‘RuPaul’s Drag Race’ Emmys FYC panel on the show’s lasting impact through visibility and representation [Exclusive Video]

Since the airing of its first season in 2009, “RuPaul’s Drag Race” has charted a new course for queer visibility and representation on television, amassing a staggering 24 Emmy wins through the years. Now, on the heels of a game-changing 14th season, the hit reality competition program proves through the spirit and mentorship of its host and judges, the artistry and creativity of its crew, and the talents and storytelling of its cast of queens just how deep of an impact the series continues to have on television. Using the show’s iconic “fuzzy pink box” as a stand-in moderator, 11-time Emmy-winning host and producer RuPaul Charles leads a 2022 Emmys FYC panel alongside series judges Michelle Visage, Carson Kressley and Ross Mathews, including insight from season 14 winner Willow Pill and cast mates Kerri Colby, Bosco and Angeria Paris VanMichaels, as well as members of the crew from a variety of departments. Watch the exclusive video Q&A and behind-the-scenes coverage above.

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RuPaul opened the discussion by highlighting that the storytelling of the show is truly what sets it apart from other reality competition programs. He explains that the queens they cast “all have very interesting stories to tell” and that when you add those stories to the mix of the challenges they compete in you get something “so, so special.” Ross adds to that by pointing out “Drag Race” incorporates singing, dancing and fashion all into one show and Carson agrees that it’s also about the show’s celebration of people and giving a pedestal to a cast that would otherwise not have one. Later when the queens take questions from the pink box, Kerri drives home Carson’s point by underscoring the “trantastic” aspect of season 14 in particular for showing the “openness and sharing and diversity of what the transgender experience looks like.” She and Bosco say that the reaction of the fans to seeing so many different representations of the trans experience has been the most moving part of the show’s reception.

As this main franchise of the show continues to expand with spin-offs all over the world, Michelle noted that the “heart, love, dedication, spirit and tenacity” of their crew is “one of the main reasons this show works as succinctly and as a well-oiled machine as it does.” Both the cast of queens and members from the show’s lighting and choreographing teams call out the “Moulin Ru!” rusical challenge as one of their most proud moments of the season. Composer and music producer Leland said that “watching Moulin Ru! on TV felt like watching a stage performance of a Broadway show.” He says that “there is no limit to what Drag Race can accomplish.” Other members of the crew refer to the production of the show as a “creative family,” “huge undertaking” and “queer friendly place” that makes you feel both “comfortable” and “celebrated.”

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In terms of the impact the show has on audiences, Ross brings up one of the show’s main thesis points: “the world needs some laughter.” He says that getting to come to work and “make stupid jokes” together and then see them “become part of the lexicon out there” is not only rewarding, but makes him proud that they’re putting it out into the world. Willow’s finale performance of her song “I Hate People” is one of those moments that she got to put out into the world, and as she says it was largely in response to the pandemic and a cycle of disappointing political elections. Willow was also one of the queens who told deeply personal stories about herself on this season and said that her personally rewarding takeaway from the show is fans telling her that her story helped them get through the fear of dying. Kerri adds that there’s healing that comes for them, too, just by sharing their own stories and being a part of each other’s.

While discussing some of their favorite looks from the season, RuPaul stops to acknowledge his 30 year working relationship with designer Zaldy who creates his costumes for the show. He says, “It is such a thrill to have someone who is so creative and so fun. And everything is so different, everything is one of a kind and creative. He does what he does and I just put ’em on.” That 3o year history that RuPaul has with Zaldy is an example of the lasting impact the show has had on its audience because it explains what Ross points out: “The kids grew up with this show. So they’ve been able to express themselves like this from such a young age. Imagine growing up with this show.” Michelle wraps that thought up by answering that “it would have been a game-changer.”

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