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Warning: This post includes spoilers for the season premiere of RuPaul's Drag Race All Stars 7.
Think you know RuPaul's Drag Race All Stars works? Twist, please!
On the seventh season of the hit franchise, which premiered Friday on Paramount+, RuPaul introduced a brand-new spin on the competition that left its competitors — who this time around are all winners of their previous seasons — absolutely gagged.
Unlike previous All Stars seasons where the winners of each week's lip sync get to vote off one of the bottom queens, All Stars 7 is letting all eight of its previous champs stay around all season long.
That's right; no one is going home. Shea Couleé, Jaida Essence Hall, Yvie Oddly, Trinity the Tuck, Monét x Change, Jinkx Monsoon, Raja and The Vivienne? They'll be there for every episode.
Of course, even the twist has a twist! Each week, RuPaul will be dolling out "legendary legend stars" to the top two queens who triumph in the challenge. They'll then compete in a lip sync, with that winner getting both a cash tip of $10,000 and the power to block one of their fellow queens from getting a "legendary legend star" the following week. The four all stars with the most "legendary legend stars" at the end of the season will compete in a lip sync LollapaRuza smackdown finale, where one will triumph to the title of "Queen of all Queens" (which comes with a cash prize of $200,000).
Cool, huh? The queens sure thought so when PEOPLE caught up with them at the New York City premiere screening on May 10, from Hudson Yards' Public Square & Gardens.
"This is a gag that's never been seen on Drag Race before," Drag Race U.K.'s winner The Vivienne says. "When we were told it, we nearly dropped to the floor!"
"These girls are all phenomenal and the big twist is going to allow the fans to see who truly is the queen of queens, not who is good at some elimination process," Jaida, Drag Race season 12 winner adds. "Life is not just a once a day thing where you f--- up and you're out of there. It's a, 'What can you do in the long haul?' And this really lets us show that."
A big bonus of the twist, others explained, was that all of the pricy ensembles they prepare for the competition would be shown on TV.
"You know, we spend a lot of money on these looks — and in All Stars, you spent a lot more than a regular season — so you want to reap the benefits of what you put into the show," The Vivienne notes.
All Star 4 "twinner" Monét agrees. "I'll be damned if the audience at home did not see every single rhinestone and every dollar I put into these looks," Monét points out.
Just how much money are we talking? "Most of these girls probably spent $50,000 to $75,000 for a season of Drag Race," Shea, champ from All Stars 5, reveals. "Now, that's them. I'm not most queens because I'm smarter than the rest of these dumb idiots, so I'm a good $12,000 to $15,000. That's workable because if you win two lip syncs, you've already made that back. But still, it's a lot and I think all of us were so glad to show all our runways.'"
It also provided the benefit of giving the queens guaranteed screen time.
"That eased a lot of the tension for me because what I really wanted to do was showcase and ultimately gain followers," says Raja, who won season 3 of Drag Race back in 2011. "Followers are like Bitcoin; they're the currency of today, so I wanted to reintroduce myself to people and grow my following."
"And I'm just someone who loves being on TV," The Vivienne jokes to PEOPLE. "Being told, 'Even if you're s---, you're not going home,' I was like, 'Yay!'"
"We're all attention whores," season 11 champ Yvie says, the oddball queen cracking their signature cackle laugh.
For Monét — a Drag Race superfan and recent host of the show's official Pit Stop after show — the twist felt like a gift for viewers. "I know if I was watching at home and winners like Violet Chachki, Bob the Drag Queen, Bianca Del Rio, Aquaria and Bebe Zahara Benet were on, I wouldn't want to see anyone go home," Monét says. "I would want to see what they have served every week."
"I'm sure some 18-year-old twink on Twitter will be like, 'Ugh, this sucks,' but the majority of us Drag Race fans love the show so much, we'd all want to see it," Monét adds. "It's only more drag!"
Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images Raja
The one thing the twist didn't do was take the pressure off of the competition. "If anything, it was more pressure 'cause you know these other girls would be showing the best of the best each runway," says The Vivienne. "We're all wanted to win. You constantly had to be at the top of your game."
"You just knew these bitches were going to be balls the wall," adds Yvie. "And that's exactly what happened. Everyone here is doing the best drag I personally have ever seen with my own eyeballs. The fans aren't ready!"
Still, there was a more relaxed feeling in the werkroom, Jaida tells PEOPLE.
"We all still wanted to win, but the twist did make people feel more comfortable, I think," the Milwaukee queen says. "It's like going into a job interview; no matter how confident you are walking through that door, it makes you feel better when someone smiles at you. Knowing we'd be staying all season long, that was Ru smiling at us."
The point system, and the ability to block others, did provide another layer of complication to the show. In the first episode alone, viewers saw stars Monét form an alliance with All Stars 4 co-winner Trinity the Tuck (who did not stay for PEOPLE's interview).
"I watched a lot of Survivor in the pandemic and I came in hungry to be Drag Race's answer to Sandra Diaz-Twine, Boston Rob and Parvati Shallow," Monét says, naming some of the CBS reality survival competition show's most ruthless winners. "I was ready to play, because we all talked after we met each other and said, 'Let's have fun. Let's make good TV.' That was just my strategy."
"We're all very different so you find the people that you gravitate to," Raja explains. "It's only natural that certain friendships form when common grounds are found. That certainly will play a part in this."
If they do, Shea appears unbothered by them. "We still absolutely f--- one another over with blocking each other, but I didn't need an alliance" Shea says. "Hearing that it was a point system kind of made me think of grading in school. And I was a really good student. So I said, 'Seems fair to me!'"
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Don't get it twisted, though. Despite the fact "points where people crack," according to Yvie, this season was ultimately about love. "Everybody wanted to get along and be supportive of one another," they say. "Overall, we were there to lift each other up."
"I think this is going to be an uplifting, very positive season, and I'm just honored to be a part of that," adds season 5 winner Jinkx. "It's a season of Drag Race that really celebrates each of the competitors and relies less on failures and sending people home. It shows we can still have very good drag through celebrating one another rather than being cutthroat towards one another."
"We're a family. You see drag families exhibited in so many different ways. Us together, we're just a very special chose group of people. We're proud of one another," says Shea, Jaida backing her up. "I'm grateful that my sisters are constantly uplifting me and reminding me of how sickening I am," Jaida says. "I always remind those girls how sickening they are too! It's just a swap for swap."
That camaraderie exists between this cast, they tell PEOPLE, because they're are all bonded by the immeasurable impact Drag Race has had on them.
"This show changed all of our lives," says Shea. "And to come and compete against such icons and legends that we love and respect so much has been such a rewearing and fulfilling experience for all of us."
"It's just miraculous to see what drag has become in this culture since this show began [back in 2009]," Raja reflects. "I'm proud of being one of the originals. It's been an honor to see the queer community evolve. I couldn't be more joyous than I am. It's a very sacred moment, to be a part of this Drag Race experience."
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In the end, the cast say they're hopeful Drag Race fans see All Stars 7 as their way of saying thanks.
"I know for a fact we all looked at it as, 'This is our chance to give back to the Drag Race fans.' We wanted to put together the best season of Drag Race we possibly could," Shea says to PEOPLE. "We felt like we owed it to the fandom and the legacy of the show."
And as for that twist, they're hopeful it remains an All Stars, all-winners rule only.
"This is for people who have earned their stripes," Monét says. "We have earned the right not to be sent home."
RuPaul's Drag Race All Stars 7 is now streaming on Paramount+.