The Evolution of RuPaul’s Drag Race Since Season 1

RuPaul’s Drag Race, the very successful reality television show, has been on quite a journey since it debuted in 2009. Several changes have occurred but, perhaps the biggest was its actual formatting. The show made the unbelievable switch from Logo to VHI1, their filming quality goes up every year, and even the way they do the season finales have evolved.

Seasons 1-3

During these seasons, the queens were eliminated systematically until 3 remained. These three would perform in RuPaul’s music video and the weakest was eliminated. Once it was down to two, the competitors would engage in a lip sync battle. Their performance was added to their existing stats to find a winner. They were also judged on their talent, uniqueness, and charisma.

Although there was nothing wrong with this format, it didn’t pan out well for the popular show. RuPaul isn’t filmed live like many other reality competitions. It’s filmed in the summer and premieres in the spring. So, the winner was crowned months before the audience started watching the season. The problem is humans love to gossip, especially if they have juicy news. The LGBT community, in particular, is very close-knit. Pretty soon, word about the identity of the winner was out there. It didn’t help that Perez Hilton got wind of the rumor and spread the news about Raja’s win to the mainstream public.

Seasons 4-6

To combat the drama of Season 3, RuPaul decided to switch things up in season 4. She announced that she would no longer eliminate the top three on the final day competition. Instead, the winner would be declared at the reunion, in front of a live audience. In this way, no one would know the winner until the season had finished airing. But, this wasn’t quite what she had in mind. During the pre-recorded live taping, all 3 contestants were filmed winning the crown. The actual winner wouldn’t be disclosed until the day the show actually aired. This shocking change in format was an attempt to keep everyone guessing until the very end.

Seasons 7-8

During these seasons, the changes weren’t as drastic. The final three queens got their original songs recorded by professional singers. These recordings were used in their lip sync battles. Unfortunately, there were some who thought this concept was uninspired. Many songs were simply about the queen’s time during the competition. Everyone is pretty much in consensus that the queens did fabulously. Still, some fans felt that the time could’ve been better spent delving deeper into the girls’ themselves.

Seasons 9-10

In season 9, the strangest format change was revealed. Instead of 3 making it to the finale, there were now 4 finalists. Additionally, the lip sync battles were removed from the competition. During season 10, there weren’t any major changes. However, the lip sync battle was reinstated.

Other Changes

Since its beginning, the show’s prices and production values have increased exponentially. But, that’s not the only difference. The show now showcases a wider spectrum of drag, from trippy anime couture, to exaggerate barbies, to macabre goth stylings. There are some who don’t agree the change was necessary. In their opinion, contestants in recent years have a degree of fame and polish before coming on the show. They believe this sends out the wrong statement to the drag community, one of exclusivity. That the only way to get a spot on the show is to be already established

How it Has Changed Drag

Just last year, in March, Rupaul was inducted into the Hollywood Walk of Fame. He was the first drag queen to do so. But, that’s not the only pop culture change the wildly popular show has inspired. Drag Race has caused drag to become a worldwide industry. Their tour now makes dozens of stops around the world, many of them sold out. Simply being on the show is enough to guarantee contestants a huge social media following. Several contestants, like Alaska and Bianca Del Rio, have even become celebrities. This massive success shows that drag is more than a niche form of entertainment, only to be experienced at gay bars. Instead, it’s a true art form worthy of study.

The Bottom Line

Whether good or bad, one thing’s for sure – RuPaul’s Drag Race has certainly evolved in its ten years of existence. It has captured the heart of audiences the world over and is still growing in popularity. Here are to ten more years of continuous evolution.


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