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Graham Norton responds to complaints about people being ‘tired’ of Drag Race

Exclusive: The RuPaul's Drag Race UK judge and host of the new drag singing competition, Queens of the Universe, gives his thoughts on Drag Race 'fatigue'.

By Alastair James

Words: Alastair James; pictures: Paramount+ 

Graham Norton’s response to people complaining about Drag Race ‘fatigue’ is: “I can’t argue with them”.

However, this doesn’t mean the judge of RuPaul’s Drag Race UK and host of the upcoming drag queen singing competition, Queens of the Universe, agrees with those complaints necessarily, but as he tells Attitude, he’s definitely not tired of Drag Race.

The broadcaster was speaking ahead of the release of Queens of the Universe in the UK when the new streaming service, Paramount+ launches here on Wednesday 22 June. 

The show, which is “as fabulous as you think it’s going to be” sees drag queens from around the world compete in a live-singing competition to be crowned ‘Queen of the Universe’. Surprisingly.

Assuring Attitude that the standard of singing is “phenomenal” Graham teases some standout moments beyond some incredible vocals. 

“Some of them [the queens] are TikTok stars, they just perform in their bedroom so to watch them blossom onstage is amazing. But also because it’s international some of them come from countries where it’s not particularly safe to do what they do. It’s not easy, it’s not accepted.

“So, for them to come around that corner and see that big studio audience and the lights and the cheering. You can’t underestimate the power of that moment for those queens. It’s just mind-blowing, they’ve been transported to a world where they’re not just being tolerated, they are being celebrated at the highest level. That broke my heart. I loved that.”

Earlier this year, Graham’s Drag Race colleague and judge on QOTU, Michelle Visage hit back at complaints of a ‘fatigue’ from viewers towards the amount of Drag Race that now exists.

In January, Michelle said: “I don’t think there could ever be enough,” and admonished people for being “short-sighted” reminding people, “it’s taken so long to get shows like this on telly.”

Asked for his thoughts Graham tells Attitude: “If somebody says ‘I’m tired of this’, I can’t argue with them. All I know is I’m not. And it seems like the audience, in general, isn’t.”

He wonders if there are some diehard fans who don’t like the fact that drag is now open to everyone, but he thinks that’s a good thing.

“In the early days [of Drag Race] you had to really look for it in the UK. It was a little Logo show, you had to find clips on YouTube, you had to get a friend to send it to you, it was very niche. Now, it’s on the BBC, Netflix, and everywhere. And that’s probably what they’re talking about when they talk about fatigue.”

Graham admits to trying to watch every series of Drag Race but got confused with which queens were on which series. “Left to my own devices I probably would watch them all. Now I just watch the UK, and All Stars and the American one,” he adds.

Addressing Visage’s warning that things could be taken away at a moment’s notice Graham points to America as an example of where this is beginning to happen where proposals are being put forward to ban children from drag shows

“Wheels turn, and then they turn back again. I think the UK is in a different situation, in that we don’t have the same puritanical streak. There’s always been some mainstream representation of drag in this country like panto. I can’t see it vanishing in that way.”

On what other LGBTQ content he thinks has paved the way besides Drag Race Graham highlights It’s A Sin, something he thought would have a niche audience but went on to break Channel 4 records

“What was great was I was completely wrong. I love that stories are stories. That’s what’s great about all of this is that you don’t feel like you’re in some sort of niche area where I’m watching something that only gay people are watching. You’re watching telly.”

Graham also puts the greater amount of queer TV and film content down to a greater number of platforms such as Netflix and Paramount+. 

“If you look at something like ITV or the BBC, they’ve got to be seen to be providing stuff for everyone. What’s great about streaming services is that you’re not told who it’s for. It’s there to be streamed by anybody who wants it.”

Queens of the Universe season 1 will be available to stream on Paramount+ in the UK from Wednesday 22 June. 

The Attitude July/August issue is out now.