The show that should have been called Celebrity Drag Race premiered on VH1 tonight, branded as RuPaul’s Secret Celebrity Drag Race. It’s called that because the celebrities haven’t been announced in advance, and are revealed in the opening moments of the episode, after having their identities concealed briefly.
Now we know why that is: this spin-off is really straining the definition of “celebrity,” even more than Dancing with the Stars makes us laugh every time someone says “star.” But it wasn’t a bad show—not at all, even if it is mostly a rebranded version of RuPaul’s Drag U.
While the first three contestants—Riverdale’s Jordan Connor, comedian Jermaine Fowler, and Nico Tortorella from Scream 4—may not be A-list stars, they were all really game during the entire episode, from a mini-challenge to Snatch Game to the lip sync.
Their willingness to have fun and make a real effort made for a rather entertaining 90 minutes. And more than that, they each had personal connections to drag and/or queer people that led to some emotional moments.
The real mystery for me is why VH1 decided to air these four episodes now, creating 3.5 hours of Drag Race on Friday nights. That’s fun, but why not hold it until summer or fall, especially since it’s likely there will be a drought of new content coming? Why not just air it after this season concludes?
I’m really baffled by VH1/Viacom’s strategy with Drag Race, especially since Drag Race All Stars is moving to premium cable, which I guess indicates they’re just using the show to make the most money possible.
So who else will be appearing on Secret Celebrity RuPaul’s Drag Race and lip sync for their charity to try to win $30,000?
The Drag Race celebrities
I was curious who else would be appearing this season, and Reddit’s SpoiledDragRace subreddit had the answers. The “Season Twelve T Checker,” a document that aggregates and categorizes spoilers, mostly has details about Drag Race season 12, but also includes spoilers for the celebrity edition. A separate Imgur post summarizes the celebrity edition spoilers.
Lists below identify the cast members, who they’re paired with, and the main challenge, but not the outcome of the episodes. The links above do, however, identify who wins the episode, never mind season 12 spoilers, so click with caution.
There is one legitimate celebrity here, and a few who qualify as surprises, including one early reality TV star—who’s also been on reality TV more recently than the 1990s. That star, Tami Roman, actually seems to have spoiled her own participation with a social media post of her name tag from the set last summer.
RuPaul’s Secret Celebrity Drag Race contestants
Episode two, which has a Rusical challenge
- Vanessa Williams, an actor and singer who’s guest judged on Drag Race in the past, who’s working with Asia O’Hara
- Tami Roman from The Real World Los Angeles and, more recently, Basketball Wives, who’s paired with Alyssa Edwards
- Loni Love, co-host of The Real, working with Trinity the Tuck
Another episode, which has a roast of RuPaul as its challenge:
- Matt Iseman, Celebrity Apprentice winner and American Ninja Warrior co-host who competed on Lip Sync Battle in drag as Cher, who’s paired with Kim Chi
- Dustin Milligan, Schitt’s Creek co-star, who’s paired with Nina West
- Alex Newell, who played Unique Adams on Glee, and is paired with Bob the Drag Queen.
Another episode, which has a girl group challenge
- Phoebe Robinson, the co-creator and star of 2 Dope Queens, working with Alyssa Edwards
- Madison Beer, YouTube singer, working with Monique Heart
- Hayley Kyioko, an actor and singer, who’s paired with Vanessa Vanjie Mateo
This story was updated to reflect the order of episodes as they are broadcast on VH1.