‘Drag Race is meant to be fun – but toxic fans are ruining it for everyone’

Tia Kofi being announced as the winner of Drag Race UK vs The World.

Watching the RuPaul’s Drag Race UK vs the World season two finale live on Friday night in a packed LGBTQ+ bar in London was a joyous occasion.

Finalists Tia Kofi and Hannah Conda were on stage, gripping onto each other’s hands, anxiously awaiting the result. When RuPaul called Tia’s name, Hannah cheered and threw her hands in the air, genuinely gleeful for her sister and friend.

Everyone in the crowd roared: the rest of the evening was spent dancing and singing among Tia’s Drag Race UK alumni, celebrating her win and the release of her debut album.

It felt like a wholesome way to round off what has been a thoroughly entertaining season. Beyond the runway looks and stellar talent show performances, the most rewarding element of RuPaul’s Drag Race UK vs the World season two has been seeing the companionship develop among the global cast.

Nowhere was this more on display than in the final episode, where Tia and Hannah ended their lip-sync for the crown with a synchronised dab, or when La Grande Dame stepped in to help Tia with the infamous French bridge in Kylie Minogue’s “Your Disco Needs You”.

It’s been silly, camp fun, and a showcase of the very best the world of drag has to offer. What a shame, then, that some Drag Race fans have shown the very worst of themselves in response.

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I won’t delve deep into some of the atrocious reactions to UK queen Tia Kofi winning the season, but essentially, there are some very strong feelings: namely, that Drag Race Philippines finalist Marina Summers should have bagged the crown.

Make no mistake, Marina would have also been a worthy winner, but what has ensued is unescapable – and highly irritating – “Marina was robbed” comments under every post about Tia’s win, and a tidal wave of trolls declaring that the competition was ‘rigged’ in Tia’s favour.

Yet there is also the darker side, including personal, threatening, and downright racist posts directed at Tia, and anyone who appears to be supporting her.

Over the weekend, the stream of hatred has proven so bad that almost all Drag Race UK vs the World season two cast have had to denounce part of the toxic fandom in statements shared online.

Marina Summers is an incredible queen, truly – as RuPaul herself said, she was born to do drag. Seeing her win would have been wonderful. But Tia, too, scored four challenge wins and displayed a redemption arc that was heartwarming and enriching to see. La Grande Dame with her and impeccable fashion taste and gloriously kookiness, and Hannah with her strong sense of humour, would have been worthy winners, too.

Yet this isn’t a conversation about who “should have won” as, simply, it’s RuPaul’s decision. Trolls have desperately pushed the narrative that producers meddled in the UK vs the World outcome, yet who is the show’s executive producer? RuPaul, the one who called Tia’s name in the first place.

I worry that the vile comments flooding social media – and it’s not just in Tia’s interactions; this has happened far too many times before, but often directed at queens of colour like Tia – could have a long-term impact on the show.

Drag Race UK queen and friend of Tia, Pixie Polite, suggested over the weekend that fan response to Tia’s win would put her off returning for a future All Stars-style season. I suspect she is not the only queen to have had second thoughts about returning to the show, or applying for the show to begin with.

I also wonder whether the fandom will ever be satiated. During previous seasons, I’ve seen fans bemoan when a “predictable” queen has won the season. When it’s the underdog who takes the crown, they moan too.

It’s genuinely great that there is such a huge passion for drag as an art form now that scores of fans hold such intense opinions, but sometimes, these thoughts are meant for the group chat, not for the queens’ comment sections.

It sounds cliché, but it’s true that drag performers are not caricatures designed for our entertainment; they are people with lives away from the Drag Race set.

We know that reality stars are real people, and we’ve seen before the devastating toll that social media abuse can have on them.

In short, RuPaul’s Drag Race is not something to be taken seriously. It’s positive, uplifting, educational TV for fans, and should be one of the best experiences of the queens’ lives. When it’s ruined, we all lose.

Plus, right now, the queer community is being relentlessly targeted by anti-trans, anti-drag bigots, attempting to take away our rights – but also our joy. Why would we try to take it from each other, too?

RuPaul’s Drag Race UK vs The World season two is streaming now on BBC iPlayer and WOW Presents Plus.

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