Michelle Visage and Rupaul: The Heart of "Drag Race"
Michelle Visage And RuPaul - Chemistry Lives!
Snarky, Sassy, And Fun - With A Lot Of Heart
Holy cats, do I love RuPaul's Drag Race.
I started watching because Netflix was carrying it, and my nine-year-old daughter came to me and said, "Mom, you've gotta watch this." I think she pulled up a season eight or nine episode, I'm not sure. At the time, I'd never seen any other drag queen, really, outside of RuPaul.
She was the original Glamazon, you know? I loved her song "Supermodel (You Gotta Work)" when it came out in 1993, and I was absolutely stunned by her energy and just the fact that she seemed to be having so much fun doing what she was doing. Seeing her on RuPaul's Drag Race, I remember thinking, "Holy crap, RuPaul hasn't changed at all!"
From her beauty and grace to her sass and intelligence, I loved how she interacted with her fellow judges, and I thought it was cool that she was hosting a show that celebrated the LGBTQ community and especially drag itself. It was clear that the queens admired her and that RuPaul herself was having a great time.
But it's not just about RuPaul challenging these queens to bring their game to the next level - far from it. In the midst of all the goofy challenges, the readings, the Snatch Game and the occasional innuendo, there was a whole lot of sensitivity and heart. I could see how much RuPaul cared about these queens and their stories - and believe me, there are stories that will break your heart like no other. From Roxxxy Andrews breaking down before the judges and telling them she had been left at a bus stop at 3-years-old with her sister, to the incredible transformation that was Trinity K Bonet from the beginning to when she ultimately lost the Lip Sync For Your Life, you could see the heartfelt emotion on RuPaul's face, and whether it's pride or compassion - or all of the above - anyone can realize that this show is about more than just drag queens battling it out to see who's the best at what they do, both for the audience and RuPaul herself.
The judges' panel surprised me in all the best ways - thank you, Michelle Visage, for that.
Michelle is feisty, fierce, and one of the most passionate women I've seen on television in recent memory. Her bluntness might be surprising to some, but she tempers it with genuine caring for these drag queens that is hard to miss. She's very clear on her mandate - that she is there to help these queens become better than they were when they first walked into the competition - but she does so with such a biting sense of humor that when she offers her critiques to the queens, you might wince for a second but then think, "She's not wrong."
Visage has, in fact, been asked about whether or not she thinks she is being too harsh on the queens. She is refreshingly honest about her approach with the queens. "I don’t think what I do is harsh," she said. "What I do is necessary."
What I've since learned is that Visage, like her longtime friend RuPaul, is an LGBTQ icon and ally, a role which she treasures. It's also a role which really seems to come naturally to her; as the parent of a child who identifies as non-binary, she says being an ally to the LGBTQ community is one she finds joy in.
"I’m the parent of a queer child, and for my kid to know that they can always come to me and I’m going to love them no matter what is the biggest gift," she explains.
As a faculty advisor for the Gay-Straight Alliance at the school I teach at, it would be amazing to have someone like Visage come and speak about being an ally and just supporting those in the LGBTQ community.
For me, some of the best parts of the show are when RuPaul and Michelle Visage interact. While the show is most certainly focused on the competition and the conversations between the queens when they're getting ready for their next runway or their next challenge, I really enjoy those all-too-brief moments when RuPaul and Visage first say hello to each other before they are about to judge the queens. It's really clear to anyone watching that these are longtime friends who genuinely love each other, and while there's a lot of playfulness in their interactions, there's also a whole lot of affection.
When Netflix later released the first seven seasons of RuPaul's Drag Race and my youngest put on the first two seasons - the seasons where Michelle Visage was not there - there was something significant missing. Don't get me wrong; the show was still sassy and fun, and I found myself looking forward to RuPaul's cheery, "Hello, hello, hello!" to the queens whenever he came into the workroom, but without Visage, the show was not the same. Once Visage joined the show in season 3, it was like the show found true magic any time Visage and RuPaul had the chance to interact, or when Visage would make incredibly rare appearances in the workroom or she would offer her critiques.
While without the queens RuPaul's Drag Race just wouldn't work, Michelle Visage and RuPaul are the main draw. Their work with and affection for each other and their genuine passion for the queens and the show itself makes RuPaul's Drag Race a guilty pleasure and something not to be missed.