So far RuPaul’s Drag Race All-Stars 7 has been one for the books, chocked full of talented, past winners, and tons of jaw-dropping fashion. The highly-anticipated “all winners” season premiered late last month, on May 20th, and features the likes of fan favorites, Jinkx Monsoon, Shea Couleé, and Jaida Essence Hall. RPDR devotees remember the unique journeys that led each of the 8 queens to compete in this special installment of All-Stars.
Since the show’s humble inception in 2009, the reality TV juggernaut has undergone many changes, including networks, formats, and judges. While RPDR AS7 promises major appearances by celebrity guest judges like fashion designer Betsey Johnson and A-list actress, Cameron Diaz, the show’s history has proven that it hasn’t always enlisted the most beloved or capable celebs to join Mama Ru on the judges’ panel.
Former host of E’s The SoupJoel McHale joined the Drag Race judging panel on a season 11 episode titled “Trump: The Rusical.” Much to the dismay of regular judge, Michelle Visage, McHale was bold, loud and hyper during the runway portion of the challenge. Michelle shot several infuriated glares in McHale’s direction as he cheered, stadium-style, for each of his favorites.
Drag Race fans have never agreed on Joel McHale’s performance as a guest judge. Some viewers shared in Michelle’s agony as McHale conducted himself like a rowdy frat guy, while other viewers loved that he was expressive and sincerely enjoyed his role. Love it or hate it, Joel McHale’s time as a judge certainly made a splash.
While any number of offenses can turn off devoted RPDR fans, sometimes a guest judge can fall short for simply showing a lack of familiarity with the show. On a season 9 episode, in which the queens roasted Michelle Visage, Alexis Michelle boldly donned full-body green makeup and a green dress to poke fun at Visage’s long-showcased distaste for the color. Alexis Michelle’s decision to go green was obvious to everyone except the guest judge, Tamar Braxton.
As a music star, reality TV star, and with a larger-than-life personality, Braxton’s turn as a celebrity guest judge was highly anticipated by fans. Though she did a decent job of offering critiques, the fact that the long-running “anti-green” joke didn’t land with Braxton made for an awkward moment. Braxton was also likely misplaced on the roast episode as she didn’t seem to enjoy being the butt of any of the competitors jokes.
Eccentric actor Jeff Goldblum appeared on season 12 as a guest judge and moderator for the politically themed episode “Choices 2020.” Goldblum’s participation in the challenge helped spawn one of Drag Race’s most memorable catchphrases as he hilariously fell for Jaida Essence Hall’s distracting calls to “look over there!” Goldblum was a fun addition to the early part of the episode, but his questions about Jackie Cox’s runway look sparked controversy.
RPDR devotees will remember Jackie Cox’s breathtaking “Stars and Stripes” themed hijab and gown that glittered down the runway. Upon assessing the ensemble, Goldblum clumsily questioned Jackie Cox about how the Islamic religion might approach topics like sexual orientation. Fans were upset as they felt that it was unfair for Goldblum to single out Islam as being discriminatory while many other religions have a lengthy history of LGBTQ+ discrimination.
Gigi Hadid and Chanel Iman
The unique blend of humor and fashion that makes RuPaul’s Drag Race a mega-hit isn’t for everyone. On the season 8 “Snatch Game” episode, professional fashion models, Gigi Hadid and Chanel Iman joined the queens as both Snatch Game contestants and guest judges. That season’s game show parody featured impersonations of vintage personas, including Diana Vreeland and Carol Channing.
Hadid and Iman were equally lost in both the realms of “Snatch Game” and the judges’ panel. Though the two women have plenty of experience in the fashion industry, they couldn’t seem to rise to the playful occasion that is RuPaul’s Drag Race. Both were a bit low-energy and fans were surprised when Gigi Hadid admitted that she didn’t know that drag queens often wear hip pads. Iman and Hadid could have been better prepared, their performances indicated a lack of basic drag knowledge and familiarity with the show.
Regarded by viewers as one of the best seasons of Drag Raceseason 5 offered some of the show’s strongest queens and most interesting challenges. A particularly memorable episode titled, “Scent of a Drag Queen,” had the queens competing to create an engaging perfume ad. Former Danity Kane singer, Aubrey O’Day stepped in to help the queens shoot their commercials and offered critiques on their runway presentations.
O’Day’s appearance in the season 5 episode is most remembered for her harsh critiques of the competitors’ commercials and their handcrafted perfume concoctions. The singer was unnecessarily abrasive and often made displeased, contorted faces as the queens tried their best to deliver entertaining performances. O’Day’s antics were over-the-top and distracted from the fun of the brand-building challenge.
Shania Twain finally made her Drag Race debut in season 10 of the original franchise, but her long-awaited appearance did not go as expected. The “Man! I Feel Like a Woman” singer was a guest judge on the “Bossy Rossy Show” episode in which the queens improvised wild talk-show scenes. The episode’s runway paid homage to the singer’s country roots as the queens donned their best “Denim and Diamonds” looks.
With a legion of LGBTQ+ fans, Twain was expected to shine as a guest judge, but fell flat and appeared to be a little out of her element. Twain lacked signs of visible enthusiasm and offered little reaction when Kameron Michaels gushed with emotion and confessed that she had been greatly inspired by the singer. Twain certainly didn’t impress Drag Race fans much and no one seems to be clamoring to have her join the show again any time soon.
Season 10 of RPDR featured 13 Reasons Why actor Miles Heizer as a celebrity guest judge on the “Social Media Kings Into Queens” episode alongside powerhouse singer, Lizzo. The season’s makeover challenge had the Drag Race queens transform social media mavericks into members of their own drag family. The makeover contestants had palpable energy, but enthusiasm seemed absent at Heizer’s end of the judges’ table.
Miles Heizer’s turn as a judge was regarded as one of the worst performances from a celebrity guest judge for his lack of expression and fans noticed that he did not appear to be enjoying his guest judging duties. His deadpan reactions were only made to seem more out-of-place by the exuberant personality of his fellow guest judge, Lizzo.
Fans from the earlier seasons of RuPaul’s Drag Race will remember that the show was originally sponsored by Absolut Vodka. Along with some major nods to the alcohol brand threaded throughout the first seasons, the show also made frequent use of branding executive, Jeffrey Moran. The Absolut exec appeared as a quest judge in memorable episodes like season one’s “Absolut Drag Ball.”
While Moran had a number of RPDR appearances on his resume, the sheer volume of his participation did not make up for his stiff demeanor and heavy-handed brand plugs. Even in its earliest existence, Drag Race has always been a playful and humorous series and Jeffrey Moran’s no-nonsense judging technique never quite fit the feel of the show.
Most celebrity guest judges pull out all the stops to present glamour and style on the RPDR panel, but Meghan Trainor is a unicorn of a different color. Viewers tuning in to the season 9 episode were surprised to see the “All About That Bass” singer decked out in a pajama-like, unicorn-themed onesie. The attire was ill-received and Drag Race aficionados were quick to call the outfit the worst in the history of the show’s judging panel.
While most celebrity judges try to honor the show’s high-voltage glam aesthetic, Meghan Trainor instead chose to stick with the familiar. Trainor’s decision to wear the onesie was considered lazy by fans and was surprising despite the fact that she had elected to sport a similar onesie on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon. No matter Trainor’s clear affection for animal-themed pajamas, Drag Race viewers still haven’t forgiven her for wearing the ensemble.
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