Drag Race producer hopes to one day see show in Uganda, Russia and Iran: ‘I believe it will happen’

RuPaul with Drag Race exec producers Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato

RuPaul’s Drag Race is taking over the world, with the hit reality franchise currently boasting spin-offs in 17 countries and counting.

While many fans of the ground-breaking drag contest continue to welcome show’s rapid expansion, its creators have also been criticised on the grounds that there is simply “too much” Drag Race for fans to keep up with.

But now, in a new interview, Drag Race producer and World of Wonder founder, Fenton Bailey, has explained why every new version of the show matters – and why he wants to create shows in places such as Uganda and Russia.

“Sometimes people say, ‘Isn’t there too much Drag Race?’ I say no, because even though drag has always existed, there are still countries where it is oppressed or forbidden,” he told iNews.

Just four years ago, Drag Race only had two versions, in the US and Thailand. Drag Race UK came at the end of 2019, with other versions springing up from 2020 onwards.

Despite the huge expansion, no version of the hit show exists in countries where being LGBTQ+ is illegal.

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“What’s worth getting out of bed for is to figure out how to make Drag Race China, or Drag Race Russia, or Drag Race Iran,” Fenton continued. “Because – although not didactically a political show – the message of Drag Race, of individuality and self-invention, of live-and-let-live, is what we need.”

Drag Race producers Fenton Bailey (l) and Randy Barbato (r) with Rupaul. (Tibrina Hobson/FilmMagic)

While LGBTQ+ people in the US and the UK are facing increasing hostility, with the introduction of legislation restricting the rights of drag queens and trans people in particular, there are still dozens of countries where homosexuality is outlawed.

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Last month, Uganda’s parliament passed its anti-homosexuality bill, which seeks to criminalise anyone in the country from identifying as LGBTQ+. Those who do identify as queer could face up to 20 years in prison, while an additional new crime of “aggravated homosexuality”, which cites rape, child sexual abuse and incest, is punishable by death.

Laws like Uganda’s only seem to motivate and inspire Bailey further.

“It may seem ridiculous to say it: how long will it take to get Drag Race Uganda? I believe it will happen,” he said. “It may take a long time. It took about five or six years to get a UK version up and running. I couldn’t be happier that it’s on the BBC. But it’s a long game.”

Ugandan LGBTQ+ people lead a protest in London.
Ugandan LGBTQ+ activists have blasted a new bill that could see LGBTQ+ people sentenced to death. (Mark Kerrison/In Pictures via Getty Images)

In addition to hoping for shows in countries where being LGBTQ+ is forbidden, Bailey and Drag Race co-creator Randy Barbato are also using their platform to speak up for queer people in the US. They have teamed up with MTV and the American Civil Liberties Union to create the Drag Defence Fund, which aims to fight threats to equal LGBTQ+ rights.

Almost a dozen states in America are attempting to introduce legislation aimed at curtailing the rights of drag queens, by preventing them from performing in public places or in front of minors.

In Tennessee, such a law has already been passed, with repeat “offenders” facing up to six years in prison.

Speaking about the bills, Bailey said: “Ultimately, it’s an attempt to turn the clock back to some imaginary time when drag queens did not exist, which is never, and therefore render invisible certain people.

“It will fail because any attempt to turn the clock back has always failed and can only fail.”

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