10 seasons in, RuPauls Drag Race, which premieres Thursday on VH1, is only growing in popularity.
Thats quite a feat for any show, and especially for the long-running drag competition, which first premiered in 2009 on Logo before jumping to VH1 and reaching new viewership highs in its ninth season.
In the years since its first season, Drag Race has grown from a cult favorite to a bonafide phenomenon, with RuPaul assuming a nearly Oprah-like status as a pop culture personality and winning an Emmy in 2016 for his hosting duties. The series’ third All Stars edition, which concluded last week, drew new viewership highs for the franchise, with a 19% bump in viewers that will potentially continue to grow into Drag Races 10th season.
The night before the Season 10 premiere, the 14 new queens gathered for a red carpet event on MTVs TRL set, and shared their wisdom about Drag Races impressive longevity and paradigm-shifting impact on pop culture.
The 22-year-old from West Chester, Pa., spoke about how grateful she is that drags growing influence helps her and others feel safe.
"I think one of the most important parts of mainstreaming is a safety that can come with doing drag now," she said. "Being a drag queen out on the subway or out on the street is still not the most safe thing you can be doing. So I think, I know, the normalization of drag and drag culture has definitely opened up peoples minds in some parts of the world."
Hailing from Dallas, the 35-year-old spoke about the ways mainstream culture is catching up with drag, rather than vice versa.
"By nature, drag has to bite off mainstream fashion and mainstream art and music and things like that, so forever drag has kind of taken a back seat to mainstream artistry," she said. "And so now I think people have started to realize that drag has its own art that it can lend to musical theatre or fashion or hair and makeup or anything like that. So its its nice to see now society is taking a look at drag first and taking inspiration from back into that quote-unquote real world."
"Its changing the culture in general, not just LGBT culture, but the world," the 22-year-old Indianapolis native proclaimed about Drag Race.
"The show isnt necessarily just drag queens, or just fashion — the show is about acceptance," she continued. "I think thats the most special part of being an inspiration — to so many children, and not just kids that are growing up, but also teenagers, young adults, people in their 40s and 50s and even older, because the demographic of Drag Race hits so many people."
The 30-year-old performer from Louisvilles Drag Race goal is to be the inspiration that she needed growing up.
"RuPauls message is, If you dont love yourself, how can you love anyone else? And I just hope that, through this platform, Im able to reach the kid that was just like me, in Kentucky, in California, or around the world, just to let them know that everythings gonna be okay, and tomorrow is better."
Drags influence on creative industries has never been stronger, says the 27-year-old Tennessee native.
"I think our mainstream involvement has grown more and more every year," she said. "Now with drag going more mainstream, were in comedy and beauty and fashion, all of these industries are building off of the mainstreaming of the show, and its incredible to see."
Kalories name is a play on the Kardashian clan, "that comes from a place of jokes and laughter and embracing being the big girl and body positivity and just loving your curves," she explained.
As for the fact that Drag Race is as beloved in many circles as Keeping Up With The Kardashians, the 27-year-old from Albuquerque is floored by the shows growing influence.
"Its so crazy to see a creative outlet for a particular type of community, that started from nowhere, started from being not accepted, to being this worldwide phenomenon celebrated by everybody here," she said. "Its pretty groundbreaking."
"Its such a blessing to be a part of a decade of Drag Race," Michaels said, recalling one pint-sized fan that has made a particular impact on her.
"I know if people follow me on Instagram I actually have a little Instagram Stories feed of a little boy that is my biggest fan, and his mom sends me all of his stories talking about me," she said. "He has my t-shirt, he sent me a post the other day, saying his mom told him theres no beaches in Tennessee, where Im from. So he put on my tank top and he took me to the beach. It was the sweetest thing ever."
"Its been a huge change," Mayhem says about the ways shes seen drag evolve as she came up through the West Hollywood drag scene. "Its amazing to see what a culture that lives so much underground can do once it is exposed to the mainstream. Its amazing to see how people from all walks of life enjoy the show."
To the 33-year-old York City native, the most revolutionary aspect of Drag Race is the shows launching pad for drag personalities successful careers.
"In 1968, there was something like 100 working queens. What do we have now? Its amazing."
The 27-year-old NYC native is thrilled to be a drag ambassador to TV screens across America.
"We are bringing drag to the living rooms of moms in Little Rock, Ark., who will maybe never see a drag queen because they dont live in cities like New York or Chicago or LA," she said. "So the fact that people can see drag on their TVs on a weekly basis, it is just crazy."
The 31-year-old, currently based in Kansas City, recalls seeing images of RuPaul in drag when she was younger, proof of the power of representation.
"RuPaul has been such an iconic role in my own life, so to be in his tenth season is legendary. You remember Yahoo, back in the 90s? I remember Yahooing, because Google wasnt a thing then, and doing an image search on RuPaul, and just looking at him."
The 26-year-old from Tampa, Fla., did not mince words about drags influence on pop culture, much of which has gone underappreciated — and even become appropriated — over the years.
"Drag has been going on, and yall are just now catching up," she said. "You know, the queens, were innovators, and they always steal our style. So this is something thats been going on underground, theyre just now figuring it out and getting with the program, and thats why theyre stealing everything we do, the way we talk, the way we dress, everything."
As season 10s self-proclaimed "political queen", the Vixen talked about her status as a 26-year-old Millennial who grew up with RuPaul as an influence.
"I was 17 when it started. So for me its all I know really as far as gay culture."
As for whether shes planning any political commentary this season, "Im going to be in business," she said. "Its like comedians and drag queens, I think, when theres a bad president, we get a lot of work."
The 28-year-old moved to NYC from Guangzhou, China, when she was 7, and approaches her Drag Race experience with an eye towards diversity and acceptance.