What Is ‘RuPaul’s Drag Race’ About?

There are contestants impersonating celebrities, throwing shade, and lip-syncing the house down boots. Admittedly, RuPaul’s Drag Race can be a little confusing to someone who’s never seen the show. Once you get into it, though, you won’t be able to stop. The series earned multiple Primetime Emmy Awards, including “Outstanding Competition Program.”

What is RuPaul’s Drag Race about? Here is a spoiler-free, beginner’s guide to the television phenomenon.

How does ‘RuPaul’s Drag Race’ work?

This competition reality series follows a specific formula for its episodes. During the first episode, RuPaul thrusts a group of drag queens into the “werk room.” Though they each have a different aesthetic, only four will make it to the finale; only one will be crowned “America’s Next Drag Superstar” and win a cash prize of $100,000.

Each week, the queens compete in a variety of challenges, from acting to designing outfits to comedy. Following the main challenge, the contestants strut their stuff on the runway. Based on their performance in the challenges and their costumes on the runway, RuPaul choose the “tops” and the “bottoms,” aka the winners and losers, of the week.

The bottom two must then “lip sync for their life,” resulting in one queen getting eliminated. The show continues like this until only three or four drag queens remain. During the finale, RuPaul chooses the winner of the competition.

Aquaria
Aquaria attends The 2019 Met Gala | Photo by Dia Dipasupil/FilmMagic

RuPaul won multiple Emmy Awards for his television show

In addition to earning the praise of the LGBTQ community and fans nationwide, RuPaul’s Drag Race won numerous awards. That includes the Primetime Emmy Awards for Outstanding Competition Program, Outstanding Host for a Reality or Competition Program, and Outstanding Costumes for a Variety, Nonfiction, or Reality Programming.

Some of the queens enjoyed success in the fashion world following their time on Drag Race. Contestants Aquaria and Violet Chachki were among the first drag queens to walk the Met Gala’s pink carpet. Alyssa Edwards collaborated with makeup company Anastasia Beverly Hills to create her own eyeshadow palette.

RuPaul's Drag Race
Plastique Tiara | Photo by Randy Shropshire/Getty Images for VH1

What are the correct pronouns to use when addressing a drag queen?

You can’t be entertained by the queer community without being respectful of its members. A good rule of thumb for drag queen pronouns is that if they are performing as their female drag character, the correct pronouns would be she/her. If a drag performer is acting as a male drag character, the correct pronouns would be he/him. Out of drag, the opposite pronouns would be used.

There are, of course, exceptions to this rule. Some drag queens identify as transgender and/or nonbinary in their everyday life. That includes contestants on RuPaul’s Drag Race, such as Gia Gunn, who has come out as a transgender woman. In the instance of Gia Gunn, female pronouns would be used to describe her both in and out of drag.

Other drag queens don’t have a preference for their pronouns. That includes the host of RuPaul’s Drag Race, RuPaul, who generally goes by he/him both in and out of drag. Your best bet is to ask the drag queen their preference or, for RuPaul’s Drag Race, use the pronouns the other contestants use to describe that person.

RuPaul's DragCon
Drag queen Nina West during RuPaul’s DragCon LA 2019 | Photo by Ronen Tivony/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

What is ‘RuPaul’s Drag Race’ rated? Is it appropriate for children?

According to parents online, there is no age limit for fans to enjoy RuPaul’s Drag Race. There are sexual innuendos scattered throughout the show, though some say the children would not get the references, anyway. Other parents say this show is loaded with positive role models and children should be encouraged to watch Drag Race.

During a live performance at The College of New Jersey, RuPaul’s Drag Race contestant, Peppermint, addressed the issue some parents have with drag queens and transgender individuals.

“Anything that’s gender variant, anything that’s expressing something different than what the rules say has to do with sex, sexuality, gender or expression is somehow perverse and erotic and it’s not necessarily,” Peppermint said. “Of course, these things exist in humans. Even eating food can be sexy but we don’t say ‘don’t you eat food in front of my kids.’ So, I think folks that are trying to police drag and drag queens and are trying to limit [children] from their exposure to it are really just trying to advertise to the world that they are insecure.”

RuPaul’s Drag Race is available for streaming on VH1’s website and on the VH1 app.