Halleloo, Drag Race is growing up nicely. Season 14 of RuPaul’s Drag Race premiered January 7th, and the show has already made history: not only is this is the first reality TV show with two openly trans women in the cast, but it is also the first Drag Race episode where trans women dominated the episode, by winning both the Mini Challenge and the Maxi Challenge.
Contestants Kerri Colby (photo above left) and Kornbread “The Snack” Jeté, (right), both from Los Angeles, were introduced in the first episode, with Kerri winning the Mini Challenge photo shoot, and Kornbread winning the talent competition in the Maxi Challenge by performing a lip sync to her own original song.
As of Episode 1, only Kerri identifies as openly trans. But Kornbread told Entertainment Weekly that throughout the season, she uses her time on Drag Race to begin her transition, and she relies on Kerri for guidance through the process.
This is a stark change from years past, when Drag Race noticeably placed restrictions on trans contestants. Although many contestants have been open about their trans identities, they were still expected to dress as male during their “non-drag” segments of the show. In a 2018 interview with The Guardian, RuPaul explained how Drag Race was meant to be a competition of males who created an illusion of being female, and that any performer who had major surgical alterations like breast implants were not really doing “drag.” As an example, he noted past contestant Peppermint, who competed in Season 9 of the show. Peppermint openly identified as a trans female, but she did not have her “top surgery” until after her season finished filming. RuPaul said, if she would’ve had surgery before she auditioned, she would not have been included in the cast.
Many other trans contestants have competed in the U.S. version of Drag Race, but like Peppermint, they technically transitioned after they were on the show. That all changed in 2021*, with Kylie Sonique Love, a trans woman who originally competed back in Season 2 of the show while still presenting as male. She returned to Season 6 of Drag Race All-Stars as a trans woman and won the crown, thanks to several well-deserved challenge wins and strong support from the show’s judging panel.
Her win was on the heels of Drag Race Season 13, which was technically the first season to include an openly transitioned trans contestant, Gottmik, who identifies as female to male trans–which still fit into RuPaul’s requirement at the time that contestants be men, as Gottmik would then dress in drag as female for competitions. Gender politics aside, Gottmik was a fantastic contestant, as he delighted fans (and RuPaul) with amazing performances throughout the show, and was a fan favorite thanks to his witty personality during backstage moments.
Season 14 of RuPaul’s Drag Race airs Fridays on VH1, and then streams on Paramount+.
*Technically the first trans winner on any Drag Race show was Angele Anang from Drag Race Thailand, in 2019.