Without knowing that we'd all be stuck indoors riding out a pandemic, the Drag Race universe packed 2020 with content. There was season 12 of Drag Race, which aired from the end of February until the end of May. During that span, VH1 paired the show with four weeks of Secret Celebrity Drag Race. RuPaul's Drag Race All-Stars Season 5 began the week after Drag Race 12 ended and ran through July. Canada's Drag Race ran from July until September. And VH1 also ran a six-week season of RuPaul's Drag Race Vegas Revue in August and September. Almost all of this programming was filmed before COVID shut down production, with the exceptions being the Drag Race 12 reunion and finale, both filmed remotely (with Ru herself in a face bandage because, seemingly she couldn't get her makeup people in).
Then it all came screeching to a halt. It's now been over three months since a RuPaul's Drag Race-affiliated series has aired here in the US, the longest stretch we've gone without Drag Race in quite some time.
But like phoenix rising from the ashes of 2020, today's Season 13 premiere of RuPaul's Drag Race is just the first of many planned shows in the franchise set to bow in 2021. Two weeks from now, it'll be the second season of Drag Race UK.
Whether or not this onslaught of Drag Race will contribute to audience burnout, the cast for Season 13 (which was shot last summer with COVID protocols in place) looks exciting, with a roster that feels geographically balanced. After a few seasons where the number of New York City-based queens became an issue, both in the workroom and among fans (who seem, on balance, to resent the queens dropping their NYC bona fides too much), this cast has a mere four New York girls, joined by two from Los Angeles, two from Chicago, two from Atlanta, and three from… you know, other places.
Here's a quick look at this season's competitors:
Denali (28, Chicago, Illinois): Denali — known professionally as "Denali Fox" but in one of those Drag Race quirks they made her shorten the name — may be a Chicago-based queen, but she's native to Alaska (hence the drag name, one assumes, given the mountain and national park in Alaska). In keeping with this wintry aesthetic, she's also a former figure skater. She's only been doing drag for two and a half years, but she fancies herself a true performer.
Elliott with 2 Ts (26, Las Vegas, Nevada): Elliott's a dancer by training and a Vegas showgirl by reputation. She also seems to be laying a lot of groundwork for possibly not getting along with the other girls, so we'll see how that shakes out.
Gottmik (23, Los Angeles, California): Excitingly, Gottmik is the first trans male competitor on Drag Race and hopes to be the first trans winner. They're a makeup queen by reputation with a knack for fucking with gender in some really interesting ways.
Joey Jay (30, Phoenix, Arizona): Calling herself the "lipstick lesbian of Phoenix," Joey's drag is a butch-punk glow-up from her self-described "sissy little white boy" self. Defiantly anti-wig in her presentation, Joey seems ready (and likely) to battle any queens or judges who clock her for it.
Kahmora Hall (28, Chicago, Illinois): Kahmora fancies herself a classic queen, which means, as she says, no flips or kicks or stunts. Which might end up holding her back this season. As she admits, she's a queen who seems like a pageant girl without actually having a pageant background, which feels like a shaky foundation.
Kandy Muse (25, New York City, New York): A "Dominican doll from New York City," Kandy presents as loud and fun and promises to take up a ton of camera time in the work room. Kandy's drag mother is Aja from season 9 and All-Stars 4, which is a great pedigree, though that didn't do so well for her drag sister Dahlia Sinn last year when she went home first.
LaLa Ri (30, Atlanta, Georgia): LaLa is another dancer and another queen who's been doing drag for under three years. She does say she's eager to show off her fashion skills, which she says she's elevated from her usual leotard looks for the show.
Olivia Lux (26, Brooklyn, New York): Olivia Lux has a big, bright personality that should serve her well. I'd expect her to get a lot of talking-head time. She's another young queen, but her confidence feels off the charts. And she can play the piano, which we can only hope she gets a chance to do on the show.
Rosé (31, New York City, New York): The "quintessential New York showgirl," Rosé is, as you might expect, pink-forward in her presentation. She's this season's theater queen for sure, which makes sense as she's also in a girl group with last season's Jan.
Symone (25, Los Angeles, California): This Arkansas-to-L.A. transplant is a body queen with an eye for fashion and the avant garde. The whole package is just very exciting. She's also the second of two Los Angeles queens to mention that an L.A. girl hasn't won since Raja in Season 3, which makes me feel like that might be a narrative this season.
Tamisha Iman (42, Atlanta, Georgia): This season's elder stateswoman, Tamisha is a Southern lady with big wigs and what she calls a "total package." She's also the drag mother of LaLa Ri, which should be an amazing workroom dynamic.
Tina Burner (39, New York City, New York): Tina describes herself as a "nine-foot tall linebacker in a dress" which is just a phenomenal visual. She's a comedy queen and a NYC veteran, so it's no surprise that she doesn't seem to have a ton of patience for the baby queens and their Instagram makeup videos.
Utica Queen (25, Minneapolis, Minnesota): Wow, Utica is a lot. A lot of look, a lot of personality, and a nonstop stream of chatter. She describes herself as "kooky" about 15 times in the first 10 seconds of her intro video, and you guys? She is definitely kooky. She'll either wear her sisters out in the workroom or be really lovable.
RuPaul's Drag Race Season 13 premieres with a unprecedented six channel simulcast on VH1, Logo, MTV, MTV2, Pop and The CW January 1st 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.