RuPaul’s Drag Race has seen more than its fair share of drama over the years. Bust-ups, tantrums, arguments, betrayals – it’s all par for the course when you’re competing to be America’s Next Drag Superstar. While some queens tried to play nice during their time on the show, others were much more merciless. Some tried to deliberately take down their opponents with clever plots or scheming tactics. Others just threw full-blown insults at anyone who crossed their path. The world of reality TV can be a ruthless place, and these shady queens epitomise that.
Throwing shade is an art form, and some of these queens have painted masterpieces with their insults. Are you ready to take a look at the shadiest queens in Drag Race history? Warning: extreme sassiness lies ahead.
17. Tyra, Season Two
Tyra Sanchez may have won the second season of Drag Race, but she certainly didn’t win many hearts. She was generally quite rude to the other contestants – and even to the judges. Tyra became infamous for her feud with fellow contestant Tatianna, with the two exchanging plenty of barbed words on-screen.
Their jealous rivalry pretty much defined that season. After straight up admitting that they hated each other, nobody expected the two to be best friends off-screen. However, it’s been seven years and the drama still hasn’t abated. Most recently, Tyra leaked Tatianna’s personal phone number on her Instagram, with Tatianna then leaking Tyra’s in revenge. Will these two ever bury the hatchet? Probably not.
16. Phi Phi O’Hara, Season Four/All Stars Two
Phi Phi has gained notoriety on Drag Race no less than twice. She first appeared in season four and managed to piss off just about everybody with her arrogance and bitchy comments. Most memorable is her argument with Sharon Needles; no avid fan will ever forget Phi Phi screaming “at least I am a showgirl, b*tch” across the workroom.
Unfortunately, Phi Phi didn’t do much to rehabilitate her image when she appeared on All Stars Two last year. She constantly tried to sabotage her fellow contestants’ looks and criticised the entire show pretty spectacularly post-elimination in some now-deleted tweets. Classic Phi Phi.
15. Willam, Season Four
Willam is best known as the only queen who’s ever been removed from Drag Race for breaking the show’s rules. While she still remained in the competition, her lovable yet shady antics won her quite a few fans. Unsurprisingly, this pretty outspoken queen came to blows with Phi Phi quite a few times. Phi Phi accused Willam being talentless, and of “bringing down” the other queens with her negativity. Willam’s icy response of “your tone seems very pointed right now” has gone down in Drag Race herstory as a masterclass in subtle shade. Oh, Willam. You had so much promise. Why did you have to get yourself disqualified?
14. Aja, Season Nine
Aja’s whiny tone and constant bitchiness got on the nerves of Drag Race viewers for pretty much the entirety of season nine. She barely had a nice word to say about anyone or anything, and her whole ‘woe-is-me’ schtick got old pretty quickly. However, there’s one incident in particular that will always, ALWAYS stick in our minds.
I refer, of course, to Aja’s infamous Valentina rant. The words “you’re perfect, you’re beautiful, you look like Linda Evangelista” will always hold significance. It was an episode of shade so profound that it even got remixed into a song. Aja may not have impressed with her drag, but her insults are legendary.
13. Sharon Needles, Season Four
Despite being the eventual winner of season four, it wasn’t always a smooth ride for Sharon Needles. Her infamous fight with Phi Phi didn’t exactly paint Sharon in a great light either. After calling her nemesis a “tired-ass showgirl” and repeatedly telling her to eff off, Sharon slunk off to her mirror to mutter about how she’s the “future of drag”. The whole exchange was painful to watch. Sharon clearly has a talent for insulting others; she excelled in a challenge dedicated to dragging her fellow contestants, despite fat-shaming one and slut-shaming the other. Hmmm.
12. Mimi Imfurst, Season Three
Mimi didn’t last long back in season three, being eliminated in the third episode and all. However, she went out in possibly the most memorable way in the herstory of the show. Mimi’s attempt at throwing shade wasn’t verbal, but more physical. While lip-synching for her life against India Ferrah, she pulled the unprecedented move up PICKING INDIA UP OFF THE FLOOR and throwing her back onto the main stage. The whole exchange led to RuPaul coining the now-infamous words “drag is not a contact sport,” and led to Mimi leaving the competition. You shouldn’t take the phrase ‘throwing’ shade literally, Mimi!
