RuPaul’s Drag Race UK vs. The World queens on their big comebacks: ‘There was definitely some drama’
RuPaul’s Drag Race UK vs. The World is back, back, back again for its second season, featuring 11 of the franchise’s fan favourites. Apparently, it’s going to be a season to remember.
There’s also Hannah Conda from Down Under, Drag Race Philippines finalist Marina Summers, Drag Race France runner up La Grande Dame, Drag Race España’s trans icon Arantxa Castilla-La Mancha, and Drag Race Holland’s Keta Minaj – who shockingly just missed out on the finale of her original season.
From the US, Mayhem Miller and Scarlet Envy will be hoping that third time’s a charm as they make their Drag Race ruturn.
Arantxa Castilla-La Mancha, Drag Race España season one
Spanish queen Arantxa Castilla-La Mancha – which effectively translates to “Hannah Montana” – is Drag Race España’s resident kooky, crazy queen which a huge heart and an even bigger fanbase. She might not have made it too far on her original season, but she’s making her comeback for all the right reasons.
“In my original series, it was the first season of Drag Race España. We did not have a clue what we were doing and I did very poorly, but this time I have confidence and money,” she tells PinkNews.
Yet there’s an even more important reason behind her big Ruturn.
“Through the process of being on Drag Race [and] touring, I started meeting people. For me, I realised that I was a trans woman and it helped me a lot to figure out who I am, what I can do, my talents, and the power that I had in me,” she explains.
“When I got the call [for UK vs. The World], it felt like the cherry on top of the cake. I’m finally me, I’m finally able to speak my truth very loudly.”
Walking into the werk room, she felt immediately that her competition was fellow “goofball” Tia Kofi. Yet that didn’t stop her from wanting to show off all the talents she didn’t get a chance to on her original season.
“I did everything wrong in my season, so the bar [is] low. I only have to work just a tiny bit better,” she laughs.
“It was insane. I have to say this season is going to be great – lots of laughs. You’re not ready for this. If I can give you a little spoiler of this season … for the first time in Drag Race history, I’m going to be wearing good clothes.”
Choriza May, Drag Race UK season three
When RuPaul gave silly Spanish sausage Choriza May a call, there was no way she was going to turn the opportunity down.
“It’s my favourite show in the whole world. I love Drag Race so much, and I always said the moment Mama Ru calls, I’m gonna pick it up and I’m gonna be there right away,” she tells PinkNews.
“We can’t say no to these things – we can’t be overthinking, ‘oh I’ll do it in three years’. You don’t know where you’re gonna be in three years. Mama Ru said: ‘You’re coming’ and I said, ‘Yes, sir!’”
However, walking into the UK vs. The World werkroom was an intimidating experience.
“The thing is, regular Drag Race picks 12 queens from a country. UK vs. The World picks the best of each country. La Grande Dame – I was very intimidated by,” Choriza admits. “Marina, I was very intimidated. Mayhem Miller. When I saw Mayhem, I was like: ‘I’m a fan!’”
Choriza teases that this season is “a lot more cutthroat” and “competitive” than previous seasons, but there’s also plenty of silly, camp buffoonery, too.
“We are serving the campness. We’re bringing the camp down from Newcastle. I’m representing the north, not just the UK, but the north. I have to represent for my camp queens and my camp sisters,” she says.
Gothy Kendoll, Drag Race UK season one
Drag Race UK’s resident Pork Chop queen, who got eliminated in the very first episode of the very first season of Drag Race UK, was a little surprised to get the call back.
“The first season [of UK vs. The World] had a lot of season one girls, I was like ‘they’ve had their time now, they probably won’t ever get the call again’, so to get the call was wow, amazing.”
In all honesty, this time around Gothy is pleased that she’s “in it for longer than five minutes” unlike the first time, and is looking forward to “showing a bit more” to a whole new legion of Drag Race fans.
Not only did Gothy get to make a Ruturn, she got to do so on the first ever UK franchise with a cash prize. Though it makes the crown “a little bit more worth fighting for”, Gothy admits that the majority of the £50,000 prize would actually just “make back the money we spend on our costumes”.
