Editor’s note: Yvie Oddly was unable to participate in our group shoot because, as she hilariously explains it, she “decided to be adventurous with food from a local deli buffet the night before.”
Posing in the arena of a buzzing Manhattan photo studio, RuPaul’s Drag Race superstar Jinkx Monsoon punches a rubber hen hurtling towards her face. Moments later, her costar Monét X Change battles a wall of purple feathers cascading from the ceiling, wielding the shower of plumes to frame the seductive stare on her face. “You killed it!” photographer Vijat Mohindra squeals between camera flashes. Monét’s response? “I know.”
The confidence overfloweth on the set of EW’s cover shoot for the inaugural all-winners edition of RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars, the long-awaited, fan-demanded installment of the worldwide franchise that’s evolved since its 2009 debut from Logo TV’s niche reality-competition novelty to a 24-time-Emmy-winning juggernaut on VH1 and Paramount+. After securing their place among the show’s most powerful alums (who’ve gone on to walk runways for Rihanna, host their own talk shows, and sell out international venues on tour), these reunited professionals are used to competition and triumph in all aspects of life. And now each of them are putting their most prized victory to the test with one goal in mind: to become the first queen to win Drag Race twice.
It’s easy to view the eight All Stars 7 queens as the Avengers of drag, each deserving of a double-crowning. Bookended by Raja, who won season 3 in 2011, and Jaida Essence Hall (season 12) and Shea Couleé (All Stars 5), who were crowned at the start of the pandemic, the cast — also comprised of Jinkx (season 5), Monét and Trinity The Tuck (All Stars 4 winners), Yvie Oddly (season 11), and The Vivienne (UK season 1) — collectively represent some of the most diverse aesthetics and drag-based superpowers ever flexed across the Main Stage, and the talent they bring to the competition is an equally grand spectacle.
“When you’re in the Werk Room and you’ve got these challenges and time constraints, you produce the best drag you’ve ever produced in your life,” Vivienne says, reflecting on a contest that includes superstar guests such as Naomi Campbell and Cameron Diaz, a mammoth cash prize of $200,000, and a whole new set of revamped rules that are certain to disrupt the Drag Race All Stars status quo (more on that at a later date — but trust, it’s a gag).
Beneath the show’s pomp, however, is a deeper purpose. By sharing the world of drag with a mass audience — which now boasts multiple foreign spin-offs in the U.K., Thailand, Holland, Spain, Italy, and more — it highlights a subculture that’s shifted from the outskirts of society and into the mainstream spotlight. Amid an uptick in anti-LGBTQIA+ legislation (hello, Florida), the show is a bastion of representation as well as a springboard for queer talent, many of whom have helped a younger generation find their voice and a sense of belonging in a heteronormative world.
“If drag loses the rebellious edge, then drag loses its integrity as an art form at all,” Yvie says over Zoom — while dressed as Jesus, naturally. “If it’s not gritty, if it’s not cutting to the truth of who you are, if it’s just to get you on a TV show or wear some fancy designer s—, it’s no better than other trash, trite stuff. I just see red when I think of drag losing any grit. I’d have no purpose to live.”
The mix of styles and perspectives — from Yvie’s maverick sensibilities to the pageant elegance of Trinity — clashes in spectacular ways across the season ahead. “Drag really is the queer f—ing Super Bowl,” Monét says.
Translation: No matter which queen takes the crown, we’re all winners while watching All Stars 7.
Ahead of the season’s May 20 debut on Paramount+, read on for the full interview with the cast — and watch EW’s Around the Table reunion with the queens above.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: We’re finally here, after years of people begging in your comments. There’s a lot on the line. Did anyone go back and forth on whether they wanted to join, and what ultimately made coming back to the delightful chaos worth it?
JINKX MONSOON: I still haven’t made up my mind.
THE VIVIENNE: There was no prize money in England. Even if I come away with 10 pounds, I’m better off.
MONÉT X CHANGE: How do you feel that Lady Camden is the first U.K. queen to win money on Drag Race?
