The third season of RuPaul’s All Stars Drag Race was off to a great start. Cast members from prior Drag Race seasons return to compete for a spot of the Drag Race Hall of Fame – currently held by Chad Michaels and Alaska Thunderfuck, winners of season 1 and 2 respectively.
Since the second season of All Stars, the elimination process and mechanics of the competition was revamped. No more tandems, no more lip sync for your life. The only way for the contestants to make it far in the competition is to either snag one of the top two spots or remain safe for a while, and avoid ending up in the bottom two. The top two contestants will lip sync for their legacy, and the winner gets to choose whom in the bottom two RuPaul will ask to sashay away.
This season only nine of the ten contestants were revealed. Much hype and rumors swirled in social media about the identity of the tenth cast member. I for one was rooting for any of the Queens of Drag Race season 1. Simply because I think they deserved more exposure as trailblazers of Drag Race, who paved the way for the following seasons – their’s is the Drag Race template, if you will – and the fact that they only took home spare change in comparison to later seasons. Although a handful of the cast members of season 1 are still going strong, like Nina Flowers, Shannel, Ongina, Victoria “Pork Chop” Parker, Tammie Brown, and season winner Bebe Zahara Benet, they seem to be so underrated in the Drag Race universe, even snubbed. I was rooting for either Ongina or Pork Chop to make it in the cast of All Stars 3 – with the assumption that winners are disqualified from competing, having already won a crown. When a fellow drag race fan from Seattle hinted, based on rumors in social media, that it could be Bebe, I was stoked, even with the “winner rule”.
I had the great privilege to photograph Bebe’s show in Seattle late last year at R Place. I happen to ran into her at the club, out of drag, while making her way backstage, with resident cast member, Amora Dior Black. She’s very cordial and engaging, as usual, and was very appreciative of my support to her and her season. Then I casually brought up “All Stars 3″. I said, grinning, “Congratulations in advance for winning All Stars 3.” With a straight face, she denied she’s cast. Of course, she’s contractually obligated to keep details of the show a secret. So even if she knew anything, she wouldn’t disclose it. But still, she was so convincing that my heart literally sank. lol. I was trying to hide my disappointment about season 1 being left out again, but I don’t think I was doing a great job. Other possible cast members where brought up in the usual Drag Race gossip, like Katya. I accepted her statements and toyed with other possibilities. The day before the premiere Stacy Layne Matthews bubbled up in social media as the tenth cast. That was interesting. All Stars 3 is such an even playing field that I was expecting the tenth cast as an over-the-top Queen to unbalance it – to make it more dramatic and unpredictable.
The premiere started, and one-by-one the cast members walked into the Werk Room. RuPaul opened the door to the Werk Room, “Hello, hello, hello!”, he greeted the cast, as per usual. Then he called the tenth cast to join the girls. ENTERS … BEBE ZAHARA BENET! HA! I had a Tom Cruise on Oprah moment. She got me! I am so stoked! Fist pumping in the air. Yes! Yeeesss!!!
RuPaul then explained to the shocked contestants on why she brought back a winner to the competition,
“I know what you’re thinking. She done already done had herses. But 2009 was a very different time. Bebe had to deal with that season one filter, remember that? The grand prize was a measly twenty thousand dollahs. Hell, the internet hadn’t been invented yet.”-RuPaul
And I agree. It’s a valid exception to the “winner rule.” Early seasons (1 and 2) deserve a comeback. The new kids in later seasons got it made… with all the catch phrases, branding, and bigger crazier fan base… not to mention, the change in pop culture that’s hungry for drag. In early seasons, Drag Race was a niche, but since season four it has gone bigger – the branding, catch phrases, touring, merch, and all that drag business started to snowball. And as early as season seven, Drag Race has become mainstream. Heck, even Michelle Visage only think of Drag Race starting from the third season, when she first came on board as judge.
Our early speculation of the tenth had Bebe Zahara Benet in mind. Her fans, including myself, are very confident she’ll go very far, if not, win. It would not make sense if she doesn’t. RuPaul turned to Bebe and asked, “Bebe, are you ready to inspire a whole new generation of Drag Race fans?” “Mother, another day, another slay. Who’s first?”, she replied. Gag! If she wins this competition she will set a new record as the first contestant to win two crowns. Go Bebe!