“I spent just over £20,000, but that’s like the average now,” Gothy reveals. “To really compete, you’ve got to spend a lot of money if you’re not really crafty.”
While her fans will be sure that she’ll go far, Gothy was faced with stiff competition the second she walked into the room.
“La Grande Dame – she’s just the most perfect drag queen I’ve ever met in my life,” Gothy gushes.
And in terms of who she’d absolutely not want to have to lip-sync against? “Marina. Straight off the back. She’s just such a charismatic, natural performer. So good.”
Hannah Conda, RuPaul’s Drag Race Down Under season two
RuPaul’s Drag Race Down Under finalist Hannah Conda has one simple answer when asked why she decided to make her big Drag Race comeback.
“Why not?” she tells PinkNews. “When Mama Ru calls, you pick up that phone and you go!”
Yet there’s a reason why she wanted to come back particularly for Drag Race UK vs. The World, and not another All Stars season.
“My partner’s a Geordie, so it felt natural to come to the UK. You know what they say, you are what you eat,” she roars with laughter.
Similar to her time on RuPaul’s Drag Race Down Under, Hannah says that she fell in love with everyone on the UK vs. The World cast, and found “lifelong friends” – particularly in UK queen, Tia Kofi.
“It was competitive, and it’ll make for a good competition, but competitions are always harder when you actually admire the people around you,” she admits.
As well as befriending Tia, she actually saw her as her biggest competition.
“I knew Tia would be competition for me. I saw the potential and I saw that she could do,” she shares.
“I think she could do some good things and she’s a funny lady and I just adored her.”
Returning to Drag Race during a particularly tough time for the LGBTQ+ community, with anti-drag attacks on the rise, makes the new season particularly special for Hannah, too.
“Everyone says drag is inherently political and it’s a statement, and it is, and I love that about what drag is,” she says.
“But I think sometimes we forget with saying that drag is political is that drag is also fun and joyful, and it brings happiness to people. That is what I loved about [UK vs. The World] – I know we’re gonna bring smiles to people.
“There’s so much happening in the world, we need a little bit of fun, we can laugh. Otherwise, we’d just be depressed and boring,” she adds.
As a finalist, there’s not a lot that she didn’t get to show on her original season, but she’s looking forward to showing more of her personality – oh, and bagging the crown, of course.
“I did everything in my last season. I was a runner up, and the only thing I didn’t get to do was win. So we’ll see if I can do that!”
Jonbers Blonde, RuPaul’s Drag Race UK season four
Jonbers Blonde, who made it all the way to the final on season four of Drag Race UK, was simply thrilled to get the call to come back.
“For me, it was exciting because it felt like a bit of a Rudemption for coming back and being like, first of all, I got asked back,” she says.
“One amazing thing was that Ru said to us – the cameras weren’t even on – she said, ‘just remember that no matter what happens, you were brought back by me because I want you all here’.
“I was like, ‘no matter what happens, that says everything’,” Jonbers shares.
It was also an opportunity for the Belfast belle to come back “bigger, bolder, blonder”, and without the anxiety that came with her original season.
“I just thought, you know what, I’m gonna do this and I’m not going to do it to be like, ‘I’m gonna win!,’” she says.
“I went to go have fun and enjoy myself. I feel the first time I got really down with stress and worry. [I was trying] too hard in my head.”
While filming, she became close to her hilarious Aussie sister Hannah Conda, and was particularly pleased with her own runway package this time around.
“I definitely felt like my runways were a lot stronger. I could be a bit more clear and concise. I think I had too many ideas in season four – I think that’s what people couldn’t gather with me is that [my runways were] a mood board, but it was a mood board that was clashing.”
Arriving amid the attacks on drag performers and LGBTQ+ people, Jonbers is pleased to be showing that there is still a space for queer expression.
“One of the main reasons why we all do it is because we love entertaining,” she says.
“It shows kids that they can grow up and be themselves, no matter what is going on in the world. The BBC is still putting [Drag Race] on, so there must be something right with it.
“Even though [queer youth have] been told that it’s wrong … it’s not wrong.”
Keta Minaj, Drag Race Holland season two
Drag Race Holland star Keta Minaj found a huge fanbase following her season, taking the title “robbed queen” to a whole new level. She won three challenges, including the talent show, the acting challenge, and the Snatch Game (as the late Sophie Anderson, no less).
