There’s something about Drag Race UK that just clicks.
Maybe it’s the fact I’ve spent the past seven years as a sweaty Liverpool gay clubber throwing shapes on a dancefloor soundtracked by season one winner, The Vivienne. Maybe it’s the high concept promo trailers, the regional queens bursting with personality and the biting British humour. Maybe it’s the fact it towers over its stateside edition, which is currently stuck in a quicksand of mediocrity.
Either way, when “Meet The Queens” dropped in December and we saw the calibre of the drag set to storm into that werk room, we quickly realised that the excellency of Drag Race UK wasn’t a season one fluke.
For the first time ever, the UK and US seasons are airing alongside each other simultaneously. While the American version has limped its way through a sluggish start, which has stranded a cast of exciting queens in an abyss of producer-led twists and nonsense, its younger British sibling – the first episode of which became available on BBC iPlayer last night (Thursday the 14th of January) – sparkles.
There’s no one ordinary in this cast of competitors, so the following can’t be an ordinary ranking. During last night’s episode, it felt wrong to even critique the talent on display, wrong that any one of these queens could face the prospect of going home. They really are the best of the best. For that reason, here is every season two queen from RuPaul’s Drag Race UK, ranked from BEST to BESTEST:
12. Tia Kofi
On no other version of Drag Race could you get a queen who looks like she’s just strolled out of a Little Mix video shoot, yet has a name with a pun that stupidly, mundanely brilliant. Nitpicking: it should have been Tia lip-syncing, with her Alan Turing-inspired runway presentation one of the least wow-worthy looks on the main stage.
That said, I’m so excited for everything Tia stands for and spoke about in “Meet The Queens” – bringing POC representation to the table, and a love and adoration for the old school Blackpool pier queens who taught this generation how to command a club and host a party. Bit wary of Tia coming onto DRUK without sewing skills, though. In the words of Charity Shop Sue: I’m a liccle bit concerned.
11. Sister Sister
I’ve spent so much time in Liverpool Gay Town, `I really ought to be paying rent. And yet, I’ve never heard of Sister Sister!? How? Where have I been? While I’m so chuffed to have more hometown representation to root for, following the success of The Vivienne, Sister Sister has huge shoes to fill.
Her first week showings were a bold start – the entrance look was a polished, high fashion masterpiece, and the homage to Liverpool was done with the kind of love and detail only a scouser could be capable of.
10. Cherry Valentine
The long lost third Boulet Brother!? It’s clear which huge nightlife legends have inspired Cherry Valentine’s craft, and I applaud the references. I’m hopeful we get to hear more about the Darlington native’s childhood, growing up as a part of the GRT community, and how that culture has influenced her drag, alongside her career as a qualified mental health nurse.
I’m loving all these personal details, and I found her entrance look to be a proper gag – seems like a queen with a lot more layers than her satanic horns would suggest.
9. Ellie Diamond
Watching The Dundee Diamond’s “Meet The Queens”, I felt the same kind of polish and drive as when we were first introduced to season one’s Blu Hydrangea. The details in her looks are really exquisite, and it’s beyond impressive that she’s creating everything herself. I don’t think she’s had as memorable an intro as a lot of the queens ranked higher, though – but that just tells you everything you need to know about the standard of queens this season.
8. Veronica Green
I grew up an avid musical theatre kid – we’re talking full-am dram productions, rehearsing up to five days a week at a little theatre called the Romiley Forum, outside Manchester.
The iconic women who ran this place with a bejewelled iron fist had more of an impact on the queer youth they directed than they really knew, and Veronica Green has the same energy as these stagey matrons: a seasoned northern theatrical pro with a wise head, not a million miles off season one’s Divina De Campo.
I spent this week’s episode marvelling at Veronica’s transformation in and out of drag, and how she turned up looking like Kylie Minogue in the 80s but sounding like she’s in the cast of Corrie. One to watch – that red dress she pounded the runway in was absolutely breathtaking.
7. Bimini Bon Boulash
There’s a ferocity to Bimini Bon Boulash, who has probably the most instantly iconic drag name I’ve ever heard. This is a queen from the East London scene, where you can be as weird and wild as you want to be, and Bimini’s way of showing it couldn’t be more apparent than in her promo, where she looks like the love-child of Anne Boleyn and the Cock Destroyer.
The other queens should be nervous. Forget the judging last night – they were talking shite. Bimini captures that rawness of modern city drag and executes her looks with the kind of swagger you can’t teach. Don’t let that ludicrous bottom two placement fool you, she’s in it to win it.
6. Ginny Lemon
God, Ginny Lemon is just so SPECIAL. There’s never been a drag artist this unique on any version of Drag Race. Hilarious and distinctly fashion forward in their own 90s TV presenter on DMT way, along with Bimini Bon Boulash, Ginny brings some much needed non-binary representation to the cast, and just makes me feel so giddy. “Fancy a slice?” is Ginny’s catchphrase, but I fancy the whole fucking pie.
There’s something beautiful about drag queens who look like supermodels, but open their mouth and sound like they work at a chippy in Stockport. A bit of a bitch, but in the best way, I’m dying for the explosive antics A’whora is going to bring this season, which started when she told Tia she thought she should have been in the bottom. She might be big-gobbed, but she’s got the talent and the runway ensembles to back it up.
Tayce is bursting with star quality. While Tayce’s was the weaker of the two Naomi Campbell runways we got, I’m glad that both she and Asttina got to pay homage to THE 90s supermodel, when she had such an impact on how both of them present their fashion. Plus, it was important to hear the two of them highlight that they never had Black British gay icons to inspire them growing up, and that they hope to inspire the younger Black LGBTQ community in Britain today.
3. Joe Black
Joe Black is exactly the kind of queen I’m going to spend the rest of my life obsessing over: a big old school camp goth with all the eerie but immaculately executed glamour you could ask for. She’s an old soul with biting wit and that same charm that drove BenDeLaCreme and Jinkx Monsoon to stratospheric Drag Race success. Just an intoxicatingly exciting combo of old school, new school and HORROR.
What happened in the judging of Joe’s performance on the main stage was nothing short of a catastrophe – one of the biggest miscarriages of justice in the history of reality TV. I’m clutching at straws trying to justify Michelle Visage’s critique of a stunning “Life On Mars” runway as “not Bowie enough”, and the flamboyance of the hometown look you’d only misunderstand if you’d never set foot in Brighton. #JUSTICEFORJOEBLACK
2. Asttina Mandella
I want to buy an album from Asttina after just one glance at her. She’s got a Grace Jones-esque severity about her, and can boast of dancing for a load of superstars, having performing alongside Little Mix, The Pussycat Dolls and Kanye West. If there are ANY main stage dance challenges, the rest of them might as well just sit it out.
1. Lawrence Chaney
Pretty much everything about Lawrence Chaney has winner energy: an immaculate eye for fashion, unrivalled humour and an affinity for the UK’s greatest ever pop star, Michelle McManus. From the moment Chaney laughed her way into that werk room, we were with her. The Diana Rigg homage was full of love and detail, and the stained glass latex hometown serve was absolutely delicious – plus, it all came with a likeable vulnerability and the confession that she feels her bravest when she’s in drag.
UPDATE 15/01/2021: An earlier version of this article stated that if Lawrence Chaney won the show, she would be the first plus size queen to win a series of Drag Race globally. This was incorrect, as the accolade belongs to Natalia Pliacam, who won the first series of Drag Race Thailand. VICE regrets the error.