The most successful drag queens of all time
The successful reality competition show ‘RuPaul’s Drag Race,’ hosted by drag queen and former Club Kid RuPaul Charles, introduced mainstream audiences to the wonder and mystique of drag culture. Many drag queens have gained fame post-‘Drag Race’ but some didn’t need the show to kick start their careers. Read on to find out more.
1. Trixie Mattel
Mattel (born Brian Firkus) is truly a Cinderella story. From a poor family in rural Wisconsin, Mattel became a drag superstar after appearing on RuPaul’s Drag Race season seven. Mattel didn’t do as well as some of the other season seven contestants but paved a career for himself after the TV show.
Along with fellow season seven alumni, Katya Zamolodchikova (Brian McCook), Mattel starred in the YouTube web series, UNHhhh. Their kooky talk show got adapted for Viceland as The Trixie & Katya Show. Mattel has released two country albums: Two Birds and One Stone.
NEXT: She became Trixie’s bestie after meeting on the set of RuPaul’s Drag Race.
2. Katya Zamolodchikova
Her full name is Yekaterina Petrovna Zamolodchikova but your dad calls her “Katya.” Known as Brian McCook out of drag, Zamolodchikova became known to mainstream audiences after appearing on season seven of RuPaul. Her drag career started while performing in the clubs of Boston, MA, particularly hosting a show called “Perestroika” at Jacques Cabaret.
RuPaul, along with her web series and Viceland show with Trixie Mattel (UNHhhh and The Trixie & Katya Show) shot the Russophile to fame. Since then she’s appeared in stage productions, several movies, TV shows, and co-hosts a popular podcast, Whimsically Volatile.
NEXT: This funny queen popularized the phrase “not today, Satan, not today!”
3. Bianca Del Rio
RuPaul Charles said that this Drag Race season six winner was one of the most professional queens to ever appear on the show. Del Rio — born Roy Haylock — was witty, funny and tough on the show, never flinching at a critique or shade from another queen. She became best known for her strength in the comedy and costume creation challenges.
Del Rio won the crown, beating fan favorites Adore Delano and Courtney Act. She went on to tour relentlessly and star in movies. Del Rio’s net worth is estimated at $2 million, according to Celebrity Net Worth.
NEXT: You might have first seen her as the sweet yet sassy makeup artist on America’s Next Top Model.
4. Raja Gemini
This winner of Drag Race season three first became familiar to American audiences as a makeup artist on America’s Next Top Model. Born Sutan Amrullah, Raja appeared on cycles four through 12. A successful makeup artist as well as a drag queen, Raja has worked with various celebrities like Adam Lambert, Tyra Banks, Twiggy, and RuPaul herself.
With bestie Raven (a fellow Drag Race alum), Raja co-hosts RuPaul’s Drag Race Fashion Photo RuView on YouTube. The two queens “toot” and “boot” their favorite and most hated looks from RuPaul’s Drag Race. Even if you don’t agree with their fashion assessments, you’ll still be entertained by the pair’s commentary.
NEXT: This fan-favorite RuPaul contestant sometimes performs with his husband.
5. Latrice Royale
Born Timothy Wilcots, Royale was first introduced to mainstream audiences on the drama-filled season four of RuPaul’s Drag Race. Royale didn’t win the crown but fans voted him “Miss Congeniality,” an award bestowed upon fan-favorites on the show. He’s also appeared in RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars season one and four.
Royale is living the high life now (he just got married to longtime boyfriend, Christopher Hamblin) but he’s had a rough past. Royale was in jail a little bit more than a decade ago. He’s been candid with his experience, even narrating a documentary about being incarcerated as a gay man.
NEXT: She co-stars in a YouTube web series with her brother.
6. Alaska Thunder**** 5000
Her drag name is too risqué to print here and so is the inspiration behind it… Alaska is considered one of the funniest drag queens to be on RuPaul’s Drag Race. Real name Justin Honard, Alaska appeared on season five then came back and won season two of RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars.
