Whether you identify as queer or not, there’s no denying the impact that the LGBTQ+ community has on cultural expression far and wide, from popular sayings to music and beyond. With so many openly queer icons flaunting their unique brand through media platforms today, it’s easy to forget that much of this publicly visible diversity is relatively recent.
While there’s still so far to go to ensure the rights of the queer community are upheld, you can get your daily dose of queer excellence through these competitive reality shows. Showcasing an infinite range of expression across a multitude of platforms, queer vibrancy transcends categorical norms, serving as a potent reminder that talent and beauty come in many forms.
Queen of the Universe
Queen of the Universe (available to stream on Paramount+) is a singing competition show that has drawn comparisons to Eurovision, with a unique twist – every competitor is a drag queen. With international contestants vying for the title of “Queen of the Universe,” this program features a judges’ panel of pop and queer royalty including Vanessa Williams, Leona Lewis, Michelle Visageand Trixie Mattel.
Hosted by the charismatic Graham Norton, Queen of the Universe takes the drag tradition of lip-syncing to a new level, with queens showcasing their true singing skills while flaunting drag styles from across the globe.
Painted with Raven
Painted with Raven is a WOWPresents More makeup artist showdown hosted by none other than Raven, a drag queen best known for her status as RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 2 alum and makeup artist to RuPaul himself.
Painted with Raven features seven makeup artists competing in a COVID-friendly “at-home makeup competition series” for a chance to win $25,000 and a year’s supply of makeup. Each week, this uniquely Zoom-based show sees competitors displaying their makeup artistry through imaginative interpretations of themes such as “celebrity look-alike” and “fairy tale ball.” MUA lovers can continue to get their fix, thanks to the show’s recent renewal for a second season.
RuPaul’s Drag Race
Quintessential queer programming, RuPaul’s Drag Race (RPDR) (streaming on both Hulu and Paramount+) is a colorful competition show where drag queens show off their talent across multiple domains, including iconic fashion looksmakeup artistry, singing, dancing, comedy, and more.
With over fourteen US seasons, seven All Starsseasons, and multiple international versions (and counting), RPDR is credited with bringing drag to the mainstream and launching the careers of countless queens. Since its debut in 2009, RPDR has gained international pop culture status. In the words of RuPaul himself, “we’re all born naked and the rest is drag.”
Next in Fashion
Next in Fashion sees fashion designers competing for $250,000 and the opportunity to sell their wares through Italian fashion retailer Net-a-Porter. This Netflix original is hosted by Queer Eye fashion icon Tan France and model-turned-designer Alexa Chung.
Featuring a number of LGBTQ-identifying contestants and showcasing the importance of freedom in self-expression, Next in Fashion contestants turn stunning and imaginative looks every week. Underscoring the significance of fashion as a means of identity for the queer community, this show features positive queer representation through its understated interview segments with queer contestants.
Glow Up: Britain’s Next Makeup Star
As the title suggests, Glow Up is a reality show focused on the search for the UK’s next great makeup artist. This Netflix-based program features four seasons (or “series”) chock-full LGBTQ+ contestants.
Glow Up’s colorful representation is displayed in the vast array of makeup styles, mirroring the diversity of its contestants who run the rainbow of the sexuality, gender, and disability spectra. With the third season integrating the use of pronouns, Glow Up has taken steps to normalize important queer realities, like the fact that not everyone neatly falls into the binary “male” or “female” category.
Often likened to Drag Race with a terrifying edge, Dragula (streaming on Amazon Prime) is a horror-themed drag spectacle produced and hosted by drag duo The Boulet Brothers. Each week, queens are put to the test via themed competitions, with looks and performances scored against the show’s pillars of “drag, filth, horror, and glamour.”
With a winner chosen, the two lowest-scoring queens are put up for “Extermination,” subjected to fear-based tests ranging from being buried alive to surviving a night in a haunted house. Not for the faint of heart, Dragula is a creepy show that checks the boxes for the queer horrorbuffs out there.
Legendary is an HBO Max voguing reality show that pays homage to the Harlem underground ballroom culture of the 1960s. A safe haven for the Black and Latinx trans and queer community and the genesis of so much modern-day pop culture, the art of ballroom deserves all the glitz and glam of proper recognition, and Legendary delivers this every week.
Hosted by vogue legend Dashaun Wesley and judged by a panel of celebrities including the “Wonder Woman of Vogue” Leiomy Maldonado, this high-energy dance competition sees teams (known as “houses”) competing both individually and as groups. Showcasing the five elements of vogue fem – duckwalk, catwalk, hands, floorwork, and spins & dips – Legendary is a masterclass in queer performance excellence and the importance of chosen family.
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