Since its vaseline-filtered debut back in 2009, RuPaul’s Drag Race has become a certified pop culture phenomenon. Although a reality show documenting the Supermodel hitmaker in his search for “America’s Next Drag Superstar” sounded like another soon-to-be cult series with a ‘save it from cancellation’ change.org petition, the series has defied all odds to become one of the most championed reality competitions of all time. Thanks to the charisma, uniqueness, nerve and talent (and in some cases, synergy) of the fierce contestants, who bring it week after mothertucking week with their innovative runway presentations and lip-sync smackdowns, RuPaul’s drag empire has been honoured with 19 Primetime Emmy Awards – including five consecutive wins for Outstanding Host. Not only that, the franchise has branched out into international territories including Thailand, UK, Canada and Holland, with new versions in Australia and Spain to follow this year. C’mon worldwide domination! To celebrate Drag Race’s expanding herstory, we ranked all 21 seasons of the show (with RuPaul on hosting duties) from worst to best. We did not consult with the judges, the final decision rests with us, GAY TIMES. There’s bound to be some pushback with a few of our choices, but remember: it’s just drag! Water off a duck’s back and all that. Without further ado…
21. Season 1 (Drag Race Down Under)
Most iconic moment: “That means nothing” – Art Simone
From the offset, the first season of RuPaul’s Drag Race Down Under was mired in controversy. Two of the contestants, Karen from Finance and Scarlet Adams, were exposed for their racist pasts which subsequently ignited a conversation around Australasia’s long-standing issue with racism, while also begging the question: do the producers, y’know, background check? Not only that, but both queens made it to the final and the latter, who was called out for blackface on the mainstage by RuPaul, won two more maxi-challenges than her two closest competitors. And although Art Simone’s elimination was mourned by fans, her ruturn proved… controversial. Unlike past contestants such as Carmen Carrera, Trixie Mattel and Naysha Lopez, who all returned the same season, RuPaul failed to explain her reasoning to the cast and viewers at home and Jojo Zaho and Coco Jumbo were paid dust. The season did provide us with some of the most loveable contestants, however, in winner Kita Mean, Maxi Shield and Anita Wigl’it, and a fierce lip-sync assassin and underdog storyline in Elektra Shock. But sadly, with the amount of favouritism towards some of the contestants and racist scandals, the first season of Drag Race Down Under was doomed from the start.
20. All Stars 1
Most iconic moment: Raven vs Jujubee – Dancing on My Own
Collecting queens from the first four seasons, All Stars 1 honestly had the potential to be the best season of RuPaul’s Drag Race due to the sheer amount of C.U.N.T. that sashayed back into that werkroom. Sadly, the producers felt the need to add ‘S’ to the aforementioned C.U.N.T. for ‘synergy’ and thought we would be gooped to see the queens perform in teams of two. Wrong. We don’t wanna throw any queens under the bus – or leave them at the bus stop (sorry Roxxxy Andrews) – but if some of these contestants competed as individuals, the season would arguably look very different. Manila Luzon? Top three, c’mon. Nina Flowers? Top five, possibly. Mimi Imfurst? Still last place, but – in the words of Yara Sofia – “Someone needs to go home first!” Although we’ve ranked All Stars 1 so low, we have to give credit where credit is due. To this day, the battle between Jujubee and Raven stands as one of the most emotional moments in the show’s herstory. Also, Chad Michaels is a perfect representative for the franchise and it was about time this legend got a crown.
19. Season 1
Most iconic moment: Shannel – “I am beautiful”
The season that started it all. Although the inaugural season of the franchise – also known as the “lost season” – is responsible for catapulting hundreds of drag entertainters to mainstream success and launching a drag empire, it doesn’t feel like quintessential Drag Race. The lack of Snatch Game can be felt when rewatching and because of that vaseline filter (and Rebecca Glasscock’s entrance lewk), it’s impossible to watch without our retinas taking a bit of a hit. Oh, and the budget? Non-existent. Despite this, we couldn’t possibly think of a better competitor than Bebe Zahara Benet to represent Drag Race as the franchise’s first ever crowned queen (stream Jungly Kitty now or perish!). Ongina also broke boundaries for queer people on the small screen when she bravely came out as HIV-positive to RuPaul and her fellow contestants, creating a much-needed discussion about attitudes and stigmas towards those living with HIV. Also, the beauty of season one is how the contestants didn’t come prepared with hit-or-miss catchphrases to solidify their brands, or reign in their personalities out of fear of how they would be perceived by fans. If this was a ranking based on authenticity, season one would easily take the top spot.
