86° Good Afternoon
86° Good Afternoon

New York ‘Drag Race’ queens have a ‘definite advantage,’ judge Carson Kressley says

There are three New York contestants remaining in season 10.

"RuPaul's Drag Race" judge Carson Kressley, second from right, says he can't help but root for the New York City queens. Photo Credit: VH1

New York City’s “RuPaul’s Drag Race” winning streak just might continue in season 10. With three New Yorkers remaining, judge Carson Kressley says “it’s very likely” to see a local queen in the final.

“I can’t say, of course, even I don’t know the final outcome,” says Kressley, who’s judged alongside RuPaul for seven cycles. “I think the New York contestants are always strong contenders.”

Brooklyn-born Aquaria, Manhattan-based Miz Cracker and the Bronx’s Monet X Change are among eight queens still sashaying their way through the competition. Their success so far could be thanks to a specific locational advantage working in their favor.

“They have great experience because they work in New York City clubs,” Kressley, 48, explains, noting that their ground-level performances have given them a sense of confidence on stage that other queens may lack. “It’s a definite advantage.”

As a New Yorker by choice (Kressley moved to Manhattan from Pennsylvania more than 25 years ago), the host says he can’t help but take a particular liking to the city queens who’ve rounded out the series’ must-watch contestants for the past three years. The eighth “Drag Race” season saw the notable Bob the Drag Queen take home the top prize, followed by Sasha Velour, of Brooklyn, in season nine.

“I think they embody what New York is all about. They’re gritty and they’re tough and have big hearts. They love what they do,” Kressley says. “They’re always a force to be reckoned with.”

With just about half of the season behind him, Kressley dishes on what it’s really like to judge the queens’ looks, why those lip-sync battles have him so emotional and more.

What’s behind the rising “Drag Race” popularity?

I think, first and foremost, it’s fun. It’s totally escape TV. It’s comedy. People tune in for fun and fantasy. But then they get to know the contestants and they hear their stories, trials and tribulations and realize that even though they’re drag queens and probably different than most viewers, viewers realize they’re actually pretty similar and they go through the same things all of us do. It gives the show a lot of humanity and heart. That’s a winning combination. It’s funny and has heart.

Fans enjoy your expressions during the lip-sync battles on “Drag Race.” What is it about these moments in particular that evoke such emotion from you?

By the time a queen gets to a final elimination and they’re lip-syncing for their life, it may sound a little silly, but this is really that make-it-or-break-it moment for them. Many of these queens have worked years and years performing. I think it’s that intensity of knowing this is their moment to shine that makes those battles so incredible.

What are your thoughts on being turned into GIFs?

Sometimes, I’ll see a GIF of me gagging over somebody’s costume reveal or somebody’s lip-sync death drop and it’s usually the same expression! I’m usually jaw-dropped and the rest of my face doesn’t move very much. I don’t know why they’re so popular because it’s the same face over and over but I’ll take it.

How do you think you’d fare in a lip-sync battle?

Oh gosh. If it was a song of mine I knew, I’d kill it. I’ve been lip syncing all my life, but I know how hard it is. These queens make it look easy and you have to do all the choreography and the death drops. That part, I would probably wind up in the hospital. I would actually die.

Channel your former “Queer Eye” role for this one: Where would you take the queens in NYC to find the perfect look?

Oh gosh, there’s so many good resources for that. If I were a queen, I would be out there remaking some vintage pieces that I would find at places like What Goes Around Comes Around and Mimi’s. There’s a lot of places in the East Village on St. Mark’s, they have amazing things that have more of a costume flare. Nowadays, there’s a lot of designers that design, not exclusively for drag, but do great pieces. Josh McKinley does amazing evening wear that would translate beautifully. The designer of a lot of Ru’s wardrobe, Zaldy, is here in New York City.


We're revamping our Comments section. Learn more and share your input.

Entertainment photos & videos