The cast and crew of RuPaul’s Drag Race graced the stage of the Dolby Theatre on Sunday afternoon for PaleyFest. It was the first time the Emmy-winning show had graced the PaleyFest panel and what a delight it was.
Aisha Tyler who herself was a guest judge on the show moderated a panel with RuPaul, Michelle Visage, Carson Kressley and Ross Matthews. Producers Randy Barbato, Fenton Bailey, Tom Campbell, Steven Corfe, Mandy Salangsang, Tim Palazzola and Pam Post rounded out the panel.
The audience filled with fans of the show were treated to an upcoming sneak of this week’s episode that features a Rachel Maddow challenge before Tyler talked about how Drag Race and drag culture has evolved since the show began.
Spanning eleven seasons, the show has come a long way since it first aired in 2009. Airing on VH-1, the show’s reach stretches around the world. RuPaul said, “It’s always been irreverent, dangerous and political. It’s the audience that’s changed. And now because of streaming, more people can see the show.”
Fellow judge Michelle Visage called the theatre a safe place and said the impact of the show is that it “helps parents understand their queer child.” She went on to say, “RuPaul’s Drag Race helps bring families together.”
Carson Kressley added that “humor disarms people and makes them forget preconceived notions and sees the Drag Race queens as people.”
There were plenty of humorous moments during the panel including Ross Matthews having a moment to fawn over being on the same stage as Lady Gaga sang Shallow just a few weeks earlier at the Oscars. “Lady Gaga sang Shallow right here.” Matthews gushed as Kressley leaned his head on Matthews’ shoulder a la Bradley Cooper.
The panel recalled moments that stuck out the most for them. Producer Steve Corfe recalled the moment in season one when OnGina revealed she was HIV Positive. “In that moment, I felt we were all there to support each other.”
Tim Palazzola recalled when Roxxxy Andrews broke down in tears during season five as she told the judges she and her sister had been left at a bus stop when she was only three-years-old. She was “someone who became a truly awesome human being and person.” Corfe said.
Randy Barbato added that even though as producers they’re sitting in the production room, there are many teary moments. A teary Fenton Bailey stressed that the community they have created is one of love, family and is all-inclusive. “That’s what gets me through the day.” He said.
RuPaul told the audience, “We get to show the world the coping skills.” He continued, “We’ve all come from broken places and we who have been thrown out of our houses or whatever, we have learned these coping mechanisms. We’ve been able to show the world how this works by creating a house, a family, a tribe of people who can support you. Behind the paint, the powder and all the artifact there are real, deep feeling there.” He added, “We show the world how to cope and every kid who is out and wherever they are watching the show they get to learn that there is a tribe, a family waiting for them with open arms.”
Asked who their favorite guest judges were, Visage said that every guest judge that has appeared has always wanted to be on the show and has been a fan of the show. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Madonna, Diana Ross, Mariah Carey and Michelle Obama would be dream judges. Campbell shared a story about Debbie Reynolds bursting into the green room looking for the producers and introducing herself to everyone saying, “I’m Debbie Reynolds.”
Talking about the current season of the show, RuPaul said, “It’s a global universe this season.” This season the show features the fist Muslim Drag Queen Mercedes Iman Diamond. Soju who hails from Korea and Plastique Tiara from Vietnam. RuPaul added, “The show is showing people how to navigate different cultures and ask questions.”
Visage said the beauty of the show’s global and mainstream effect is, “when you see a kid dressed as their favorite queen and their parent is standing beside them. ” The show, she says has provided a platform for “all these beautiful and creative creatures. What drag is now deservedly looked at as an art form, and that’s because of RuPaul.” And with that, the entire audience gave RuPaul an impromptu standing ovation.
How can the show get better? Tyler asked, “The only thing that could make our show better is a trap door. ”
Preview the next episode below. RuPaul’s Drag Race airs on VH-1 on Thursday