This year, RuPaul’s Drag Race could shake up one the Emmys’ most notoriously stale categories: outstanding reality competition program. Since its inception, only three shows have taken the prize: Amazing Race (ten wins), The Voice (four wins) and Top Chef, which has won the award once. The three shows join Drag Race, Project Runway and American Ninja Warrior in this year’s pool nominees — the same six that were nominated last year, when The Voice took home its fourth trophy in the category.
Drag Race has already snatched four Emmy wins in the past, with the show’s namesake, RuPaul Charles, taking home two consecutive trophies for outstanding host for a reality program. Charles is nominated again for outstanding host this year; in fact, the show is nominated for a record 12 categories, marking the most nods in network history for VH1. But it’s time the voting committee truly recognizes Drag Race as the cultural juggernaut it is.
Out the six contenders, Drag Race is unquestionably the most groundbreaking. While the mere inclusion a LGBTQ competitor is still considered a plot point on most reality shows — and several shows still cap LGBTQ competitors at one per season — Drag Race provides a platform that not only allows queer performers to showcase their talent, but one where they don’t have to conform to heteronormative storytelling.
Moreover, Drag Race is one the most difficult competitions on television. Where shows like Top Chef, Ninja Warrior and The Voice rely on specific talents, the queens on Drag Race are tested on different skill sets each episode, from acting and singing, to executing show-stopping choreography and impersonating iconic divas — but not before doing their own makeup, constructing their own gowns and stomping down the runway in heels.
Drag Race began filming while President George W. Bush was in fice, and yet ten seasons in (13 if you count All Stars), it’s still getting bigger. It’s time that the Emmys recognizes that.