Many alumni from RuPaul’s Drag Race have made their own music videos — with Adore Delano, Alaska, Sharon Needles, Jinkx Monsoon, Willam, and Courtney Act in particular proving they have real musical chops. But the queens from the groundbreaking, Emmy-winning reality show are also in hot demand as modern-day video girls, starring in clips by everyone from Lady Gaga and Kesha to British space-rock band Spiritualized and indie garage duo Deap Vally.
As we come upon Friday’s Season 9 Drag Race finale — on which Sasha Velour, Shea Couleé, Trinity Taylor, or Peppermint will be crowned America’s Next Drag Superstar —let’s take a look at some past contestants’ most memorable appearances in music videos. (Side note: After watching this, I’m hoping Siouxsie Sioux will come out of retirement and cast Sasha in her comeback video! Those two would serve total Goth realness.)
18. Erasure, “A Little Respect” HMI Redux (starring Bebe Zahara Benet)
Bebe deserves more than just a little respect for being the first winner in Drag Race herstory. Cameroon!
17. Xelle feat. Mimi Imfurst, “Queen” (starring Shannel, Tammie Brown, Raven, Jujubee, Pandora Boxx, Alexis Mateo, Manila Luzon, Yara Sofia, Phi Phi O’Hara, and Jiggly Caliente)
Mimi Imfurst invited so many queens for this video by her dance-pop group Xelle, it looks like the rumored cast for All Stars 3. Sadly but not surprisingly, India Ferrah does not make an appearance.
16. Adrian Anchondo, “The Hillary Song” (starring Pandora Boxx)
This may be a parody of Maroon 5’s “Sugar,” as opposed to a legitimate video, but it gets our vote due to the pantsuited Pandora’s uncanny portrayal of Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. Pandora Boxx for president 2020!
15. MOXXI, “Ransom” (starring Pandora Boxx, Manila Luzon, Alaska, and Raja)
This is one dinner party I’d sure love to attend. Hopefully MOXXI served Ru’s favorite dish, Tic Tacs!
14. Lady Gaga, “Applause” lyric video (starring Shangela, Morgan McMichaels, Willam, Shannel, Raven, Courtney Act, and Detox)
One Monday night in 2013, Gaga made a surprise appearance at Micky’s in West Hollywood (and by “surprise,” I mean she went on Twitter and told her nearly 40 million followers that’s where she was heading). There, she shantéd and sashayed with a harem of fan-favorite Drag Race alumni (all regular performers at the club’s world-infamous “Showgirls Drag-Stravaganza”) a couple of whom were rocking her ARTPOP look of smeared harlequin face paint and white bedsheets. Seriously, only at a venue like Micky’s could someone like Gaga get upstaged. Unfortunately, Season 5’s Detox later seemed less than thrilled to be part of the video, tweeting that the camera had been “forced” on her and that she would have rescheduled her Micky’s appearance if she’d known Gaga had been planning to bum-rush the show. Ironically, though, Detox is one of the most prominent stars in the “Applause” lyric video, and she’s absolutely fabulous in it.
13. Jack White, “Lazaretto” (starring the Princess)
The Princess didn’t go far in Season 4, but she proves she’s a real rock ‘n’ roll queen here. Side note: Why wasn’t Jack White please be a judge on RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 9? I bet he would have loved Peppermint’s red-and-white-striped club-kid outfit.
12. Robbie Williams, “She’s Madonna” (starring Tammie Brown)
We don’t see the eccentric Season 1 contestant out walking children in nature, but we do see her make a cameo here, next to the late, great Alexis Arquette.
11. Angel Haze, “No Bueno” (starring Laganja Estranja and Akashia)
C’mon, Angel Haze — let’s get sickening! Season 6 catchphrase-generator and villainess Laganja, alongside Season 1’s Akashia, totally slay the lip-synch challenge in this “hilarious snapshot of the world auditioning to be” rap star Angel Haze. Shanté, they both can stay.
10. Kesha, “Take It Off K$ n’ Friends Version” (starring Detox)
The official “Take It Off” video depicts Kesha carousing with her fellow Animals and Warriors in a dirty, drained motel pool — a solid effort, but basically a typical party video. However, when Kesha gathers some club kids, among them Season 5/All Stars 2 finalist Detox, for this lesser-seen alternate version inspired by “TRON, David Bowie in Labyrinth, and Revenge of the Nerds,” that’s when the party really gets started.
9. Richard Simmons, “Hair Do” (starring Pandora Boxx, Morgan McMichaels, and Delta Work)
The ’80s exercise guru has made news lately for his mysterious disappearing act, but in 2013 he attempted a career comeback with this dance video, in which he appears in drag alongside some popular Season 2 queens. This is their hair — they don’t wear wigs!
