RuPaul once said his show “RuPaul’s Drag Race” could never go “mainstream.” And yet the show has found success for 10 seasons and inspired entire generations of people to embrace drag.
Executive producer Fenton Bailey has been heartened that kids as young as 10 years old have grown up with the show and are now competing on their runways. And he says that while drag may not be “mainstream,” it is universal.
“We’re all born naked, and the rest is drag,” Bailey told TheWrap’s Matt Donnelly on Thursday, quoting RuPaul. “And the idea that everything you put on from the moment you step out of the house is a statement, is something about yourself. I think that drag is ultimately universally relatable. It isn’t so much about it being mainstream, because all of us … we can always shock people, outrage people, stimulate people, by what we wear.”
Bailey spoke at the Landmark Theatres in Los Angeles on TheWrap’s Emmys Outstanding Reality Competition Panel and was joined by “Project Runway” executive producer Sara Rea and “The Challenge” star Johnny Bananas. Bailey said he and his staff refer to the queens who compete on “Drag Race” as “the marines of reality television,” saying that their versatility and toughness sets them apart from contestants on other reality shows.
“They have to sing, they have to dance, they have to sew, they have to design, they have to be able to talk about it,” Bailey said. “They really have to combine all these different skills that some time is just one show or one aspect of that. They have to do everything.”
But fans of the show are missing out if they’re not watching “RuPaul’s Drag Race: Untucked,” which Bailey says touches on topics of race, sexism and sexuality, and shows the full spectrum of the show’s characters.
“Ru says the show’s really about the tenacity of the human spirit,” Bailey said. “These are kids who have often been bullied, kicked out by their parents, rejected by their families. You have to go through a lot to put on a wig and heels and a dress and step out the door, and they bring that with them. We just had the most amazing revelations and heartbreaking stories, like when Roxy broke down and she’d been left at the bus stop at three years old by her mother. I can’t even say that without … it gets to me every time. It’s unbelievable.”
Watch a clip of Bailey’s comments above, and watch the full video from TheWrap’s panel discussion below.