18. Season 11
Most iconic moment: Brooke Lynn Hytes vs Yvie Oddly – Sorry Not Sorry
Despite its ranking, season 11 wasn’t, like, bad. Compared to all the other shows on our screens, it still reigns supreme. But when you place it within this line-up it was – in the words of Mama Ru after witnessing Nina West and Silky Nutmeg Ganache’s face-off to No Scrubs – “meh”. The drama felt mean rather than shady, it was possibly the worst Snatch Game ever (bar Nina) and the challenges were a little stale. However, Brooke Lynn Hytes and Vanessa Vanjie Mateo provided fans with Drag Race’s first ever on-screen romance and “OPPALANCE” dominated the brains of queers around the world. Also, we were blessed with the gay Super Bowl of 2019. After bombing Snatch Game, Drag Race’s most important challenge, Brooke and Yvie Oddly embraced their inner Cirque de Soleil in a sickening display of acrobatics and ruveals for Demi Lovato’s dance-pop anthem Sorry Not Sorry. It made the rounds on social media, attracting praise from lip-sync powerhouses such as Kennedy Davenport, Alyssa Edwards and Tatianna, and almost caused an earthquake of epic proportions after gays across the globe let out a collective “YAAAAAAS!” It was a moment.
17. Season 13
Most iconic moment: Denali vs Kahmora Hall – 100% Pure Love
Season 13 is tricky. Like the above entry, the most iconic moment is down to a lip-sync. Denali, who deserved to advance much further in the competition – 8th place, really Ru? – delivered one of the most effortless performances as she battled against her friend Kahmora Hall to the beat of Crystal Waters’ 100% Pure Love. When compared to the Britney-dominated smackdowns in the finale, it – and this isn’t a controversial opinion in the slightest – tops all three combined. Other notable moments include: Gottmik breaking boundaries for trans representation as she became the first trans male competitor on the series (and her eerily accurate impersonation of Paris Hilton on Snatch Game); Kandy Muse’s tumultuous feud with Tamisha Iman; and Utica Queen’s unintentionally hilarious and offensive roast, which lead to RuPaul flipping her the finger. Unfortunately, the season was just too long – clocking in at 16 episodes – and with the excellent second season of Drag Race UK airing at the same time, it lost a lot of steam. Symone’s win, however? [insert chef’s kiss here]
16. Season 8
Most iconic moment: RuCo Empire
‘Season eight below seven?!’ Yes, season eight below seven. It was strong from start to finish, but upon reflection, it was rather… predictable? Unlike other seasons, there was a clear frontrunner for the crown in Bob the Drag Queen, who became one of the most formidable contestants in herstory after earning three maxi-challenge wins in seven episodes. Viewers were also robbed of an iconic lip-sync to Gloria Gaynor’s powerhouse disco anthem, I Will Survive, when Laila McQueen and Dax Exclamation Point flailed around the stage and received a rare – yet deserved – double sashay. Despite this, the season boasted some of the fiercest queens in winner Bob, top model Naomi Smalls, fashion powerhouse Kim Chi and the late Chi Chi DeVayne. Then there’s Derrick Barry, who was just made for television. But, clocking in at just 10 episodes – making it the shortest regular season since the first – we wish it was a bit longer.
15. Season 7
Most iconic moment: Violet Chachki’s tartan reveal
Season seven receives a lot of hate from fans, and it’s understandable. A cast consisting primarily of fashion powerhouses were wasted on a season overstuffed with scripted comedy challenges that failed to bring in the laughs. The John Waters and Shakespeare-inspired episodes were uncomfortable to watch due to the lack of queens with Jinkx Monsoon and BenDeLaCreme-levels of comedic prowess, and the challenge dedicated to the disappearance of season one and two judge Merle Ginsburg flopped harder than Christina Aguilera’s Lotus. (Bionic was actually a UK number one, so.) Snatch Game, however? Killer. Ginger Minj and Kennedy Davenport made herstory as the first competitors to score a double win for the fan-favourite challenge as Adele and Little Richard, and while we’re not particularly keen on ties (we’ll come to that later), this was deserved. Overall, with a cast like this (Ginger, Kennedy, Katya, Pearl, Violet Chachki, Trixie Mattel, Miss Fame, Max etc), it should’ve been a lot stronger.
