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‘Drag Race UK’ stars respond to cast diversity criticism

The inaugural British edition of the hit drag show kicks off tonight on BBC Three (3 October).

By Will Stroude

RuPaul’s Drag Race is finally set to kick off tonight on BBC Three (3 October), and while the hype has been high for the first British edition of the hit drag competition, the series has already drawn criticism from some quarters over its cast diversity. 

The original cast announcement back in August was followed by accusations from some that the line-up didn’t contain enough black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) queens, with white performers making up eight of the 10 contestants on the show.

Drag Race UK has been defended by contestants Sum Ting Wong and Vingar Strokes ahead of the series premiere, however, with the pair arguing that the series is doing its bit when it comes to showcasing a variety of queens.

“The thing is, right, even with the Americans, every single year there’s going to be people who say ‘You haven’t got this representation, you don’t have this representation”, says Sum Ting Wong.

“I feel like even having the slightest bit of representation is important, and I don’t think people should look down on that like a lot of people have, I think people should be celebrated for who they are regardless of skin colour, regardless of how big they are.”

The Birmingham-born star, 30, goes on: “I’m a big Chinese lady, I tick a lot of boxes, but in a show like RuPaul’s Drag Race the only categories you’re signed up for are, as she says, charisma, uniqueness, nerve and talent – and if she sees something in the [audition] video, regardless of what you look like, then that’s representative of the show.

“Personally, I feel like it would be disrespectful if they only put me on, for example, because I was a person of colour (POC). I want to be [there] through merit, I don’t want to be token. That’s what I feel like.

“It’s a big conversation, bigger than RuPaul’s Drag Race, but I feel like we are all here through merit and our ability, not just how we look and stuff. But I like being one of the POCs of the season.”

Vinegar Strokes, from London, adds: “Do you know what, I expected to come in and see people who’ve got talent and people who are good at drag. I wasn’t thinking if someone was going to be black.

“I think with this whole thing of how diverse the cast is… I think with this kind of thing you have to release it’s a smaller country [than the US] so the drag community is small anyway. And who’s applying?

“Is everyone of colour applying or not? If only five are applying, there’s probably only one or two of them that are going to make the show.

“So I think let’s cut the whole skin colour thing. Is this cast diverse in drag? Yes it is.”

Meanwhile, we’re giving away tickets to see the RuPaul’s Drag Race UK queens on tour this autumn. Click here for your chance to win.

RuPaul’s Drag Race UK premieres tonight (3 October) at 8pm on BBC Three.