Has anyone else been wondering where in the world Ru Paul went for a decade? When she vanished from the spotlight in the mid ’90s, she left us with nothing but a trail of glitter and “Supermodel” stuck in our heads. Luckily for those of us who are still humming the song ten years later, the reigning queen of drag is back.
Ru Paul’s Drag Race has all the elements of an addictive reality TV show — the cut throat competition, the moments of self-discovery, the crushing defeat. But, the show’s magic lies in the elements you don’t expect — crotch tuck pants, Bob Mackie, and a plucky contestant named Ongina.
More surprising still: cast members typically treat one another with kindness and respect. The formula riffs on America’s Next Top Model and Project Runway, but standard reality show shennanigans are notably absent — the tears are minimal, smack-talking is uncommon and no one tries to poison the competition. Unlike Heidi’s contrived “Auf Wiedersehen” to Project Runway competitors, RuPaul’s heart breaks every time she has to tell one of her proteges to “sashay away”. While this would ordinarily make for some really boring reality TV, the sequins, wigs and fake breasts keep things interesting. Drag Race’s general pleasantness has even won the New York Times as an admirer.
The show has only four episodes left, which is a total drag for long-time RuPaul fans (no pun intended — sorry, we couldn’t help ourselves). But, if this is really the type of comeback that the diva described in a recent interview with Entertainment Weekly, hopefully she’ll continue to work it for the foreseeable future. And as this is VH-1, we’ll always have copious reruns.