14. All Stars 3
Most iconic moment: BenDeLaCreme’s self-elimination/Shangela’s downfall
It doesn’t feel right to rank a season with BenDeLaCreme, Shangela, Trixie Mattel, Kennedy Davenport, Bebe Zahara Benet, Chi Chi DeVayne, Milk, Morgan McMichaels, Thorgy Thor and Aja this low. But we all know what went wrong here don’t we? Say it with us: SHANGELA WAS ROBBED. Has an elimination ever hurt this much? Manila Luzon on All Stars 4 comes pretty close, but Shangela’s long-awaited induction into the Drag Race Hall of Fame was RIGHT THERE. Robbery aside, All Stars 3 was responsible for several of the most gag-worthy moments in Drag Race herstory: Bebe becoming the first winner to ruturn as a competitor; the jury vote; “Is she going to jump from there?” and BenDeLaCreme deciding to give herself the chop after winning not one, not two, but five maxi-challenges. At least there was only one winner though, right?
13. Season 10
Most iconic moment: “Miss Vaaaaaaaaaaaaanjie”
Drag Race’s 10th season featured the most viral moment for the franchise so far when Vanessa Vanjie Mateo sashayed away (backwards) from the main stage and recited her middle name, spawning meme after meme and adoration from A-List stars such as Andrew Garfield. Aquaria also proved to be one of the most sickening fashion queens the show has ever seen, several fan-favourites were controversially eliminated by lip-sync assassin Kameron Michaels, and The Vixen vs Eureka usurped Sharon Needles and Phi Phi O’Hara as the most explosive rivalry in the show’s 13-year run. And although The Vixen didn’t make it as far as we anticipated, she made herstory when she stepped up for Black entertainers and helped lift the lid on the continuous racism at the hands of so-called ‘fans’. Sadly, season 10 came to an anticlimactic end with the showdown for the crown as the queens attempted to outperform season nine’s now-iconic stunts. Honourable mention to Asia O Hara’s butterflies: may they rest in peace.
12. All Stars 4
Most iconic moment: Double crowning
Even though it’s our favourite show, we thought it was a bit overkill to have two seasons of All Stars within a year. But with a cast like this… Trinity The Tuck, Monét X Change, Monique Heart, Naomi Smalls, Jasmine Masters, Valentina, Farrah Moan and Gia Gunn came back for a second shot at the crown, joined by All Stars 1 contestants Latrice Royale and Manila Luzon. Despite first competing nine years ago, Manila proved that she hadn’t gone soft and swept the competition. But of course, every season needs its controversial, Shangela-esque elimination, right? Even though she had the best track record with three consecutive maxi-challenge wins, she was shockingly eliminated by Naomi with zero remorse… and it was her first time in the bottom! Gag of the century? Yas, until the finale, which saw both Monét and Trinity win the title and 100,000 dooollahz each.
12. All Stars 5
Most iconic moment: Shea Couleé’s win!
As of writing, we’re not sure if All Stars 5 actually deserves to place above All Stars 4. Sadly, most of the challenges were stale as hell and the new twist, which saw past lip-sync assassins return to compete against the maxi-challenge winner, didn’t live up to expectations. You’re gonna bring back KENNEDY DAVENPORT, the DANCING DIVA OF TEXAS, to perform a REBA MCENTIRE song? Oh, and you’re not gonna bring back Trinity K. Bonet or Peppermint? The audacity is real. On a more positive note: Jujubee cemented her status as one of the most beloved entertainters ever and the queen of one-liners (“sensible 74”); Alexis Mateo and India Ferrah’s feud provided us with the juice; Yvie Oddly vs India’s showdown to Ricky Martin’s Livin’ La Vida Loca was the bomb.com.org.co.uk and Shea Couleé finally got her crown. We’re so proud to see it.