8. Little Mix, “Power” (starring Courtney Act, Alaska, and Willam)
The “AAA Girls” prove they have the X factor as they sissy their walks and pop their tongues alongside the Simon Cowell-assembled U.K. girl group’s equally fierce Jade Thirlwall.
7. Glenn Stewart, “Here It Comes Around Again” (starring Jade Jolie, Jujubee, Jade Sotomayor, Monica Beverly Hilz, Joslyn Fox, Kelly Mantle, and Jaidynn Diore Fierce)
In an awesomely open-minded mashup of two seemingly very different worlds, a troupe of Drag Race queens star in country singer Stewart’s video for a twangy cover of a track from Mama RuPaul’s Glamazon album. Everybody say love! (This is actually Stewart’s second drag-themed video: Season 6’s Joslyn Fox also starred in his 2014 clip for “Little Miss John Wayne.”)
6. The Airborne Toxic Event, “Hell and Back” lyric video (starring Willam)
In case you wondering if there could be anything more fun than doing sloppy-drunk ’80s karaoke with disgraced Season 4 contestant Willam, the answer, as proved by this hilarious video, is no. No, there is not. “Hell and Back” is pure shartistry in motion!
5. MNDR, “Feed Me Diamonds” (starring Raven)
Raven is possibly the most-robbed RuPaul’s Drag Race contestant of all time (she came in second to Chad Michaels on All Stars, a couple of years after unjustly losing to fan-unfavorite Tyra Sanchez on Drag Race Season 2). But seeing her lip-synch for her life and show off her charisma, nerve, uniqueness, and talent in the video by electropop chanteuse MNDR is all the vindication I need. Raven is an all-star in my book, okaaay? (Honorable mention: Raven’s sexy dominatrix scene with a leather-corseted Terri Nunn in Berlin’s “Animal.“)
4. Deap Valley, “Little Baby Beauty Queen” (starring Trixie Mattel)
The 7-foot Barbie clown of Season 7 flaunts her sickening trailer-park style — piled-high Parton wigs, burnt orange Tanning Mom face paint, Tammy Faye eyelashes, Tonya Harding skating skirts, and more pink than can even be found in Peppermint’s sarong closet — in this delightfully ratchet clip by the SoCal garage duo.
3. Todrick Hall, “Expensive” (starring Willam, Alaska, Kim Chi, Laganja Estranja, Mariah Balenciaga, Jinkx Monsoon, Shangela, Pandora Boxx, Alexis Michelle, Kimora Blac, Peppermint, Trinity Taylor, Valentina, Farrah Moan, and Eureka O’Hara)
The Deluxe edition of this clip by YouTube sensation/All Stars judge/ex-American Idol contestant Hall’s Straight Outta Oz visual album features so many runway-rocking Drag Race alumni — including several from this current season — I am totally gagging on all the eleganza. “Expensive” is priceless.
2. Miley Cyrus and the Flaming Lips, “Dooo It” VMAs performance (starring Alexis Mateo, Alyssa Edwards, Carmen Carrera, Courtney Act, Delta Work, Gia Gunn, Jaidynn Diore Fierce, Jasmine Masters, Jessica Wild, Jiggly Caliente, Laganja Estranja, Latrice Royale, Mariah Paris Balenciaga, Miss Fame, Monica Beverly Hilz, Pandora Boxx, Pearl, Porkchop Parker, Shangela, Sharon Needles, Sonique, Tammie Brown, Trinity K. Bonet, Violet Chachki, Vivacious, Vivienne Pinay, and Willam)
Technically this isn’t a music video, but it’s more epic than anything MTV has aired for years. In 2015, MTV Video Music Awards hostess with the mostest Miley and a confetti-gun-wielding Wayne Coyne hit the stage in Day-Glo Jazzercise wear, while out sashayed all your favorite Drag Race covergirls, totally werking the VMAs runway. Season 7 champ Violet Chachki received special attention, enjoying some handsy, lip-locked action with the mistress of ceremonies herself, but it was Season 6 underdog Laganja Estranja who really stole the show with her instantly GIFable death-drop.
1. Spiritualized, “Hey Jane” (starring Tyra Sanchez)
In this intense, gritty, and deeply disturbing video, Sanchez delivers an unforgettable performance that makes strong case for her previously unseen acting skills — and even makes me forgive her for beating out the above-mentioned Raven. Sanchez (who in real life is single father James Ross) plays Frida, a small-town trans prostitute out on the streets trying to support her young son. In the cinematic clip’s brutal final four minutes, she becomes entangled in a bloody motel-room fight with a crazed intruder, all captured in one long, unflinching shot. The surprise ending is even more shocking than that time Valentina refused to remove her mask.