RuPaul’s Drag Race has develop into this worldwide phenomenon, making superstars out of the contestants who enter the workroom and the queen of all drag herself, RuPaul, a globally identified model.
In latest years, World of Wonder, the manufacturing firm behind Drag Race, has expanded the present into varied worldwide spin-offs like RuPaul’s Drag Race UK, Drag Race Thailand, Canada’s Drag Race, Drag Race España and the newly introduced RuPaul’s Drag Race Down Under. World of Wonder co-founders and Drag Race producers Randy Barbato and Fenton Bailey just lately chatted with Newsweek by way of Zoom concerning the recognition of Drag Race internationally and the way followers within the United States are devouring these spin-offs by way of WOW Presents Plus (WOW+), the corporate’s streaming service.
“Drag is a universal language that we’re all fluent in now. It’s something that transcends words,” says Randy Barbato, referring to how the overseas variations of Drag Race are simply as common in overseas markets as they’re with U.S. followers. And the one means U.S. followers are watching these overseas variations are via WOW+.
“Drag Race UK has turbocharged WOW+,” says Fenton Bailey. The finale for the second season of Drag Race UK airs on WOW+ Thursday, March 18.
Considering how common drag has develop into, it is truthful to assume extra spin-offs are within the pipeline for WOW+.
“I think WOW+ has sort of been this anomaly in that it keeps growing and we’re able to produce content—not at the rate of some of these big, big streaming outlets—but our engagement is intense and the growth has exceeded our expectations,” says Barbato.
Newsweek spoke with Barbato and Bailey concerning the development of WOW+ thanks largely to Drag Race UK, how WOW+ has given queens an outlet through the pandemic, and among the extra shocking belongings you’ll discover on the streaming platform.
How did Drag Race UK develop the usage of the WOW+ within the U.S.?
Fenton Bailey: Drag Race UK has turbocharged WOW+. The attention-grabbing factor about each iteration of Drag Race on WOW+ is that each new model does higher than the earlier model. So Canada’s Drag Race did rather well after which season two of UK did higher and we’re very excited for Drag Race Down Under and Drag Race España that is coming quickly.
Randy Barbato: Drag Race Holland did rather well, too. People did not even have to perceive the language to take pleasure in it. Drag is a common language that we’re all fluent in now. It’s one thing that transcends phrases.
The pandemic type of shifted how individuals expertise drag exhibits. How do you suppose the pandemic impacted individuals’s curiosity in WOW+?
FB: RuPaul has at all times stated that drag queens are type of the marines of actuality TV, they cope with actuality and conditions as they’re confronted by them. They’re adaptable. The finest drag is making one thing out of nothing. I feel the pandemic has proven unbelievable innovation from drag queens who pivoted to going online.
RB: I additionally suppose the pandemic has modified the best way we watch issues. The stage of depth is deeper when it comes to how we join with story, with characters. And I do suppose that drag queens have develop into individuals’s finest associates. There’s an intimacy already, there’s an intimacy with Drag Race, it is a very intimate present. I imply, it’s about tune and dance and wigs and make-up and sass, however on the coronary heart of it’s coronary heart. And I feel whenever you’re dwelling alone, not likely connecting with anybody, I do suppose the entire Drag Races and the entire queens have linked with viewers way more deeply. And WOW+ has all of it, not simply all of the completely different exhibits from all all over the world, it additionally has the spin-off exhibits which have been tremendous common, from Werq the World to a few new exhibits which can be popping out within the subsequent couple of weeks.
That’s one thing that I do not suppose lots of followers notice, WOW+ can be a platform for queens to create exhibits after they’ve appeared on Drag Race (and it is a part of the prize for the winner of Drag Race UK). Do you intend on increasing the platform with extra content material from queens?
FB: It’s not simply that drag queens are the early adopters of latest applied sciences, it is that drag is that this nice artwork and extremely wealthy territory. For a few years Randy and I felt there have been extra exhibits that we may very well be doing. And I feel what we created WOW+ to do extra with the queens. Not each queen needs to do this, however the ones that will we’re right here for them and we love to collaborate with them. Absolutely. It’s type of the concept represents WOW+.
