With season 6 of RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars set to premiere on Paramount+ on June 24, let’s take a look back at some of the most unforgettable moments and hardest seasons from the Drag Race franchise.
Since launching on US screens in 2009, RuPaul’s Drag Race has been known for putting its contestants through grueling challenges as they compete to win a cash prize. Starring RuPaul as the lead judge, the Drag Race franchise has been a regular hit with viewers looking for a large slice of glamor to go with the sharp wit, heartfelt moments, and entertaining performances alongside some of the hardest challenges the queens have faced in their careers to date.
Spanning thirteen seasons and multiple spin-off shows including, Dancing Queen, RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars, RuPaul’s Secret Celebrity Drag Race, RuPaul’s Drag U, and RuPaul’s Drag Race: Untucked, as well as UK, Australian, and other international formats, the producers have shown they know how to keep viewers tuned in for the next contest.
RuPaul’s Drag Race, looking back at some of the hardest challenges…
The Cheer Battle (Drag Race, Season 9, Episode 2)
In a memorable episode that saw Lisa Kudrow (yes, Phoebe from Friends!), challenge the queens to a historic cheer battle that resulted in a spectacular athletic performance alongside some unfortunate injuries, the queens were split into two groups battling for the $100,000 series prize as guest judges The B-52s joined the panel.
With the Cheer Battle ultimately won by Valentina, this maxi-challenge would be remembered as one of the most daring performances of the series.
That Wizard of Oz one (Drag Race, Season 8, Episode 6)
Nothing says unforgettable like the ‘Wizards of Drag’ runway challenge in season 8, when the performers (joined by the cast from Lifetime’s Little Women LA) made their entrances displaying ‘Wizard of Oz couture’, with fashion designer Marc Jacobs, and Todrick Hall as guest judges.
The challenge that saw the cast of queens channeling ‘Oz Couture’ was ultimately won by Naomi Smalls, with Bob the Drag Queen winning the season title, and Cynthia Lee Fontaine winning Miss Congeniality in the grand finale.
That four-way Lip-Sync (Drag Race, Season 9, Episode 12)
Episode 12 of season 9, saw a series first, as the four surviving drag queens were given a challenge to lip-sync to RuPaul’s single “U Wear It Well”. A four-way lip-sync enthralled viewers as Peppermint, Sasha Velour, Shea Couleé, and Trinity Taylor brought their best selves to a challenging competitive dynamic.
In a shocking twist, none of the contestants were eliminated on the final challenge, meaning all four performers advanced into a grand finale which saw Sasha Velour crowned the winner, while Valentina won the Miss Congeniality title.
The entirety of season 3
Season three has gone down in Drag Race history as featuring one of the most difficult and complex set of challenges in the series so far.
With Michelle Visage a welcome addition to the judging panel after joining as a regular judge during this season, the contestants were put through some of the consistently toughest challenges in the series.
From a Christmas card photoshoot on a trampoline, to the ‘Drag Queens in Outer Space’ acting challenge, where the performers were split into two groups as they acted in a trailer for a ‘sci-fi saga’, followed by a challenge to style a leotard using only duct tape (!), the series was eventually won by Raja, with Yara Sofia crowned Miss Congeniality.
Performing during a Pandemic (Drag Race, Series 13)
The contestants found themselves facing a whole new set of challenges as they faced a new level of responsibility they couldn’t possibly have anticipated when the global pandemic required a new set of filming procedures for series 13.
The new approach to safety for the contestants, judging panel and crew, was highlighted during the VH1 documentary “RuPaul’s Drag Race: Corona Can’t Keep A Good Drag Queen Down”, which revealed how the production was able to continue filming during the onset of the pandemic.
Which season of RuPaul’s Drag Race was the hardest?
Was it season 3 with its myriad of highly creative and incredibly demanding challenges?, season 8 with the ‘Wizards of Drag’ runway challenge?, season 9 with the four-way lip-sync and injury-inducing cheer battle?, or season 13, which had an entirely new set of challenges to deal with as the production had to contend with filming in the midst of a global pandemic?
The panel’s out on that one, but it can be said that the award for the most difficult season, is likely to be claimed by series 13, which found itself with the unlikely title of one of the first major shows to be successfully filmed during COVID-19.
With Symone announced the winner of series 13, and LaLa Ri as Miss Congeniality, all is not over for the franchise as season 6 of RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars debuts on Paramount+ later this month!