RuPaul knows good drag. RuPaul also knows not-so-good drag. RuPaul’s Drag Race is a show about that differentiation. Drag artists out costume, lip synch, and perform each other, with lots of tea spilling on the way. For those that aren’t aware, IMDb says the show has been going on since 2009. RuPaul brought drag out of the clubs and into living rooms; those of us who’d never seen drag before were suddenly plunged into the world of Cher covers and sequin dresses.
Watching the show in the first season was a little rough, but after working through the issues they’ve pulled it together and really found their mode of operation. It doesn’t mean every drag artist who gets on the show is successful, though! Even some of the winners don’t make it post-Drag Race.
20 Trixie Mattel
This comedy legend has become one of the biggest names in drag, thanks to her time on RuPaul’s Drag Race. While her All Stars season went better than the first time she competed on the show, she’s grown increasingly successful regardless of losing during her first competition. With hosting a talk show and country comedy albums under her belt, this is one drag star who succeeded.
19 Alyssa Edwards
Unfortunately for Alyssa Edwards, she ended up losing out on the prize twice. After coming back for an All Stars season after her initial loss, many of us believed she would get her win the second time around. A sharp wit and an even sharper look to those she disliked, Alyssa Edwards was the definition of competitive. Maybe that’s why she’s been performing consistently since the loss!
18 Didn’t Make It: Raja
Now, don’t get us wrong: Raja was a stunning season 3 winner, and offered up some incredibly high fashion looks from the runway to the mini challenges. It’s unfortunate that she’s never quite taken off in the same way that other drag artists have. On the bright side, she definitely looks to have a promising future in fashion design!
17 Kim Chi
Even those who have never tried it tend to love Kim Chi. This drag artist was a success not only due to her sheer passion for details, but also for her passion for food. The runner up of Season 8, she never got the chance to stand in the RuPaul winner spotlight. However, her TV show and her social media presence more than make up for the loss.
Does anyone else remember William? For some reason the show never quite latched onto William in the same way it did other drag artists. However, she’s one that truly got some mainstream success after the competition, despite being disqualified. According to IMDb William acted in A Star Is Born, and has a plethora of upcoming projects, too!
There’s a certain amount of jadedness that seems to come when the drag artists have been competing for a while. According to EOnline, Shangela is one of the only drag stars to have competed on three seasons of Drag Race. While we don’t see any big, upcoming projects, she’s certainly prolific enough to book any stage in town.
14 Latrice Royale
EOnline mentions that Latrice Royale had two decades of drag experience before strutting down that RuPaul catwalk. Honestly, we’d believe it. She was always so self assured, and she held strong to her artistic vision. Since she came from a long “herstory” of drag success, it’s no surprise that she’s retained that success post-elimination.
One of the only drag artists to ever eliminate herself rather than a competitor, BenDeLaCreme is a true sweetheart (most of the time). She’s gotten quite a bit of work afterwards as well, though it’s her reputation that really skyrocketed her to the top. The RuPaul Fandom has even compared her success to Trixie Mattel and Katya!
12 Didn’t Make It: Tyra Sanchez
Honestly, we tend to avoid most of what happened in those first couple seasons. The winner of season 2, Tyra Sanchez was all set up to really launch herself as one of the first winners. Unfortunately, we couldn’t find anything about her recent career other than her clothing line. This is one drag artist whose career definitely started to drag post-win.
11 Monét X Change
This artist has truly shone throughout the Drag Race seasons. Another double competitor, according to the RuPaul Fandom she was also the first double winner. Her and Trinity the Tuck were both dubbed winners of All Stars 4, which has resulted in her being forever cemented in the Drag Race hall of fame.
10 Shea Couleé
She might have placed third(ish) in her season, but that didn’t stop her from becoming a well known drag star after the show. While she didn’t quite reach Katya, Alaska, or Trixie levels of fame, Shea Couleé has certainly proved herself in the world of drag. Many people know her and her rap skills, and we know she’ll find success in other ways soon.
9 Naomi Smalls
This outspoken drag star has been working in the community long after her stint on Drag Race. Not only has she worked with Kim Chi on M.U.G., Kim Chi’s show, but Naomi Smalls has turned heads on red carpets for ages now. While she never climbed out of her runner-up distinction, she’s always going to be a winner to us.
Drag isn’t all Barbie pink and comedy songs. Detox has proved that drag can be a little devilish as well. She’s never stopped working despite her lack of success on the show. She placed fourth in her first Drag Race appearance, and was then runner up in her All Stars season. We’re glad she’s sticking to the music, modelling, and acting trajectory that’s given her so much success so far!
Katya and Trixie Mattel have both turned into some wild talk show hosts, and we are honestly here for it. Not only do we love the fact that the two of them are so close, but Katya has since done worldwide tours for her own drag shows. She might not have won her season, but she won in the game of fame.
6 Phi Phi O'Hara
Nobody is really sure if Phi Phi O’Hara is the definition of a super villain or a superhero. Not only did she find herself being played out as the negative Nancy in the fourth season, but she never won either of her Drag Race competitions. That hasn’t stopped her from launching her drag artist persona out in the real world, and garnering a lot of success with it.
5 Adore Delano
It’s hard to not adore Adore. While she was another of those drag race stars who never quite made it in the competition, she’s absolutely one of the artists who’s forged her own path post-show production. Her YouTube career has really taken off, and she’s turned into one of the most interesting drag artists on social media because of it!
4 Didn’t Make It: Violet Chachki
Okay, this is one that’s not necessarily as accurate as we’re making it out to be. Violet Chachki does indeed have work after her win on Drag Race. However, it all seems to be in Europe (and further east). She might be having some success, but we’re certainly not seeing it.
The higher the hair, the closer to RuPaul. At least, that seems to be the approach Valentina took. Unfortunately it didn’t help her in the end, as she was eliminated in 7th place twice. Luckily she’s continued her drag career outside of the show, and has even branched into acting and other kinds of performing!
2 Manila Luzon
This is a drag artist who knows how to put on a show. The RuPaul Fandom has listed her as having “the most memorable lip synch of all time,” despite the fact she never won any of the seasons she was on. Shifting into hosting on reality TV was a smart move for her, as it really lets her personality shine through.
1 Both: Alaska
Is there a person in this world who doesn’t know Alaska? We’re going to go ahead and say “nope!” Both the winner of a season and the loser of another season, Alaska has shown us that perseverance, honesty, and cheese-grater sharp wit is the best way to go about succeeding both in RuPaul’s Drag Race, and in life.
Sources: eonline.com, variety.com, dailyxtra.com, instinctmagazine.com, rupaulsdragrace.fandom.com