10. Season 1 (Drag Race UK)
Most iconic moment: The Frock Destroyers – Break Up Bye Bye
After years and years of rumours and anticipation, RuPaul’s Drag Race UK finally launched back in 2019 to widespread acclaim. The crass sense-of-humour and references to iconic soaps and dramas, as well as the interactions between the contestants, was a breath of fresh air for RuPaul’s empire (even though RuPaul didn’t have a clue what was going on) and resulted in peak British television. It wasn’t Americanised, like we feared. The challenges were more of the same, but the way they were executed? Perfection. Downton Draggy? Robbed of a BAFTA. Snatch Game? The definition of ‘iconic’ thanks to The Vivienne and Baga Chipz. And The Frock Destroyers? Little Mix were left shaking.
9. Season 12
Most iconic moment: Jan’s face
Despite several setbacks, including the coronavirus pandemic and Sherry Pie being ousted by production because of her unforeseen disqualification, season 12 was truly that bitch (now available on streaming services). Like several contestants stated during its run, season 12 felt like a season of All Stars because the amount of charisma, uniqueness, nerve and talent? Far too much. Snatch Game and Madonna: The Unauthorized Rusical left jaws on the mothertucking floor and redeemed season 11’s whelming efforts, the Superfan Makeover left us in absolute tears and the lockdown finale put the top three’s creativity to the test with three awe-inspiring lip-sync showdowns. Crystal Methyd regurgitating the life cycle of a bird lives in our heads – say it with us now – RENT FREE. And while we usually live for the drama and conflama between the contestants, this season really was RuPaul’s Best Friend Race, and we loved to see it.
8. Season 2
Most iconic moment: “I don’t think you’re seeing that Tyra is a complete bitch.”
Drag Race’s sophomore season is when the show came into its own. Thanks to the contestants’ unfiltered personalities, it’s the bitchiest of them all with iconic throwdowns such as Mystique Summers Madison vs Morgan McMichaels (“Bitch, I am from Chicago!”), Tatianna vs Tyra Sanchez (“I don’t think you’re seeing that Tyra is a complete bitch”) and Tyra against, well, everyone. Season two also featured the first ever Snatch Game – and the best impersonation of Britney Spears (sorry Derrick Barry) – the lip-syncs were turned up a notch thanks to Jujubee and the maxi-challenges weren’t solely focused on whether the queens can triumph over Meryl Streep at the Oscars. We will admit: the budget wasn’t entirely there and the fashion wasn’t earth-shattering, but whatever, it’s an absolute classic.
7. Season 9
Most iconic moment: Valentina – “I would like to keep it on please”
Lady Gaga. Eureka’s injury. Valentina’s elimination. Sasha Velour’s rose-petal extravaganza. Charlie Hides telling kids to get off her lawn. LINDA EVANGELISTA! We were not ready for the amount of iconic moments on the ninth season of Drag Race. It was unprecedented, really. How many shows out there reach another peak in their ninth season? Every single contestant came to play and slay, hence why three of them – Sasha Velour, Trinity the Tuck and Shea Couleé – went on to win crowns and $100,000 doollahz. All Stars 7 winner Peppermint (we, like Shangela, see it in the cards) also broke new ground for the series as the first openly transgender contestant (Kylie Sonique Love and Monica Beverley Hillz came out as trans during their stint), the lip-sync showdown for the crown spiced up the finale format and Valentina’s love for telenovelas resulted in the most severe reunion in all 13 seasons. Valentina may or may not love Farrah Moan, but we love this season.
6. Season 3
Most iconic moment: “GET HER OFF OF ME!”
In hindsight, season three is probably the most difficult season of Drag Race. It had more obscure sewing challenges than any other season, such as: holiday thrift store drag; couture cake-inspired outfit; three outfits for a hair show – one made entirely of hair; and a dress made out of money. Like Raja recently said on the Pit Stop with Bob the Drag Queen, it’s the “last season” that utilised the contestants’ craftiness. That’s what we loved about it, seeing these queens concoct high-fashion garments out of crap, basically. More of this, please! Manila Luzon also blessed viewers with the first batshit crazy lip-sync when she threw down to MacArthur Park against Delta Work, Raja and Carmen Carrera served soft porn as they gyrated on each other to the beat of Paula Abdul, and Mimi Imfurst proved that drag is not a contact sport as she catapulted India Ferrah over her shoulders. It was – in the words of Alexis Mateo – a “BAM!” of a season.