11. Roxxxy Andrews, Season Five
Roxxxy was one of those rare queens that had no redeeming qualities whatsoever. She was just straight up mean, and her treatment of eventual season five winner Jinkx Monsoon was tantamount to bullying. Viewers assumed that Roxxxy was trying to play some kind of game to psyche out Jinkx with her meanness. However, it clearly didn’t work, and Roxxxy came out of the situation looking like a pretty dreadful person.
Despite this, RuPaul decided to bring her back for All Stars 2. Roxxxy had a chance to redeem herself… but blew it. She was the subject of a controversial elimination – the world is adamant that Tatianna should have stayed, not Roxxxy – and quickly alienated most of her fellow contestants. She still occasionally feuds on Twitter with Phi Phi O’Hara. Do these queens ever quit?
10. Bianca Del Rio, Season Six
It was Bianca’s shadiness that won her the crown of America’s Next Drag Superstar back in season six. She’s an insult comic rather than a genuinely nasty person, and her put-downs are absolutely legendary. Her constant quips about the other queens’ clothes, hair, makeup, and personalities won Bianca a legion of fans. While her shade was usually in jest, this queen took no prisoners when she felt her fellow contestants were acting unreasonably.
Take Laganja Estranja, for example. Bianca made no secret of the fact that she felt Laganja wasn’t pulling her weight in the competition and became the reason for one of ‘Ganja’s many crying sessions. Still, Bianca threw that shade from a place of love.
9. Courtney Act, Season 6
Courtney traveled all the way from Australia to join the cast of Drag Race and came prepared to throw a whole lot of shade. Her arrogance became pretty grating, especially when she constantly slated every other contestant’s looks. However, her major beef was with RuPaul himself. After her time on the show, Courtney was very critical of Ru’s judging methods and alleged favoritism towards certain contestants. Ru later blocked her on Twitter after an argument around the use of allegedly transphobic language. It’s unclear if the two have patched up their differences; however, Courtney has gone on to be highly successful without RuPaul’s support.
8. Derrick Barry, Season Eight
Derrick was the 100th queen to enter the Drag Race workroom and made waves pretty much as soon as she arrived. Performing mainly as a Britney Spears impersonator, Derrick received a lot of sh*t from the other queens for being nothing more than a one-trick pony. Unfortunately, her method of dealing with this criticism was to lash out at pretty much everyone.
Derrick especially butted heads with eventual season eight winner, Bob the Drag Queen, with their equally forceful personalities leading to quite a few dust-ups. It was eventually Bob who sent Derrick home from the competition after a dramatic lip-sync battle. The two seem to have buried the hatchet now, at least, and often speak of their mutual respect for the other.
7. Acid Betty, Season Eight
With a name like Acid Betty, you’d expect this queen’s words to be like poison. Betty didn’t disappoint and quickly emerged as the cattiest queen of season eight. She got what many fans refer to as the ‘villain edit,’ and basically didn’t have a kind word to say about anyone throughout her time on the show. Every single one of her confessionals took a dig at someone. Seriously, she rolled her eyes so hard at everyone that I was genuinely worried they’d get stuck in that position.
As if the constant digs at the other girls’ makeup/style/personalities wasn’t enough, Betty also tried to actively sabotage her competitors pretty regularly, suggesting ideas to them that would clearly get them in the bottom two. Her shade came back to bite her in the end; Betty was booted off the show after just five episodes.
