RuPaul 7

In anticipation of the sixth season of Rupaul’s Drag Race, we have decided to rank all sixty queens from the first five seasons over six posts leading up to the premiere tonight... This edition takes on the top 10!.

While many bloggers have listed their favourite queens and lip-syncs many times before, the challenge I have presently made for myself has been to rank every queen—that is, the glamazons and the amateurs. This list saw many revisions, and once it is posted I will not be able to, in a change of heart, go back and rank Serena Cha Cha even lower. 

While I did not devise a framework or a code of critical principles for my rankings, I have since found that certain preferences can be decoded from this list. Here are some idioms to keep in mind while following this countdown to the greatest drag superstar of Rupaul’s Drag Race: 

1. Fishy is fine, but not alone does it make a legendary queen;

2. A true queen has an extensive breadth of reference; 

3. Reading is, in fact, fundamental; 

4. A taste for camp goes a long way; 

and 5. High concept ensembles are rarely boring.  

With that in mind, here's the top 10, in descending order.... Check out #20-#11 here, #30-#21 here, #39-#31 here, #50-#40 here and #60-#51 here. And thanks for reading!

10. Detox Icunt (Season 5, 4th place)

I understand that my choice of ranking Detox so high in this list will stir controversy. Fans of Jinkx and Alaska probably look back at Detox’s overall performance in season five and think, She was all bark and no bite. I feel that way too sometimes, and indeed, she only truly rocked the Draggle Rock and Scent of a Drag Queen challenges. Still, Detox’s performances were overall consistently Detox—she was never apologetic for her style choices, and when judges (mostly Michelle Visage) called her out for being ‘gimmicky’ Detox would respond the following week by doing her same old thing but more amplified.

One of the tastiest treats of season five was the talking head commentary from all the queens. It was in this venue that so many of these queens developed their drag personas, especially Detox. As I said at the very beginning of this list, I love drag queens that are recognizable outside of drag, and Detox fits that description like a latex glove. Watch that clip of her shaking her Black & Decker pecker wreckers to the edges of the camera frame as she shouts, “WHAT THE FUCK?!” Watch her say in ten different ways, “Sarry ‘bout it!”

But none of the above is really why I have ranked Detox so high. My reason for ranking her above Roxxxy, above all the winners and All Star contestants who have already featured on this countdown to the greatest drag superstar, has to do with how under-appraised I feel Detox really was. Her “Can I Get an Amen?” was awesome, opposable jawbone aside, and it so happens that all her best segments in the recording were ditched in the cutting room. Her Ke$ha, while not great, was not bottom two material (that was Coco’s Janet Jackson and Ivy Winters’s Marilyn Monroe, to be real). Detox’s telenovella performance was hilarious and appropriately hideous. Though she was nervous, Detox threw down some hilarious gags at the Rupaul Roast (“You are gayer than a Fire Island production of Rent”). But the one thing for which Detox will be reclaimed in years to come is her daring runway choices. Her mesh harlequin look was like nothing else we’ve seen on that stage. Her jellyfish realness was perfection, regardless of what the judges said about her silhouette (girl was still giving legs, people—stop crying!). Her crack-is-not-whack leather lace-up number was kind of a turn-on. Her see-through, Rooney-Mara’s-wedding look was eleganza extravaganza. Her hot pink Tex Mex get-up was sooooo gaudy, but appropriately so—it was sooooo drag. And her Fatal Attraction-esque boss bitch made her Sugar Ball performance (her candy couture is, indeed, her lowest point on the runway). While I cannot get behind Roxxxy and Coco when they kvetch about Jinkx getting all the attention for her comedic skills, I do feel for Detox not understanding how Jinkx won praise on a weekly basis for pushing the quirky envelope. After all, Detox was presenting similar, if not edgier material on the runway! Furthermore, I would argue that if there has been any other queen before or after Chad Michaels, whose aesthetic and presentation paid homage to Cher, it was this feisty queen.

Finally, I will add that I do wish Detox had a better go of the Snatch Game competition. She should have taken notes from Raja’s shitty impersonation of Tyra Banks and chosen not to impersonate someone she already knew well. Either that, or Detox should have cranked up her performance of Ke$ha, because despite what the judges say Ke$ha can be very funny. Detox, girl, you’re better than this! Start brushing your teeth with a bottle of Jack and talking through a vocoder! Best line: the exchanges between Roxxxy and Detox on Untucked are to die for, including whenever they debriefed about Jinkx’s successes:

Roxxxy: I’ve had it!
Detox: I’ve had it—
Roxxxy: You know what I’ve had?
Detox: It! If she stays, and I am fucking sent home tonight, I am going to set fire to the rain!

Ru Paul 9

9. Willam (Season 4, 6th place)
Willam was one of the queens to beat from the beginning of season four—and then she started cheating by banging her boyfriend behind the scenes. I’m with Sharon Needles about Willam’s disqualification: that shit was SO PUNK. I mean, it’s not like Willam was disqualified for pulling a Tanya Harding (Phi Phi came closest to that lowest of lows after she threw Jiggly under the bus in the Dragazines competition). No, Willam was disqualified for getting laid! And then, for the effect of punctuation, she left her ass print on the mirror in the workroom! Way too awesome!

In a sense, Willam’s exit from Drag Race is more perfect than being crowned ever could be because it’s congruent with her overall performance on Drag Race and Untucked, as well as her online presence. Willam fans love Willam because she lives and dies for the following: 1) expensive shoes; 2) bottoming; and 3) that’s it. So, Willam’s disqualification was a Janus-faced experience: on the one hand, we were sad to say goodbye to this instant legend, but on the other hand we had a proud feeling of “Es muss sein,” that it had to be this way and that we wouldn’t have it any other way (yeah, I like to quote Milan Kundera when I talk about drag queens—eat it, Hunty!).

We could kiki until sunrise over how well Willam performed in season four, and how she actually got better with every episode (her nude Dragazine was amazing, and I won’t hear another thing about it), but Willam’s qualities as a competitor are much less important to us than how she got on with the other queens. If there is one way that Willam outdid Sharon, and I’m sure Sharon would agree, it was how she managed to infuriate Phi Phi O’Hara without for a moment looking like Phi Phi was doing the same to her. The famous altercation between Phi Phi and Sharon in the workroom was somewhat upsetting, because we hated to see Sharon break face; but Willam never gave Phi Phi that satisfaction. No ma’am, Pam!

Best line: THIS:

Phi Phi O’Hara: You don’t have any talent. This is a show for talented people, not people who know how to buy fucking shoes. YOU SHOULD NOT BE HERE!

Willam: Your tone seems very pointed right now.