5. Season 4
Most iconic moment: Willam’s disqualification
Although RuPaul and Michelle Visage claim that drag will “never be mainstream,” Drag Race season four is when the show started to make its presence known in the mainstream. While many of the series’ contestants have flourished after their stint, Sharon Needles became – as cliché as it is to say – a beacon of light for young fans who were ostracised for being different. Sharon’s relationship with Phi Phi O’Hara still stands as the most iconic rivalry of the entire series (although Yvie vs Silky and Kandy vs Tamisha were more explosive), boasting the now-infamous line: “Go back to party city where you belong!” The season also featured the debut of Willam – who became the first ever contestant to be disqualified from the series – as well as Chad Michaels and Latrice Royale, who both cemented their statuses as drag legends. Let’s not forget Dida Ritz and her lip-sync to Natalie Cole’s signature hit This Will Be in her gladiator-esque couture. Like Latrice said, it was “high drag at its finest”.
4. Season 5
Most iconic moment: “Back rolls?!”
We’re gonna throw it out there: season five is Drag Race at its peak when it comes to funny. From Jinkx Monsoon’s impersonation of Little Edie in Snatch Game to Roxxxy Andrews’ mispronunciation of “sequins”, to Alyssa Edwards and Alaska in general, it was a barrel of laughs. The feud between Alyssa and her best frenemy Coco Montrese is exactly why we love this show and the consistent goopery in the lip-syncs left us floored. Roxxxy vs Alyssa, anyone? Jinkx vs Detox? Alyssa vs Coco? We were so well fed. And we all stan an underdog storyline, don’t we? Although Jinkx Monsoon competed in a season chock-full of heavyweight drag competitors, her quirky aesthetic and wit saw her make history as the first (and only) contestant to place in the top for nine consecutive weeks; paving the way for one of the most satisfying finales in Drag Race history.
3. UK season 2
Most iconic moment: UK Hun?
Following a year without Drag Race UK due to concerns over the coronavirus pandemic, the series returned in January and bing, bang, bong’d the hearts of viewers around the world in lockdown. Never has a season boasted as many shock eliminations, from the likes of Joe Black, Asttina Mandella and Ginny Lemon; particularly the latter, who sashayed away from the stage mid performance and failed to return. In the words of Tayce, “The cheek, the nerve, the gall, the audacity and the gumption!” The runways were also turned up a notch thanks to the likes of A’Whora, Bimini Bon Boulash and Sister Sister, as well as the lip-syncs smackdowns. We can’t forget RuPaul’s now-iconic rant about H&M, COVID’s interruption halfway through the series – which resulted in Veronica Green contracting the virus – and the takeover of the United Kingdolls. Now that it’s over, we’re not UK Hun.
2. Season 6
Most iconic moment: “I feel VERY attacked!” (Untucked)
Now this is quintessential Drag Race. Season six was the perfect blend of comedy and drama and had a perfect mix of design and performance challenges. It’s often considered to have the most iconic top three in Bianca Del Rio, Adore Delano and Courtney Act, and the lip-sync showdowns were unmatched thanks to Trinity K Bonet, who may have not slain every challenge, but established herself as the most versatile lip-syncer in herstory. Let’s not forget, it was the season of the catchphrase thanks to Gia Gunn (“Absolutely” / “Feeling like pussy, feeling like cunt” / “I don’t jump guns, I am the boom boom gun”) and Laganja Estranja (“C’mon season six, let’s get sickening!” / “Yas gawd!” / “I’m young, hung, and clearly march to the sound of my own drum so props to ya mawma”).
1. All Stars 2
Most iconic moment: Alyssa Edwards vs Tatianna – Shut Up and Drive
DOES THIS COME AS A SURPRISE TO ANYONE?! All Stars 2 is the definitive season of RuPaul’s Drag Race. All of the contestants were either fan-favourites, lip-sync assassins or runner-ups on their original season – Alaska, Katya, Detox, Roxxxy Andrews, Alyssa Edwards, Tatianna, Phi Phi O’Hara, Ginger Minj, Adore Delano and Coco Montrese – making it the strongest cast of all time. Revenge of the Queens is potentially the best ever episode, providing fans with the most jaw-dropping lip-sync in the cosmos when Tatianna and Alyssa slayed the house down to Rihanna’s pop-rock hit Shut Up and the Drive. Oh, and that mirror scene? Honey. Phi Phi’s reaction? Gooped. The confrontation? Mothertucking gagged. Roxxxy also made it abundantly clear when she launched her bid for Grammy superstardom with her verse in Read U Wrote U, which still stands as the best musical moment from the series.