6. Alexis Michelle, Season Nine
Alexis Michelle was the bona fide villain of season nine. She dropped catty comments and uncalled for criticisms week after week, but couldn’t cope when the tables turned. Alexis absolutely bombed her last challenge on the show, turning out some sloppy (and potentially culturally insensitive) Native American themed looks. She was widely panned by the judges, and her fellow contestants agreed that the challenge hadn’t been Michelle’s best. Her reaction was to brand Trinity Taylor, Sasha Velour and Shea Coulee “shady f*cking wh*res,” and throw a huge tantrum about their allegedly ‘backstabbing’ ways. It was okay when Michelle herself criticised other queens, of course: that was totally fair! But as soon as the roles were reversed, she simply couldn’t take the heat.
5. Valentina, Season Nine
It’s going to take a long while for the Drag Race fanbase to recover from the spectacular downfall of Valentina. It was a disaster on the scale of a Greek tragedy and left us all so painfully disappointed. During her time on the show, Valentina came across as an absolute sweetheart. She slayed every challenge, didn’t rise to the bait of the queens who shaded her (mainly Aja to be fair) and looked like a strong contender to win.
However, she ended up eliminated after she tried to lip-sync with a mask on, and everything changed. In the season’s reunion episode, it emerged that Val wasn’t as angelic as we’d all thought. She’d completed ghosted her supposed ‘best friend’ Farrah Moan as soon as filming stopped, and remained conspicuously silent as her fans bullied her competitors online. The other contestants were not pleased ed when this secretly shady queen won the Miss Congeniality title – and can you blame them?
4. Shangela, Season Two/Three
Shangela is the queen who just keeps coming back. She was eliminated first in season two. She fared a little better in season three. Now, she’s been announced as part of the line-up for January’s RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars: Three. While Shangela’s drag has never been strong enough for her to progress far in the competition, her shade is pretty legendary. Take one season three argument between her and the infamous Mimi Imfurst.
After Mimi brands Shangela a “Judy Jetson hooker” who gets by with help from a sugar daddy, Shange lets rip with a rant that will go down in herstory. It culminated in the icy declaration that Mimi “could never have a sugar daddy” herself thanks to her terrible looks and personality. OH MY. Mimi shut up after that.
3. Raven, Season Two
After coming second in no less than two Drag Race competitions, Raven may have a bit of a reason to be a bitter bitch. However, her first stint on the show back in season two made her out to be a pretty shady character. Raven has often complained that the show’s producers twisted her words to made her look like a villainess but to be honest, they didn’t need to.
Raven threw insults around like confetti at a wedding, with Tatianna especially earning her fury. After declaring that one of Tati’s looks resembled a “99 cent store mess,” Raven’s relationship with her costar was never quite the same. Raven’s still causing drama to this day, most recently expressing public outrage at Bob The Drag Queen gaining the season eight crown. Bob dealt with it diplomatically, but still. Was there any need, Raven?
2. Coco Montrese, Season Five/ All Stars Two
Coco’s long-standing feud with her former BFF Alyssa Edwards sparked a lot of on-screen drama back in season five. Brief recap: Alyssa won the 2010 Miss America contest, but was later disqualified. Despite being her friend, Coco took Alyssa’s crown. The shade of it all! The two nemeses were shocked to see each other when they entered the break room for the first time, and sparks flew almost immediately. Coco made constant pointed comments about Alyssa’s drag and acted in a pretty manipulative way to try and sabotage her rival’s performances. She eventually sent Alyssa home after one intense lipsync battle.
However, this beef didn’t last forever. When both queens returned for All Stars Two they revealed that they’ve buried the hatchet and were friends once again. I love a happy ending!
1. Delta Work, Season Three
Delta Work was one of the most controversial queens of Drag Race season three. She was one-quarter of the ‘Heathers’ clique, along with Raja, Manila Luzon, and Carmen Carrera, and basically used her ‘popularity’ as an excuse to be awful to the other queens. She was particularly mean to Stacey Lane Matthews, a bigger queen whose weight was frequently the butt of cruel jokes.
Plus, Delta and Raja slated anyone who crossed their vision in the Interior Illusions Lounge, and now have a YouTube series where they do basically the same thing. Does their shade go too far? Sometimes. Is it still hilarious? Usually. Although fat-shaming is NEVER okay, whether it’s in jest or not.