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Why do we love Drag Race so much?

The TV drag queen show, created by RuPaul in 2009, has gradually turned into a mass phenomenon, which entertains millions of fans all over the world. But what is it that we love so much about this show?

JUAN NARANJO

Every Sunday at 8pm, social media all over Spain goes into a frenzy. Thousands of followers of the Spanish edition of Drag Race (based on the show created by RuPaul in the United States) analyse and over-analyse everything they see on their screens: they praise their favourites and tear apart the contestants they don’t like. They scrutinise the twists and turns of the script, every word uttered by the judges and all of the contestants' accessories... And all this results in trending topics and endless debates among fans. Best of all, the show’s popularity has given fame to this handful of artists who entertain viewers week after week, increasing their worth and professional opportunities.

Although we can’t tell what destiny may spring upon the new batch of contestants, we do know what happened to those who took part in the first Spanish edition of Drag Race last year: shows in the United States, participation in international conventions, collaboration with first rate designers, advertising campaigns on a national level… Not to mention a tour around Spain for several months, with a performance which united thousands of fans in audiences (many belonging to the LGBT community, of course). And while, until a few years ago, most drag queens spent their shows embodying the greatest divas of show business, nowadays they have become those divas themselves.

In Drag Race España, as with any drag show in the country, participants embrace Spanish "folclore" culture, quoting Lola Flores, Sara Montiel or Pedro Almodóvar

From an outsider's perspective, this show just seems like a bit of frivolous fun. But what they have achieved is deeply complex: turning every episode into a nationwide event. This show creates a sense of community, beyond the extensive enthusiasm expressed online. As has always been the case with the Oscars or Eurovision, Drag Race gets groups of friends together for viewing parties every week, where together they share this hour of art and celebration. Some even go to the huge screenings organised by bars and nightclubs, a perfect excuse for a party (and a perfect opportunity for businesses to boost takings on what is typically quite a quiet day of the week).

The three best seasons

Allstars 2

After the disappointment of the first edition of Allstars, the second gave fans what we wanted; top-rate contestants at their best and a lip-sync between Alyssa and Tatiana that went down in the programme's history.

DragRace UK 1

The UK was eager to showcase the talent of local drag performers. All three of its seasons have been magnificent, but it was the first one that introduced us to some of the drag queens who are now worldwide elite: TheVivienne, BagaChipz or CherylHole are icons in the craft.

DragRace 6

Everything came together perfectly in this season. It had one of the strongest castings in living memory, one of the most charismatic winners and some of the most unforgettable moments in the history of the show. The tension was palpable, knives were flying, memes cropped up all over the internet, and almost the entire cast has gone down in history in the show.

All of this excitement and fanfare is based on admiration for the absolute work of art that is a drag queen. There exist many different talent shows on TV, but these all focus on showcasing one particular skill. Drag Race, however, searches for a well-rounded and complete artist. In order to win on this show, you have to be able to sing, dance, sew, improvise, do comedy, act…

The contestants in the Spanish version excel in all of these fields. Not without reason, it is the best rated of all the programme’s franchises - even including the original version, the Allstars version and the British version. What’s more, the second episode of the current season was honoured with a perfect score on IMDB, something which came as little surprise to anyone who watches this unforgettable talent show with all of its performances and parades.

The three worst seasons

DragRaceDown Under

The only season to date that has pitted Australian and New Zealand queens against each other was a fiasco from the start. The racist past of some of the contestants and the blatant favouritism of the producers tarnished what could have been a good edition.

DragRace UK versus TheWorld

Fans of the show were excited to learn that stars from different editions all over the world would come up against drag queens from the United Kingdom edition. But it was a complete disappointment, in which the Brits were always favoured.

DragRace Italy

While other international editions were successful, sometimes even exceeding all expectations, the Italian edition was not up to the mark. The show did not flow, the staging was disastrous and fans were unsatisfied with the contestants. A pity, because this programme was important to give visibility to the LGBT community in a country that still has a long way to go.

How did the Spanish edition manage to achieve such international success? Undoubtedly, thanks to a cast that aims for excellence through talent and hard work. And they do so without losing touch with their own identity, or losing themselves in anglophone culture. In Drag Race España, as with any drag show in the country, participants embrace Spanish "folclore" culture, quoting Lola Flores, Sara Montiel or Pedro Almodóvar. They also demonstrate a willingness for activism, paying tribute to Cristina Ortiz or Ocaña, without forgetting the demand for the trashier side of culture, with characters like Mónica del Raval or Encarnita, the sister from the baptistry.

Long live a show that celebrates the talents of these artists so long neglected by the mainstream

How could we not love a show which pays tribute to queer culture? How could we not enjoy a show which, every week, unites us as a community, around an event that sparks discussion and makes us fall in love with our favourite drag queens? How could we not idolise this television phenomenon with its iconic quotes such as “I have a master’s degree in fierce”? Who could possibly not like it?

Long live a show that celebrates the talents of these artists so long neglected by the mainstream, which educates new generations in the history of the community, that celebrates our identity, our love for laughter and our love for life.