We Ranked the Top 20 RuPaul's Drag Race Queens: See Who Sashayed Their Way to No. 1

Before we find out if Drag Race takes home its third consecutive Outstanding Competition Emmy on Sunday, Sept. 20, see which of its queens was victorious in our Top 20 countdown!

By Billy Nilles Sep 20, 2020 1:00 AMTags
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Twelve seasons. Five All Stars off-shoots. 126 queens. That's a whole lot of charisma, uniqueness, nerve and talent, mama.

But not all RuPaul's Drag Race queens are created equal. 

With the show returning to the Emmys on Sunday, Sept. 20 to see if it'll take home its third consecutive trophy for Outstanding Competition Program—not to mention a potential fifth Outstanding Host Emmy for RuPaul—we thought the timing was right to open the library, read these queens to filth, and determine which of Mama Ru's girls deserved to be in our Top 20. Why? Because reading is fundamental. (And also, because any opportunity we get to talk about Drag Race as "work," we'll take it.) 

Which queens made the cut and which had to sashay away? It wasn't easy narrowing this down. The sheer magnitude of talent among the amazing drag queens that the show has introduced the world to is truly a force to be reckoned with. This show hasn't spawned an industry unto itself, complete with a yearly bi-coastal weekend-long fan convention, for no reason. And as you take a look at our list, you'll notice that simply winning a season wasn't enough for some queens to make the cut. (You'll also notice the list is limited to queens who've appeared on the U.S. flagship. Someday we'll consider the queens from the U.K., Canada, Holland and Thailand—but today ain't that day.)

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As the show has evolved and grown, so too has the talent, making it harder and harder for those early queens to edge their way in. Not that they're not trailblazing and legendary in their own right. It's just that, when you're whittling the list down to 20, you've got to make some cuts somewhere.

So without any further ado, it's time to put your reading glasses on and find out which queens made our Top 20—and which one came out on top. 

20. Vanessa Vanjie Mateo (Seasons 10 & 11)

Never in the history of Drag Race has a queen been eliminated first, won the hearts of America and Mama Ru with their instantly iconic exit, and returned the next season as one of its strongest contenders. Until Vanessa Vanjie Mateo (real name José Cancel) that is. And for that reason, we have no choice but to stan. Say it with us now: "Miss Vanjie...Miss Vanjie...Miss...Vanjie."

19. Monét X Change and Trinity the Tuck (Seasons 10/9 & All Stars 4)

After making names for themselves in seasons nine and 10, respectively, Trinity the Tuck (real name Ryan Taylor) and Monét X Change (real name Kevin Bertin) made Drag Race history when Ru named them both winners of 2019's All Stars 4. While the decision didn't sit well with some fans, it was well-deserved for both and also allowed for a queen of color to finally have her portrait hanging in the Drag Race Hall of Fame. Since their wins, the two have gone on to big things like hosting their own weekly talk show (Monét's The X Change Rate for BUILD Series) and performing at the VMAs with Taylor Swift (Trinity, who memorably portrayed Lady Gaga in the "You Need to Calm Down" video).

18. Shea Couleé (Season 9 & All Stars 5)

After falling short of the crown by just a few rose petals in her initial season, Shea Couleé (real name Jaren Merrell) returned to Drag Race in 2020 for All Stars 5, earning what was rightfully hers as she turned out a hilarious (and risky) Flavor Flav in The Snatch Game of Love. And she'll be following up her win with an appearance as a featured perform in Rihanna's Savage X Fenty Fashion Show Vol. 2, dropping in October. There's only one word to describe it: major.

17. Violet Chachki (Season 7)

There's no denying that season seven is one of the weaker recent seasons of Drag Race and its winner, Violet Chachki (real name Jason Dardo), proves that. Though she basically snatched the crown in the season's very first episode with her sickening dual runway outfit reveal, the fashion plate never really proved she was much more than that. If that rumored all-winners season of All Stars ever comes to fruition, she'd have her work cut out for her.

16. BenDeLaCreme (Season 6 & All Stars 3)

Thanks to her unrelenting effervescence and unforgettable performance as Dame Maggie Smith in Snatch Game, BenDeLaCreme (real name Benjamin Putman) had the title of season six's Miss Congeniality on lock. But she was often too in her own head and proved to be a touch too similar to drag sister (and season five winner) Jinkx Monsoon to really pop. And while her decision to quit All Stars 3 halfway through after emerging as the clear frontrunner was certainly frustrating, you can't argue that it wasn't iconic. 