To longtime drag fans, Alaska was initially known as fellow RuPaul alum Sharon Needles’ partner. Alaska proved she was more than her now former partner Needles’ squeeze, showing off her sharp wit and comedic side in Drag Race challenges. Since the show, Alaska has released albums, appeared in movies, and co-stars in a web series with her brother, Cory.
NEXT: This is the drag queen that arguably made drag mainstream.
7. RuPaul Charles
He’s the queen behind the reality show that introduced mainstream audiences to the art form of drag, RuPaul’s Drag Race. RuPaul Charles is considered one of the most successful drag queens of all time. Celebrity Net Worth estimates his net worth at $16 million. That’s a lot compared to what some drag queens make! Before his TV fame and Emmy nominations, Charles was a Club Kid.
The Club Kids were a notorious group of artists, club promoters, DJs, and socialites that dominated the 80s-90s New York City club scene. Charles has recorded many dance albums, landed a MAC cosmetics campaign, wrote books, and made appearances in films. Charles has truly created a drag empire to be proud of!
NEXT: They’re known for their tiny waist and burlesque style.
8. Violet Chachki
Born Jason Dardo, this queen graces stages and modeling campaigns across the globe as fashion-forward Violet Chachki. They were born in Atlanta, Georgia and started performing drag there at age 19. Dardo didn’t feel as though they fit in the “Hollywood of the South” when first starting out in drag.
The rest of the world sure understands Violet now! They’ve toured the world performing burlesque and aerial silks (even opening for icon Dita Von Teese), walked in fashion shows, been photographed in modeling campaigns, and released music.
NEXT: The makeup techniques used by this drag performer have heavily influenced the drag community.
Out of drag, she’s known as David Petruschin from Riverside, California. In drag, Raven is one of the most influential makeup artists in the drag community. Her signature contouring, nude makeup coloring, beauty mark, and overdrawn lips are often imitated by her drag peers. Her artistry is so well known that RuPaul Charles has hired her as a makeup artist.
Vanity Fair even noted Raven’s influence on drag makeup, citing her as an influence in its “100 Years of Drag Fashion” video. Raven first came to prominence after appearing on season two of RuPaul’s Drag Race, losing to Tyra Sanchez much to fans’ disappointment.
NEXT: She’s one of the funniest RuPaul contestants with the funniest name.
10. Bob the Drag Queen
Known as Caldwell Tidicue out of drag, Bob is best known for sweeping the competition and winning the crown on season eight of RuPaul’s Drag Race. Bob made audiences laugh with her spot-on impersonations of Uzo Aduba’s character on Orange is the New Black and actress Carol Channing. Bob could take the heat, never flinching in the face of competition.
Bob clashed often with Britney Spears impersonator Derrick Barry but, eventually, the two came to an understanding. Post-Drag Race, Bob filled in for Katya on The Trixie & Katya Show during her hiatus, released several singles, and went on tour.
NEXT: Fans argue that this queen was “robbed” of the crown on RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars season three.
11. Shangela Laquifa Wadley
There’s no doubt that Shangela was a fierce competitor on All Stars season three. She won many of the challenges without breaking a sweat but in the end the crown went to Trixie Mattel. Like Mattel, Shangela’s paved a career for herself outside of Drag Race by appearing in many movies and TV shows.
You might have seen her in X-Files, Glee, Bones, 2 Broke Girls, and more. Born D.J. Pierce, this performer came from humble beginnings in Paris, Texas. Pierce was raised by his single mom and extended family. He first dressed in drag for English class projects.
NEXT: She’s one of several queens from Seattle to come to prominence.
12. Jinkx Monsoon
“Like water off a duck’s back,” Seattle queen Jinkx Monsoon often repeated during stressful moments on RuPaul. The mantra paid off with Monsoon beating fellow contestants Roxxxy Andrews and Alaska Thunder**** 5000 in season five. Monsoon’s musical theater background came in handy during challenges such as impersonating Little Edie in the Snatch Game.
