After a far-too-long period of hints, teases, and many, many rumors, the newest batch of returning queens for RuPaul’s All-Star Drag Race 2 were finally revealed — or “Ru-vealed,” if you must — on Friday. Among the pack of fierce comeback competitors were a few fan favorites (Season 6’s Adore Delano, Season 7’s Katya), a couple of well-liked “frenemies” (Season 5 duo Coco Montrese and Alyssa Edwards), and unsurprisingly, former villains who are hoping to prove that they’re a lot less evil than they were initially edited to be (Season 4’s Phi Phi O’Hara, Season 5’s Roxxxy Andrews).
One who was not included in the second redo to prove whose always had the most charisma, uniqueness, nerve, and talent was Willam Belli, the history-making Season 4 contestant who was the only queen, thus far, to be disqualified from the competition for, as Mother Ru put it back then, “breaking the rules.” For some, the purposeful omission was for obvious reasons: since her run on the LOGO competition series, Belli has had no issues with spilling the tea on the bad blood between her and World of Wonder, the production company that owns RPDR.
Don’t feel too bad for her, though — she’s done quite well for herself since then (most peg her as the most successful queen to ever be featured on the show, and most of that success began well before she was ever brought on), and truth be told, none of what you’re about to read is about her being snubbed. Quite the contrary, actually. In fact, because of what we now know of RPDR due to the brutal honesty of both Belli and one other competitor from seasons’ past (more on her later), being brushed aside is probably a huge blessing for her — and a huge lesson to learn for any other contestant who has considered participating in an All-Stars season.
A few months following the airing of the RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 4 reunion, an eye-opening interview given by Willam began to make the rounds on the internet. In the piece, the queer entertainer admitted that not only did she never have plans to audition for the show (“World of Wonder actually called my manager to ask me if I would audition,” she said to Dirty Magazine, “so I made a tape”), but her highly-publicized “rule breaking ways” were only done to create a necessary greater good.
“Anytime I didn’t like something [behind-the-scenes], I broke a rule. If production wasn’t living up to their end of our agreement, or to what I thought was their end of our agreement, I broke a rule. Sometimes it was for the benefit of all the girls, like we got treated better, you know? So I wouldn’t have changed anything.”
She got a bit more frank when a fan on Tumblr asked about her possibly participating in a future All-Stars season (this came after she was promised, then denied a slot on the first All-Stars season):
“Why would I go on a game show and play into the bullsh*t [by] allowing myself to be ranked by some fake competition? Five years ago, I used them as a tool to springboard me. It worked. No reason to go back up to the high dive after the tens-across-the-board jump I did.
“I have nothing but respect for RuPaul, but it’s impossible for me to be happy working with people who don’t treat others the way they want to be treated. My priority is my happiness. There are plenty of lovely people who work at [World of Wonder], but after literally being called ‘a cancer’ to my face by someone who works there, I realize that their avoidance of me might be a unfortunate company mandate.”
Understandably, some may think that when it comes to reality television, fairness is something that’s not normally in play, especially when it comes to an admitted rule breaker — but what about mental health problems? That shouldn’t even be an issue, right?
Enter Jay Johnson, better known to RuPaul’s Drag Race fans as Laganja Estranja, a Season 6 contestant whose love of marijuana, kitschy catch phrases, and emotional breakdowns, made him a shoo-in for a possible redemption arc on All-Stars 2. Alas, there was no invite granted to him, either (although both Johnson’s drag mother, Alyssa Edwards, and close friend, Adore Delano, are in the running). This, of course, could be due to any number of reasons, but it’s safe to assume that an interview Johnson gave to Werrk in 2014 didn’t help matters.
During that conversation, the young queen dispelled that the slow burn of her emotional breakdown that played out for several episodes was actually the side-effect of a harsh withdrawal from prescription marijuana.
“The weed [was] prescribed originally because I hurt my back in college,” he explained, “but since then, I’ve been using the medication for anxiety, depression, sleeping issues and eating issues. [Instead,] I was drinking Red Bull, which is the worst thing I could have done. One night, I was begging one of the production assistants to let me smoke. She said she wanted to [help], but she wasn’t allowed [to]. She just held me and I cried.”
Even with just two people speaking out from a pool of eight seasons’ worth of contestants, it’s still difficult to figure out the spoils that seemingly make an appearance on RuPaul’s All-Star Drag Race worth it. Think about it: when all is said and done, they’re still being touted in gay nightclubs as a “star of RuPaul’s Drag Race,” which, in turn, brings lots of attention and lots of money in their pockets. Also, that $100,000 prize that comes with the crown? That doesn’t seem like much of a reason either, mostly due to past participants already amassing and surpassing that amount of dough since they appeared on their respective seasons (two in particular, Delano and Alaska, are definitely doing well, thanks to their constant club appearances and music releases).
And finally, even if they aren’t being booked for whatever reason, most RPDR contestants tend to pop up in some World of Wonder creation down the line, whether it be a commercial, a web series, or the annual Battle of the Seasons Tour (which WoW sponsors). They’re working girls — busy working girls — and they do not need to do this all over again, especially with the way Belli and Johnson tell it. You’re already All-Stars, ladies. Heck, you’ve already won, if we’re being really honest! Look at where you were then, and where you are now. Why lessen yourselves just to be on TV again? It’s clearly not worth it, but at least we’ll be entertained come August 25 when All-Stars 2 hits our screens, so thanks for that — we think.
[Photo taken from the RuPaul’s All-Stars Drag Race Facebook Page]