It’s been over a decade since RuPaul’s Drag Race first debuted on television, and in that time, the show has undergone some major changes. While the show is driven mostly by recurring structures and formulas that make it the successful series that it is, any TV series that’s been on the air as long as Drag Race has been inevitably changes over time.
Usually, there are minor differences that come about season by season, but the bigger changes are what attribute to the continual success of the show. Drag Race is more popular than ever after being on the air for so long, so it’s clear the show’s evolutions over the years have been successful.
10 The Werk Room Has Gotten Several Makeovers
The staple Werk Room of RuPaul’s Drag Race experiences some minor changes between each season, but there have been some extreme changes in terms of its design over the course of the series, especially over the course of the show’s first few seasons. At first, the Werk Room was more of a workroom, a drab, mostly gray space that didn’t stand out. For a while during the middle chunk of seasons, the Werk Room was covered in brick wallpaper and had pops of pink throughout.
These days, the Werk Room is full of much more glitz and glamour. The colors are brighter and bolder, and the room is more pink than ever before.
9 The Main Stage Is Bigger And Brighter
For season 1, the main stage where queens strut down the runway and lip sync for their lives was quite small and unimpressive. Queens’ entrances were muted to say the least, and it seemed at times like they barely had enough room to perform the show-stopping lip-syncs. Thanks to big budget increases over the years, the main stage received a few much needed upgrades from its original design.
The main stage today is so much bigger, brighter, and ultimately better for the queens to perform on. Because of this upgrade, RuPaul’s Drag Race‘s iconic lip-syncs have only gotten better each season.
8 Judges’ Opinions On Pants Have Evolved
In the earlier seasons, queens used to be hounded for wearing pants on the runway (although no one read Rebecca Glasscock for entering the Werk Room on Day 1 of season 1 wearing jeans). The judges would frequently claim that pants were too masculine, even when the looks were stunning. Sometimes, queens who adopted a gender-bending look were read for being too “boy,” such as when Milan wore a tuxedo a la Janelle Monáe in a season 4 episode,
Since those early seasons, the judges grown much more lenient. Drag is all about the defiance of gender after all, and pants can of course be extremely fashionable in so many ways.
7 The Notorious Season 1 Filter Disappeared
Longtime fans of Drag Race will surely never forget the universally disliked blurry, yellow-ish tint that was edited onto the entirety of season 1. Along with the filter came a glossy, overexposed brightness that was just generally unattractive. The effect looked like it was covering up for a low production budget (which, to be fair, it was).
It is clear how the visual quality has dramatically increased over the seasons. The unfortunate filter was never seen again after season 1, and fans tend to agree that this change is definitely for the best.
6 Finales Have Become Bigger Productions
Each season’s finale has experienced some sort of change throughout the years, but there have been some notable differences in finales that were complete game changers. The typical RuPaul’s Drag Race finale used to consist of the top 3 contestants. This took a major turn in season 9 when it was instead changed to a top 4, giving more queens a chance to snatch the crown.
The finale changed significantly once again when it became standard practice to have the top 4 lip sync against each other for a chance to make it to the top 2. This ups the ante for the queens who make it to the finale so that they can prove their talents all the way until the very end.
5 Challenge Winners No Longer Earn Immunity
In the earlier seasons of Drag Race, winning a maxi challenge resulted in a bigger reward than it does today. Originally, any queen who won a maxi challenge would receive not only the prize but also immunity in the following week of the competition, which is notably a huge advantage.
Unfortunately for the contestants, this rule changed after season 5. Many assume this was due to Alyssa Edwards’ poor performance on the Snatch Game episode that should have earned her a spot in the bottom, but her win from the previous episode negated her shortcomings.
4 All Stars Voting Rules Have Changed
RuPaul’s Drag Race: All Stars was created in order to give previous contestants another chance to win. Originally, the queens were placed into teams of two, and both were eliminated if just one of them fell short. Season 1 of the spinoff prevented the All Stars queens from getting a fair redemption due to the teams structure.
Playing in teams was hated by the contestants and audiences alike. Thus, the decision to allow queens to eliminate each other individually was introduced in season 2. Even still, the All Stars voting rules have changed quite a lot over time, from the winning queen of the week solely eliminating one of the bottoms, to allowing the entire group to cast votes for elimination.
3 The Core Judges Are All Different (Except RuPaul)
RuPaul’s Drag Race has not always had its current lineup of iconic judges, namely Michelle Visage, Carson Kressley, and Ross Matthews. Michelle Visage joined the show in season 3, while Carson Kressley and Ross Matthew weren’t series regulars until season 7.
Previous recurring judges notably included Santino Rice and Merle Ginsberg who have since left the show entirely. Billy B was another main judge, but only for a small stint on seasons 3 and 4.
2 RuPaul’s Drag Race Has Gone Mainstream
Today, RuPaul’s Drag Race is known as a worldwide sensation and one of the most popular reality shows currently airing on television. However, the show didn’t really take off until season 4, when it started gaining a huge cult following.
As of now, there are lots of versions of RuPaul’s Drag Race that take place all over the globe. What started as simply a low-budget competition has since turned into a renowned cultural phenomenon thanks to the invested interest from LGBTQ+ audiences.
1 RuPaul’s Drag Race Has Become More Trans-Inclusive
Although Drag Race is seen as a modern day pioneer for LGBTQ+ television, the show was not inclusive of trans contestants during its first years. Especially in the earlier seasons, casting decisions favored cis men, and the even used language considered offensive to the transgender community.
The show has always had trans contestants, with Kylie Sonique Love and Monica Beverly Hillz being the trailblazers of the earlier seasons. Yet the show once catered far more specifically to a gay male audience despite trans women being early pioneers of drag itself. It wasn’t until season 9 that Peppermint, the first openly trans contestant, really motivated a change in the show’s inclusion toward the transgender community. Since then, the show has seen its first trans man contestant, Gottmik, who competed on season 13.