MONÉT: I was nervous to go back. I don’t want to tarnish my reputation…
TRINITY THE TUCK: Too late!
MONÉT: …but then you get back into it, and it’s crazy and chaotic, but it’s fun.
JINKX: I’m just a glutton for punishment.
RAJA: I jumped at the chance because I just wanted people to remember me.
MONÉT: Wait, who are you again?
VIVIENNE: She’s still alive!
JAIDA ESSENCE HALL: I weighed the option of [turning it down] because I didn’t have a lot of time to travel and be confident as a winner. But you know what? Bitch, this is a second shot.
SHEA COULEÉ: Being a pandemic winner is a different experience because you had to compete and win your crown from your own home. It was such a different experience, and it was so bomb that you got to come back and show Jaida 2.0.
TRINITY: I changed my mind, because after the edit of mine and Monet’s win where it looked like it was on FaceTune, I was like, “I don’t know about this…” But here I am.
The real reason we’re here is to get Monét in the same room as an actual British person, because now you can make your case about the evolution of the British accent to Vivienne’s face.
MONÉT: Like I said on season 10, we had the voice first. It was all copacetic, then y’all tried to move and be cute, and y’all changed it up.
VIVIENNE: Give me your British accent, then.
MONÉT: [Monét’s voice doesn’t change.] This is a British accent; this is how they spoke in 1742.
VIVIENNE: No, just before we started filming you were like, “Vivienne, listen to my British accent,” ha ha ha.
MONÉT: Okay, was that Monét X Change or Barney?
JAIDA: The gag is Monét X Change is Barney.
SHEA: They’ve both got green toes.
In all seriousness, legacy is important, so was it more important for you all to give fans more of what they originally fell in love with, or did you try to give something new?
JAIDA: Coming back the second time and doing it all over again, you’re a lot more yourself and more relaxed. We’ve all shown another side of who we are.
SHEA: It felt different being a three-peat offender with Monét and Trinity. You go back on All Stars and you want to right all the wrongs and show people what you’re worth — but coming back for a third time, I just want to have fun because I love Drag Race.
VIVIENNE: We’re on the road constantly traveling, pulling a look out of the suitcase, do your gig, it goes back in the suitcase. [Here] you get to produce stuff you could never pull off in the outside world, and you get to put that on a worldwide stage.
TRINITY: I just wanted to go on to manipulate my edit and yell at people.
JAIDA: Control the story, huh? Collusion!
MONÉT: We also got the chance to introduce Viv to In-N-Out Burger.
VIVIENNE: You’ll see me get slightly wider throughout the season.
Whose performance this season will surprise fans the most, and who slayed hardest on the runway?
SHEA: Same. Yvie. It’s not just because she’s not here with us right now and we’re trying to get brownie points. Legitimately, Yvie blew my mind. There are so many moments… just goosebumps.
MONÉT: She tried some new stuff for her face…
TRINITY: And it was awful. Just kidding.
MONÉT: We’d all get finished at the makeup mirrors and she’d turn around and we were all like, “Oh my God, stunning.”
SHEA: I had high expectations, but Raja exceeded them. Truly blew me away. Not to kiss her ass, either, but Raja was the first RuGirl I fell in love with. She proves why she’s the OG fashion queen.
JAIDA: Raja showed that art is timeless. Not only was she fierce competition, but also compassionate and understanding. I call her my spiritual guru now. I come to her for medical advice and what my stars say.
RAJA: Wow, that’s so sweet.
JINKX: I’ll second everything that was just said because I love Raja, obviously. But I’m also going to say Jaida, because Jaida had a revolving door. She got off one season and had to get back on another. We had the least amount of time to get to know Jaida since her last season, and she delivered. We all knew we had to deliver this season, and everyone stepped up. No one fell short, ever.
VIVIENNE: I’ve looked up to Trinity for years. She’s a drag queen’s drag queen. The runways, we know they’re going to come — but when you see them, mind-blowing. Even in challenges, just watching you pull stuff out that I don’t even think you knew you had, it was amazing. The help you give people…. She’d go out of her way, and maybe hinder herself, to make sure everyone was looked after.
