Drag Race UK fans are confused over what the prize actually is

RuPaul on the Drag Race UK judging table

The first episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race UK exceeded expectations in every way – except for one.

In recent years, the queens of RuPaul’s Drag Race have competed for the same bounty of prizes: a one-year supply of Anastacia Beverly Hills cosmetics, a cash prize of $100,000 and a crown and sceptre from Fierce Drag Jewels.

There have been some changes and substitutions over the years – an advertising campaign for LA Eyeworks, the $10,000 All Stars tip which saw Alaska take home more money than the entire season one budget before the crown had even touched her head – but the principle has remained the same: the queens are in it to win cold, hard cash.

But for the Drag Race UK contestants, things are a little bit different.

Meeting the queens for the first time, RuPaul explained that the winner will be crowned the UK’s First Drag Race superstar.

“Then she’ll be whisked off to Hollywood to star in her very own digital series, produced by the hit-making team that created RuPaul’s Drag Race,” he continued.

Though the contestants look thrilled by the news, the internet had thoughts.

Later on in the episode, RuPaul announced that the winner of each week’s main challenge would win a Ru Peter badge, inspired by the long-running children’s show, Blue Peter.

Why isn’t there a cash prize on Drag Race UK?

Many have speculated that the lacklustre prizes are down to Drag Race UK being a BBC commission.

As a publicly-funded broadcaster, the BBC does not allow for commercial sponsorships. 

This is why week one’s top queen, The Vivienne, didn’t win a trip for two courtesy of AlandChuck.travel or a sickening supply of Hamburger Mary’s – it’s not that the British queens aren’t worth it, it’s that the BBC doesn’t allow such deals.

For the same reason, this also means that Drag Race UK will be the first season without any for Ru’s signature turns to camera – this time, there will be no “available on iTunes”.

But it isn’t all bad news. The winning queen might not leave the show with a bulging bank balance, but it’s safe to say that all 10 contestants could rake it in in the long run.

Blu Hydrangea with a two pound coin head piece

Blu Hydrangea’s gilded runway look. (BBC)

Looking to the US queens, Bianca del Rio has toured the world with her solo comedy shows, recently selling out the 12,500-seater Wembley Arena, while Trixie Mattel has released a string of well-received country albums and has her own TV show.

Of those who didn’t take home the crown, Shangela has starred in an Oscar-winning film (A Star Is Born), Courtney Act has appeared on just about every reality TV show there is, and Delta Work has won an Emmy for her work as a hairstylist.

All of this is to say that despite the lack of a cash prize, there is money to be made in touring, television, conventions and of course, music.

As Michelle Visage put it to Gay Times: “I know [the queens] are used to making 50 quid, working their arses off for not a lot of money.

“I’m hoping the show can get their fees raised and they get to go on tour, go to other countries. The American queens always get the attention and the gigs, but now this is an opportunity for the UK kids to become the superstars that they are.”

PinkNews has asked the BBC for further clarification.

RuPaul’s Drag Race UK continues on BBC iPlayer on Thursdays.