Rude, crude, and big on YouTube, drag queens are taking over the online world – and the UK. In fact, in 2018 there was a 43% increase in searches related to “drag queens” on our shores, with Willam Belli the most-watched act.
And just like the size of Trixie Mattel’s wig wardrobe, they’re set to get even larger in 2019 with seminal show RuPaul’s Drag Race shantaying its way to the UK.
But if you’re a Drag Race fan it’s likely you’ll have already strutted onto YouTube, catching extra content from the RuPaul runway via the channel belonging to World of Wonder, producers of the hit talent show.
It’s also here you can find the most popular drag series UNHhhh, the show that sees Drag Race contestants Mattel and Katya Zamolodchikova discuss everything from drugs, religion and (Katya’s personal obsession) the 1997 film Contact. And all that in front of an extremely well-used green screen.
However, although World of Wonder is the largest, there are other, independent channels prime for drag fans’ picking.
Where exactly? We chatted with the absolutely lovely Nova and Olympia, the duo behind Novympia, one of the UK’s largest drag channels, to find out the best YouTubers to subscribe to.
In fairness, we asked for them to add their own channel to this list.
Starting out in 2013, real-life couple Nova and Olympia have built a devoted audience with viral hits such as My Strange Addiction parody “I Want To Be A Sofa”, which saw Olympia combatting a compulsion to imitate furniture. It’s even weirder and more brilliant than it sounds.
But the pair aren’t only about parodies. “There’s music, there’s comedy, there’s make-up stuff,” Nova says. “We try to cover all bases and to have a bit of an oasis on the internet.”
“As long as we’re having fun and being ridiculous then it’s all good,” adds Olympia. “Taking something seriously isn’t a bad thing, but at the end of the day you are a man dressing like a lady.”
And their fans aren’t exactly encouraged to take things too seriously either. “We refer to our followers as being Cultists,” Olympia says. “We have an affectionate relationship with our fans, who are weirdos basically. People that follow us are very peculiar.”
If you’re a Drag Race fan there’s a chance you’ll remember the ever-so-shy Jaymes Mansfield: the Wisconsin queen was the first to be eliminated from the show’s ninth season.
But despite the lack of screentime, Mansfield has won an online following with her bubbly wit, puppeteering and sewing tutorials. But it’s her videos on LGBT HerStory that earns Jaymes a place on this list.
“It’s here where he explains to a younger generation of people about the likes of [landmark drag documentary] Paris is Burning,” says Nova about the series that covers everything from ballroom drags to shock queens and pageant legends.
“He covers things that a lot of people don’t know. Like, I didn’t know half of it until I watched his videos!”
If you’re new to the scene and are not sure how to get (s)tuck in, this 19-year-old Filipino-Canadian is definitely a must watch.
“His channel is a haven for people first starting out,” says Olympia. “If he was around when we first started out, it would have been so much easier for us!”
She adds: “The best thing about his channel is there’s a tutorial for everything – there’s a tutorial for every kind of cheap way to do something that looks good. If you’re a drag queen starting out and don’t have a ton of money you’ve got to be imaginative.”
While there are plenty of channels getting to the bottom of drag basics – be it make-up or hair – it’s the down-to-earth Kyne you should give your time. “He’s very thorough and makes it so accessible,” says Nova.
“Plus, now he’s so much more experienced and polished, it’s fun to grow with him.”
Fallowla Ruffalo’s ability to ruffle feathers with her political satire makes her an underrated gem on YouTube, say Novympia.
“She has this great mockumentary series [The Candidate] where she tries to become an MP. The character is really conservative. Basically, she’s a parody of a Katie Hopkins-type person,” explains Olympia.
“It following her trials of getting into power – whether in government or the local council. It’s so daft, but genuinely hilarious.”
“She makes me laugh so much,” adds Nova. “She’s different from all the other channels as she’s so quintessentially British. I think she’s fantastic!”
Saying they “aspire to inspire, to arouse and to terrify”, the avant-garde Swedish couple are one of the most high-end drag channels on YouTube.
“Everything they do is immaculate,” says Nova. “It’s absolutely perfect. It’s watching real professionals create. They’re quite different from other drag channels as they are quite serious; they are quite slick and polished.”
However, despite posting tutorials, the fun with this channel isn’t working out the method behind the art, but the finished result itself.
“I tend to watch their videos even if I’ve not got the intention of recreating it. It’s just fascinating,” says Olympia. “Head to toe, wearable drag.”