Around the World With RuPaul’s Drag Race
The words ‘hunty’, ‘rupaulogise’ and ‘herstory’ have etched themselves into the gay vocabulary in recent years, all thanks to a reality TV show presided over by drag queen extraordinaire herself, RuPaul. A show where drag queens are pitted against each other in various challenges, ranging from acting and singing to sewing and marketing, in order to lift the crown and become America’s Next Drag Superstar, RuPaul’s Drag Race has become a cult favourite, with its cast of characters much loved among its fans. Yet, not all the competing queens hail from the good ole’ US of A. No, indeed, if a Drag Race super fan wanted to do an around the world trip based on the show’s international contestants, it would certainly be doable. Granted, the route would be bonkers and the airfare ridiculously high, but it could be done. So, purely for fun, here’s how you could fashion your very own round-the-world route based on RuPaul’s Drag Race. You’d better start saving your pennies.
Or, “CAMEROOOOON!” as RuPaul would say. Starting back at the beginning, we have Bebe Zahara Benet, the winner of season one, famous for her big hair, her poise, and her bodacious body. Bebe was a fierce competitor, and didn’t mince her words when talking about the dire state of LGBT rights in her home country of Cameroon, a stable nation sandwiched in a not-so-stable area of Africa – it shares borders with Chad, Nigeria, and the Central African Republic, among others. So, what to do when you’re in Cameroon? Hiking up Mount Cameroon – the highest in West Africa – is a popular pastime for visitors to the country, as are exploring the national parks and getting an insight into tribal culture in the country’s highlands. Throw in some beaches, palm trees, and super fresh seafood, and you have a slice of Africa that may very well surprise you, just like when Bebe snatched the crown from Miss Nina Flowers.
Fast forward to the show’s second season, and we skip to another continent with one of the most loved contestants of all time, Jujubee. Placed third in her season, Jujubee became a fan favourite thanks to her razor-sharp wit, warm heart, and bubbly personality, despite failing to win a single main challenge. Jujubee had a hard time growing up with her Laotian family – and the gay scene in Laos isn’t too great, either – but her home country is incredibly welcoming to foreign travellers, and is a firm favourite on the backpacking trail in Southeast Asia. So, what to do in Laos? Avoid the drunk teenagers at Vang Vieng and head to explore Luang Prabang’s culture, cruise down the Mekong River, swing in a hammock on one of the Four Thousand Islands, or delve into the depths of little-explored Northern Laos, heading towards the Chinese border.
Courtney Act was one of the finalists on the most recent series of RuPaul’s Drag Race, and this blonde bombshell hails from Australia, and was a finalist in Australian Idol. Sydney, Australia’s largest city, is famous for its annual Mardi Gras, which draws thousands of revellers from across the world, and is known for its work hard, play hard mantra. Of course, there’s more to Australia than Sydney, with the likes of too-cool-for-school Melbourne, the teeming underwater world of the Great Barrier Reef, and the whole expanse in the middle, where a few other brave drag queens ventured, albeit just on film.
The list of Puerto Rican queens that have been on RuPaul’s Drag Race is pretty extensive – Jessica Wild, Jade Sotomayor, Nina Flowers, Alexis Mateo, Yara Sofia, Madame LaQueer, Kenya Michaels, Lineysha Sparx, April Carrion. Phew! Each season has featured at least one Puerto Rican queen and, although it’s part of the United States, this Caribbean island has a whole different flavour from the mainland. White sand beaches, jungle trekking, stuffing yourself with gooey plantains and dancing until you drop are all part and parcel of enjoying your time in Puerto Rico, the island of enchantment. As the locals – and Yara Sofia – would say, Echa Pa’lante!
A few queens of Filipino descent have popped up on the show, including season 5’s Vivienne Pinay, season 4’s Jiggly Caliente, and season 3’s runner-up, Manila Luzon. The islands are a true blend of culture, mixing native, Spanish and Chinese into a veritable melting pot of pure magic. The chocolate hills of Bohol, good-time vibes of Boracay, underwater splendour of Palawan and secluded beaches of Siquijor all give travellers to the Philippines a whole host of options. Add to this a whole heap of delectable dishes that you’ll want to try, and a visit to the island nation is well worth the visit.
Serena ChaCha may have gone home early on season 5 after two disastrous challenges, but she made sure everyone knew where she came from – Panama. Perched at the bottom of Central America, right between Costa Rica and Colombia, Panama is known mainly for the Panama Canal, its hats, and as an increasingly popular destination for American college kids on spring break. Yet, the nation is more than just its headpieces and bars, and offers cloud forests, coffee farms, scuba diving with sharks, charming colonial towns and interacting with indigenous tribes. Just make sure that any Panamanian flag you wave is bigger than the ill-fated one that Serena waved on the show.