Some people trade baseball cards, and others obsess over The Bachelor. There are people losing their shit over March Madness right now, and some who spend the rest of the year playing fantasy football. Then there are people who prefer a different kind of spectator sport — something more performative. And gay.
RuPaul's Drag Race has come a long way since its debut on Logo TV in 2009, now freshly into its ninth season the show moved to Friday nights and is airing on VH1 for the first time. Its growth speaks to the show's increasing popularity as it inches closer toward the mainstream scene. Hosted by RuPaul, a queen so famous she's essentially a household name, RPDR sets out to crown the next drag superstar. Weekly competitions challenge queens on a variety of drag skills like costume-making, lip-syncing, acting and general appearance.
Back in season four, LogoTV.com offered a fantasy league for viewers, and Ashley Coker, an instructor at Ball State University in Indiana, made this her sport of choice. She and three of her friends made color-coated sheets with pictures of the queens on their team.
"It was one of the things we looked forward to most," she says. "Then, season five came and there was no league."
Logo removed the fantasy league from their site, but Coker and her friends weren't done playing so she made her own league. The first year there were just a handful of players, and Coker says she was simply filling a void.
Now, there are almost 40 league members playing from at least 10 states across the country, and the competition is fierce. Coker explained the structure of the league can change from season to season, but here are the basic rules:
- Before the season begins, league members pay Ashley 10, and pick a team of four queens along with a chronological lineup of who they think will go home first through last
- Each week, they submit predictions of what will happen in that episode (who will win challenges, who will go home)
- Points are earned if anyone in their team win challenges, and if their lineup and weekly predictions are correct
- Points are lost if anyone in their team is in the bottom two, or gets sent home
- The prize money is awarded to the six league members with the most points, and the person in dead last gets their 10 back
Coker explains if players want to win, they have to be competitive. Mike Storr from Indiana is a two-time champion of the league and says when he first joined he had to put in hours of research to stay on top.
"It was fun as I knew others were [researching] as well, and it became a game of who could find and present the best evidence - like a courtroom," he says. "You have to 'Nancy Drew' the shit out of things."
Several players explain they use Reddit to research queens while others say Reddit is "fucking cheating."
When it comes to strategy, Tara Stokes says, "I have none. I have no idea what I'm doing. Ash bullied me into this, but I'm very competitive and want to beat John Olson [another league member]."
The league has a closed Facebook group where members can strategize, brag and "read each other to filth." To get in you have to know someone already in the league, so many of the participants are already friends, while others form fast friendships with people across the country.
For example, Tracy Vittone from Elgin, Illinois and Casey Garcia from Houston, Texas have never met - but call each other sisters from another mister. And Kyle Cameron, who lives in Brooklyn, says the league helps him stay in touch with two members and friends who live in California.
In addition to personal friendships, members say the RPDR league has helped them all create a community with each other.
"RPDR provides something to look forward to all year, like I imagine sports people do for those seasons," Cameron said. "It's visibility and representation, queerness in the public eye, and it's relentlessly fun to watch."
Especially now, RPDR serves as a distraction from the current political climate while celebrating lifestyles that are threatened by the same people who created this shitty political climate. Watching the show and participating in the fantasy league is not only an escape, but also an act of rebellion against heteronormativity.
This season, in addition to the normal prize money awarded to the top point-earners, Coker says the group will also donate 50 to a charity of the winner's choice. This was inspired by Cameron who donated his prize money last season to the TransKids Purple Rainbow Foundation, after two queens from RPDR All Stars edition donated 10,000 of their winnings the the same charity.
"As a cisgendered woman, drag is not my niche, but one reason I'm drawn to it is that it doesn't take itself too seriously," Coker said. "At the same time, it provides needed commentary on things that are salient right, like gender, sexuality and performance. There's a narrative right now that drag is the only thing that can save us — I find that playfully comforting."
RPDR fantasy league has a fun competitive nature and comradery that makes members feel lucky to be a part of. In anticipation of season nine to get underway, perhaps John Olson's post in their Facebook group explains it best:
Top photo from Logo
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Brianna is a BUST editorial intern from Indiana. After finishing her bachelor's in telecommunication news and journalism from Ball State University, she went to Syracuse for her master's in arts journalism. She likes writing about movies, performance art and advocacy. You can follow her on Twitter @BriKirk, and reach out to her at firstname.lastname@example.org.