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Drag Race: Vegas Revue and the Ever-Expanding Ru-niverse

The queens enter the realm of docu-drama as they try to put on a Las Vegas show.
  • Yvie Oddly, Asia O'Hara, Derrick Barry, Naomi Smalls, Kameron Michaels, and Vanessa Vanjie Mateo in Drag Race: Vegas Revue. (VH1)
    Yvie Oddly, Asia O'Hara, Derrick Barry, Naomi Smalls, Kameron Michaels, and Vanessa Vanjie Mateo in Drag Race: Vegas Revue. (VH1)

    While so much television has been interrupted in COVID times, the RuPaul's Drag Race universe has somehow only grown stronger. Season 12 of the flagship series was already airing when quarantines began, but the show was still able to put together a genuinely fabulous remotely-filmed season finale. Then, without missing a beat, we got All-Stars 5, a genuinely thrilling affair, culminating in a long-awaited triumph for Shea Coulee. And now, after a scant few weeks off, we're about to get a new constellation in the ever-expanding Ru-niverse, as RuPaul's Drag Race: Vegas Revue arrives on VH1's Friday night, a spot that is now set in stone for Ru properties.

    While it's undoubtedly awkward to be airing a series that was originally meant to promote the RuPaul's Drag Race Live! show at the Flamingo in Las Vegas (which was canceled in March due to the pandemic), the show did open in January, and Vegas Revue documents the hectic, hard-working, and satisfyingly dramatic time spent putting the show together with a handful of Drag Race alumni looking to bring their prodigious talents to the stage. It also shows that the Drag Race universe has the kind of talent that can sustain a more documentary-style show rather than remain locked into competitions. (HBO's We're Here also proved this, albeit not under the Ru/World of Wonder umbrella.) Presenting the "Ru girls" as personality-forward content drivers is something that's been building for a long time, largely on the WOW Presents YouTube channel, which then blossomed into the premium platform WOW Presents Plus, upon which several Drag Race alumni have their own shows. Vegas Revue, however, is the first time this kind of content will be presented in the Drag Race time slot, giving it a more "official" stamp.

    This expansion of the Ru-niverse isn't new. Back in the days when Drag Race aired on LOGO, they tried to spin off Drag U, a makeover show where the Ru girls would glam up women, who would then compete pageant-style for prizes. Aside from some very fun werkroom interactions among the queens, the show didn't really gel, and the show's famously catty core fanbase rejected it almost entirely. Far more successful have been the international versions of the show. Drag Race: Thailand wasn't promoted to American Drag Race fans the way later iterations were, but it streamed on WOW Presents, and gained a groundswell of enthusiasm among the show's most dedicated fans. Then in 2019, Drag Race UK premiered as the show's first RuPaul-hosted international version, to great acclaim. This summer has seen Canada's Drag Race air on LOGO, hosted by Season 11 runner-up Brooke Lynn Hytes, further expanding the Ru-niverse.

    RuPaul's Drag Race: Vegas Revue is a six-episode docu-drama exploring the behind-the-scenes action as six Drag Race alumni collaborate on the live show in Las Vegas. The queens will experience professional challenges, personal struggles, and if the trailers are being honest with us, perhaps some queen-on-queen hooking up. The show promises a deeper dive into the lives of the queens we know and (mostly) love as they try to put on the show of their lives.

    The six queens starring in Vegas Revue are:

    • Asia O'Hara, who finished in fourth place in Season 10 and murdered a bunch of butterflies in her ill-fated finale performance. Asia is a highly likeable queen with strong leader vibes among the other girls. She even stood up to RuPaul at the Season 10 reunion in defense of the Vixen.
    • Derrick Barry, always a lightning rod for conflict and controversy. In his original season, he got dragged for his shoddy makeup skills and bratty attitude before getting bounced in 5th place. Most recently, on All-Stars 5 he and India Ferrah got into it over some off-show drama and name-calling. Derrick lives and works in Las Vegas and is part of a committed throuple, so expect his personal life (and personal conflicts) to be a big part of the season.
    • Kameron Michaels, who tied for runner-up in Season 10, was known for being the tall, musclebound "trade" of the season, as well as for being nearly unbeatable in a lip sync. He also got dragged at the reunion by multiple queens for not being very friendly or engaged with the other girls in the werkroom. It will be interesting to see if that dynamic carries over into Vegas, or if that's something Kam worked on.
    • Naomi Smalls, the leggy Season 8 queen who returned on All-Stars 4 with enhanced performance skills (and lips) and boldly axed frontrunner Manila Luzon. Naomi is very likeable, with the potential to deliver something hugely memorable on the Vegas stage.
    • Vanessa Vanjie Mateo, the loud, brash, delightful season 10 queen who was eliminated in the first episode and delivered such an over-the-top exit that she was invited back for Season 11, where she finished 5th. She's a queen who still hasn't reached her full potential, which is exciting, and we know she isn't afraid of a showmance, after getting together with Brooke Lynn Hytes on Season 11, which could make for some great TV.
    • Yvie Oddly, the defiantly different Season 11 winner whose performances are wild and who is not afraid to loudly make her opinions known. She was also subject to bouts of self-doubt in her original season, which could sprout up in such a high-pressure situation.

    RuPaul's Drag Race: Vegas Revue promises to be our most up-close look at the queens yet, combining the drag excellence of Drag Race with the behind-the-scenes intrigue of something even deeper and dishier. The Ru-niverse expands ever outward.

    RuPaul's Drag Race: Vegas Revue premieres tonight on VH1, with new episodes airing weeekly Friday nights at 8:00 PM ET.

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    Joe Reid is the Managing Editor at Primetimer and co-host of the This Had Oscar Buzz podcast. His work has appeared in Decider, NPR, HuffPost, The Atlantic, Slate, Polygon, Vanity Fair, Vulture, The A.V. Club and more.

    TOPICS: RuPaul’s Drag Race: Vegas Revue, VH1, WOW Presents Plus, RuPaul’s Drag Race, Asia O’Hara, Derrick Barry, Kameron Michaels, Naomi Smalls, RuPaul Charles, Vanessa Vanjie Mateo, Yvie Oddly