God save the queens! After years of rumours, RuPaul’s Drag Race UK is finally shantaying onto our screens, with ten of the country’s top queens set to dazzle viewers with their charisma, uniqueness, nerve and talent.
From “tart with a heart” Baga Chipz to “estranged Scouse housewife” The Vivienne and the NSFW-named Vinegar Strokes (we don’t recommend Googling that one), they’re all set to bring their very own part of the UK drag scene to the runway.
Fortunately for us, RadioTimes.com got to sit down with all 10 queens ahead of the series launch to learn some behind-the-scenes secrets.
Here’s the T…
1. The gap between casting and filming was tiny
In fact, after the queens signed onto the show, they were given only three weeks to prepare. “I had no idea what I was doing. It was like, ‘OK, f**k uni, I’ve got to do all this now!’” Scaredy Kat, 19, tells us.
As you’d suspect, the queens weren’t allowed to turn to their nearest and dearest during this time, either – their casting had to be kept an absolute secret.
“That’s the hardest part – your family isn’t even supposed to know,” Belfast-born Blu Hydrangea says. “Especially if you have drink or two you’re like, ‘Oh, I could spill so much T right now!’ – but you have to stop yourself!”
Other queens, however, have had plenty of practice keeping their jobs private. “Drag queens are used to sitting on big secrets,” laughs Crystal. “Turns out I’m quite good at lying to my friends and family.”
And, for some, the big reveal was something of an anti-climax when it finally came. “I don’t think my parents know how big of a thing this is, they just think ‘Oh, you’re doing the nut crowd competition’!” said The Vivienne. “I don’t think they’re arsed, to be honest!”
2. The toughest part of the contest? Getting their make-up done in time
Turns out that competing to become the UK’s next drag superstar is far from a pain-free experience. And we’re not just talking about the tucking.
As several of the queens told us, filming the series was the most stressful time of their lives. “Imagine working until the early hours of the morning, having two hours sleep, then having to get up, film other stuff, and finally having an hour-and-a-half to get in drag,” The Vivienne says.
In case you’re wondering, 90 minutes is nowhere near enough time to get completely dolled up for the runway – Vivienne and the likes of Scaredy Kat say they’d normally want four hours in front of the mirror.
Not only do the queens have to get ready in record time, but conditions in the werkroom are hardly ideal. As Gothy Kendoll says: “[At home] I get ready with, like, a ring light, with my music going. I like to get really naked as well. Whereas [on Drag Race UK] you’ve got two hours with boiling hot bulbs melting your make up as you’re doing it, and people in your ear, saying ‘Hurry up’!’”
There’s one queen, however, who always left her make-up until the last minute. “I think the worst is definitely Baga,” says Blu. “She could do her face in 30 minutes, but Baga was the one who we always were waiting on. She was like glueing on nails and was like ‘Wait! I need a fag!’”
3. Don’t expect super sewing skills on Drag Race UK
Although the series showcases some of the best performance queens in the country, few are bringing the high fashion looks seen on the US show.
“It’s very pageantry in America, and we’re more like ‘I want a ciggy and a kebab now!’” explains Baga. “ When it comes to acting, I’m the dog’s b*****s – but when sewing and making a garment, I was absolutely catting my knickers.”
Sum Ting Wong agrees: “In America, everyone’s got to look pretty, everyone’s got to look pageant or put together. But we just want to make our bus fare to get home after our gig!”
— BBC Press Office (@bbcpress) September 17, 2019
4. There won’t be any big feuds between the queens
From the clashes between Yvie Oddly and Silky Nutmeg Ganache, to non-stop arguments with The Vixen and… well… everyone, the original Drag Race show is known for its fiery rivalries. But, for better or worse, don’t expect much bad blood between the UK queens.
“[Drag Race UK] is showcasing the talent of drag rather than going down the more reality show route of [having] Big Brother-type feuds everywhere,” explains The Vivienne.
“It’s nice to all be friends together,” adds Blu Hydrangea, while Cheryl Hole chips in: “We don’t take ourselves seriously in the slightest, we’re all just t*ts and wigs just having a good time!”
5. Blu Hydrangea has a very special reason for competing
Not only is Blu Hydrangea hoping to nab the Drag Race UK crown, but the Northern Irish queen also hopes to highlight the LGBT inequalities in her home country.
“We’re back over here still in black and white – please remember us while you’re living your rainbow fantasies!” she says.
“I just wanted to let everyone know that we’re still without gay marriage and that it should happen. I have a boyfriend of five years so I want to be the first person to get married in Northern Ireland!
She adds: “I don’t want kids or anyone to grow up and see all the repression within Northern Ireland and say, ‘I can’t do anything with my life, I can’t be gay – I can’t come out because this is the place I was born in’. I want people to see me on the show and be like, ‘He’s living his best life, and I can do that too!’.
“[Drag Race UK] opens up so many opportunities for not only me but people in Northern Ireland!”
6. Scaredy Kat has a girlfriend – who also does drag
Of all the queens this year, it’s Scaredy Kat that stands out on paper. Not only was she 19 at the time of filming – making her one of the youngest queens ever in the Drag Race franchise – but she’s also bisexual.
In fact, in a first for a Drag Race contestant, Scaredy has a girlfriend, a female drag queen known as Pussy Cat. And, according to Scaredy, female performers like her should be allowed to compete on the show.
“Yeah, definitely 100%,” he says when asked if he’d want to see women on Drag Race. “F**k it, everyone should be on it! […] You don’t have to be gay to be a drag queen, you don’t have to know what the f**k you’re doing, just give it a go and have a good time! And drag can be what you want it to be – if it’s a £12 dress on eBay then that’s fine!”
7. The Vivienne still had to audition like everyone else
For Drag Race fanatics, The Vivienne will be a very familiar queen. In 2016 she won a competition to become the show’s UK ambassador and even enjoyed a (very brief) appearance in the eighth series of the main US show.
But despite this title, she maintains she wasn’t headhunted for Drag Race UK. “I didn’t get approached for the show – I had to audition like everyone else,” The Vivienne reveals. “ I had no advantage whatsoever.”
— TheVivienne BLM (@THEVIVIENNEUK) August 21, 2019
However, the tape she sent in was no normal audition reel. “I sat there with a bottle of Jagermeister between every question so by the end of it I was f**king pink!” she laughs.
That wasn’t the strangest successful screen test, though – “I did mine in the nude!” admits Cheryl.
A new episode of Drag Race UK is available to watch on BBC iPlayer, 8pm each Thursday