Gothy’s shtick. While she acknowledges the UK has a strong history of “pantomime” drag, Gothy wants to push contemporary ideas of beauty and glamour and elevate the art-form to the next level. “I want to show that my drag is valid, and I want people to be inspired by what I do,” she tells us. “There’s so much more to British drag than people realise and I feel like I’m showing that side.” Although she doesn’t want to sound “tacky and millennial,” Gothy says she’s not interested in performing at parties because she prefers to act as a DJ and host, “I throw the party and I am the party.” This season, we can expect Gothy to serve “nice hair, nice wigs – wait no, that’s the same thing” as well as “gobbiness” and “a bit of an attitude” (we wouldn’t expect anything less). “It can’t be compared to a US season, Americans just love to talk and we just love to take the piss,” she teases. “Everyone is going to be so shocked about what’s happened. You’re going to love it.” She might sound confident, but she admits she “fucking shit [herself]” when she pranced into the werkroom and saw fierce drag veterans such as Vinegar Strokes and Divina De Campo. Let’s hope they caught that on camera…
Scaredy Kat – 20, Wiltshire (@scaredykatofficial)
Scaredy Kat may have only been practicing drag for a year, but this queen is polished, she knows her brand and she’s ready to conquer Mama Ru’s Emmy-winning franchise as the new supreme anxiety queen (Katya and Miz Cracker, move aside). “I’m a bit of a pussy really,” she tells us, half-laughing, half a nervous wreck about the level of fame she’s about to endure. “I’m just scared of everything.” Applying for the show on a whim, Scaredy admits that she didn’t actually expect to secure a place in the cast. “I was like, ‘Let’s have a go’, and then it fucking happened. I’m just an idiot, a kid with a camera.” Describing herself as a “cute, pink, fluffy and possibly annoying artist”, Scaredy aims to break new ground as an openly bisexual contestant and to subvert expectations of contemporary drag performers. “I’m not gay, you don’t have to be the stereotypical thing that you expect drag queens to be,” she says. “I think some people will love it and I think some people will hate it, and some people won’t care. I just want to show that you can be comfortable in your femininity and artistic creativity.” Scaredy’s girlfriend, who also happens to be a drag queen called Pussy Cat, taught her everything she knows from painting a mug, to styling a wig to crafting DIY-esque lewks, the latter of which is another aspect of her drag that she wants to bring attention to. “You can do it yourself,” she continues. “You don’t have to have that much experience or knowledge. You might be shit, but I think it will show that you can be different.” Like her fellow contestants, Scaredy cannot express enough how much the British spin-off differs to the American original, calling it “a lot rougher in general” with “characters that have never been seen before”. Can October hurry up or?
Sum Ting Wong – 31, Birmingham (@issumtingwong)
We have a feeling audiences will gag over Sum Ting Wong because the queen has no filter, like at all. The performer, who’s inspired by pop artists such as Little Mix, Ariana Grande and Mariah Carey, only desires to look fishy when she’s in drag because out of drag, she’s a self-described “gross man” who “sits around in my pants smoking cigarettes whilst scratching my knob through my tights”. Who can relate? As soon as Drag Race UK was announced, she had a fire lit under her ass because she wanted to represent Asian culture, showcase her skills as a dancer, singer and comedian, and of course, to raise her booking fee. “I want to earn more money!” When we ask the star what her style of drag can bring to the franchise, she honestly admits: “Nothing that’s not already been seen. Like, real talk. There’s nothing new about me at all. I wanted to get on because I watch the show and I love it.” Although Michelle Visage “scared the living fucking life” out of her, she has nothing but kind words to say about her experience with RuPaul, calling him a “laugh on set” who would kiki with the queens when the cameras weren’t rolling. “He’s actually hilarious,” she says. “I didn’t expect it.” Sum Ting is excited for viewers to see the British side of drag and compares Drag Race UK to the first two seasons of the original, and teases pure British humour when the queens interact. “I told Baga I wanted her to bleed from the undersides of her armpits,” she jokes. “It’s nowhere near as serious as the US version, we all want the best for each other and no one says anything out of malice.” We can’t wait to see what Sum Ting brings to that werkroom…