It was the most wins of any queen on the season, yet Keta was eliminated in fourth place, right before the finale. However, competing on Drag Race Holland was a breeze compared to UK vs. The World.
“For me, compared [to my season], it was much more intense,” she admits.
“They’re more about the rules and everything [in the UK franchise]. Very strict. It was very intense.”
You know what happens in intense situations: emotions bubble over and true feelings are revealed. Can fans expect some tension?
“There was some drama,” she says, tight-lipped but with a glint in her eye, looking over at fellow queen Scarlet Envy.
La Grande Dame, Drag Race France season one
Drag Race France season one finalist, Snatch Game winner, and massive threat La Grande Dame had a blast on her original season, but coming back for UK vs. The World felt like a smoother ride.
“It was a completely different experience, even though we practically did the same thing,” she says.
“I was in the first season of my franchise, so of course everybody was figuring it out. Over in the UK, it’s well figured out – they have like five or six seasons behind them. So everything goes very smoothly. We get to really focus on what we’re doing and competition wise.”
Though most of the competitors started packing their bags the second they got the comeback call, La Grande Dame had to talk it over with one very special person first – Drag Race alumni and Drag Race France host Nicky Doll.
“When I got a call, I remember telling my close friends this might be happening. I was in New York to go visit Nicky Doll, who was the host of my season. Everybody was like, ‘OK, you have to go. This is a big opportunity, you don’t have anything to lose’.
“Nicky was the only one who told me: ‘It’s a little fresh. Are you sure you want to take that risk? Are you sure you’re ready?’”
When filming for UK vs. The World season two began, it had been just six months since La Grande Dame’s season aired.
“I’m a doer in life, whatever I do,” she says. “So I told [Nicky Doll]: ‘We’ll see.’
“I’m glad I did [it]. You’ll never be ready – but you have to do it.”
Mayhem Miller, RuPaul’s Drag Race season 10 and All Stars season 5
“Oh my gosh,” ponders Mayhem Miller when asked why she wanted to make her third Drag Race ruturn.
“I wanted to come back for a few reasons but mainly to find me a husband so I could get on 90 Day Fiance,” she jokes.
“It’s always an honour whenever Drag Race calls. Whenever Ru says ‘hey, do you want to come play?’, I would say ‘absolutely’. You can’t say no.”
Having done the competition twice before and won the very first challenge on season 10, Mayhem didn’t feeling nervous coming back.
“Everyone is chill. It didn’t feel like pressure,” she says nonchalantly.
“Whenever it comes to Drag Race, it’s never a competition for me. It’s always just … a wonderful way to showcase who you are, meet new people and hopefully build a fan base that’s going to continue to grow with all the franchises that we have.”
Mayhem is happy to simply be “introduced and reintroduced as many times as [she] can”, and though she’s obviously not sharing spoilers, she’s confident that this could be third time lucky.
“Anytime is a charm when it’s me involved,” she says cheekily, “but I’m hoping that this one is a good one. I don’t foresee it being bad.”
Marina Summers, Drag Race Philippines season one
Before she even stepped foot into the werk room, Drag Race Philippines finalist and fan favourite Marina Summers knew one thing: “I knew right away, I was gonna be the prettiest,” she laughs.
Fans were left devastated when she just lost out on the crown in her season in 2022, but Marina is confident all things work out for a reason – particularly now as she gets to come back with a brand new wardrobe.
“Back in Drag Race Philippines season one, the issue really was providing a really top notch runway [look],” she admits, “because it was in the middle of the pandemic. Fifty per cent of all the fabric shops and 50 per cent of all the resource shops were closed in the Philippines.”
Yet after leaving the competition, “she got richer, she got more famous and I was also able to build my confidence a lot more,” she smiles.
There is of course a few queens who she’s wary of when it comes to competing, though. Most notably, Drag Race Holland star Keta Minaj.
“When I first met the girls I knew right away that Keta is going to be a threat, because I’ve seen her original season. She just does f**king good drag,” Marina says.