RB: As a streaming platform, we’re fiercely unbiased. We’re not Netflix, we’re not HBO Max, however we’ve got a surprisingly giant viewers who’re fiercely devoted. World of Wonder is a fiercely unbiased firm. We’re one of many few manufacturing firms left on the town of this dimension who’re utterly unbiased. So I feel WOW+ has type of been this anomaly in that it retains rising and we’re ready to produce content material—not on the charge of a few of these huge, huge streaming retailers—however our engagement is intense and the expansion has exceeded our expectations. We’re not Quibi. [laughs]
One of the issues I really like about watching the worldwide variations of Drag Race on WOW+ is that it offers American audiences a glimpse into the anti-queer legal guidelines and discrimination a few of these queens expertise of their international locations. Was that essential to you to embody as producers?
FB: Our intention has at all times been that each model of Drag Race ought to replicate the place it is made and type of really feel genuine to that place. You’re proper, that’s undoubtedly a consequence and I feel it is an awesome consequence. The complete concept of Drag Race is that it is distinctive to every territory, but in addition one thing that everyone can respect, wherever they’re since you’re proper, queer is a world mind-set, reasonably than only a Western factor.
What’s humorous is on this season of UK what I personally discovered revealing and likewise transferring is that many of those queens grew up with dad and mom who supported them. I discovered that type of new to me as a result of a lot of our historical past has been steeped in repression and abuse and rejection and ostracization. It was very nice in a means that was simply as transferring, perhaps extra. So simply to see these dad and mom actually love their youngsters and help them, that is a pleasant narrative to have the ability to embody.
RB: So a lot of the success of all of the Drag Races has to do with RuPaul. Whether he’s within the worldwide iteration or whether or not he is not and it is extra guided by his spirit and vitality, he needs to get at it and perceive what is going on on. Like when he hears the humorous sayings, he simply goes there. He’s like a little bit nerdy, curious child. I do not know if you happen to guys essentially see that, however that actually is a lot of the engine and the individuality and the way the historical past of a area finally ends up rising.
Another factor I do not suppose lots of people notice about World of Wonder is that it began with documentary movies like The Eyes of Tammy Faye. Do you intend on that includes extra documentaries on WOW+?
FB: We simply produced a documentary known as Wojnarowicz: F*ck You F*ggot F*cker. It’s about this very controversial and outspoken artist initially of the AIDS epidemic in New York’s East Village. He’s much less well-known than Warhol and Mapplethorpe and Basquiat and Haring, however he was an incredible artist. Chris McKim directed and that is truly popping out on Kino Lorber on March 19, however it is going to have a house on WOW+. We launched the docs division, WOW Docs, and we undoubtedly need to put extra docs on WOW+. They aren’t as watched as Drag Race, but it surely’s all a part of that queer historical past factor.
RB: We additionally produced Freedia Got a Gun, which was about gun violence, New Orleans, and it was about Big Freedia making an attempt to reconcile and determine how to resolve gun violence in city areas. It’s not what you would possibly essentially count on, however for us, we do suppose all these things is adjoining to the Drag Race viewers and we’re doubling down on our doc manufacturing. When the Beat Drops—Jamal Sims directed, which additionally lives at WOW+, Werq the World, so yeah, docs are essential to us. Fenton and I got here from the doc world.
There are different queer streamers on the market, however WOW+ and Drag Race actually have a crossover enchantment to a broader market. Why do you suppose that’s?
FB: I feel it is perhaps a misperception that LGBTQ+ is a distinct segment factor. What Randy and I really feel is that we’re individuals and we’re queer, and that queerness is a universally relatable factor. I feel it is that feeling of being an outsider that’s actually extra the mainstream actuality. I feel everyone looks like an outsider. I feel that of queerness in the identical means that I feel drag is a common factor. I’m at all times quoting RuPaul, however considered one of my favourite issues he says is, “You’re born naked, and the rest is drag.” Randy in that flannel shirt and also you in that black beanie and me on this stripy shirt, we’re all in a type of drag, as a result of the second we placed on any garments, we’re making some assertion about our identification. So I feel the concept drag is only a area of interest factor is unsuitable. I feel anyone can relate to drag.
RB: The connection individuals have with this present is feeling like an outsider, which all of us are, we’re all outsiders. When, in a personal second at dwelling through the pandemic watching Drag Race, they’ve that revelation, I feel it is actually liberating and it’s totally thrilling. We have a lot extra in widespread than we do not. So a lot of the assemble of the lives we lead are designed to separate us, Drag Race is right here to tear down these partitions and remind us truly, we’re all fairly related.
This interview has been edited and condensed for readability.