RuPaul's Drag Race has fast become the biggest cult hit on Netflix, and as Season 6 finally arrives for UK audiences to watch, Manchester's Pop Curious? celebrates this weekend with it's Drag Race themed party. And at Haus of Phag we're never too shy to get in on the party, so have a look at our countdown of the 20 Greatest Contestants of RuPaul's Drag Race.
10. Detox – Season 5
Already known for her collaborations with Willam and Vicky Vox, Detox was a spunky and self-assured contestant. A far cry from the trashy Willam, Detox was one half brassy, but the other almost ethereal and removed. Finishing fourth, she just missed out on the finale, despite being a firm fan favourite. Her unusual impersonation of Ke$ha on the ‘Snatch Game’ will probably go down as one of its most infamously bad/good/both, but since the show has remained one of its most popular figures, both as part of DWV and be herself.
9. Jinkx Monsoon – Season 5
There was something about Jinkx’s ride from lower-tier contender to eventual winner that was heart-warming and life-affirming. Taking on board every piece of feedback, evolving and growing as both a person and performer, Jinkx proved that the underdog really could take the crown. With her classic housewife image, she maintained a gracious and dignified style, while her Little Edie Beale impersonation in the ‘Snatch Game’ might be the greatest in its history.
8. Sharon Needles – Season 4
Whoever thought that a goth could be crowned America’s Next Drag Superstar? More Marilyn Manson than RuPaul, Sharon Needles proved that just because she looked scary, that didn’t mean that she was. With as big a heart as her desire to shock, Sharon took the Morticia Adams look to its extreme and delivered as much shade and sass as the other queens, proving that drag doesn’t always have to be about making yourself look pretty.
7. Shangela – Season 2 & 3
When Shangela appeared for a second time, many asked why the first evictee of the second season had been given another chance. RuPaul allowed a second appearance from the new and budding queen because in Season 2, filmed just five months after she started drag, the real Shangela didn't have her moment to shine. And sure enough, Season 3 saw her emerge as one of the sassiest, most outspoken and shadiest queens of them all. You either love her or hate her, but there’s no denying that Shangela made one hell of an impression on Drag Race and was often hilarious to watch. Halleloo!
6. Chad Michaels – Season 4
If you think Chad Michaels looks a bit like Cher, then you'd be right, The world's most popular Cher impersonator may well look just like her, but she made a damn good impression as herself on Drag Race too. The runner-up in Season 4, she went on to win Drag Race All Stars and proved that female impersonators can be just as diverse, even if they're just impersonating one female in particular. And her Cher impersonation on the 'Snatch Game'? It really was as flawless as you'd have hoped.
5. Alaska - Season 5
Treading the runway two seasons behind her now ex-boyfriend Sharon Needles, Alaska's biggest concern was stepping out of the massive shadow of a figure who'd become a behemoth figure in drag. Well she needn't have worried, because although she didn't win Season 5, she became its most popular alumni. With her caustic and blue wit, Alaska treads daringly along the fine line between offence and hilarity, while all the while maintaining a unique and distinctive high fashion edge. While Sharon became the poster-girl for all things gothic, Alaska became the Adult Queen of Sass.
4. Adore Delano - Season 6
From the moment Adore introduced herself on the show, you knew she wasn't your run-of-the-mill youngster. "Hi. I'm Adore Delano. I'm two years old and I'm from the ocean!" Seesawing like an angsty teen between clumsiness and adorable vulnerability, her intentions seemed so pure that nobody could find a bad word against her. Though her skills left a lot to be desired, her popularity with fans, judges and contestants alike was due to a sheer likeability factor that's almost impossible to explain. But then add to that the ex American Idol contestant's tremendous singing voice and this Sensational queen has become to most successful chart musician to emerge from the show... including RuPaul herself!
3. Willam Belli - Season 4
Well, what do you expect? She may have been disqualified from the competition, but the most notorious and recognisable face from the show HAD to feature this high on the list. A trash-talking self-inflated class A bitch, dismissing her for smuggling in her boyfriend after hours was a bit like sending Al Capone to jail for tax evasion, but her shrewd self-promotion and genuinely hilarious musical parodies with DWV have made her famous in her own right, even away from the show.
2. Latrice Royale - Season 4
"She is large, in charge, chunky, yet funky. The bold and beautiful, She is Latrice Royale!" How can you forget the warm-hearted and motherly Latrice? Never a more deserving winner of the season's Miss Congeniality, her positivity and friendliness was sprinkled with the perfect quantity of sass, mothering other contestants and looking after their interests over her own. For a contestant on a reality show, Latrice was that scarce moment of sheer altruism that grounded humanity right in the centre of drag.
It's as though drag has found itself a new Messiah this year. It almost feels like no coincidence that in the year the world went crazy for Drag Race, its sassiest and most popular figure of all emerged. On one hand she's a foul-mouthed put-down artist who specialises in reading anyone she can get her claws into, but on the other, she is a warm-hearted and principled matriarch, who looks after her peers, even if she tears them to shreds as she does it. With a catalogue of material good enough for the greatest of stand-up comics, Bianca perfectly marries the "drag clown" mentality with enough glamour and seemingly effortless beauty that looks almost like an after-thought. She may be an accomplished female impersonator, but she's an even more accomplished comedienne, and while ex-contestants usually follow the musical route after their appearances on the show, Bianca may be the first we'll see cross over into the mainstream as more than just a niche personality. She's one hell of a shady queen, but she has the makings of a much needed icon for the LGBT community and with her "Not today, Satan!" mantra already seeping down into the cultural cannon, Bianca is the highlight of a show that thrives on highlights.