14. Raja (Season 3, WINNER)

Thankfully, for Raja, this list is based solely on how queens presented on Drag Race and Untucked, because there might be nothing as embarrassing as this:

In case you are confused, I can clarify for you that you were not just dreaming. That was a real music video, it was actually over eight minutes long, and she did just sing about “sex for dinner”. It is the most embarrassing thing ever. Let me provide a point of comparison: I once made a political art piece in grade twelve about the taxation on female hygiene products that included fake menstrual blood in it. It was in the collage medium. This is more embarrassing. 

Still, from episode to episode in season three Raja was a sickening queen. This is not easy to admit because, like Shannel, Raja gave off a vibe of “been there, done that” from the very beginning. She needed to remind us, over and over, how many years she’s been doing this (Please remind us, Raja, how long have you been doing drag? We have already forgotten since you last told us FIVE MINUTES AGO). It also isn’t easy to give Raja credit for all her editorial, high fashion realness because there was something about it all that didn’t feel “drag”. Her heroin chic glare as she walked the runway wasn’t invitational, even if we knew what she was trying to do. We expected more generosity from America’s next drag superstar. In this respect, we could say that if there was one queen who lived the essence of the Heathers, it was Raja. She seemed so holier-than-thou, like she was the ring leader of the in-crowd. There’s something off-putting about queer icons that are too cool for us—it doesn’t appeal to the fact that we consume queer media as a retreat from our lives as social outcasts. (As it turns out, according to people I know who attended the Drag Race cruise, Raja is a very sweet person in real life. Who would have thought?)
I’ve talked shit about Raja long enough. Now let’s catalogue every amazing thing she did in season three: she pissed off Shangela, which was fun to watch; she brought Vivienne Westwood-style Christmas realness; she dressed as an even queerer C-3P0; she faithfully paid homage to Stephen King’s Carrie (an act of curatorial camp, would you say?); she did the Marie Antoinette look in a good way (take notes, Jinkx Monsoon); and her Drag Queen from Outer Space was well-executed. Finally, her evening gown made completely of cash, not to mention the way she walked it down the runway, was spellbinding. 

Best line: to Delta, after talking shop about the other contestants: “Do you think people talk about us like this?” Yes, Raja. They do.
13. Tammie Brown (Season 1, 8th place)

Of all the top twenty queens on this list, Tammie Brown has the least episodes under her belt. This is a strong indication of just how memorable this diva was. Tammie might even be the most unique queen of Drag Race herstory, not just as someone who pays homage to old Hollywood, but who appears to psychically live in that era. And just like the divas of old, if a queen crossed Tammie she could turn evil real fast. In first season we assumed that Tammie was from another planet; by All Stars season we’d not only confirmed this fact, but had also learned that the alien race of Busby Berkeley chorus girls she was from was planning to invade Earth and destroy its drag queens! Popcorn and cracker jacks! 

Charisma, uniqueness, nerve, and talent—Tammie has it all, and in every colour too! It just so happens that the judges wanted different talents from their queens. Still, Tammie haunts our dreams and everyday lives, as every quip she has made on camera has doubled as a clownish one liner and a death threat (“You know what they say about Palm Springs: that’s where the gays go to die”). She even came after Michelle Visage! And without breaking her smile! She’s a psycho! No, she’s Baby Jane! 

Best line: While applying make-up: “Beat your face! Beat your face like you beat your hole!” I just re-watched that line and spit my wine at the computer screen.

12. Yara Sofia (Season 3, 4th place)

Season three is so complex in its narrative development. There was the piece about body shame that developed early in the season around Delta, Stacey, and Mimi, that I am still critically working through. Before mid-season the Heathers/Boogers rivalry had taken off, and to keep it suspenseful the gang members were picked off in equal numbers. And by the time of the final four another sub-narrative had formed from the friendship between Alexis and Yara. In the workroom there was a dynamic between the last two standing Boogers that wasn’t matched by Raja and Manila. We figured the top Heathers had a good hunch that they would be facing one another in the end, hence why they couldn’t get too to one another. Alexis and Yara, however, grew to support each other through their trip-ups with language barriers, runway presentation, etc. They wanted to see each other in the final two, and that is why the final lip-sync between them, to determine which Booger would join the Heathers in the top three, was so gut-wrenching. This wasn’t how they had envisioned it! Boogers stand together! Alas, the pressure of the entire competition wore on Yara as it did on Alexis, to the point that the ratio of pros to cons had become skewed. After watching Raja win praise for pulling off an architectural feat with her money couture, while Yara was criticized for doing basically the same thing with her gown, we saw eye-to-eye with Yara, and we too felt ourselves lose control while she collapsed on the main stage. That Patti Labelle song will never be the same again. 

Best line (you guess it): “Echa pa’lante!”

11. Pandora Boxx (Season 2, 5th place)

A.k.a. the Susan Lucci of second season. Pandora Boxx was robbed, over and over, and winning Miss Congeniality doesn’t make up for it. She should have won the Country Queens challenge over Tyra, because even though Tyra’s reveal on the main stage was boss, Pandora killed that sketch (and you can complain about Pandora’s country girl look that episode, but whatever—they awarded Jinkx in season five whenever she looked like garbage). Pandora’s performance as Carol Channing in the Snatch Game was the best of that episode (“I feel so embarrassed, all I wrote was ‘I’ve got a bunch of lovely coconuts!’”), but Tatianna won that main challenge. And finally, Pandora was thrown to the bottom to lip-sync against Jujubee in the Golden Gals competition, when it was Tatianna who should have been there instead. We deserved to see Pandora Boxx go further, but there you go. Life isn’t fair. 

I have a theory that Jinkx’s win for next drag superstar of season five was a do-over for the misjudgment the panel made in season two to eliminate Pandora so early. The outcry from the blogosphere and online journalist community after Pandora’s elimination was so huge (Entertainment Weekly called it “the most controversial elimination of the season”), and her base of followers has since grown so gargantuan, that by season five the judges began to listen to the fans. They got it wrong with their final choice in season five, but more on that later. 

Pandora’s best moment (and there are so many moments):