Yesterday (August 18) marked Gay Christmas, otherwise known as the RuPaul’s Drag Race UK Season 3 cast reveal.
The line-up made herstory as the first to ever feature a cis woman, Victoria Scone. Many fans and queens alike believed this moment may never come, despite years of the franchise being criticised for its exclusion of trans artists and cis women.
Social media was flooded with congratulatory posts, as well as celebratory messages from queens of past seasons.
There are so many incredible cis women that do drag. There are also incredible trans artists that do drag. Let's not forget about Kings as well. Drag has always been more than cis men in a wig.
— BIMINI! (@biminibabes) August 18, 2021
She should’ve been handed the crown immediately
— Lawrence Chaney (@ShadyLawrence) August 18, 2021
Scone’s inclusion undoubtedly marks a milestone for the long-running franchise, but social media has since been flooded with critique of this season’s lack of racial diversity.
Twelve queens were announced, yet only three are people of colour – Vanity Milan is a Black queen from South London, Anubis is named after their Egyptian heritage and River Medway has described herself as “50% white British, 50% Singaporean”.
I’m representing Medway, I’m representing my Singaporean heritage, I’m representing the working class, I’m representing being queer and from a small town, I’m representing everything that I needed to see growing up!!! This is for you ❤️
— River Medway (@river_medway) August 18, 2021
Drag Race UK queens weighed in on the line-up’s lack of diversity
Season two finalist Tayce was amongst the first to point out the lack of diversity in an Instagram story later posted to Twitter, which praised the queens but flagged the issue.
“Congrats to all the S3 s**gs! I’m so proud to see so many familiar faces and excited to get to know the unfamiliar,” she wrote.
“With that being said, I’m a little taken aback by the lack of diversity, especially as I personally know so many incredible PoC (people of colour), trans and AFAB (assigned female at birth) performers. Hopefully things will improve, and for now I wish nothing best for the S3 girls.”
In a statement issued to Attitude, a BBC3 spokesperson responded: “Celebrating diversity is at the heart of Drag Race UK and we welcome queens from all backgrounds.”
This morning (August 19), fellow season two queen Ellie Diamond issued a lengthy post of her own. “Although I am ecstatic to see a cis woman on the show, it does feel bittersweet that a lot of the incredible QPoC (queer people of colour) drag artists in this country have been overlooked for this season,” she wrote.
— Ellie Diamond (@elliediamond101) August 19, 2021
“The UK has a long history of racism, and in our community we should be making every effort to dismantle all forms of racism and make this a kind and accepting place for everyone,” Diamond continued, before encouraging fans to uplift the voices of queer people of colour and follow their accounts.
The line-up sparked wider discussions of racism within drag and the LGBTQ+ community
Naturally, these conversations are about more than just RuPaul’s Drag Race UK.
Statistics have long shown that racism remains an issue within the LGBT+ community in the UK – according to 2018 research by Stonewall, 51 per cent of queer people of colour had experienced racism within the LGBT+ community.
This number rose to 61 per cent for Black LGBT+ people.
Within the Drag Race franchise more broadly, racism has been a consistent talking point. Last September, US contestants Heidi N Closet, Latrice Royale, Mayhem Miller, Widow Von’Du, Mariah Paris Balenciaga and The Vixen released a PSA video describing their experiences of racism within the show’s fandom.
In addition, queens of colour have long lagged behind white queens in terms of social media followings, arguably for no justifiable reason. This racial disparity was summarised in a 2020 article by Pride, which tallied the followings and found Black queens in particular have far less fan support.
In this context, the lack of diversity – and particularly of dark-skinned people of colour – in the show’s line-up takes on new importance.
Of course, there is more to drag than Drag Race – from talented drag artists such as Yshee Black, Prinx Chiyo and Black Peppa to collectives such as the Cocoa Butter Club and Bitten Peach, there’s plenty of diverse drag excellence in the UK to sink your teeth into.
Whether or not they’ll ever get their chance to shine on the main stage – that is, of course, if they want to – remains to be seen.