SHEA: She hates when we talk nice about her.
TRINITY: You’re going to ruin my Reddit reputation.
Given how big this season’s talent is, it makes sense that there are changes to the way the game is played. Without spoiling, when you heard what the alterations were, what was your immediate reaction?
MONÉT: I hated it…. I wanted it to not be how it was — at the beginning. Then we got into the game, and I was like, “Oh, I do like it.”
JAIDA: I loved it so much because it gives fans of the show [something] they’ve never seen in Drag Race history.
JINKX: I liked it — and I think it’s the reason I said yes.
SHEA: My first reaction was, “What a great idea. But knowing it’s RuPaul’s Drag Race, what’s the catch?” When we got there, that’s when we found out the catch.
TRINITY: What made it great is that everybody [was] so phenomenal, the twist is what’s going to keep the fans on their toes.
We also have a mix of Snatch Game legacies. How much pressure was there for both those who did and didn’t do well originally with the celebrity impersonation challenge?
VIVIENNE: It’s hard. Michelle Visage’s comment on my season was it was the best Snatch Game she’d ever seen. I was just like, “Well, I’m going to do this and hope for the best.” I didn’t feel like I could live up to it. You can be great at Snatch Game, but as soon as RuPaul walks in that room, it’s a completely different scenario. You can be so prepared, but it goes poof, and you’re down to your quick wit and whatever you pull out of your ass.
TRINITY: It was the pressure of doing Snatch Game with winners. It’s one thing to do it on a regular season or All Stars, because you have a mixed bag of people. But here everybody was strong, and so you have to be super specific and good at what you’re doing.
MONÉT: I was nervous going against five winners. Jinkx won hers, Trinity won hers, Shea won hers, Vivienne won hers. Raja, did you win yours?
MONÉT: But you were really good.
JAIDA: An excellent safe.
MONÉT: All these people are so good at Snatch Game, and here comes old Whitney Houston girl, trying to get a shimmy and a shake.
JINKX: Snatch Game this season was kind of like, “You’re f—ed if you do, you’re f—ed if you don’t.” Either you feel like you have to erase your previous performance, or you have to outdo it. In the end, we had to pick people we were excited to play. Good or bad, we all had a lot of fun that day. We were insane.
MONÉT: You definitely have to do a double take this Snatch Game.
RAJA: I was a little terrified walking in. I expected huge attitudes and spiteful daggers, maybe a bludgeon. I was a little scared.
JAIDA: It’s not too late.
SHEA: I came in being like, “Raja, my name’s not Shahhcoulahh. Just so you know.”
To keep the spirit alive, can you toot or boot the looks at this table?
RAJA: Let’s keep it easy. [Motions to all.] Boot! It’s a collective boot.
JINKX: I feel like the bar was so low for me. I had nowhere to go but up.
What’s the drama like this season? Does it take more to get a group of Women of the Crown riled up?
SHEA: Not at all. The egos are huge.
TRINITY: I feel like the drama was more like, we’re businesswomen in control more of what we want. It was more like getting [the crew] behind the cameras together.
SHEA: The biggest drama was us being like, “Where’s my phone?”
JAIDA: “Where’s the weed?”
JINKX: It was like eight internal battles all happening in the same room, at the same time.
TRINITY: And that’s just her personality.
JINKX: Cue the circus music, Jinkx is talking!
MONÉT: I was uninhibited going in. Like, “You know what? I’m just ready to have fun and be strategic. As someone who watches a lot of Drag Race and All Stars, I want them to be shady and send people home.” Cue UK Versus the World. I loved that they were being so shady and made good TV. I felt that energy. Like, “Let’s create chaos, let’s have fun.”
TRINITY: I didn’t know that. What are your confessionals going to be like?
SHEA: She’s awfully quiet right now.
Monét, Jaida, Shea, and Yvie are part of the “Melanin Dynasty,” including five Black winners consecutively from Monét through Symone. What weight does that hold not only for you as queens, but as people?
