With her second music video in a row featuring alumni of RuPaul's Drag Race, Iggy Azalea has apparently reinvented herself as a drag queen accompaniment artist. Not to mention Lizzo dropped a special bonus video for her hit song "Juice" featuring girls from Drag Race. And the video for Madonna's freshly released single "I Rise" is rumored to present talent from the show.
Alaska Thunderfuck's classic line from Drag Race has it that "if you're not wearing nails, you're not doing drag." In 2019, it could just as easily be said that "if you're not featuring RuPaul's girls in your videos, you're not doing pop superstardom." That's how increasingly omnipresent the contoured faces of drag queens suddenly seem to be in the Vevo feeds of your favorite Top 40 pop stars.
But maybe it shouldn't be surprising. Drag Race has cultivated a devoted and passionate base of fans, and that fan base also happens to overlap greatly with pop music fandom. In today's crowded entertainment landscape, it doesn't hurt either the buzz factor or the view total on YouTube to add some other entertainers with their own followers to your video. Though, even if we weren't living in this age of unique-viewer gamesmanship, there's also the matter that the best Drag Race queens are consummate entertainers whose talents and entertainment value more than make their case for inclusion in any production.
It's also a completely natural development. RuPaul herself first entered the wider public consciousness back in 1989 with a memorable turn in the B-52's classic video for "Love Shack." A few years later it was MTV's heavy rotation of her own video for "Super Model" that made her the drag queen.
Gloria Estefan also jumped on the trend decades before it was actually a trend (never mind that today's young pop consumers seem a little too comfortable forgetting her pioneering contributions to the form). While she was pregnant with her daughter Emily in 1994, Estefan decided that the only suitable replacements to take on the starring role in her video for her version of "Everlasting Love" were drag queens. Among them, you can spot a very young Raja, who would go on to win Season 3 of Drag Race about 17 years later. (Estefan also cast a pre-Drag Race April Carrion as her drag doppelgänger in her underrated "Hotel Nacional" video. Note to Drag Race producers: Book her as a guest judge immediately.) Other Drag Race contestants also had some experience popping up in music videos here and there before appearing on the show as well. On Season 4, Willam was more than happy to tell you all about her feature in Rihanna's "S&M" video.
Though, perhaps the current craze of videos capitalizing on Drag Race's success began in 2013. The lyric video for Lady Gaga's "Applause" featured the pop star visiting a Los Angeles drag bar for the night and included appearances from her future A Star Is Born costars Willam and Shangela, as well as Courtney Act, Raven, Detox, Morgan McMichaels, and Shanel. Less than two weeks later, a special alternative music video for Cher's song "Woman's World" featuring Willam, Shangela, Manila Luzon, Alyssa Edwards, and Chad Michaels (perhaps the world's foremost Cher-impersonating drag queen) popped up.
Should the rumors prove true, and Madonna's "I Rise" video ends up casting a lot of familiar painted faces, it would be the natural apex of a trend that's been brewing for years now. You can even find Drag Race alums in videos for musicians you wouldn't necessarily think of as part of the Drag Race matrix, like Kings of Leon, Sense Fail, and even Eminem.
To make that point (and, frankly, just as Drag Race fan service) here's a comprehensive (but perhaps not complete) list of all the major pop star music videos to feature Drag Race girls, broken down by contestant.
Vanessa "Vanjie" Matteo
Bebe Zahara Benet
Silky Nutmeg Ganache
Mariah Paris Balenciaga
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