They’re the shirtless models used to add a bit of eye-candy to RuPaul’s Drag Race, but this week’s episode featured a groundbreaking addition to the Pit Crew.
The Pit Crew are a Drag Race staple – often appearing to assist the contestants while wearing vibrant underwear from one of a number of gay brands.
Various members of the model team have appeared in each of the 10 seasons of RuPaul’s Drag Race, and will soon appear in the upcoming Thai spin-off of the show.
Despite there being a whole host of men in the Pit Crew over the last decade, Laith Ashley broke down another barrier by being the first transgender man in the modelling team.
Ashley made his first-ever appearance on the show on Thursday, appearing in a challenge entitled “Pants Down Bottoms Up,” where the queens matched up the underwear of a variety of male models in a boxer-themed version of snap.
The trans model is one of the most prominent transgender people in fashion – previously featuring in shows for New York Fashion Week for Adrian Alicea and Gypsy Sport.
Many eagle-eyed viewers spotted model Ashley as one of the assortment of shirtless men that one of the queens described as “mouth-watering.”
Taking to Twitter after the episode, Ashley thanked his fans and everyone who had reached out to him positively since his appearance.
“I just needed to say thank you for all the comments I’ve been getting for my appearance on RuPaul’s Drag Race,” he said in a video.
“I’m overwhelmed. A big thank you to RuPaul and World of Wonder.”
— Laith Ashley (@laith_ashley) May 18, 2018
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Earlier this year, RuPaul prompted a significant backlash after he said that he would not allow transgender drag queens who have medically transitioned to compete on the show.
Talking to the Guardian, he said that he would “probably not” allow a trans woman to compete on the show, despite the fact that Peppermint, who is trans, competed on season nine of the show and became a finalist.
Several other queens have also openly spoken about having feminising cosmetic surgery prior to competing on Drag Race.
“You can identify as a woman and say you’re transitioning, but it changes once you start changing your body.
“It takes on a different thing; it changes the whole concept of what we’re doing,” RuPaul said.
The television personality then apologised for the comments after being schooled on the importance of intersectionality by the likes of former contestants Courtney Act and Monica Beverly Hillz.
RuPaul later wrote on Twitter: “Each morning I pray to set aside everything I THINK I know, so I may have an open mind and a new experience.
“I understand and regret the hurt I have caused.
“The trans community are heroes of our shared LGBTQ movement. You are my teachers.”