15. Jinkx Monsoon (Season 5)

Water off a duck's back, right Jinkx Monsoon? Season five's narcoleptic (yes, really) winner (real name Jerick Hoffer) managed to overcome the powerful and, at times, cruel Team RoLaskTox to snatch the crown and prove that comedy queens can win this competition. And her Snatch Game performance as Grey Gardens' Little Edie is one of the series' best.

14. Courtney Act (Season 6)

One third of season six's holy triumvirate (along with Adore Delano and Bianca Del Rio), Courtney Act (real name Shane Jenek) is one of the fishiest queens to ever compete on Drag Race. (For the uninitiated, "fish" is a drag term reserved for those who truly look like biological women. It's a good thing.) She sometimes stood in the shadows of Adore and Bianca, but Courtney and her singing voice (Jerek competed on the first season of Australian Idol—in drag) are a star in their own right. And hearing her say her name in her Australian accent lets you know that there's some sly wit hiding underneath all that fishiness.

13. Sasha Velour (Season 9)

Why is season nine winner Sasha Velour (real name Sasha Steinberg) on this list, you ask? We direct you to her not one, but two STUNNING Whitney Houston lip syncs in the season finale. Enough said. We'll never listen to "So Emotional" or look at rose petals the same way again.

12. Latrice Royale (Season 4 & All Stars 1 and 4)

As season four's Miss Congeniality, plus-size queen Latrice Royale (real name Timothy Wilcots) entered into the competition with over two decades of drag experience under her belt—and it showed. If a bit staid in her artistic ambition, Latrice was never not entertaining, especially when she was taking us to church with her reminder that "Jesus is a biscuit" and to "let him sop you up." And just try not to laugh while watching her performance during the "Queens Behind Bars" challenge. Say it with us now: "Get those nuts away from my face!" Not even a somewhat entitled showing in All Stars 4 could diminish our love for this queen.

11. Detox (Season 5 & All Stars 2)

Has any queen in Drag Race history ever served up more stunning looks than season five's Detox (real name Matthew Sanderson)? Her head-to-toe greyscale make-up at her season's finale, where she upstaged the final three by a long shot, is EVERYTHING. And her performance in All Stars 2, aside from the unnecessary reemergence of RoLaskaTox, proved even more that she's a fierce queen.

10. Aquaria (Season 10)

Aquaria (real name Giovanni Palandrani) entered season 10 something of a petulant child and left it not just the crowned winner, but an evolved, mature and woke adult. And that's not to mention the lewks turnt and the lip-syncs slayed. Since her coronation, she became the first drag queen to walk the Met Gala red carpet, modeled for Moschino and performed in Rihanna's epic Savage x Fenty Beauty Fashion Show. We love to see it.

9. Bob the Drag Queen (Season 8)

Thorgy Thor may have loved to complain that season eight was "The Bob Show," but that's because Bob the Drag Queen (real name Christopher Caldwell) completely outpaced everyone competing against her. Bob was the whole package and her series-first decision to play not one, but two different celebrities in Snatch Game (Carol Channing and Uzo Aduba) all but solidified her win. 

8. Chad Michaels (Season 4 & All Stars)

Chad Michaels is a freaking legend and if Sharon Needles hadn't competed against her in season four, she'd have walked away with the crown easily. Hell, the All Stars format was essentially invented so that RuPaul could give the expert Cher impersonator a crown of her own. If that's not Top 10 material, we don't know what is.

7. Alyssa Edwards (Season 5 & All Stars 2)

Alyssa Edwards (real name Justin Johnson) has competed for the crown twice now, and twice she's come up short. But that hasn't stopped her from becoming one of the franchise's most memorable queens. (It's not every queen who earns their own docu-series like Alyssa did with Netflix's Dancing Queen in 2018.) Her rivalry with Coco Montrese lead to some of season five's juiciest drama and most hilarious one-liners courtesy of the tongue-popping queen. "Girl, look how orange you f--king look, girl," ranks up there as one of her best. But who can forget her priceless reaction to Jade Jolie's insinuation that she's carrying some back fat? Say it with us now: "Back rolls?!" 

