Drag Race’s herstory-making Black champions call for more diversity in the werk room and for fans to check their racism
Drag Race legends Monét X Change, Yvie Oddly, Jaida Essence Hall, Heidi N Closet and Shea Couleé sat down with Asia O’Hara to discuss race and representation on the show.
For the first time in Drag Race herstory, five Black queens have won consecutive titles: All Stars 4 winner Monét X Change, season 11 victor Yvie Oddly, season 12’s winner and Miss Congeniality Jaida Essence Hall and Heidi N Closet, and All Stars 5 champion Shea Couleé.
This elite group came together for an Entertainment Weekly roundtable discussion, moderated by season 10’s Asia O Hara, to discuss their thoughts on race, racism and representation both on the show and in the wider world.
“Drag Race has birthed the stories of so many queer POC around America and around the world,” Monét said.
“Where the discrepancy comes is with the fanbase and how they treat us.”
She suggested that the problem stems partly from fans who don’t have friends who are people of colour, trans, Muslim, or anything other than white and cis.
“The onus is not on us to educate them on how to love us but on them to take it upon themselves to diversify… to have meaningful experiences with people who don’t look like them so that seeing us is not a token.”
Jaida highlighted that she and her fellow winners made it to the top through sheer talent and hard work – “not just because we are African American or queens of colour”.
Monét chimed with this, noting how some viewers claimed she only tied with Trinity the Tuck in the All Stars 4 finale because she is Black.
“It is something that gets to you,” she admitted. “A lot of it is projection. Their insecurity about my win has nothing to do with me.”
Yvie alluded to trans inclusion, saying that the show also has a part to play in bettering representation and that the queens must “continue to support the franchise, but also push for more diversity on the franchise”.
She acknowledged that it is a “touchy subject”, but that ultimately drag cannot be defined by gender identity, race, or any other marker.
‘Why Drag Race specifically blossomed was that it told these stories that were really progressive for the time and ultimately we still owe it to our community, the people out there who are suffering and the people who still aren’t even treated as equals by us in our community.
“We owe them the space and time to shine if we’re going to be glorifying the easier to digest parts of our community.”
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Jaida added: “I want to see more stories, I want to see more diversity, and I think by having more stories it’s just going to connect even more people.”
Discussing the success and impact the show has had, Shea lauded Drag Race for helping “to establish and legitimise the art of drag and the queer experience as something that is a true art form”.
“People are really getting the opportunity to understand that it’s not a novelty, that this is an art form rooted in generations upon generations.”
Heidi paid tribute to RuPaul, adding: “It’s amazing to see how he is able to bring out that vulnerability in peoples. It’s an art form, and he’s mastered it.”
Towards the end of the roundtable, the queens congratulated Kamala Harris on her historic vice presidential nomination.
“I’m just ready to see another Black queen crowned this year,” laughed Jaida.