by: E.B. Johnson
If any show on television has made an impact on the fashion world, it’s RuPaul’s Drag Race (sorry about it, Project Runway). For 11 years now, we have been gagged and gooped season-after-season, as queen after queen sashayed down the catwalk in leaks that were both otherworldly and fierce. Since its 2009 debut, RuPaul’s Drag Race has continually proved that it’s a show that serves looks, and some of its biggest icons recently got together to discuss some of the most legendary fashion moments on the RPDR main stage.
The Zodiac Lion (Yvie Oddly)
Drag Race’s reigning champion made her odd-ball status known when she appeared in this cybernetic catsuit made of literal circuit boards and metal. Even though the look was radiant, it actually had some pretty dark roots, which Oddly opened up about with Entertainment.com.
“I’ve had this dream since high school about being chased by a lion in a video game, so I want to bring that to life and sell a full fantasy of this thing that used to scare the sh*t out of me, but make it look awesome!”
The outfit cost Yvie $500 to create, and was described lovingly as a “hodgepodge” of mismatched elements.
“I want to be that one piece you see is missing, that one representation for the other…People expect a finished product and expect you to look thousands of dollars and dripping in diamonds. My drag has shaken a lot of the viewers up: It’s not polished and it won’t ever be polished, but that doesn’t mean it’s not finished.” Talk about roaring past the drama and the trauma.
But where is Yvie Oddly’s iconic lion look now?
“I tried to take it on the road a few times, but it’s so fragile that it started coming apart, so it’s back in my looks closet, probably reserved to wear again only once or twice. My drag isn’t meant for long-term usage: it’s to get me through that one night, that one performance, that one photoshoot!”
Sponge Eleganza (Monét X. Change)
In week 1 of her season, Monét X. Change found herself faced with the predicament of making a runway look out of dolls or household cleaning supplies. Reaching for the scrubbers, the queen ultimately created her most iconic look to-date, and one that helps her keep raking in those royalty checks.
The creation (which Monét pegged for becoming a hit thanks to its absurdity) was beloved enough by fans and judges alike to force the queen to “keep it under her brazier for good fortune“. According to X. Change, there are even other members of the season 10 cast who keep pieces of the dress as luck souvenirs. “They’re still trying to harness the power!” Monét claims. “It’s campy and drag queens have the ability to laugh at ourselves!”
The Tracksuit (Katya Zamolodchikova)
This vintage Mugler tracksuit created a shockwave that was heard around the world. Katya described it as a “1980’s, lesbian literary agent, disinterested, pissed off, Ellen Barkin fantasy” — but fans have known it the world over as one of her most iconic lewks ever, and it’s not hard to see why. As with most of Katya’s other fashion choices, this was a departure from the norm in every good way.
The look boasted “so gross it’s wonderful” colors and an aesthetic that was more along the lines of “sh*t, piss and old age”; a true Katya Zamo staple.
“She’s on the way to burn down a building,” Katya said of the ensemble. “She’s on the way to fire 1,400 people in her company with no emotion! It’s a powerful look, and I associate her power with lesbians!”
But where is this look now?
“I have the jacket, but I lost the pants. It’s a tragedy, considering it was vintage. And it’s not even mine! I think I’ve worn the jack a couple of times during gigs, but the Drag Race runway stuff, I sell it or keep it safe because I ruin things when I’m on stage — especially the nicer pieces. But, I might find something similar to do 2.0 version of this!”
Postapocalyptic Couture (Sharon Needles)
Season 4 saw some of the most elegant and polished beauties to ever prance across the main stage – but it also saw the original RPDR Queen of Spook, Sharon Needles, who crawled out of the grave and into our hearts with her post apocalyptic couture runway look.
“I wanted to make sure nothing sparkled,” Needles recalled of the look (inspired by Marilyn Manson’s “Beautiful People” music video). “I’m Elvira with a d*ck…I built something aggressive and dark that washed away the polish and showed how punk drag can be.”