JAIDA: For us to impact people who look like us, it’s important for us to be our most authentic selves in everything we do. It’s not about trying to put on a front, or trying to send a message to people. I don’t think people need to see somebody trying to preach or tell them how they should be. More so, [they should] see people living their lives just like them, every single day. Like, “Wow, they’re beautiful, Black, shining examples of how we can be in the world.”
MONÉT: I love being my whole Black self on TV. Even since All Stars 4, there’s so much more access in terms of being as authentically Black as I want to be. Working with people like Edward Sizzahands and Adorned, who can give me hairstyles; to look the way I want to on TV. Having that access going back to this all-winners season, I felt so good — and even more empowering walking down the runway and projecting what I want people to see from me and my big ol’ Black booty.
SHEA: I said on All Stars 5 that my drag in its purest form is a love letter to Black women. I really felt like coming back and doing this all-winners season was an opportunity for me to continue writing that letter.
Monét and Trinity, fans are going to ask if you’re doing this to settle the tie. Did that factor into your decision to join, or did you form an alliance this season?
TRINITY: I don’t think there’s anything to settle. These are two different competitions: All Stars 4, that was that. We completed that, and this is a whole new venture — different rules, two different entertainers who’ve evolved since All Stars. The rules are different, the way we compete is different.
TRINITY: I’m proud of myself and proud of my twinner for what she was able to do this season.
MONÉT: There’s nothing to settle, girl. We both got our own money, our own crown, our own scepter. This bitch bought a house, I bought some Gucci bags. You got your money, you did your thing. There’s no animosity, there’s no, “I’m gonna settle the score with you, Trinity!”
TRINITY: This is all created by fans. We have no animosity. We have nothing to settle. We’re here to have fun and win a lot more money.
JAIDA: [Coughs] Joining forces?
MONÉT: We’ll talk about that when it airs.
Jaida, you’ve said you didn’t feel like fans held your victory in the same regard as other winners. Did a spot on this cast make you feel differently?
JAIDA: There were a lot of fans upset that I won. [They] didn’t feel like I deserved to win. No matter how confident you are or how hard you work, when you have a fanbase behind you not supporting you as much as you feel like you’d want after doing the biggest thing in your life, it felt a little weird. Coming in the room with these girls, I don’t want to get emotional because you know I’m a f—ing crybaby, but every single one of them in that Werk Room made me feel like a f—ing star…. It made me feel like a winner — just to see people that I’ve always [admired] show me so much respect. When people watch this season, no matter what, you’re going to see so much heart from the people at this f—ing table. That goes to show that two things can be true at the same time: You can be a hard-working bitch and you can be sickening, but you can also have heart and be a nice person.
VIVIENNE: That’s three things, Jaida.
JAIDA: Four, I think. Look, I talk too damn much.
TRINITY: Jaida, you’re a star.
Jaida also wears the “Trade of Season 12” title proudly. I want to know from this whole cast: Is that still true here, or is it open for debate?
TRINITY: Yvie’s always been the trade, honey.
MONÉT: Yes, especially after her Snatch Game.
SHEA: That’s because this whole table are a whole bunch of dick pigs.
MONÉT: After Yvie’s Snatch Game I was like, “Oh, I’m down. I’ll take it down.”
TRINITY: After Yvie walks around the Werk Room all the time — naked — I’m down. She’s the trade.
JAIDA: What they say about Yvie is absolutely true. I said, “Ohh.”
Raja and Jinkx, your seasons are earlier—
JINKX: What are you trying to say?
How much did the competition change this time around?
JINKX: Everything around Drag Race has changed in huge ways. This was such a special experience that I don’t know I can stack it up against season 5, because we all know each other — a lot of us have toured together. I’ve known Raja for a decade now. I knew Raja the best, but by the end of it, we were all just lovey-dovey, which I don’t think normally happens. And the way people pay attention to Drag Race now versus how it was back then, I felt like I had a lot to live up to, and a lot to bone up on with some of the girls who’ve competed two or three times; other girls were just doing it, I felt like I had to get the rust off and shake it out.
