"Aryan Airlines" was how RuPaul's Drag Race contestant Ginger Minj described a rival team of competitors during an early episode of this year's season, the finale for which aired on Monday night. (Here's who won.) And she wasn't exactly wrong: The six queens she was talking about were all tall, white, and slender, and as a unit they contrasted sharply with Ginger's way more racially, ethnically, and physically diverse group.
As a Drag Race viewer since day one, I've long suspected that Logo TV's flagship series was becoming less diverse and a little more like Aryan Airlines with each passing year — I just never actually had the numbers to back up that suspicion. Until now. I gathered data on the casts of all eight seasons of Drag Race (one through seven plus All Stars).
It turns out that the casts of RuPaul's Drag Race have become whiter since the show's inception.
In season one, the cast was 56% people of color. After peaking at 58% the following year, that percentage gradually declined until it hit 29%, where it has held steady since season six.
Drag Race casts have also become less Latina since 2009.
The decline isn't as steady as it was for POC contestants — six of the eight seasons have featured casts that have been twenty- or thirty-something percent Latina. But that percentage has never met, or topped, its season-one high of 33%, and in 2015 it rested at a far lower 7%.
There were also fewer black contestants in season seven, though that number didn't hit an all-time low like it did with POC and Latina queens this year.
Only 21% of this year's competitors were black, which is barely lower than season one's 22%. But it's only half of season two's high of 42%, and that low percentage feels all the more problematic when viewed alongside the series' overall decline in POC cast members.
Because there have consistently been very few queens of other races on the show, a season-by-season graph for Asian/Pacific Islander contestants or Native American/American Indian contestants wouldn't be all that effective. Instead, here are some charts that represent the combined casts of every season.
Moving beyond race and ethnicity, I also looked at how many transgender contestants and plus-size contestants there have been on Drag Race.
As far as age goes, I was surprised to find out that the average age of the Drag Race casts hasn't gotten younger — it has always hovered between 28 and 30 years old. There might be more younger queens in the newer seasons (Pearl, Max, Violet), but there are also more wizened queens than ever before (Tempest, Jasmine, Mrs. Kasha Davis).
So, what's the point of all this?
First of all, I'm not out to categorize or label people for the sake of categorizing or labeling people. In gathering this data, I was interested in seeing if there were any trends in terms of who is invited into the spotlight of Drag Race.
It should go without saying that there's nothing wrong with being white. (Some of my best friends and also parents are white.) But one of the things I love most about Drag Race is that it's basically the only show that I can put on and expect to see gay faces staring back at me (save for Michelle Visage and the occasional inexplicable Wilmer Valderrama guest spot). If the majority of those gay faces are white, then how inclusive is the show for people who don't see their color of gayness reflected back?
Surely those making the casting decisions for RuPaul's Drag Race have a lot of tough choices, every year, but I'd thank them for not flying Aryan Airlines in the future.
Bad at filling out bios seeks same.