For a long time, achieving world peace seemed more feasible than a British version of RuPaul’s Drag Race ever getting off the ground.
Now look where we are, babes: Drag Race UK has been streamed over 67 million times on BBC iPlayer, season five is imminent (!) and the series has been credited with expanding the franchise into a plethora of territories such as France, Philippines and Mexico. At this point, we wouldn’t be bloody surprised to hear that The White Bitch has been announced as the host of Drag Race Narnia. It’s everywhere, basically.
This week, 10 more fierce queens will flaunt their charisma, uniqueness, nerve and talent via maxi-challenges, runway presentations and lip-sync smackdowns to usurp Danny Beard as the ‘UK’s Next Drag Superstar’. The star power this season is insane with guest judges such as Aisling Bea, Alexandra Burke, Cush Jumbo, Daphne Guinness, Joel Dommett, Kristen McMenamy, Sophie Ellis-Bextor, Suranne Jones and Yasmin Finney, as well as cameos from Edward Enninful OBE, Carol Vorderman, Karen Hauer and Claudimar Neto.
While we patiently wait to meet Alexis Saint-Pete, Banksie, Cara Melle, DeDeLicious, Ginger Johnson, Kate Butch, Michael Marouli, Miss Naomi Carter, Tomara Thomas and Vicki Vivacious, we’ve ranked all five seasons of Drag Race UK so far – including vs the World.
5. UK vs the World season 1
Most iconic moment: Pangina’s elimination
The first-ever international version of Drag Race was unhinged. From Jimbo’s introduction of Casper the Baloney Ghost to Janey Jacké’s berserk arm choreography in the Vengaboys lip-sync, as well as Baga Chipz’s Oscar-worthy impersonation of Kathy Bates, the six-episode first season boasted a plethora of viral moments and resulted in many heated debates online. It will go down in the herstory books for eliminating the two strongest queens of the season back-to-back with Jimbo and Pangina Heals; prompting fans to question whether “current All Star rules” should be scrapped entirely if the strongest talent aren’t going to reach the final. Once the two aforementioned stars left the series, it felt – and this is no shade to the finalists – like a non-event. Controversies aside, witnessing some of the most legendary Glamazon Warriors from all corners of the franchise duke it for ‘Queen of the Mothertucking World’ felt like the queer equivalent of Avengers: Endgame. Didn’t quite stick the landing, but whatever.
4. Season 4
Most iconic moment: Baby’s departure
From the slayage of the inaugural ‘Yas-tonbury Festival’ to Dakota entering the werkroom as the British spin-off’s first trans female contestant and, of course, RuPaul missing her first-ever panelling sesh due to unforeseen circumstances, season four was…. memorable, let’s say that. The legendary Danny Beard blazed a trail for more alternative forms of drag when she became the first bearded queen on a season of Drag Race hosted by RuPaul (and the first winner), while Baby received praise for shining a light on mental health with her powerful exit. Season four also consists of one of the most diverse top four’s ever with Jonbers Blonde representing fashion (and “sex worker pigeons” around the world), Black Peppa with performance, Cheddar Gorgeous with alternative/political drag and Danny with comedy/beards. It was a great season, although it suffered ever-so-slightly as a result of some confusing judging choices (their criteria for the makeover challenge changes every season) and its predictability (Danny and Cheddar were always going to be top two).
3. Season 3
Most iconic moment: Victoria Scone making herstory
Season three had more twists and turns than – in Anubis’ words – “a cheese twist in a bakery” with legacy lip-syncs, double shantays, double sashays, medical-related departures and RuPaul’s decision to withhold a badge from the queens. It was utter bedlam. While it didn’t reach the same (impossible) heights as its predecessor, the season broke new ground for drag visibility when Victoria Scone sashayed onto the series as the franchise’s first cisgender female contestant. Additional top tier Drag Race moments include: Ella Vaday’s dirty, dirty, dirty impersonation of Nigella Lawson; Vanity Milan’s lip-sync to ‘Scandalous’ (and Alesha Dixon’s reaction); Krystal Versace’s innovative runways; and RuPaul’s bizarre decision to revive the dreaded double sashay for River Medway and Choriza May, two fan-favourites (Fame and Pearl deserved!). Season three definitely gave us all the ‘BDE (Big Drag Energy)’ we needed, and that’s what matters most, right?
2. Season 1
Most iconic moment: The Frock Destroyers – ‘Break Up Bye Bye’
Drag Race UK finally came to fruition after Michelle Visage generously risked her sanity by sharing a bedroom with K*tie H*pkins and P*ez H*lton on Celebrity Big Brother. That’s a national hero. (Where the f**k is her OBE?) For retaining the UK’s deadpan sense-of-humour and paying homage to British culture via lip-sync numbers, guest judges, references and so forth, season one was hailed as a breath of fresh air for the franchise. The Vivienne lost out on the Academy Award for Best Actress to Renee Zellweger after being possessed by Donald Trump, Little Mix announced their hiatus when The Frock Destroyers reached #35 in the UK Singles Chart with ‘Break Up (Bye Bye)’ and Divina De Campo’s red wig and silver dress served as inspiration for Kylie Minogue’s ‘Tension’ video (I do think). An iconic season.
1. Season 2
Most iconic moment: UK Hun?
Drag Race UK provided a much-needed reprieve for viewers in the first lockdown with a bing and a bang, as well as a bong. Season two was perfectly cast, with an eclectic mix of characters who have gone on to become LGBTQIA+ British icons. ‘Shock elimination’ permeated headlines throughout the season with shock exits from Joe Black, Asttina Mandela and Ginny Lemon; the latter of which sashayed away from the stage mid-performance and failed to return. Runways were turned up a notch thanks to the likes of A’Whora and Bimini, while baked beans advocate Tayce rightfully earned her status as one of Drag Race’s fiercest lip-sync assassins. Let’s not forget RuPaul’s (confusing but highly entertaining) takedown of H&M, COVID’s interruption halfway through the season – which resulted in Veronica Green contracting the virus – and the takeover of the United Kingdolls. It hasn’t been topped. Can it be topped?
All four seasons of RuPaul’s Drag Race UK are streaming now on BBC iPlayer.