6. Trixie Mattel (Season 7 & All Stars 3)

OK, hear us out on this one. Trixie Mattel (real name Brian Firkus) and her nightmarish approximation of a Barbie doll may have left everyone slightly confused during her first season, but in hindsight, we all let that overshadow her fierce wit and intellect. As she rose to fame as one half of the hosting duo for Drag Race production company World of Wonder's beloved web series UNHhhh, she proved that she's just flat-out hilarious. Her All Stars 3 win, thriving music career and recently-launched cosmetics brand have only bolstered her place in the upper echelon of Drag Race queens.

5. Shangela (Seasons 2, 3 & All Stars 3)

Halleloo! You didn't think we'd look over Shangela Laquifa Wadley (real name D.J. Pierce), now did you? The only queen to compete in not one, not two, but three seasons of Drag Race, Shangela is undeniably one of the series' unforgettable legends. (And, in the minds of some fans, the true winner of All Stars 3.) Her arrival in season three—jumping out of a giant gift-wrapped box—and the looks on all the other queens' faces as it happened is a must-see. And then there's her appearance in a little film called A Star Is Born that made her the first drag queen to walk the Oscars red carpet. Like we said, a legend.

4. Katya (Season 7 & All Stars 2)

In a perfect world, Katya (real name Brian McCook) would've been handed the crown she so clearly deserved in season seven. There are few queens in Drag Race history who've displayed as much innovation, wit and talent as Katya. (Like, only the three above her on this list, TBH.) She routinely stole the show during her time on All Stars 2 and though she didn't win, her rap during the legendary performance of "Read U Wrote U" will stand the test of time as one of Drag Race's best performances. And her enduring partnership with UNHhhh co-host Trixie Mattel has endeared them both as Drag Race's most beloved comedy duo, bar none.

3. Sharon Needles (Season 4)

When Sharon Needles (real name Aaron Coady) arrived on the scene in season four, her "genderf--k" horror-show style of drag completely changed the idea of what was possible and permissible on Drag Race. Though she routinely faced attacks from season villain Phi Phi O'Hara, who told her to go back to Party City "where you belong," she got the last laugh, thanks to her genuine warmth, wit and artistry. She helped to revolutionize the show, though her performance in the final "Glamazon" music video challenge proved she was also capable of melding her unique vision with Mama Ru's eleganza approach to drag, elevating her to the crown and her spot on this list.

2. Alaska (Season 5 & All Stars 2)

Hieee! In season five, Alaska (real name Justin Honard) proved just how perfect she was for this competition. There was her hilarious fragrance commercial parody for "Red For Filth..." Her wig-snatching performance in the "Reading is Fundamental" challenge. Her creation of Lil Pound Cake. She lost the crown to Jinkx Monsoon, but then she returned for All Stars 2, newly sober and ready to win. And boy did she. Between her unbelievable Mae West in Snatch Game and her second stand-out commercial parody, she more than proved why she's one of the all-time greats. Sure, her elimination choices deserve all the side-eye in the world, but none of them take away from her killer performance and her place in the Drag Race Hall of Fame.

1. Bianca Del Rio (Season 6)

Did you expect anyone else? In the history of Drag Race, there's no one who even comes close to season six winner Bianca Del Rio (real name Roy Haylock). She is, without a doubt, one of the funniest queens to ever vie for the title of America's Next Drag Superstar, but underneath all that sarcasm and sass, there lies a heart of gold. Not threatened, she took Adore Delano under her wing, mentoring her throughout their season, all the while slaying competition after competition. Her Snatch Game performance as Judge Judy was one of her riskiest moves that paid dividends (Judge Judy is one of RuPaul's biggest idols), her rapping in the "Oh No She Betta Don't" team challenge had us crying tears of laughter, and her work in the final "Sissy That Walk" music video proved this comedy diva is one hell of an eleganza queen as well. If that all-winners season of All Stars ever does happen, there's no doubt that she's the one to beat.

Can we get an amen?

To see if RuPaul's Drag Race comes out on top again this year, be sure to tune in when the 2020 Primetime Emmy Awards kick off live on Sunday, Sept. 20, on ABC.

(Originally published on February 8, 2018 at 11:57 a.m. PT.)

The 75th Emmy Awards will now air Monday, Jan. 15, 2024 on Fox.