Monsoon didn’t sail through the competition like Bob the Drag Queen or Bianca Del Rio. Monsoon struggled with runway challenges and a case of narcolepsy. However, Monsoon’s unique artistry won the judges’ over.
NEXT: This queen might have flubbed her final lip sync on RuPaul but came back with a vengeance on All Stars season four.
Valentina’s talent made fellow competitors on season nine of RuPaul jealous, especially since she’d only been doing drag for 10 months at that time. Born James Andrew Leyva to Latin-American parents in Southern California, Valentina’s drag is inspired by their culture. On stage, Valentina is seen lip syncing Spanish language songs and wearing costumes inspired by stars like Selena.
Valentina, unfortunately, is infamous for her elimination episode where she almost refused to remove a mask she’d been wearing during a lip sync challenge. She told judges that she’d “rather keep it on, please.” Hopefully, the Latin American queen makes her comeback on All Stars season four.
NEXT: She’s young, fashion-forward and a winner, baby!
New York City queen Aquaria had all the connections to become successful — her drag mother is season four winner Sharon Needles and she received early support from former Club Kid Susanne Bartsch. Born Giovanni Palandrani, Aquaria studied dance and fashion. Her expertise in these art forms likely aided her career in drag!
Aquaria was strong in the majority of challenges during season 10 of RuPaul’s Drag Race, ultimately winning the crown. Her success continued after the competition, modeling for high-end designers, signing with modeling agency IMG, and joining Dazed as an editor.
NEXT: When it comes to dancing, few do it better than this RuPaul alumni.
15. Kennedy Davenport
Born Reuben Asberry Jr. in Dallas, Texas, Davenport stomped the house down during any dance challenge on RuPaul’s Drag Race. A pageant queen, Davenport appeared on season seven and RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars season three. Pre- and post-Drag Race, Davenport won numerous pageant titles like Miss Gay Black USofA, Miss Gay Orlando, and Miss Gay Texas.
Her storied pageant experience likely helped her go far in RuPaul’s Drag Race. Not only can she dance, Miss Kennedy can also sing! Davenport did well on the music challenges on RuPaul’s Drag Race and later went on to release her own single, “Moving Up,” in 2018.
NEXT: This other Texas-based drag queen has her own dance studio and Netflix reality show.
16. Alyssa Edwards
Also known as Justin Dwayne Lee Johnson, Alyssa came into the mainstream on season five of RuPaul’s Drag Race. She’s also competed on season two of RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars, where she was eliminated by fellow queen Detox much to judges’ shock. Alyssa’s had success on the pageant circuit, winning titles like Miss Gay Texas America and Miss Gay USofA.
As drag persona Alyssa Edwards, Johnson hosts the comedy web series, Alyssa’s Secret. Outside of drag performances and pageants, Johnson owns his own dance studio in Mesquite Texas called Beyond Belief Dance Company. It’s prominently featured on the docuseries Dancing Queen on Netflix.
NEXT: This Cher impersonator/drag queen got plastic surgery to look more like the pop star.
17. Chad Michaels
Unlike many drag performers, Michaels chose to use his given name to perform both in and out of drag. Michaels is best known to mainstream audiences for appearing on season four of RuPaul’s Drag Race and winning Drag Race All Stars season one. Michaels was kind to his fellow competitors, never delving much into the reality show drama.
He wowed the judges’ and viewers especially during the impersonation challenge on RuPaul, Snatch Game, appearing as Cher (of course!). Michaels‘ other stints in Hollywood include appearing on TV shows like 2 Broke Girls and Jane the Virgin. Michaels hosts one of the longest-running drag shows in San Diego, California.
NEXT: You might have seen her on TV show Sex and the City with Sarah Jessica Parker.
18. Jackie Beat
Shocker! Not all drag queens have been featured on RuPaul’s Drag Race! Some have made formidable careers for themselves in the entertainment world. One of these is Jackie Beat, a drag performer that’s graced TV shows like Sex and the City, been in Broadway shows, worked as a TV and book writer, and more.
