Explosive new Drag Race book reveals real story behind Valentina’s infamous lip sync

A new book about RuPaul’s Drag Race has spilt the tea on some of the show’s most jaw-dropping moments, including Willam’s disqualification, Jujubee’s crazy lip sync and Valentina’s masked mayhem.

And Don’t F&%k It Up: An Oral History of RuPaul’s Drag Race (The First Ten Years) is the newest peek at everything behind the scenes of the juggernaut TV show, right from a “Burbank basement set” all the way to snatching Emmy awards.

The show is currently airing its eighth All Stars season after 15 series of its flagship programme. Spin-offs across the globe, including ones in the UK, Mexico and Canada, have provided more gag-worthy twists than a queer viewer could wish for.

In new interviews with stars, producers and fans, the book is set to blow the fabric walls of the werk room wide open in an oral (no giggling, please) history of the show’s first 10 years, right from BeBe Zahara Benet’s entrance in season one, in 2009.

One of the show’s most gag-worthy moments came when series nine fan-favourite Valentina – now the host of Drag Race Mexico – refused to take off her mask during a lip sync to determine the season’s top six.

Cast mate and eventual All Stars 5 winner Shea Coulée sheds new light on the event in the book.

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“I remember the music starting, and about 30 seconds in, I felt everyone started looking side to side at one another,” she remembers.

“Is she gonna leave that on? Or is she gonna take that off? Then I could see Michelle [Williams, one of the judges] turning to Ru and… I could see the crew looking at one another.”

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Randy Barbato – one of the founders of Drag Race production company, World of Wonder, and executive producer of the show – describes the lip sync as “a f**king moment”.

He adds: “The producer in me was happy for it to play out a little but [knew we] were going to have to stop this and Ru [was] going to know how.

“It was bitter-sweet because we love Valentina. I thought it was a stunt. But there were indications backstage that maybe she wasn’t prepared.”

And Don’t F&%k It Up also reveals how two-time runner-up Raven came to be RuPaul’s on-set makeup artist.

As it transpires, not everything in Hollywood is glamorous: she was “going through a drive-thru” with her boyfriend when she got the call. “One of the producers [phoned] me and asked me what I was doing [the next day],” she recalls.

“I was leaving for Louisville, Kentucky, on a three-city tour. And they said: ‘Well, we need to know if you can come in tomorrow to do Ru’s makeup’. So many things were going through my head. We hung up then he called back and I could hear Ru in the background.

“They were basically begging me to come… I got off the phone and I remember crying. I looked at my boyfriend and I said: ‘They just called me to be Ru’s makeup artist’.”

In 2020, Raven became the season’s first contestant to win an Emmy – for outstanding contemporary makeup for a variety or non-fiction reality programme.

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RuPaul Drag Race World of Wonder Raven makeup
Raven (r) is RuPaul’s makeup artist. (BBC/World of Wonder)

Elsewhere in the book, Jinkx Monsoon (winner of both season five and All Stars 7) admits that some broadcast incidents of her narcolepsy were “played up” for camera.

“To me, the moments are obvious. When I’m falling asleep trying to write my jokes for the roast, that was real. When I’m in the middle of a sentence and, all of a sudden, it cuts to me and I’m asleep, that was played up,” she admits.

And Don’t F&%k It Up: An Oral History of Rupaul’s Drag Race (The First Ten Years) is available now.

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