Over the course of its 12-season run, RuPaul’s Drag Race has had more than its share of celebrity guest judges.
As the show continues to push drag into the mainstream, it’s also raised its own profile in the process to attract a wide range of A-listers such as Nicki Minaj, Kumail Nanjiani, Lady Gaga, Tony Hale, Jeff Goldblum, and more to grace the main stage.
So it was only a matter of time until there was a celebrity edition of Drag Race.
RuPaul’s Secret Celebrity Drag Race features 12 unnamed celebrities who will compete for the title of America’s Next Celebrity Drag Race Superstar, as well as a cash prize for the charity of their choice. In each episode, three celebrities will be transformed by Drag Race alumni and compete in challenges similar to the original show.
To some it may sound like a ploy to get a few cheap laughs from famous people getting into drag for the first time. However, as drag mentors Trixie Mattel and Monét X Change explain, Secret Celebrity Drag Race is so much more.
“Obviously they’re there to promote themselves and because they’re fans of drag race. But they’re also there because they had something about the way they look or the way they’ve been viewed as a performer or their gender or their sexuality or their body type, there’s something in drag they wanted to use to walk through that fire,” Trixie says. “It’s actually surprisingly moving. I thought we were just going to kiki, but once again on Drag Race, Trixie Mattel gets tricked into crying.”
“The heart of this show,” Monét adds, “is showing you that no matter how big your star is, there’s something about putting on a wig and a frock for the first time that makes you access parts of your personality that you did not know that were there.”
Trixie and Monét explain how being in a mentorship role for the first time changed their perspective on their craft, why everyone needs to do drag at least once, and the next Drag Race spin-off they hope to see.
First-time (drag) moms
In the drag world, it’s common for budding queens to have a drag mother, i.e. a more experienced queen who shows them the ropes of makeup, hair, performing, and so forth. Although Trixie and Monét have clearly done well for themselves without ever having a drag mother, winning Drag Race: All-Stars seasons 3 and 4 respectively, they both found new meaning for what they do as mentors on Secret Celebrity Drag Race.
“It’s definitely opened my eyes in terms of those first moments of realizing who your character is,” Monét says. “I started drag going on almost nine years ago now. So I kinda forgot what those first moments are like when you finally have makeup on and you’re like, ‘Oh, there she is.'”
For Trixie, working with her assigned celebrity only reinforced how special drag queens actually are.
“On one hand, [Secret Celebrity Drag Race] shows that drag is for everybody because, ultimately, drag is a karaoke machine, microphone, and a box of wigs. It is 100% distilled fun. However, watching people who don’t do drag, do drag, it also highlights, ‘Holy shit, we are literally aliens for being able to do what we do,'” Trixie says. “We are incredible.”
The true power of drag
Any regular season of Drag Race is more about the competition itself. These queens know what it’s like to put on a corset and heels and perform for an audience. Secret Celebrity Drag Race is more about the transformative power of drag, which Trixie and Monét agree is what everyone needs to experience.
“I have always said this, even before I did Drag Race—there is something about dressing up as someone else that really secures who you actually are,” Trixie says.
Monét recalls that during the makeover challenge on her season, her fellow competitor Miz Cracker was assigned YouTuber and singer Chester See. There were concerns that a straight man might feel uncomfortable or hold back, but See fully embraced his new persona, Miz Cookie, after seeing himself in full hair and makeup—and took that confidence straight to the stage, securing a challenge win for his drag mom.
???????? Eat it up! We are living for your lewk, Miz Cookie! ????????
— RuPaul's Drag Race (@RuPaulsDragRace) May 25, 2018
“You see these guys that once they get in drag, all of a sudden they’re twerking onstage. They’re these completely new people and they’re allowing themselves to be free,” Monét says. “That’s what you’re going to see from these celebrities because even though they do the red carpet and they do this and that, drag has a way of unleashing another side of your personality that you weren’t aware was there.”
Which would probably explain why drag makeover shows are so popular at the moment.
Drag, but make it Real World
In addition to Secret Celebrity Drag Race, there’s HBO’s We’re Here and TLC’s Dragnificent!—all of which feature Drag Race alumni using drag as a means of depicting not only an outer transformation but an internal one as well.
Because this seems to be a trend, Trixie and Monét would like to pitch what they think the next Drag Race spin-off should be.
“I would want to see a drag Real World,” says Monét. “It’s one thing to see us in the Werk Room [on Drag Race] and do the runway, but when you leave, when you finally get to take that makeup off, how do we all interact 24 hours a day? It would give people a better understanding of what we all go through and show a more human side to drag.”
Trixie just has one request: “More straight people.”
“I want to see Aaron Rodgers versus Lance Armstrong in a lip-synch battle for the ages,” she says. “I love integrating straight people into drag because to them it is magic. Gay guys are so used to us. They’re like, ‘It’s a wig. She’s got padding on. Those are 301 lashes.’ If you watch a straight person’s face during a drag show, it will make your night. And that’s what I liked most about this experience [of Secret Celebrity Drag Race]—I was like, drag really is some mystery shit.”