Since RuPaul’s Drag Race sashayed onto our screens back in 2009, the Emmy Award-winning phenomenon has received widespread recognition for its fierce lip-sync format, which sees the bottom two competitors of the week compete in a lip-sync smackdown to remain in the competition. As the show has grown in popularity, the outcome of the lip-syncs – and the decisions that put the queens there – has generated more controversy. ‘Did [insert queen here] deserve to go home?’ ‘Did [insert queen here] even deserve the bottom two?’ ‘Have the judges lost their goddamn minds?’ It happens every season, and with the third season of Drag Race UK right around the corner, we’ve updated our list of the most debated exits in herstory. Did we get it right? Or have we lost our goddamn minds?
10. Ongina (Season 1)
Who sent them packin? Bebe Zahara Benet
No T, no shade, no pink lemonade (Jasmine Masters – 2015), but Rebecca Glasscock made the final three of season one and Ongina was relegated to fifth place… How? The beloved star became the franchise’s first official robbed queen when she undeservedly found herself in the bottom two on the inaugural season’s sixth episode with Bebe Zahara Benet, who beat her in a lip-sync to Stronger by Britney Spears. The previous week, Ongina won her second challenge – more than any other contestant at that point – and 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. She could’ve gone all the way.
9. Joe Black (UK season 2)
Who sent them packin? Bimini Bon Boulash
Although Joe Black left audiences slain with her two ensembles, in which she paid homage to David Bowie and the golden – we repeat, golden – interior of the Brighton Pavilion, the panel, however, were unimpressed. Social media hailed their comments as “baffling” and “pure bollocks“, going as far to demand justice with a change.org petition. Even Tracy Beaker herself, Dani Harmer, was “gobsmacked” at the outcome, which saw Joe frustratingly sashay away in last place. Doesn’t feel right, huh? When we spoke to Joe, she told us: “The audience, from what I’ve seen online, very much disagreed with them as well! The audience are the ones to react to this, and they’ve made their feelings clear! Michelle Visage is apparently, I’ve been told on Twitter, no longer welcome in Brighton!”
8. Ginny Lemon (UK season 2)
Who sent them packin? HERSELF
While Drag Race UK season two boasted a plethora of gag-worthy moments like no other season in herstory, none can possibly compare to Ginny Lemon’s infamous exist. During her first (and only) time in the bottom two, the star denied RuPaul the chance to utter her dreaded “sashay away” exit line as she departed the stage mere seconds into the song. Speaking with GAY TIMES after the episode, Ginny explained why she chose to exit this way. “The reason I did it is because I had to stick with my integrity. I went onto that show to fuck it up, break the binary and to be punk,” she said. “I didn’t want to fight, and also, I’m not gonna play the rules of the game. There’s no way. I’ve never played by the rules, I’m not gonna start now!”
7. Valentina (Season 9)
Who sent them packin? Nina Bonina Brown
The fan-favourite telenovela challenge from season five was brought to life in the ninth season of the show when Valentina provided us with the now-iconic quote: “I’d like to keep it on please.” The star chose to lip-sync against Nina Bonina Brown with her face covered (ahead of her time!) because she didn’t memorise the lyrics to Greedy by Ariana Grande; resulting in a shock elimination for the performer, who many fans touted as a frontrunner, including Mama Ru, who told her: “I thought you had the stuff to go all the way.”
6. BenDeLaCreme (All Stars 3)
Who sent them packin? HERSELF
After winning five challenges (more than any other queen in herstory) and three lip syncs, season six’s Miss Congeniality BenDeLaCreme had the All Stars 3 crown on lock. Instead, she opted to eliminate herself instead of one of the bottom queens, telling RuPaul and the rest of the judging panel that she already felt like a winner. Some praised Ben for the move, while others criticised the star for wasting the show’s time. Whatever you think of her decision, you can’t deny that it was one of the boldest moments the show has ever seen.
5. Willam (Season 4)
Who sent them packin? RuPaul
Willam provided fans with two firsts during season four’s Frenemies episode: the first time a queen has thrown upon on the main stage and the first time a queen has been disqualified. Although she won the episode, Willam was booted off by RuPaul for breaking the rules, which was later revealed in the reunion to be “conjugal visits” from her husband. Since then, it’s been stated by Willam that this was in fact a story fabricated by the producers. Last year on Twitter she told Leslie Jones that she was disqualified because she was vocal about a number of different things on the Drag Race set.
4. Katya (Season 7)
Who sent them packin? Kennedy Davenport
It’s safe to say Katya has a passionate fanbase. When the Russian hooker was bested by Kennedy Davenport in the Hello Kitty challenge to Katy Perry’s Roar, fans were furious (you should’ve seen Reddit at the time) because her puppet was – hands down – the best, and her lip sync was killer. However, Texas’ reigning dancing diva brought the *insert fire emoji* and a sense of desperation in her performance, which ultimately won her a place in the final four.
3. BenDeLaCreme (Season 6)
Who sent them packin? Darienne Lake
This feels like the first Drag Race elimination that garnered significant uproar from the fandom. When BenDeLaCreme was eliminated at the top five by frenemy Darienne Lake – also known as “big girl walking down the dirty street” to many – fans launched a petition asking RuPaul to bring Ben back into the competition, not realising the entire show was already filmed, bless ’em. Four years later, however, DeLa proved her charisma, uniqueness, nerve and talent when she decimated the competition on All Stars 3 and chose to leave on her own accord.
2. Manila Luzon (All Stars 4)
Who sent them packin? Naomi Smalls
At one point, Manila Luzon was on track to become the first Asian queen to take home the title of America’s Next Drag Superstar. After all, she was part of the closest top two in the show’s herstory (with Raja), was completely shafted during her first All Stars experience and won three consecutive challenges (and two lip syncs) during All Stars 4 – so, it felt like her time. However, in the eighth episode, Manila found herself in the bottom for the first time (THE FIRST TIME!) and was sent packin’ by fellow competitor Naomi Smalls (who had zero remorse), sending shockwaves through the Drag Race fandom. Trinity the Tuck and Monét X Change are absolutely worthy of a crown, but this time around, it should’ve been Manila’s.
1. Shangela (All Stars 3)
Who sent them packin? Morgan McMichaels, Milk, BenDeLaCreme, Aja, Jasmine Masters, Chi Chi DeVayne
With three challenge wins and three lip sync wins under her belt, Shangela was, statistically, the best performing queen of All Stars 3 (after BenDeLaCreme, but see above). Despite her Daenerys Targaryen-esque campaign to win over her fellow competitors, the eliminated queens – Morgan, Milk, Ben, Aja, Jasmine and Chi Chi – turned on her in the final and failed to vote her into the top two. Instead, Kennedy – who had a Roxxxy-like run on AS3 – and Trixie – who only gained momentum halfway through the series – fought for the crown, with the latter ultimately becoming the third inductee in the Drag Race Hall of Fame. It was the first time in which the final two weren’t determined by RuPaul herself, and we’re 100% sure if it was, it would’ve been Shangela and Trixie, with Shangela potentially making Drag Race HERstory as the first All Star of colour.
To hear our thoughts on the brand new season of RuPaul’s Drag Race UK, subscribe to Snatched! an original podcast from GAY TIMES. Each week, we dissect all of the drama and conflama of the latest episode and chat with the eliminated queen, who spills all the T on their exit and time on the series. Snatched! is now available on all streaming services including Spotify and Apple Podcasts.