Jackie Beat has been in the entertainment business for much longer than most RuPaul queens. Twenty-five years in fact! Like many drag performers, Jackie Beat is truly a Jack of All Trades. Singer, actor, writer — what can’t she do?
NEXT: Not only does he have a fun drag persona, he’s got a killer voice and dance moves to boot!
19. Todrick Hall
Hall has appeared on RuPaul’s Drag Race as a judge, a choreographer and coach during the queens’ song and dance challenges. Hall was a tough coach but brought out the best in the RuPaul competitors. Outside of TV, Hall is a well-known singer and dancer, recognized for his talent and snazzy fashion sense.
He first came into mainstream popularity when appearing on season nine of American Idol. Some of Hall’s significant drag performances were as Lola in Kinky Boots and lip syncing as Lola on RuPaul. Hall has done well for himself — he has a net worth of $4 million (according to Celebrity Net Worth).
NEXT: This drag performer started the famous drag festival, Wigstock.
20. Lady Bunny
Known for her sharp comedy and potty mouth, Lady Bunny is the drag persona of Jon Ingle. The New York Times calls Bunny one of the most recognizable and famous drag queens of all time. While her friend RuPaul Charles has achieved Oprah levels of fame in the drag world, Bunny has not tried to seek the same.
“If all of these people are embracing drag, they need to get with the drag subculture and realize that not everyone is trying to be a mentor like Mama Ru,” Bunny told New York Times. Instead, she focuses on the drag fest Wigstock, DJs, acts and performs in drag often.
NEXT: She was a favorite of director John Waters, starring in films like Pink Flamingos and Hairspray.
“I only ask you for what is rightfully mine, what the good Lord has bestowed on me: being divine!” Divine famously said in the 1969 movie, Mondo Trasho. Called “Drag Queen of the Century” by PEOPLE Magazine, Divine was best known for her collaborations with film director John Waters. The pair first met when Divine was 16.
Waters lived down the street from Divine (born Harris Glenn Milstead) and had just gotten kicked out of NYU, says Them magazine. Their films together became cult classics, known for their raunchiness and Divine’s unapologetic performances. Divine unfortunately died too soon from a heart attack in 1988.
NEXT: They made a web series out of their horror drag stage show.
22. Boulet Brothers
Their show, Dragula, is like RuPaul in that it’s a drag competition, but couldn’t be more different in terms of the challenges and types of queens that compete. All of the competitors incorporate elements of horror, filth, and glamour into their performances, much like the Boulet Brothers’ stage show of the same name.
Queens are asked to put together runway looks that adhere to themes like “science fiction,” 80s camp, glam rock, etc. The ones that do the worst must undergo “extermination challenges” that involve extreme situations like getting tattoos, pierced or having piles of bugs dumped on you while being enclosed in a coffin…
NEXT: This Atlanta queen won the second season of Dragula.
23. Biqtch Puddin’
She started out on Dragula in the middle of the pack, possibly put off by drama started by fellow competitors on the show. However, Puddin’ showed emotional and creative growth throughout the competition, ultimately being crowned “Drag Supermonster.” On Instagram, Puddin’ wrote about how participating in the show changed her life.
“When I got the call to be on @bouletbrothersdragula, my lease was up in Atlanta. I threw out everything that didn’t fit into my car and rolled the dice. I was going for broke… To make this dream I have been fighting for all these years come true,” she wrote.
NEXT: Before Puddin’ there was this Dragula star.
24. Vander Von Odd
Vander was the first ever winner of Dragula (season one) and continues to perform her gritty, horror-inspired drag on tour. She told Phoenix New Times that she’d never been paid for a drag booking before Dragula. That, of course, changed after being crowned Supermonster. Now, audiences are familiar with alternative drag performers like Von Odd.
“I think Dragula as a whole has changed the landscape and is still changing the landscape of drag,” Von Odd told Phoenix New Times. Born Antonio Yee, Van Odd also works in film under her birth name and boy ego.
