The Black Queens Of Drag Race Are Calling Out The Fandom’s Racism

Photo: Courtesy of VH1.
When RuPaul’s Drag Race made its television debut in 2009, fans were delighted by the colorful celebration of drag culture on a major platform. But as the series cemented itself as a mainstay within the mainstream pop culture zeitgeist, a more sinister phenomenon became apparent its fandom: consistent racist harassment of Drag Race contestants of color, specifically its Black cast.
A troubling new post circulating the Drag Race social media space exposes the violent anti-Blackness that Black competitors experience at the hands of their so-called fans. In a 5-minute long video titled "The Reality of Race in Drag," a number of the most prominent faces in the show's canon discuss the terrifying harassment that they have experienced simply because of the color of their skin.
"Upon being announced as a contestant on RuPaul's Drag Race, I received 30 messages calling me [the n-word]," revealed Honey Davenport (season 11) in the clip. "I received tons of messages and comments in my [Instagram] Lives, asking me to kill myself.”
Davenport's harrowing experience with racist cyberbullies corroborates with that of so many of her other sisters on Drag Race, including fellow season 11 contestant Mayhem Miller. Miller shared that he was personally devastated to be on the receiving end of such vitriol from people who claimed to be his fans. In all of his years of doing drag, he said, he'd never faced this level public animosity before.
The revelation of inter-fandom racism is disappointing and disgusting, but it's by no means surprising to queer Black people. Even within marginalized spaces like the LGBTQ+ community, racism always finds a way to rear its ugly head, and Black people are constantly discriminated against on the basis of skin color. That enduring sense of otherness can be described most accurately as double consciousness, and here, the intersection of race, gender expression, and sexuality situates Black queens in the unfortunate position of being all the more vulnerable to disrespect and bigotry from the world.
At the same time, many Black queens rightfully feel like the stakes and standards are much higher for them than anyone else. Although Black and brown activists were at the very heart of the movement that paved the way for a production like Drag Race to even be possible in the first place, their paths to success are still tragically limited. Even as different narratives from the LGBTQ+ community emerge throughout popular entertainment on television (Pose, The L-Word: Generation Q), film (Call Me By Your Name, Moonlight), and music (Sam Smith, Hayley Kiyoko, and Kehlani), queer entertainers struggle to gain ground and face harsh criticism while their white peers flourish.
Kahanna Montrese peeps game. She knows that the scales are always tipped in favor of the white contestants on the show simply because that's just how the world works — and Drag Race's BIPOC are expected to suffer in silence.
"It’s very evident within the fandom that there’s this hierarchy of queens," said Montrese in the public service announcement. "And of course Caucasians are at the top of that list — POC come right at the bottom."
Taking note of the ridiculous violence that their Black sisters are facing, many Drag Race competitors are also speaking up and demanding that the "fans" put a stop to the racist harassment. This collaborative effort of the contestants to shine a light on the racism within the fandom is in hopes that those responsible will understand just how hurtful it is to be abused within a community that you claim. That kind of hate is the literal antithesis of Drag Race, a show created to make space for the very people that society has continually marginalized.
For Mayhem, the allyship is a good start, but he wants to see more figures within the world of Drag Race using their platforms to get vocal about what's going on. That righteous indignation might be the only way to bring the rampant anti-Blackness within the space to an end.
"I think more people need to speak out," he explained in a candid interview with Advocate last month. "It's not just telling people that their behavior is unacceptable. I understand people are passionate about this show and they feel like they can say and do what they want but at some point, we have to take our power back as well."
"People need to start calling out racism in the fanbase," Mayhem insisted. "The queens need to speak to their fan base and let them know they can not be a part of the fanbase if you are going to use racial derogatory comments in my name. The fans want to stand up for their queen and tear down another for them. It is our responsibility as queens to call them out and let them know that this behavior will not be tolerated."

More from TV

R29 Original Series