How many ways can RuPaul reinvent a drag competition? Here is one more, and it is a really good one.
Queen of the Universe is the new reality-competition show on Paramount+, featuring 14 drag queen vocalists from around the world who compete in a sing-off to win a prize of $250,000. RuPaul is not in the cast, but he is the show’s executive producer, and thanks to a lineup of fantastic talent and the RuPaul golden seal of approval, this show can be added to his list of hits.
There is a lot to love about this show, and here are our Top 5 reasons why we love it so much:
1. These queens can sing.
This is not a drag karaoke competition at a local bar. The Queen of the Universe contestants come from a wide range of theatrical and musical pedigrees, and clearly many of them have taken a voice class or two. They are are also gorgeous, but don’t let that overshadow the singing. The voices must be heard to be believed.
2. Representation matters.
Throughout the first two episodes, the show introduces contestants from China, Brazil, Australia, and India, as well as various locations throughout Europe and North America. How can the judges compare Leona Winters, singing an Edith Piaf song in French, and then a contestant from India named Rani Ko-He-Nur singing in Hindi? That shall be seen in upcoming episodes, but for now, enjoy them all. (…and just wait for the yodeling drag queen from Canada.)
3. It isn’t another Drag Race spin-off.
On Queen of the Universe, there are no challenges, there are no catfights, there are no insults about each other’s makeup being too orange or whatever. It is just singing (and how they look also matters, since this is a drag competition). Yes, Michelle Visage is a judge, again, because of course she is. But aside from her decades-long career in service to the drag industry, Visage is also a former pop music star, and she has the musical chops to give her critiques, so this show is a great home for her. Visage is joined on the judging panel by Drag Race alum Trixie Mattel, although she tends to avoid actual judging and instead she just lives her fangirl fantasy with lots of gasps and cheers.
4. The show gives veteran performers a chance to shine.
RuPaul’s Drag Race occasionally includes older, established performers in their lineup of contestants, but sometimes the show’s formula does not work in their favor. Seasoned performers, who have built their careers over years of struggling to gather a fan base on every stage that they could find, may not want to compete in funny “challenges,” or get criticized by celebrity guest judges who have never dressed in drag. On Queen of the Universe, they can do what they do best: grab that microphone and command the stage. Seriously, social media celebrities are fun to look at with their cute videos, but on Queen of the Universe a bearded queen named Gingzilla sings “I’m Only Human” by Rag’N’Bone Man, and she almost blows the roof off of the theater. It’s an event.
Also on the judging panel? Vanessa Williams. Thank you.
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