In last night’s episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars 3, drag queen Trixie Mattel let the tears flow following the runway challenge, frustrated that her Snatch Game impersonation of RuPaul and kawaii “flower power” look failed to impress the judges. But Mattel’s tears are only the most recent instance of emotional Drag Race moments from the competing queens.
Below are 10 more of the most emotional Drag Race moments — ordered chronologically — that left us seriously choked up.
A quick note: We’ve mostly included emotional Drag Race moments from the actual show and not from Untucked, the somewhat-boozy, behind-the-scenes show where the waterworks often flow, though there was one iconic Untucked moment that we couldn’t help but throw into the mix.
1. Season 1, Episode 4: Ongina
When RuPaul asked her queens to do a commercial for Mac’s Viva Glam makeup, which raises money for people living with HIV, Ongina proudly declared, “Life is a celebration!” in her commercial and then broke down crying during the judge’s critiques, revealing she’s HIV-positive and that her parents didn’t know. As the first instance of waterworks on the show, it was heartbreaking — definitely a standout of all emotional Drag Race moments.
2. Season 3, Episode 8: Manila Luzon
Over the course of her season, big-bodied queen Delta Work gradually deflated as she constantly found herself either safe or thrice on the bottom. During the stand-up comedy routine challenge, her low self-confidence took center stage as her unfunny, self-effacing jabs about her weight came off as not-really-jokes. Forced to lip sync against her pal Manila Luzon to Donna Summer’s cover of the melodramatic “MacArthur Park,” Luzon embraced Work in the song’s final moments and then broke down in tears when Ru announced that Luzon had been spared, sending her discouraged sister on her way home.
3. Season 3, Episode 13: Yara Sofia
For arguably one of the hardest challenges in the show’s entire run, the top four competitors had to choreograph a lip sync-and-dance routine and make three separate outfits, one of them completely out of paper money — yeesh. The pressure gets to Alexis Mateo, who packs up her things and prepares to head home before he even walks the runway, and then, when forced to lip sync for his life against his Latinx sister Yara Sofia, Yara just strips off her dress and wig and starts exhaustedly crying onstage while Patti LaBelle’s “I Think About You” plays on. The judges weep and look down at Sofia’s crushing defeat. “I was thinking too much. I’m so angry and I’m so disappointed,” Sofia said. “I’m a mess.”
4. Season 5, Episode 2: Monica Beverly Hillz
After Hillz stumbled through a lip sync challenge, the judges and fellow competitors wondered whether there was something on her mind. During the judge’s critiques, Hillz made a teary confession: “It’s true what you’re saying — there is a lot going through my head. I’ve just been holding a secret in and I’m trying so hard. I’m not just a drag queen — I’m a transgender woman.” She became the first-ever Drag Race competitor to come out as trans while competing. Season 2’s Sonique came out during the reunion special, and all the other trans women from earlier seasons only came out after competing on the show. Way to blaze a trail, Miss Hillz.
5. All Stars Season 1, Episode 5: Raven and Jujubee
After Rujubee failed to impress the judges with their concept of a drag superhero/supervillain duo, Raven and Jujubee performed quite possibly the saddest performance of Robyn’s ”Dancing On My Own” ever, alternately embracing one another and weeping with anguish onstage, certain that one of them would have to eliminate the other. Afterwards, the team tearfully embraced. Jujubee announced “I can’t breathe” and nearly hyperventilated from crying. Raven had to help her collect herself, with Jujubee sadly saying, “You look so pretty” as she gathered herself. RuPaul took pity on the sobbing sisters and decided that both queens should proceed to the final round.
6. Season 5, Episode 7: Roxxxy Andrews
After her iconic “wig under a wig” reveal during her lip sync battle against Alyssa Edwards, RuPaul was ready to announce her elimination. Suddenly, Andrews broke down in tears and admitted that her mother abandoned her and her sister at a bus stop when she was 3 years old, causing RuPaul and fellow judge Michelle Visage to shed a tear as well. RuPaul offered support, telling Andrews that they are her family and that they are here for her. In a rare show of mercy, RuPaul eliminated neither Andrews nor Edwards after this lip sync.
7. Season 5, Episode 9: Detox
When RuPaul asked her girls to whip up some tears for a “Crying Game” mini-challenge, she probably didn’t expect any real tears. But as the other competitors wept while telling fake tales of lost loves and broken dreams, Detox admitted that she found the challenge rather difficult and thenbegan (actually) crying while speaking of losing her boyfriend two years prior. Her boyfriend died in a car crash — and Detox was in the car with him when it happened — and her authentic tears helped her win the mini-challenge along with Alyssa Edwards.
8. All Stars Season 2, Episode 7: Alyssa Edwards
In her final challenge, Edwards and her fellow competitors had to dress a member of their families in drag. When Edwards got teamed up with her sister Tabatha, we learned the two were reuniting on the one-year anniversary of their mother’s death, and that Edwards never really processed her grief (and didn’t really see her sister after the funeral). Instead Edwards threw herself into her work following her mom’s passing. Edwards begins crying on the couch as she and her sister acknowledge just how deeply the death has affected them both, providing one of the most touching and emotional Drag Race moments from the show’s history.
9. Untucked Season 6, Episode 8: Laganja Estranja
After bombing during her stoner stand-up comedy routine and getting a harsh critique from the judges for her affected voice and mannerisms, Estranja got emotional backstage, saying that she felt attacked by all the other queens for being fake when she in fact felt she was being genuine. Admittedly, Estranja broke down in tears in at least two previous episodes of Untucked when she felt other queens were slighting her or going after her, but this time Estranja’s emotions caused her to walk out of the room, leaving her co-competitors in stunned silence shortly before her elimination.
10. All Stars Season 3, Episode 2: Milk
For the last of the emotional Drag Race moments on our list, after singing into her shoe as Celine Deon during the “Divas Lip Sync Live” maxi-challenge and presenting a glamorous RuDemption runway look, the competitive pressure caused Milk to cry. She lamented the fact that, despite her best efforts, she was merely safe rather than in the week’s top two. It just goes to show, even for talented, accomplished All Star queens, Drag Race can still drag you down.