Vinegar Strokes – 35, London (@theonlyvinegarstrokes)
If the drag equivalent of Sandra Martin from Gogglebox ever sashayed into Eastenders’ iconic Queen Vic, it would be Vinegar Strokes. “My drag is very working class, a diva wearing a sequin dress with rollers in her hair while smoking a fag,” she laughs. “I want to show people who aren’t privileged, who come from a place where it’s not easy to get ahead. I’ve had to go through the backdoor many times and I represent someone who is still going through it.” Vinegar – who was once dubbed “the female Whoopi Goldberg” – is an accomplished actress and vocalist; her theatrical credits include Everybody’s Talking About Jamie, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat and Angelina Ballerina the Mousical, so the other queens better beware when it comes to singing or acting challenges. While sickening outfits and mugs beat for the gods might be a priority for other queens, Vinegar thinks that raw talent and passion are the most important qualities in a performer. “I’d much rather see someone sweating their tits off in an ASOS dress, giving amazing vocals, amazing comedy, as opposed to watching someone kind of have a wank on stage,” she explains. But don’t expect to see Vinegar attempt a Silky Nutmeg Ganache-esque splat on the floor anytime soon. “I’m a camp comedy queen, I’m not death-dropping for no one, no no.” Vinegar promises “iconic” moments for fans on Drag Race UK – especially the lip-syncs – and says audiences will be educated on British drag and what British queens represent. “With Baga, you’re getting old school, traditional pubs and clubs drag and Divina, you’re getting operatic, singing songbird, and with me, the acting and theatrical side.” What does Vinegar think she will bring to the competition that will help her snatch the crown? “Fashion, fashion, fashion! Said no one ever,” she jokes. “I’m not the best of the bunch in terms of the runway, but I’m probably one of the most genuine and relatable contestants on the show.”
The Vivienne – 27, Liverpool (@thevivienne_)
The line-up for Drag Race UK wouldn’t be complete without the official British ambassador for the franchise would it now? The Liverpool-born performer beat out hundreds of sickening queens for the honorific title back in 2015 after a series of lip-sync battles – in front of RuPaul herself – so it comes as no surprise that she’ll be sashaying her way into the werkroom later this year to showcase her charisma, uniqueness, nerve and talent. “I like to think I’m a good mix between old school and new school,” she says of her drag. “I always describe myself as a rich little housewife who’s back scrubbing dishes after she spent all of her fella’s money.” The Vivienne was inspired to become a drag queen after discovering a performance of season four contestant and All Stars 1 champion Chad Michaels as Cher on YouTube. “I was like, ‘Why the hell is Cher performing in this shitty gay bar with people throwing dollar bills? What’s happened?’” she recalls. “When I realised it was a drag queen, I was transfixed. I thought it was witchcraft.” The 27-year-old scouser auditioned for the series because she wants to shatter misconceptions people have of her, that she’s solely a “lewk queen” who can only serve – like acclaimed singer-songwriter Bebe Zahara Benet once said – “face, face, face”. She assures us that we’ll see a diverse, multi-faceted side to her character on the show and promises comedy, glamour, vocals; she’s the total package honey! The Vivienne also teases a back-to-basics season for the franchise: “I like to think what we’ve done is bring it back to drag. Instead of relying on shock value or feuds, this is pure talent and I really think it shines through.” Can these queens start their engines already?
RuPaul’s Drag Race UK comes to BBC Three and iPlayer this October.
Photography Darren Bell
Words Sam Damshenas
Hair and makeup supervisor Holly Sliwka
Retouching Anisa Cleaver
Group image edit Rebecca Pitt