The category is Covid-19 production realness, and the producing team behind RuPaul’s Drag Race and Untucked! is serving.
VH1’s Drag Race returned for Season 13, featuring a new group of fiercely talented drag queens, amid the Covid-19 pandemic and the social justice movements sparked by the murder of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and other instances of police brutality. The latest season received a total of 11 nominations for the 2021 Primetime Emmy Awards, becoming the most Emmy-nominated reality program this year.
For the MTV Entertainment Studios panel at Deadline’s Contender’s Television: The Nominees awards-season event, producer and judge Michelle Visage, executive producer and showrunner Mandy Salangsang, executive producers Zoe Jackson and Michelle Mills, and Untucked! showrunner and executive producer San Heng reflected on how the restrictions of the pandemic made for a closer-knit, one-of-a-kind chapter in Drag Race history.
“Although exhilarating, we were in this together – these queens, all of us were really in this together. We couldn’t go anywhere we couldn’t do anything, see anyone outside of our own little bubble. This was our life,” Visage said, kicking off the virtual panel. “We pour our whole selves into every season, but this one had that little extra feeling of family for us.”
The sense of community brought on by the pandemic also made its way to Drag Race companion show Untucked!, which follows the competing queens behind-the-scenes. Heng said the restrictions made for moments even sweeter and more sincere than those in previous seasons.
“I think because they had been so isolated during the pandemic, being able to go through this experience and be with each other in this time helped a lot of them,” she said. “I think the sisterhood in this specific season, they went through a pandemic together, they’re going through this competition together and the stakes are high for them, but there’s always this undertone that there’s something bigger than us at play here.”
RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 13, except for the brief glimpses of plexiglass barriers at the judges’ table and facemasks during Untucked!, seemed to exist in a coronavirus-less world. However, the social movements and outcry for justice and reform that defined so much of 2020 made its way to the Werk Room and onto the Main Stage.
Season 13 winner Simone’s immaculate statement piece about police brutality and more looks were just some of the latest examples of social activism finding a place in Drag Race, Mills explained. Like many previous chapters, Season 13 was just a reflection of the national conversations.
“In these times, though, where the political movements are getting more to the forefront, the same is reflected in the drag and it’s reflected in our show,” she added. “I love that the queens are given a platform to spread that as widely as they’re able to here… we love being able to facilitate that and again help them spread the word in a much bigger scale.”
Check out the panel video above.