‘RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars’ Queens Talk Competing for Charity, How They Were Compensated and Whether They Need Ru-demption

“Bring back my girls,” RuPaul famously said; now, here they are again in “RuPaul’s Drag Race: All Stars 9.”

Angeria Paris VanMichaels, Gottmik, Jorgeous, Nina West, Plastique Tiara, Roxxxy Andrews, Shannel and Vanessa Vanjie are the returning queens and they’re doing something good for the world. In a new twist, they’re no longer competing for prize money; instead, they’re backing their favorite charities.

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The competition will follow a non-elimination format. Instead, each week will see the top two queens will earn benefactress badges. By the end of the season, the top queens with the most badges will compete for the crown, a space in the “All Stars” Hall of Fame, plus prize money for their charity. The queens also receive a stipend for their wardrobe.

Speaking with Variety, “RuPaul’s Drag Race” producer Tom Campbell said the show will be anything but boring: “We’re taking on charities that are very important, but we’re doing it with love and laughter and silliness. This isn’t a serious season. This is a hot season with some of the best drag you’ve ever seen.”

Nina West and Shannel joined Campbell to discuss what made them want to compete this season, and what audiences can expect from the competition.

Tom, what was the genesis of deciding on this new format and the focus on donating to charities that the queens believe in?

TOM CAMPBELL: It all started with Carson Kressley. He met Terrence Meck, co-founder and president of the Palette Fund, which puts emphasis on different LGBT+ causes. Terrence said he wanted to be involved in “Drag Race” somehow. Back on “All Stars” season 7, we did an episode where the queens were playing for their favorite charity. It felt good and the producers thought, “What if we did a whole season where they’re playing for charity?” And we just loved it. It felt like something fresh and new.

Can you disclose how much wardrobe allowance the queens got? Being a drag queen and creating those looks doesn’t come cheap.

CAMPBELL: We gave them a wardrobe allowance. Let’s just say it’s a fair amount. When it comes to the competition, it’s a playful one. And every queen had an opportunity to make money for their charity, so it’s sort of a win-win.

What are you most eager to get redemption for on going into the show?

SHANNEL: I don’t know if it’s about the idea of getting redemption or Ru-demption, having been the OG, the first queen to literally ever walk on set when the series began. We knew nothing of what the show was to become. It was on Logo and there was no blueprint. There wasn’t a template. I had no idea what was going to be happening.

At this point, I felt I didn’t have to be a beginner of something. Being that it was a charitable season was a must for me. I loved the idea of giving back and it was very much a no-brainer. And to be a part of this season with the best of the best and the most versatile queens. We truly all bring something so magical and unique to this season, but in such different ways that the caliber, the differences and camaraderie really create something beautiful and magical.

NINA WEST: I love my Season 11. I feel like the show set me up for so much success. I had a controversial elimination and I wouldn’t have changed a thing. Everything went the way it did because it told my story. One of the things that’s really important to point out is that the producers on “Drag Race” do a really eloquent job of telling our stories. I felt like my story was told, and I felt like I didn’t have any punishment. I didn’t need a redemption. People got to know me for who I really authentically am, and they saw me share a story that I never intended to share. That connected me with millions of people around the world. It changed the whole trajectory of my career.

My reason for coming back to “All Stars” was because a giant part of me is devoted to charity and to organizations that try to uplift and amplify people’s lives and provide agency. So, when I was asked – and this is the third time I was asked – I said, “Yes.”

It is still competitive, but what was great was the fact that we were all playing for different charities, and what mattered to me was The Trevor Project, so I jumped at the opportunity.

Shannel, you’re competing for the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, can you talk about your chosen charity?

SHANNEL: It is something extremely near and dear to my heart as someone who is a sufferer of anxiety, not so much depression. Anxiety is something that started and stemmed from my childhood with an upbringing that I had, very specifically from my grandparents. There have been times in my life when I was getting an anxiety attack and some of the “normal things” that happen to you when you have an attack such as deep sweats and heart palpitations.

When 2020 hit with the world shutting down, and as someone who suffers from health anxiety, it was the ultimate state of paranoia. I ended up getting involved with therapy and went through three different therapists. It was a matter of “Let me prescribe you a pill,” and that was extremely frustrating to me because this isn’t about a pill. This is so much deeper and something that needs a voice. So, this charitable season, and with the ADAA, it showed me that there are organizations out there and people who go through the same thing.

For me, having this platform and voice, I want to be able to show the world that if it’s something that I can deal with, and I can come to terms with and be honest about, then it hopefully will give a voice to other people dealing with the same thing. The ADAA gives you the tools and assets to help find the tools you need.

So, what can we expect if we’re not going to see eliminations?

CAMPBELL: You’re going to see fierce competition and insane, amazing wardrobes. The challenges that we had during the season were phenomenal, and there was a lot of camaraderie. There’s a lot of love between the girls on the show. You may recall from “All Stars” season 7, there was a platinum plunger. Well, there’s another device to stir things up a little bit.

SHANNEL:  Tom and I have been together since day one. But it’s crazy to think what the show has become and that drag is not so taboo anymore. It’s so mainstream, and thank God for queer culture, and so many celebrities embracing drag in the art form and putting it out there. I always encourage getting out there and voting. It’s an election year, and it’s never been more important for voices to be heard and to get out there and stand up for what you believe in.

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