RuPaul's Drag Race And The Need For User Stories
Drag Race, Quick-Fire Feedback, and A Need For User-Stories
Sometimes social media proves to be the easiest place to find feedback coming directly from consumers. The unfiltered and informal approach to criticism of an idea, product, episode etc. means that production can learn from the feedback in a direct format.
Of course, there are, unfortunately, a few cons to using social media to curate your feedback base. The smash hit TV show RuPaul’s Drag Race has multiple rounds of competition airing almost simultaneously, or in quick-fire succession. There can be great impact of having social media to hand during the airing of a show with such gravitas as Drag Race. This was demonstrated during the second season of RuPaul’s Drag Race: UK.
During the latter end of the second season, which was divided in half due to the pandemic, Michelle Visage, one of the main members of the judging panel, made a comment which evoked an evocative response. She had commented that one of the contestants, Brighton-based artist Joe Black, appeared to be wearing a piece for the challenge and runway that looked like it had come straight off the racks of Primark. In what appeared to be a misunderstanding of the mood, Joe Black replied with jest that the outfit was actually from H&M.
The response to this revelation was considered appalling by many, with RuPaul remarking that “that outfit off the rack was a huge disappointment to me.”
Unfortunately for Joe, the criticism did not end there, with an infuriated RuPaul raging at all his remaining contestants, declaring that “If [an outfit] is from H&M you better glitter the fuck out of it and make it something special. We’re looking for Great Britain’s next superstar. Don’t waste my time. I don’t want to see any fucking H&M.”
The outpour of horrified fans was almost instant as the episode aired, support for Joe Black flooding in. Particularly due to the fact that this season of the show was filmed amidst restrictions that had come into place due to the pandemic.
One of the former contestants from the same season, Ginny Lemon responded to RuPaul’s criticism via Twitter, expressing that she was “better off at home” in the following tweet:
“Screaming and swearing at desperate out of work queens for being too regional and unable to afford costumes after 7 months of jobless despair...Nah babz I’m better off at home fank u very much.” This tweet had received a grand total of 21,000 likes, and 1900 retweets, the audience backing Ginny’s confidence to call out the show which further elevated her platform, to call out the classist ignorance that fame has bestowed upon RuPaul.
This commentary, and the support for Joe demonstrated that fans did not agree with the nature of criticism that Ru and the judges had provided, speaking up and slating the host for the handling of the situation. This is a note production will have to acknowledge when filming new series’ of the show, as fans are more willing to critique a show as it airs and share these opinions.
All of the comments left on social media, whether it be YouTube, where people leave remarks about short snippets of the show, such as the H&M rant, or Twitter, where people share outpourings of support for snubbed queens like Joe Black, it is clear that RuPaul’s Drag Race is in need of dissecting in the form of user stories:
My name is Ginny Lemon and I am a disgruntled former competitor, I believe your comments about Joe Black’s wardrobe were inappropriate and should not have been made as they read as very classist and ignorant, especially in the current climate.
How would Ginny’s feedback, supported by 21,000 other users of Twitter, be rectified, by RuPaul releasing an apology, and holding her tongue about whether pedestrian and off-the-rack drag is inherently bad, as, sometimes, that is all queens can access.
Some may argue that Ru was in the right to make these comments, with her expressing during these critiques that “[she] came all the way across the pond. [She] want[s] more. [She] want[s] more. Is that asking for too much? [She doesn’t] don’t think so. [She doesn’t] think so.”
However, this is not the first time that the Emmy Award Winning competition has received this form of criticism. Back in 2016, when the eight series of the show was airing, Michelle Visage and RuPaul commented on the late ChiChi DeVayne, and the quality of her costumes, and were dismissive of ChiChi’s claims that she doesn’t have the funds to have a wardrobe as glamourous as the rest of the queens in the line-up. This was said to not be an excuse, as the walls are laden with fabric at her disposal, and, she should have, therefore, taken the initiative to craft her own outfits whilst on the show.
Ironically, doing exactly that was something a season ten queen, Monique Heart was critiqued for, for crafting gowns on the show, and not being able to give them the time, attention and craftsmanship they required, lest she go out on the runway without makeup etc.
With this in mind, it is hard to escape the fact that RuPaul has likely been blind sighted by his fame and fortune, neglecting to acknowledge the hardships that queens experience when bidding to be on his show, let alone during the process of competing in it. Whether this be Eureka O’Hara who famously tore her ACL during Season 9 and had to be sent home to recover, and would have to compete again in Season 10, Dusty Ray Bottoms, who was incapable of lip-syncing in the outfit she had welded together for the Last Ball On Earth challenge, or in the recent season of Drag Race UK, where, whilst wearing an outfit made out of kitchen scourers, Tayce, lip-synced, likely getting her skin covered in scratches in the process.
This leads to the question: are the doors the show can open for an entertainer, worth the labour and embarrassment, and scrutiny that being on it can cause? Would you want pictures of you, whilst you were struggling with addiction over a decade ago, to still be used as memes and reaction images? Would you want to be known as “the queen that got picked up by Mimi Imfurst” like India Ferrah, or “the queen that got shouted at by RuPaul”, or “the queen that lip-synced drunk”? No. of course not. The internet lives forever, and as buried as those images, and moments may be, they can always be resurfaced.
Based in London, U.K., and founded in 2016 by Arvind Mishra The Agile Works (www.TheAgileWorks.com), is an up-and-coming recruitment and Agile consulting company. Arvind is a Certified SAFe SPC and regularly delivers both private and public SAFe certification workshops.
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