The years you spend in college help shape who you will become for the rest of your life. Although many of our experiences during our college years will contribute to our growth, media representations are particularly powerful in shaping who we will become. One show, “Rupaul’s Drag Race,” has the unique potential to open our eyes, broaden our horizons and make us more accepting.
On its surface, “Rupaul’s Drag Race” is a competition reality show like many others, with a cast of interesting characters, inventive challenges and a $100,000 grand prize. Twelve to 14 drag queens compete in these challenges, which include acting, singing and performing to prove to Rupaul and the world that they are “America’s Next Drag Superstar.” However, where “Rupaul’s Drag Race” differs from other shows is its heart. “Rupaul’s Drag Race” is a show that embraces and celebrates personal identity and expression. Each cast consists of a vastly diverse group of men and trans women. Queens of multiple races, gender identities, sexualities and economic backgrounds have graced the stage.
Perhaps more important than simply including such a diverse cast, the show allows the contestants to tell their stories and share their experiences with the audience. “Rupaul’s Drag Race” encourages its cast to be who they are without using their identities as a punchline. This is particularly impactful for college students who are still discovering who they are and grappling with the stigmas that might exist surrounding their individual identities.
Along with its heavy emphasis on embracing and celebrating personal identity, the show also does a wonderful job of discussing serious topics. There are a number of memorable moments from “Rupaul’s Drag Race” that might never have happened on another show. The contestant Ongina’s emotional announcement that she is living with HIV springs immediately to mind, as does the moment when another contestant, Monica Beverly Hillz, came out as a transgender woman. The show does not shy away from topics that other programs would never dream of mentioning. The most recent season of the show included discussions that tackled heavy topics including eating disorders, cancer, Russian persecution of LGBTQ people and the shooting at Pulse nightclub in Orlando.
“Rupaul’s Drag Race” confronts difficult topics while still remaining funny and entertaining. This is important for college students as “Rupaul’s Drag Race” exposes them to intense and important discussions. By using its platform to destigmatize these topics, “Rupaul’s Drag Race” allows viewers to learn, grow and laugh.
This sentiment is common among fans of the show, including MSU student Alyssa Bedaine. Bedaine, a senior English major, discovered the show about a year ago and has since fallen deeply in love with its message, its characters and its heart.
“There are so many reasons why I love ʽRupaul’s Drag Race,ʼ” said Bedaine. “First of all, there is so much talent on the show … It’s a really hopeful show and offers amazing representation, especially to LGBTQ kids and young adults.”
In fact, Bedaine has a very personal relationship with the show.
“When I was growing up, I never really had anything to look [up] to,” said Bedaine. “I’m a bisexual woman, and bisexuality is and has been almost completely ignored in media as a whole. That’s why I love “Rupaul’s Drag Race” so much. It makes me feel included. By watching Drag Race, I am able to connect with my community and celebrate all of the differences that make us the same.”
“Rupaul’s Drag Race” offers its viewers an honest, heartwarming and entertaining view into the lives of people they might have no other opportunity to meet. Students can start to better understand themselves and grow to celebrate their differences. In the words of Rupaul, “If you can’t love yourself, how in the hell are you gonna love somebody else? Can I get an amen?”
“Rupaul’s Drag Race” airs on Fridays at 8 p.m. on VH1. During its offseason, you can watch full episodes on logotv.com.