The Cost of RuPauls Drag Race: The Price Contestants Pay To Compete

To say that VH1’s smash hit RuPaul’s Drag Race has taken the world by storm would be a complete understatement. With its nineteen Primetime Emmy awards – including four consecutive wins for Outstanding Competition Program – and it’s seven international spin off shows, RuPaul Charles has cultivated a new mold of entertainment with this cultural phenomenon. But at what cost?

The Price

A post shared by RuPaul's Drag Race (@rupaulsdragrace)

Well, if you’d ask some of the queens that have sashayed their way onto the “werkroom” themselves, the highly sought after opportunity to compete on Drag Race is quite the pretty penny. With wigs, extravagant costumes, and mountain piles of makeup, the price to go on the show could be as costly as four to five figures!

RELATED: Mark Burnett: Reality TV’s $500 Million Winner

Back in the olden days of Drag Race – when very first, nine fresh faced queens walked into the scarcely decorated World of Wonder set in February 2009 – the scale of the show was completely different. The queens came with costumes they’d made themselves and rarely breached the costly pricey of contestants nowadays.

“When Drag Race first started,” Tom Fitzgerlad, author of Legendary Children:The First Decade of RuPaul’s Drag Race and the Last Century of Queer Life tells Vice, “they were literally coming in off the street to do this TV show. And now it’s 13 years later, it’s won all of these Emmys, it’s HD, it’s got superstar guest stars. The stakes are just higher.”

The Prize

A post shared by RuPaul's Drag Race (@rupaulsdragrace)

This statement rings true as viewership of the show continues to rapidly expand along with the program’s prize money  for lucky contestants. The first season of Drag Race had a grand prize of $25,000. While this was met with exuberant expressions when it was announced to the queens on the first episode, fans and Drag Race alumi can’t help but look back the eminence growth. The grand prize for the third season amounted to $75,000 and then eventually plateaued at handsomely generous $100,000 the season following.

All of this makes the competition steeper each year. As the onslaught of negative critiques from the judges panel towards homemade or store-bought costumes grew much harsher, prospective contestants began running to local fashion designers the second they got the call to be on the show.

“I think I spent about $4,000 on the costumes, out of pocket,” says season 8 winner Sasha Valor in an interview with In Style, “That’s why on TV, I’m not wearing anything custom, whereas that’s a huge part of what I do now because I have money from the gigs I can invest back in it.”

Back in 2016, when the show was really coming into the nation’s attention, Drag Race royalty Alyssa Edwards told Mic that she spends around “$450 for a wig — a custom wig that’s fitted to your head, and for your face.” After a rough calculation, Mic estimated that she spends somewhere around  ‘$45,000 alone on wigs’.

Recently, store-bought costumes have become the biggest fashion faux pas for the judging panel and fans alike. Upon her much anticipated entrance into All Stars 5, fan favorite Mayhem Miller got smacked with backlash on social media for wearing a $23 bodysuit from Amazon.  Similarly, RuPaul herself openly chastised competitor, Joe Black on the second season of the show’s UK spin-off.

Her words: “That outfit off the rack was a huge disappointment to me. We’re looking for Great Britain’s next superstar. Don’t waste my time. I don’t want to see any (f’n) H&M!”

The Pressure

A post shared by RuPaul's Drag Race (@rupaulsdragrace)

Though the pressure of looking like a million bucks weighs on each queen that walks into the competition, the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity cajoles competitors to readily dig into their savings.  The cost of the show became an interesting talking point in season 10, as queen Miz Cracker and Kameron Michael discuss just how much they gave up to get onto the show.  The two  candidly bantered about how the expense for the show were higher than that of going to college or a down payment on a house.

Though, with drag just recently becoming a viable vocation for stable income, not every queen has the funds to take on these hefty investments. A shining example of a queen who came into the competition with little financial resources is season 8 and All Stars 3 fan favorite, the late Chi Chi Devayne.

She came into the “werkroom” with a dress made of trash bags and a comforting, Southern charm. The weight of her financial setbacks became a key detour of her confidence as she looked around at all the thousand dollar gowns of her competitors. Though her bubbly, humble personality and abundant talent hoisted her into the Top 4 of the competition, this is not the case for queens that are similarly unfortunate. The mechanisms of Drag Race make it almost impossible to not spend a fortune.

Bob the Drag Queen, winner of Chi’s season, told Vice, “If I went back on Drag Race now, I’d probably be spending $20–40,000.” That’s an astounding amount seeing as how she only spent around $4,000 her first time around.

The biggest pitfall of Drag Race  to its queens- among the long hours of filming and impending hateful tweets from the fandom – seems to overwhelmingly be the expenses of competing. And, as the show is currently auditioning for it’s 14th cycle, it can be inferred that the price tag for contestants will continue to rise.

Read Next: 15 Secrets You Didn’t Know About RuPaul’s Drag Race

Source:  Mic, In Style,  Vice, Showbiz Cheatsheet 

Source: Read Full Article