Needles blazed through the competition and ultimately took the crown, but not before fully unfurling her freak-flag on television for all the world to see. She credits her popularity on the reality competition show to the rise of oddball culture, as well as the originals who facilitated her rise.
“The show had freaks before, like Tammie Brown and Nina Flowers…I thought I was there for the contestants to laugh at and I’d go on my merry way. If that was going to be my only episode, I wanted to go out with a bang.”
Though Needles will forever wear the crown of the queen who “ushered in the spooky era” or Drag Race, Needles – whose teeth were permanently stained by the fake blood she held in her mouth for 45 minutes – doesn’t want to take full credit.
“I’m not going to say I changed the show, but I think I succeeded in taking a beauty pageant and turning it into an art gallery.”
So? Where’s the look now?
“Everything I wore is completely categorized and in storage. Not only am I a D-list-reality-star-of-yesteryear famous, I have an Andy Warholic-like obsession with fame. I knew these garments, even though they were just poorly stretched fabric, held a power in pop culture [because] they like to pull things out after we die.”
The Fall Runway (Violet Chachki)
We all knew exactly who Violet Chachki was the moment she flipped the script during her fall runway challenge. When her glistening gown morphed into a flannel jumper, we all knew we were looking at a queen that was ready for the top. The look, however, is one that leaves the burlesque performer and YouTube beauty star both nostalgic and wearied.
“I definitely popularized reveals,” Chachki said. “But I think they are absolutely played out at this point. A reveal should be unexpected and clever. When you come out in a giant loofah, we know you’re going to take it off. If they came out with a giant loofah and never took it off, that would be shocking!”
Though the outfit seemed like an elegant off-the-catwalk masterpiece, it was a hand-crafted custom that only cost this vintage queen $2 per yard. Both made and worn well before its RPDR debut, the look resurfaced 2 years later in a round of memes that satirized Chachki’s intensity.
“Looking back, I realize it’s ridiculous. I was so game-faced because it was the first episode. I was going to show these bitches who they’re f*cking with,” she told Entertainment.com. “I was so confident and trying to show a good poker face.”
But where’s this iconic lewk now?
“I was just looking at it. My assistant was trying the hat on the other day and posted a video wearing it. I’m holding onto it for some sort of retrospective in the drag museum or something!”
There’s little doubt that Ornacia – named by her creator after a verse in a 1993 RuPaul song – was the breakout star of Season 6. This styrofoam head stole our hearts when she strut in on the dome of the legendary Vivacious (NYC) and we’ve been obsessed with her ever since. If you’re looking to grab an Ornacia of your own – you’re in luck. Vivacious now sells themed recreations for Pride, Valentine’s Day and Halloween.
The Boxes (Shangela)
If you thought you were going to get off an RPDR looks list without seeing the Shangela box — think again.
Three-time competitor Shangela really knew how to make an entrance and she did it each time. Season’s 2 first eliminee came back as a darling of Season 3 when she popped out of a giant box in the middle of the Werk Room floor. Next, she returned in an all-new box for All Stars 3 and this box was given a serious Tiffany blue makeover.
“You see a Tiffany box and you’re like, ‘Oh, honey, I’m getting something special today,'” Shangela said. “I wanted to honor that moment and give it a little upgrade!”
Thankfully for Shangela fans (and Shanela herself) that upgrade included a major makeup upgrade – or so the fan-favorite joked of her early-season aesthetic.
“I evolved. I grew into who I always wanted to be as a drag entertainer and performer.” She went on to add that her TV roles also helped boost her abilities and skills as a performer and a professional on and off the stage.
“I started watching, growing, learning and putting in extra effort to become the best queen I could,” Shangela told Entertainment, and it looks like she’s ready to take her box and spread the love around the world.
“I’m waiting for UPS to call me and give me a sponsorship!” she said. “Can somebody call FedEx, Kinko’s, Amazon Prime…I don’t care! I will show up in a box!”
