On Wednesday night, the normally bristly but proper stretch of Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue outside Saks was buzzing with the kind of energy that can usually be found across town in Hell’s Kitchen. Although it was not immediately clear to all passersby. The south end of the building was barricaded, a red carpet covered the floor. The windows that used to show off luxury fashion were black. “What’s going on here?” an older man asked a couple waiting patiently outside the store. “It is an event for RuPaul’s Drag Race”, replied the woman with a strong Scottish accent. “Whose?” the man asked, not knowing if he had misheard or simply didn’t know about the celebrity or the event that was attracting so many people. The two went back and forth several times, before the man gave up, content with his unfamiliarity with this “RuPaul”, happy to leave the Scots waiting for him. “We were told the red carpet starts at six,” the woman said, but at seven, when the windows remained black, fans were still sympathetic. “You know, drag queens take so long to get ready,” she said.
Suddenly, a remix of RuPaul’s “I’m A Winner, Baby” began to play over the speakers, and one by one, the black shades of the eight windows lifted, revealing the eight queens of RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars. To celebrate the upcoming season, which features eight former winners of the show, RPDR joined forces with Saks Fifth Avenue to showcase contestants on one of the most famous streets in the world.
“I felt like I was in the red light district,” joked season eleven winner Yvie Oddly. Of course, in the red light district, women aren’t standing around in Brandon Maxwell dresses, though that didn’t stop Oddly from playing into her Amsterdam fantasy. “I even started to unbutton a little bit. You know, when you’re in Rome,” she shrugged, letting out her characteristic howling laugh.
As part of the collaboration, which could easily have been another challenge in RPDR itself, each queen helped design her window, choosing the color of the space, the quote on the front, and the design piece they stood next to. Both Jaida Essence Hall and Trinity The Tuck chose LaQuan Smith’s designs (“I tell everyone ‘the body is here,’ and this gorgeous sheer dress shows a lot of body,” Trinity said of the fall 2022 red dress alongside her. ), while Britain’s The Vivienne, who took home the crown in the first season of the foreign spin-off RDPR United Kingdom, appropriately chose an Alexander McQueen design. Vivienne’s participation in All the stars makes her the first foreign franchise winner to enter the American competition. “To be able to come and compete with these queens that I’ve seen grow up and become superstars was amazing,” said Vivienne. “It took me a few weeks to navigate through the personalities and figure out where I fit in, but then I realized they’re horrible, rotten queens, just like the queens of the UK.”
Despite the insults that are thrown forward, it’s clearly all very funny, the shadow of any fan of RPDR or drag in general is used for. Throughout the filming process, it’s clear that the girls grew closer. “We all know exactly what it’s like to be in other bitches’ shoes,” Oddly said. “We all did the work, we all got to the end of a season, and we all had to face the world with a crown and a scepter, shoulders back, heads up, asses out. There was a lot of respect from the jump and I think this will be the most joyful and brotherly lovefest of a season.”
of course there was Some former winners that the girls were happy not to see when they walked into the work room on the first day of filming. Many were surprised but pleased not to find season seven winner Violet Chachki belted up and ready to take on another round. “Violet would have brought fashion,” said Hall. She would have trampled all the girls. She would have swept every runway.” Even Raja, the most experienced of the queens, was happy not to face Chachki this time. Trinity, however, was confident that she could take on any RPDR alum thrown your way. “I’m okay with any of the winners coming, honey,” she said without missing a beat. “I’m ready.”
It’s hard for these girls not to be confident, considering they’ve already proven themselves and taken home a crown. And because of that, the dynamic between the contestants and the judges this season will be a little more complicated than usual. While the regular seasons of drag race they often depict the queens growing up throughout the competition, receiving criticism from the judges to improve their drag, that aspect is lost when the track fills with winners.
“We were more willing to fight for our art [on the mainstage]Hall said. “There is so much pressure now to always rise to the occasion, to know who you are and to know your brand and represent it well. So this time we were willing to fight a little harder for that.”
However, it is clear that, in the end, this season is just one big celebration of drag. “Win or lose, this was a great way to show off the best we have,” said Vivienne. “It’s top-tier drag every week: the catwalks, the challenges, it’s crazy. They say drag race It’s the Super Bowl of drag, well this is like the Super Bowl times 20.”