That doesn’t stop her from feeling her oats and remaining positive that she’s got the potential to go all the way.
“It’s such big news, especially for the Philippines. It’s our first homegrown queen to compete and be judged by RuPaul,” she says.
“I got the call not long after finishing Drag Race Philippines actually, and I still had that drive, I still had that passion. It was the perfect time because I had the right amount of fire and drive to keep pushing, and I used that to fuel myself in UK vs. The World.”
It’s about to be a show, that’s for sure. “What you’re about to see,” she says, trailing off with a tongue pop. “This time around, I’m ready. It’s the full Marina experience.”
Scarlet Envy, RuPaul’s Drag Race season 11 and All Stars 6
The biggest takeaway from Drag Race UK vs. The World for Scarlet Envy? “I learned what ‘clapped’ means,” she laughs.
“You don’t wanna be clapped. Clapped means like, eurgh. She’s clapped, honey!”
In all seriousness – or not – Scarlet reveals that she really just “had more fun” on UK vs. The World than on either of her US seasons. “It’s more campy and cheeky and silly and really easy,” she admits confidently.
“It was more competitive in the US I think. This was more fun; I mean, it was still very competitive don’t get me wrong, it’s the best drag from all over the world coming through – the competition is stiff – but … the US is more about, ‘tell us who you hate and why’, and this is like, ‘tell a joke’.”
Out of all the queens of the season, Scarlet pinpoints two as her biggest competitors.
“I think Le Grande Dame is so beautiful. I did [YouTube series] Fashion Photo Ruview for her season, for Drag Race France. I really was aware of what she brought to the runway,” she says. “Also, I love Marina Summers.”
Though Scarlet makes it sound as though all the queens were just having a laugh and a kiki, there was a lot at stake – and maybe some tension because of that, too.
“There was definitely some drama,” Scarlet teases. “There will be some drama, there will be some villains. Is it me? I don’t know!”
Tia Kofi, Drag Race UK season two
Arguably the most hotly anticipated queen for UK fans is Tia Kofi, considering she came from the franchise’s undisputed best ever season, season two.
After a few years away, Tia felt now was the right time as she’d “had enough time to grow and have the glow up that everyone so demanded of me”.
“I felt like the time was right to come back and attempt to prove myself where I might have faltered before,” she says. “We’ll see what happens!”
Never one to hold back though, she admitted that there was one huge difference between UK vs. The World and her original, legendary season.
“The thing for me that is different from my original season is that I liked everyone who was in the cast. We were all nice to each other unlike the last time [in season two], when they were a bunch of … you can censor whatever word you choose,” she jokes.
As a UK queen unused to the idea of a cash prize, the promise of £50,000 for the winner of UK vs. The World is an alluring prospect, though it didn’t make too much of a difference for Tia.
“Do you know what? Honest answer: I feel like I’m supposed to be like, ‘oh my god, I really want to win the money,’ but I accepted the call thinking that I was going to win a megamix with RuPaul like Blu Hydrangea did,” Tia laughs.
“So when we found out it was a bit of a shock. I thought I was going to do a nice little song with Mother Ru. It’s a nice thing to add, but I don’t think it changed the dynamic necessarily.”
When she walked into the werk room, she was immediately confronted with competition – particularly Marina Summers – and some surprises.
“I was very shocked to see Gothy because she was the first ever UK queen to be eliminated, and that doesn’t usually happen on All Stars format season. We’ve [only] seen one episode of Gothy Kendoll – at the bare minimum, we’ll now get to see two,” she quips.
Overall though, there was a lot for Tia to prove in coming back to the Drag Race universe.
“On my season, I had bad outfits. I was bad at the girl group challenge – well no, I was good at the girl group challenge but they put me in the bottom two ‘cos I was wearing an ice cream cone, and my verse was the best one there apart from Bimini’s – I was bad at Snatch Game, I couldn’t do comedy, the only thing I could do was the Rusical,” she says in a single breath.
“Everyone thought I was terrible. And for some reason, the BBC asked me to come back. Thank you Ru for finding me vaguely amusing.”
RuPaul’s Drag Race UK vs. The World season two begins on BBC Three, BBC iPlayer and WOW Presents Plus on Friday 9 February.
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