NEXT: She gained international fame after winning Eurovision Song Contest in 2014.
25. Conchita Wurst
Perhaps not as familiar to U.S. audiences, Wurst is the persona of singer and drag queen Thomas Neuwirth of Austria. She gained international fame after winning the Eurovision Song Contest in 2014. Wurst is very feminine but performs with a beard. You won’t see many queens on Drag Race sporting a beard!
“It’s easy to say, ‘This is just a joke.’ You know, the bearded lady? And I feel the need to smash it with every performance just because I want to be clear this is not a joke,” Wurst told the BBC. Her international impact proves that she’s more than just a novelty act.
NEXT: These brothers gained notoriety impersonating Hungarian-American twins, The Dolly Sisters.
26. The Rocky Twins
All That’s Interesting says The Rocky Twins first got noticed when The Dolly Sisters retired from stage life in 1928. Their impersonations of the sisters and their jazz dancing helped propel them to notoriety in 1920s Paris. From Norway, the Rocky Twins were described as handsome and extremely talented.
They went on to star in the French movie L’Argent and toured as drag queens all over Europe. The Rocky Twins were able to move to the U.S. and become a popular drag act at Ship Cafe in Venice Beach, California. They were then cast in the American film Blondie of the Follies and various stage performances.
NEXT: Many sources report that this famous drag queen had dressed in drag since age 10.
27. Julian Eltinge
Born William Julian Eltinge, this drag performer tried to lead a very private life. Most of what is known about him comes from his vaudeville performances. Growing up, Eltinge’s mother encouraged him to dress up and perform despite his father’s disapproval. He gained notoriety in the vaudeville scene, eventually being spotted by producer E.E. Rice.
Rice helped make Eltinge one of the most famous drag stars of the century. Eltinge starred in musical The Fascinating Widow in 1910, and films The Countless Charming and Madame Behave. His stint in Hollywood ended in the 1930s, unfortunately, dying too young at age 59.
NEXT: This drag performer’s origins are clouded in mystery.
Barbette’s birth name was either Vander Clyde or Vander Clyde Broadway and he was born in Texas in either 1898, 1899 or 1904. Clearly, not much is known about the performer’s beginnings but we know he charmed the hearts and minds of many audiences. He was extremely popular in the artsy city of Paris, France.
Barbette’s drag career started as an aerial performer with The Alfaretta Sisters. He’d agreed to dress as a woman, as the act thought that trapeze was a female art form. Barbette moved on to vaudeville as a solo act, flooring audiences when he revealed himself as a man at the end of performances.
NEXT: This female impersonator loved surprising audiences by dropping from a soprano to baritone singing voice.
29. Lavern Cummings
“When he dropped his voice from a soprano to baritone, the women would say to their husbands ‘oh honey! It’s a guy!’” David De Alba told 3 News, Las Vegas. De Alba was a longtime friend a collaborator of one of the most convincing “female impersonators,” Lavern Cummings (born Paul Lavern Cummings).
He performed frequently in San Francisco, California first at The Jewel Box Revue, The Beige Room and then Finocchio’s. Sadly, Cummings was killed in an auto-pedestrian crash in 2018. A car struck him as he walked across the street in Las Vegas.
NEXT: She’s created a successful e-commerce company that sells drag queen merch.
On the podcast Whimsically Volatile, drag queen and RuPaul alumni Katya Zamolodchikova declared “BibleGirl666” the best drag name ever. Not only is it unique, but it also suits this performer’s aesthetic. Often wearing shades of red and pink in her costumes and makeup, BibleGirl looks like a demon version of Britney Spears.
(She told Katya that Britney is her favorite pop star — no surprise there!) In addition to frequent drag performances, BibleGirl is an entrepreneur. She runs the successful DragQueenMerch.com e-commerce site. The site slangs enough merch to satisfy any drag fan, featuring merch from everyone from RuPaul alumni to underground performers.