The Roses (Sasha Velour)
We all remember where we were when the first rose petals dropped. Though Sasha Velour only spent a grand total of $12 to make her iconic moment happen, it’s an instant that’s forever etched into the history of the RuPaul’s Drag Race legacy.
“Michaels sells red mixed with pink, so I had to go through and separate!” the queen said of putting together the finale look that helped her cinch the RPDR crown. “The song told me what it needed. I thought about romance, pride, anger. Roses conjure all of that. The rose moments [on stage] grew the same way [Houston’s] voice gets louder and the intensity of the song increases.”
The brainy queen with a vision added that she also prepared a second number for the other song option, Britney Spears’ “Stronger” – a number which would have involved a pair of golden scissors. The wig, though? That was coming off one way or the other.
“I do not like to step on stage and just improvise. A song tells me a story and I want to prepare that to share with the audience. I prepared conceptual numbers to those two songs. When I walked out there, I had a holster strapped to my thigh with scissors [to cut off the wig and reveal roses] in case I got the Britney number. If you go the other way around and you come up with a trick you can do for a song to fit it, it will never have the same kind of theatrical impact.”
So, did she hold on to this iconic finale ensemble?
“I have two versions of the wig, and I’ve lost track of which one is the original…I had them both touched up, and they both look great. I turned one of them into a wig I wear in [my stage show] Smoke and Mirrors in a completely different style, so we recycled it into something new. The dress is in a garment bag in my closet…My body shape has changed a lot. I corset tighter and wear bigger pads now, so I don’t think that dress would really fit anymore!”
The Facekini (RuPaul)
The debate still rages over whether or not it was actually RuPaul beneath that infamous facekini. “Maybe that was me under that facekini. Maybe it wasn’t,” RuPaul cryptically told EW. “I’m saving the true story for a future crime podcast.”
Horror and beauty met at the intersection of Raja on Season 3 of RuPaul’s Drag Race – with a Sissy Spacek-inspired look that was oozing charisma, uniqueness, nerve and talent.
“I find horror funny and comforting,” explained Raja, who wanted to juxtapose the cheap materials challenge against the comedy aspect of that weeks obstacles. “I was bullied as a kid [like] Carrie, and she uses telekinesis to f*ck everyone up – it’s hysterical to me. I mean, a bucket is floating over my head!”
Raja’s Carrie look came at a time when most queen’s just tried to sling glamour and expense down the runway. There can be little doubt that the Season 3 winner revolutionized what the Drag Race aesthetic could be.
“I do feel like I was partially responsible for that, and the specific reason I was chosen to be on Drag Race was to provide that edge that drag had always had that so many drag queens could relate to, and it wasn’t just about being feminine or being a woman. Drag represented color and fashion and art to so many people. I don’t want to give myself all of that credit, but as far as Drag Race, yeah, I did that!”
Where’s the look now?
“I don’t even know where it’s at! It was actually taken from me after Drag Race. The day after it was announced that I won, it was displayed in Planet Hollywood in Times Square. It was up for two weeks…At the time, Logo was taking care of it, and I believe someone at Logo might still have it in their home. Or they probably threw it out. It was never returned to me! I would love it back. I made several newer versions of it and a more sophisticated version, but I definitely want the old, primitive one that I just hand-made in New York City while I was depressed in the winter. It’s sentimental to me and I want it back!”
Black and White Fantasy (Kim Chi)
Of all the stunning looks Kim Chi delivered in her time on the show (and the numerous tours) the black and white fantasy has to be one of her most iconic.
“I wanted it to look like it was printed on newspaper in the 1920′s” Kim Chi explained to EW. She went on to explain that it was a silent-era look, inspired by an array of factors, including her own quirky and colorful makeup skills, as well as a range of emotions the artist was feeling.
“I was actually sad,” the queen recalls of crumbling on the runway after the pressure of the competition got to her. “But the outfit made everything sadder. It’s drama! That’s drag!”