The Best Reality Show Host is an Emmy category that seems on the brink of extinction. Its debut in the late-2000s during the boom of reality television essentially demanded awards recognition for a medium that was in the early throes of drowning us all. The category has been dominated by competition series on major networks, and Ryan Seacrest has been nominated almost every year. While cooking shows and singing competitions dominate the category, I plead and implore voters to nominate someone who has created one of the most successful and talked about reality shows of all time: RuPaul of RuPaul’s Drag Race.
It should be no surprise that I am going to baton for RuPaul. I’ve been a devoted fan since the show literally put LOGO TV on the map back in 2009. In its first season, there were only nine contestants, and the camera had such a gauzy haze to it that people (Ru herself) joked that there was two inches of Vaseline applied to the lens to hide everyone’s flaws. By the time the show returned for a second season, the show was a hit and on its way to becoming one of the biggest social media sensations in recent reality show history.
With every passing season, the ratings for this sequined train have risen, and that’s mainly because of the star at the helm: Mama Ru. Sure, the vibrant contestants and their antics make audiences tune in week to week, but RuPaul herself is the genius behind all the tuckery and insanity that happens on the show. She handpicks every single drag performer that appears on her show, and that’s because she sees something special in every one of the designated queens she brings on to her program. There are performers who audition every single season (this season’s Mrs. Kasha Davis submitted a tape every year), but she won’t select someone until they show who they truly are in the audition process.
When it comes right down to it, RuPaul is two hosts in one beautiful, doesn’t-need-to-be-airbrushed package. She’s father and mother. Teacher and guidance counselor. She serves up comfort and tough love simultaneously, and I think she goes out of her way for these performers with legitimate love and support. When she hands you the opportunity to be on Drag Race, she expects you to go out of your way to make the best of your own time. RuPaul won’t simply hand you a golden ticket, because she knows you won’t learn from that. You need to work your ass off in these ridiculous challenges, and that light at the end of the tunnel is a better performer and, ultimately, a better person.
Every time RuPaul walks around the Werk Room at the beginning of each episode (dressed as himself, RuPaul Charles), he is trying to get the gears turning in your head. Hell, he sometimes just wants to mess with your head. He knows you’re standing on the edge of the cliff, and he’s going to give you a slight nudge just to see if your toenails are dug far enough into the sand. You better be holding onto dear life, because he wants to see how much you want it. RuPaul isn’t going to hand over a check for $100,000 and the title of America’s Next Drag Superstar without knowing you will work tooth and painted nail to know that you deserve it.
Shouldn’t every host push the contestants like that? I may not have seen American Idol very much in the last 15 years, but I highly doubt that a host like Ryan Seacrest has been able to effectively touch the lives of a potential superstar singer. The judges, maybe, but not Mr. Seacrest. In the fifth season, contestant Roxxxy Andrews had a breakdown on the runway after an emotional lip synch battle. She revealed her mother abandoned her at a bus stop at a young age, and Ru assured her that “As gay people, we get to choose our family—we get to choose the people we are around.” While her methods of pushing you to that limit may sound tough, she loves everyone that comes down that runway. When her final three have “lunch” with her (that consists of one hilariously single orange Tic-Tac), she is listening to her favorite yearly trio as they describe why they deserve to win and why they deserve to symbolize her brand. She genuinely wants to hear what keeps them going as a performer and a person in the community, and she did the same thing on her self-help spin off, Drag U.
The gay community can be unstable, depressing, and fraught with unfortunate circumstances. RuPaul wants nothing more than to bring acceptance, light, and lot of laughter. RuPaul’s Drag Race is the most self-aware reality competition out there. Where else can you hear references to Raquel Welch, Nicki Minaj, and The Pointer Sisters all in one episode? It’s silly, over-the-top, loud, and, yes, touching and addictive.
So if the Best Reality Show Host category eventually goes away, so be it. Does RuPaul need an Emmy? Not necessarily. But she deserves one. And it would look fantastic with whatever she’s wearing.