RAJA: Season 3, Drag Race itself was in such primitive stages. In my season, it was more about creating things. We were constantly doing these balls where we had to sew and glue, constantly, every challenge, and this time I actually got to have fun and shine a little bit in the acting challenges — and the writing and comedy.
RAJA: Dancing! I did some dancing. [Everyone laughs] Drag Race has created a culture — and now an industry, whereas when I was on it, no one had a f—ing lace front. It’s a very different world, and I was excited to join.
JINKX: They hadn’t been invented yet.
JAIDA: Tyra Banks was wearing them.
MONÉT: George Washington had a little lace front
SHEA: George Washington’s frontal was melted, bitch. That installment was precise.
Given everyone’s reaction to Raja saying she danced: How does everyone feel about it?
JAIDA: I love Raja’s dancing.
SHEA: Not afraid to reference or not reference.
TRINITY: It’s very interesting and very herself.
MONÉT: It’s interpretive.
SHEA: A lot of fans out there will identify with Raja’s dance style.
JAIDA: As Velma Von Tussle once said: “You’ll stop traffic!”
RAJA: I’m going to throw you in traffic.
In the AS7 premiere, you all get runway coaching from Naomi Campbell — and Shea, she gives you incredible praise. Having done her in Snatch Game, what did that experience mean to you?
SHEA: I’m trembling just thinking about it. There are few people I get starstruck around because people are people, but Naomi Campbell is a goddess. I’ve looked up to Naomi since I was four years old. Seeing her in Michael Jackson’s [“In the Closet”] video and being like, “Who is this powerful, beautiful, statuesque Black woman with cascading locks? Whatever she is, I want to be her.” To have her sit there and see me walk and say that she’d give no notes…. To hear those words from someone like Naomi Campbell, that’s one of the most affirming moments I’ve ever had in my life.
Did anyone incorporate Naomi Campbell’s feedback into their walks?
MONÉT: Absolutely not. She seemed ill-informed.
TRINITY: Yes, I did. She said she loved my runway walk, so I just continued that.
JAIDA: I may or may not have had critiques — but I was busy looking at her beautiful face and shining skin, so I don’t know what happened. She was looking delicious.
MONÉT: I was gagged. You’ve heard of models making their own wind? When she did her runway walk, she was making her own wind. And that virgin hair, it was insane.
SHEA: She’s creating that wind, but it’s almost like a cross-breeze. I felt like I was being blown away too.
MONÉT: Each strand was one of those things from the car wash.
Cameron Diaz also un-retired herself from entertainment to be a judge. What was she like on set?
TRINITY: She looked beautiful up close in Untucked, and she seemed like a fan of the show. Some judges that come on don’t seem to be present, but she was very knowledgeable. She knew who we were, she knew what to look for, she was there, and she looked stunning. She was super nice.
JAIDA: I was glad to see her there, because when we were doing season 12, approaching the finale, her and Leslie Jones were on [an Instagram] Live and Leslie [asked her], “Who do you think is going to win?” and she said, “No question: Jaida.” Gagged. Then she showed up and I could tell how invested she was. We have a judge who’s not going to be giving fluff. She knew every one of us, our journey, our personal struggles on the show…
MONÉT: There’s something about Cameron.
Vivienne, you’re this season’s only international queen. What was the biggest difference competing here, among Americans?
VIVIENNE: It was the most nerve-racking thing, walking into that Werk Room with the biggest drag personalities on the planet. It’s a huge drag competition, but we’re making TV as well. There’s all this energy. [It’s about] finding the balance of not trying to scream [to] get my time, but just have a ball. I realized they’re just rotted, horrible drag queens like me.
MONÉT: You should feel right at home, bitch.
VIVIENNE: It did feel right. I’ve always looked up at these queens. I had been doing drag before the show started, but I’ve watched these queens slay their seasons. We all do the same thing, we all love the art of drag. Did we all see eye-to-eye all the way through the season? No. It’s Drag Race. Did we all leave as an amazing family? Absolutely. I’ve been to see Jinkx the minute she was in the U.K., cheering her on, [asking myself] “What can I take her? What British snacks hasn’t she eaten yet?” Turns out: none.
