RuPaul’s Drag Race has transformed drag culture from niche gay-bar entertainment to popular mainstream commodity since first airing on LogoTV in 2009. As a result, many of the queens who sashay down Ru’s runway find international fame and enjoy the kind of monetary stability their industry predecessors never dreamed of 10 years ago.
But when it comes to noteworthy drag, these queens aren’t always the be all end all; Ru’s army of reality-tv mother-tuckers is only a fraction of the fabulously diverse drag ecosystem found around the world. Missing from this legacy of ladies in lace-fronts are drag kings, queens living outside the United States, and well-respected artists who were hustling in heels long before many of Mama Ru’s drag babies were a twinkle in her eye.
So instead of gagging over yet another conglomerate of creatives competing to become America’s next drag superstar, we’re celebrating a crew of crown-worthy gender-benders you won’t find lip-syncing on VH1.
Here’s a list of drag queens worth knowing and where to watch them perform.