The coming season of RuPaul’s All-Stars Drag Race will feature a new elimination system that lets each episode’s top queen decide who to eliminate, and it has some fans upset because they feel that the best queen won’t actually win All-Stars now that they’re likely to get eliminated by jealous rivals early-on. I’d agree, except for one key thing: All-Stars has NEVER been about getting the most talented queen to win.
All-Stars Is More About Drama Than Talent
Look, I’m not saying that Chad Michaels didn’t deserve to win the first All-Stars (though I personally hoped Teams Latrila or Rujubee would) — Michaels is a talented queen who proved her worth amid Latrila and Rujubee’s repeated stumbles. However, the fact that All-Stars had the queens competing and getting eliminated in pairs shows that the producers didn’t give a fugg about crowning “the most talented queen” — they cared about creating drama, surprises and good TV, and the new rules ensure just that.
If All-Stars really cared about crowning the most talented queen, the first season would have let the queens compete individually. For example, during season two, Pandora Boxx was in the top two 4 separate times; she lasted eight episodes until she finally got the axe. Then in All-Stars, she got roped with a team mate she didn’t even want (Mimi Imfurst) and got chopped in the first episode. Likewise, Nina Flowers was in the top three of season one, but because of her broken English and pairing with mediocre, old-fashioned queen Tammy Brown (pictured below), Flowers got eliminated in the second All-Stars episode.
Pandora and Nina would’ve given Michaels a real run for her money had they been given an actual shot at the crown. But they weren’t because the show didn’t want the “best queen” to have a shot — if they did, they wouldn’t have tethered such talented performers to weaker peers. Instead, the teams gave viewers a twist on the regular format and made for higher drama. As a result, All-Stars did well… well enough for a second season four years later anyway.
The conceit of All-Stars is that you’re a badass just for being invited onto the show; it means that you have a loyal and vocal fan-base who clamored for your return and that Ru recognizes your ability to make quality drag and good TV. It’s kinda like that fake-ass line from the Oscars: “It’s an honor just to be nominated.” Ru already knows the queens are mega-talented; All-Stars is mostly for kicks.
Most Queens Will Want to Chop Bad Performers, Not Good Ones
Lastly, fears about lip-sync winners eliminating key competitors are probably overblown. For one, queens are judgmental and are far more likely to eliminate the less talented queens first (Coco, Phi Phi, and Tatianna, I’m looking at you). No one wants to be known as the person who let an untalented queen stay onstage longer than she deserved.
Secondly, we have to remember that the queens are literally “Lip Synching for their Legacies”. Any queen who eliminates a worthy competitor will get a legacy as a cowardly and shady lady. They’ll also find themselves in the crosshairs as a dangerous person to get rid of the next time someone wins a lip-sync.
It’s entirely possible that the show’s producers told the All-Stars 2 competitors which queens they’d like to see eliminated (I’m not saying this happened, but it’s possible seeing as some queens certainly make better television that others). But the truth is that some All-Stars won’t WANT to eliminate the best queens because competing against unworthy opponents is boring. Imagine if Bob the Drag Queen had gotten in the top two with Derrick Barry and Chi Chi DeVayne. Bob still would have won, but her victory would’ve meant a lot less because she would’ve triumphed over two queens leagues below her.
Good competition makes you a stronger competitor. If an All-Star wants to deserve their crown, they’ll keep talented queens around, even if it endangers their chances of winning. That doesn’t mean that scandalous eliminations won’t happen — hell, it’s inevitable — it just means that your favorite queens will likely be around longer than you fear.
And even if they don’t, who cares? All-Stars isn’t about the best queens winning anyway, and it never has been. Just enjoy the show, even if it makes you want to snatch everyone’s wig and set the runway on fire.