JINKX: I told you not to call my husband a British snack.
MONÉT: We get it, Drinks… Jinkx is married. We know.
TRINITY: No, you had it right the first time: Drinks.
JINKX: We never thought it was going to happen, but it happened.
As the most glistening royals in this queendom: Of all the other queens from the franchise, which RuGirl do you think best represents the future, where drag is headed?
TRINITY: There’s no right or wrong answer, because if you look at this panel, drag is literally anything and everything, and you can’t say going forward drag is going to be this. Drag will always be so many different things.
SHEA: Drag, for a lot of people, is the way they express a part of themselves that they don’t normally bring out in the world. What’s beautiful about drag is we get to learn about so many different people’s individual experiences and points of view — and the more we get introduced to these points of view, the more the culture of drag is enriched. The future for drag is going to be more complex, inclusive, different, and varying. There’s no one direction.
VIVIENNE: The great thing about the show is you can get given a brief of a runway, and you come up with this crazy thing, and you line up to walk the runway and you go, “Oh my God, you crazy bitch, how did you even think of that?” And then you’ve got Yvie and Raja over there doing whatever the f— that is, but it’s the most fashionable thing. There’s no right or wrong way to do drag if you’re expressing yourself when you walk out that door.
JAIDA: Even in my own drag, things have changed just by watching the show. It’s going to be a melting pot. Trans people [have been] part of drag forever, and now the world is realizing that. If you’re not used to that, then baby you better get with it, because that’s what it’s going to be. Period.
TRINITY: There are so many different types of drag that haven’t been on the show yet, like bearded or more obscure club kids. I encourage people, if you’re a fan of Drag Race, become a fan of drag. Do your research, and support local entertainers.
MONÉT: I agree with all these girls: Monét X Change really is… no, just kidding.
JINKX: Drag is an art form, and art has to be able to evolve, adapt, and reflect the community it’s serving. We see a direct cause and effect between the LGBTQ+ community, and what’s important to us as a community immediately gets reflected in drag. Drag is unique to the queer experience.
MONÉT: People complain about too many seasons, but we watch each and every one of them because drag is this explosion. We’re all lucky to live at this time where drag is celebrated the way it is. I hope that, going forward, it gets even bigger — that drag queens are performing at the Grammys, drag queens are winning Oscars. I see that for drag, and I’m happy to be part of that legacy that can make it happen.
TRINITY: I will say this: Pageant queens are superior.
JAIDA: She’s shaking the table.
MONÉT: Is that the final shot, us flipping the table?
To close this out, as All Stars always opens with a reading challenge, I thought we could open the library. Can we get a loving roast going?
JAIDA: Monét, you are gutted.
SHEA: Trinity, you look so beautiful today that I hardly recognized you.
JINKX: Viv, can I do my impression? This is my Viv: “Girls, I have to poo. I don’t think I got it all.”
VIVIENNE: That will be my legacy of this season: Pooing.
JINKX: It’s because you’re the s—.
TRINITY: My only read is: Can the camera do a zoom-up on Jinkx?
JINKX: Oh, that’s your read? I get it, very clever. Trinity made a joke, everyone! Yay, Trinity!
JAIDA: The way you kind of can’t read Jinkx.
TRINITY: She’ll always get the last word.
Director and Photographer: Vijat Mohindra; DOP: Eric Larson; Digi Tech: William Ross; 1st AC: Aaron Snow; Steadicam: Franz Brun; Key Grip: Ed Jimenez; Best Grip: Manoj Gurung; Best Electric: Joe Katulak; Assistant: Christian Ern; Stylist: Lex Robinson; Assistant Stylist: Virginia Ray; Producer: Lucas Carpenter; 1st AD: Harold Uhl; Senior Photo Editor: Maya Robinson; Post-Production: Jerry Chia and Ralph Miccio at Good Company; Video Editor: Ethan Bellows; Cover Design: Chuck Kerr