‘RuPaul’s Drag Race’ attracts controversy surrounding banned dress
By Roshni Riar, Staff Writer
Warning: Spoilers ahead!
RuPaul’s Drag Race: All Stars season four has been a fierce, dramatic, and unexpected season.
While the cast reveal was subject to scrutiny due to the oversaturation of All Stars seasons in the past year, this latest season has been widely enjoyed and viewed by many. This popularity is thanks to the fabulous queens who have all brought their A-game to the competition.
Manila Luzon—season three runner-up and All Stars One contestant—made a triumphant return to the show, dominating both challenges and runways with her creative, campy drag and sense of humour until her recent and controversial elimination.
Approaching the midway point of the season, episode four—titled “Jersey Justice”—contained the assigned runway theme “Curves and Swerves: Padded for the Gods.” The queens were challenged to bring their interpretation of the prompt to the runway in a creative, well-executed look. Luzon hit the runway in a minimally padded, pink, “rococo Chanel” inspired dress. Many were confused by the look, given that it didn’t seem to fit the runway or reflect Luzon’s usual over-the-top style.
In an Instagram post after the episode aired, Luzon explained that the outfit she wore on the runway was her backup dress because she was not allowed to wear her original idea: a maxi-pad-themed dress.
Taking to Instagram, Luzon showed off the dress that the Drag Race production team regarded as “in bad taste.”
Created by the respected drag designer and seamstress Lady Hyde, the dress in question is an elegant red gown with a white maxi-pad made of fabric affixed to the front. A circle of red fabric slowly drips down the bottom of the pad until it blends in with the refined trumpet skirt of the dress. Luzon’s signature hairstyle—a black wig with a blonde stripe at the front—is redone with a blonde wig and a red stripe to further emphasize the campy imagery.
“I was really looking forward to wearing this gown that I think celebrates a perfectly normal human experience! Many of my fans are young women who may feel pressured by society to be embarrassed by periods,” said Luzon in the Instagram post’s caption.
Fellow All Stars Four contestants Monique Heart and Monét X Change shared their thoughts on the show’s decision to stop Luzon from wearing the maxi-pad dress.
Monét X Change supported Luzon in a comment on her Instagram post: “I was sooo mad when you couldn’t wear this on the runway!! Such a powerful statement that would embolden women [and] normalize [menstruation].”
In an episode of Review with a Jew hosted by Drag Race alumni Miz Cracker, Monique Heart explained that Luzon firmly maintained her belief in the message behind the dress off-camera and wanted to wear it, regardless of whether production was uncomfortable with it or not.
Heart said that the answer to Luzon’s protests was, “If you [wear] it, we’re going to blur you out.”
The show threatening to blur out Luzon’s dress, in my opinion, underscored their unwillingness to support the encouragement and normalization that Luzon wanted to put forward to viewers. Fans took to the internet to question Drag Race’s motives, expressing their concern at the perceived misogyny surrounding the decision. The show itself has yet to respond to the criticism.
With Drag Race now airing on VH1, its reach has expanded to more viewers than ever. Each episode of All Stars Four averages approximately half a million views, according to data from website ShowBuzzDaily—menstruating and female-identifying viewers making up close to half of those views. Many fans questioned why production would choose to alienate and not celebrate such a significant part of the fanbase.
Concluding her Instagram post, Luzon reaffirmed her intention with the dress: “It’s empowering to teach young women about their bodies, encourage them to celebrate them AND to question people who tell them not to! My goal with this look was to normalize menstruation by looking sick’ning even if I was on my period!”
Currently, Luzon’s Instagram photo of the maxi-pad dress is the most popular post—currently sitting at 361,000-plus likes and over 16,000 comments—of any drag queen to come from RuPaul’s Drag Race.