On Friday, RuPaul’s Drag Race announced the cast and premiere date for All Stars 5.
If you’ve read my previous Drag Race articles, you’ll know about my feelings toward the endless stream of content that is the RuPaul brand. Nevertheless, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t excited about AS5. Call me optimistic, but I have a feeling that this season could be the best one yet:
All Stars Rules Are Suspended
In the show’s trailer, RuPaul reveals that All Stars rules are suspended...FOREVER. I recently re-watched all the All Stars seasons (because quarantine). The first one was a bit of a train wreck, although the idea that queens could come back and compete was new enough that it didn’t matter. Season 2 was by far the best season, producing maybe the most iconic drag race performance. It was also the season that introduced the current All Stars format: queens “Lip Sync for their Legacy” and the ability to send a bottom queen home.
Since this has been the format for three seasons, it means that the queens come prepared with a strategy and an understanding of the rules. They’re also aware of how their interpretation of these rules can affect how fans perceive them. As a result, later seasons of All Stars have become tired, calculated, and predictable. And despite the drama it creates, the “Lip Sync for Your Legacy” also eliminates queens unjustly, making it hard to root for your favourites.
A change in these rules has the potential to make or break this season. The best parts of reality TV are when contestants react to and real-time process the twists and surprises in the show. All the strategies and playbooks for Season 5 are hopefully out the window. If done right, it’s the perfect environment for real drama and authentic decisions that are reminiscent of AS2.
The Cast List is Exquisite
Let’s pretend like we all haven’t known about this cast for months. There’s a lot of talent and personality. There are queens from the same seasons and a few from others. The cast is also representative of many fans’ wish lists for AS5. It’s the perfect recipe for fan enjoyment and delicious drama.
To jog your memory, here’s the cast and one of their iconic or most important moments:
Mayhem Miller (Season 10)
Mayhem Miller dramatic drag queen music blinking big eyes green dress blink meme eyes meme looking around room meme pic.twitter.com/okp20yUyvp— The Memes Archive (@TheMemesArchive) December 20, 2019
Derrick Berry (Season 8)
Shea Coulee (Season 9)
Ongina (Season 1)
When she came out as HIV Positive on national TV
Jujubee (Season 2, All Stars Season 1)
Mariah Balenciaga (Season 3)
Alexis Mateo (Season 3, All Stars Season 1)
India Ferrah (Season 3)
Blair St. Clair (Season 10)
Miz Cracker (Season 10)
There Are A Lot of Queens from Earlier Seasons
RuPaul’s Drag Race, both as a show and as a competition, have changed significantly since it first aired back in 2009. It’s become less Project Runway and more America’s Got Talent. The fanbase has also shifted as the show gained popularity, meaning that many of its current fans haven’t seen the earlier seasons.
Coming back on All Stars gives the earlier queens the chance to re-introduce themselves to the Drag Race fanbase, and it provides for better entertainment because these queens need to navigate different version of the show. Finally, it’s nice to see talent that we haven’t seen on our screens for a while. All Stars contestants do the best when they’ve had some time to grow, increase their profile, improve their drag, and gain some confidence. It also gives them some time away from people’s initial judgement of their performance on the show.
(I think this was less of a choice and more of a constraint from filming because Season 12 and All Stars 5 were filmed back to back. But still, it works.)
There’s Been Some Time Since AS4
Although AS5 comes on the heels of Season 12 AND Secret Celebrity Drag Race, there’s been a break since the last All Stars Season. For context, the finale of All Stars 3 was a mere 9 months apart from the All Stars 4 premiere. That’s not nearly enough of a break between the two, a criticism which I’ve had for many of RuPaul’s franchises.
The issue with pushing out seasons close together is that audiences gets bored of the content, especially when shows follow a similar format and style. The year and a few months gap between AS4 and AS5 isn’t the best, but it’s at least a little better.
Meet the queens of All Stars 5:
Side Note: You’ll notice that the promo photos and interviews feature their entrance outfits. Due to coronavirus, the show couldn’t do a proper shoot. It’s a shame because the entrance looks are spoiled, but also because there probably won’t be a Season 12 reunion or grand finale.
This is, however, an interesting glimpse into how the show is filmed. We know that Season 12 and All Stars 5 were filmed back to back, but clearly the promotional filming is done much later. Why not get it all at once? Does this mean that when queens are doing promos, they know how they’ve placed? Can you imagine talking about snatching the crown when you already know you were out after the first episode?