One of the most enduring questions of RuPaul’s Drag Race, Season 2 is:
Why didn’t Raven win?
It’s fair to say that Raven is one of the most iconic beauties from the show, right? And that she has a mouth to match it.
But it’s fascinating to look back at her in Season 2, then in All Stars, and now in the Fashion Photo RuView. In the second season, she served up pure pin-up realness, unclockable bombshell beauty. In All Stars, she brought a much more exaggerated mug and outrageous outfits, aiming to be more of an avant garde spectacle. And in the more casual videos she does for WOW Presents, she takes a much more laid back approach, serving up impeccable face with occasionally ridiculous and subversive outfits. (Remember those crazy airbrushed T shirts?)
Her attitude has evolved, too. Raven came into Season 2 as one of the older, more accomplished queens. She acted entitled to the crown, fiercely judgmental toward the younger, less experienced queens, especially Tatianna. And she wasn’t as eager to make a spectacle of herself, to play along with the more ridiculous challenges of that season. (Remember that chicken outfit from the “Country Queens” episode?)
Although she could be funny and cutting in her commentary, she was fairly reserved in the challenges and on the runway. Her friendship with Morgan in the early part of the season gave her a “Mean Girls” vibe, and it wasn’t until Drag U and All Stars that we saw her warm up, play along, and have more fun with the other queens.
All of this is to say that in Season 2, Raven had that dreaded “vulnerability” problem. She was too poised, too perfect. She didn’t have a storyline of struggle or hardship, whereas Ru frequently acknowledged Tyra’s struggles, her son, how much of a difference that prize money could make.
It’s just too bad that having a story doesn’t mean you have a personality, too.
Many thanks to all of you for joining in on my WEEK OF RU, Season 2! I’m so glad to have finally illustrated all the seasons of this crazy, crazy show!
I fell in love with Jujubee all over again in Season 2. She was essentially the shining star among the cast, and I’m a little shocked she didn’t steal the crown. (If Season 2’s winner had been selected by popular appeal, surely she would have!) In any case, Jujubee was kind enough to answer my interview questions after I had thoroughly gushed about how great she is.
CHAD: First, let me say that I had a ton of fun re-watching Season 2. It was such a great cast of queens with the perfect blend of ego, drama, and talent. But frankly, you really stood out as the heart and soul of the season—both with your humor in the workroom and your impeccable performances onstage. What were your favorite experiences on set that we didn’t see on screen?
JUJUBEE: Rupaul’s Drag Race Season Two is the BEST EVER! Just ask us! Haha. There was so much that happened that you guys didn’t get to see onscreen, and a lot of those moments will forever be with me. So many precious and special moments happened. Believe it or not, we all had a wonderful time competing against one another. Sure, there was drama and arguments, but all that only happened because each of us had passion and something to fight for. We wanted that title!
JUJUBEE: The friendships that were created on set will always be close to my heart. No matter what, I am connected to every single sister I met there. We will always have each other’s backs. Raven and I became really good friends, and that was more apparent on RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars. Pandora, Tatianna and I were always around each other. We’d help one another all the time, because that’s what sisters do. Jessica Wild is someone I adore and see whenever we both are in town (Boston) at the same time. Not many people know this, but Mystique and I had our morning coffee together before our pickup. It’s moments like that I will always cherish. It’s funny to think that our lives were changed just by being chosen by RuPaul! THANK YOU, RU!
CHAD: I can’t help but think of you and Raven as inseparable, and it’s hard to imagine a time when you weren’t friends. So I was surprised to see that you two didn’t seem to get really close during Season 2 until it was nearly over! What brought you two together?
JUJUBEE: It does seem that way doesn’t it? We were always friendly and helped one another. There was just way too much footage to cram into 43 minutes of television. Our moments together were very special and humorous, but it wasn’t our time to be seen. We definitely got to know one another more and became closer as the season went on. I knew from day one that Raven and I were going to be friends. It was either that, or we’d be mortal enemies. Hahaha.
CHAD: You’re inarguably one of the most beloved Drag Race queens—everyone lights up when they hear your name, and you’ve gone on to do the All-Stars season, Drag U, and a ton of other projects. What do you credit for that longevity? Your winning personality? The best manager in the business?
JUJUBEE: I have to credit the fans and supporters of RuPaul’s Drag Race and me. I feel so blessed to be able to perform around the world and do what I love. I have to pinch myself at times. I’m happy that drag is now a part of so many lives. I’m not sure what the attraction people have for me is; perhaps my ‘matter of fact’ ways? I definitely have to credit my manager/fiancé for working so hard for me. He’s a retired navyman, so he puts me into work mode when I have to be. He always makes sure I’m on time, and I’m thankful for that.
CHAD: Your jokes during the reading mini-challenge were legendary, and they established it as a mainstay for all subsequent seasons. Did you really come up with all those reads on the spot? Were you given any time to prepare?
JUJUBEE: I will never have reads as good as I did during that challenge. I knew of some of those jokes prior to the competition but had no idea I would need to use them on the girls. I was a nervous wreck, but I had to win SOMETHING! (That was the only challenge I won…EVER!) There wasn’t time to prepare, but when it came time to do it, we turned it out!
CHAD: In the “Rocker Chick” episode, they really built you up as the one to beat, but then things went awry. Was it a case of nerves? And how many Absolut cocktails did you drink after that, girl?
JUJUBEE: I was definitely super nervous. The nerves didn’t hit me until right before I walked onto the runway. I was an obvious wreck and there was no turning back. I can’t believe I screwed up Ru’s song in front of Ru! That’s a SIN! After that, I had everyone’s cocktail!
CHAD: You always seemed to crack up Ru in the workroom, but she was tough on you during the runway critiques, as if she thought you were coasting on your personality. What did she mean when she told you to “turn up the fire?”
JUJUBEE: Ru believed in me more than I did. I see that now, and it has inspired me to do better. It was interesting for me because my first lip sync was towards the end of the competition. There were three altogether during season 2, and by the time I had a moment to recover, the competition was OVER! I wouldn’t change it for the world, though. My experience on RuPaul’s Drag Race is worth more to me than anyone could understand. I feel truly blessed and am honored to call myself a Drag Race Alum!
[Chad’s note: I made some minor edits to the interview for grammar and clarity]
I had so much fun drawing Jujubee that I even featured her on the cover of my book collecting Season 2, 20 QUEENS! It’s now available to pre-order on Etsy! I should have the final books by December 1st, so they’ll make a fabulous holiday gift for any loved ones who like looking at cartoon drag queens.
And I’ve already made prints of all my new Jujubee art, so you can buy them today!
Okay. Let’s talk Tyra.
In a lot of ways, Season 2 set the stage for every Drag Race season since. So much of the season’s foundational structure and most beloved traditions (Snatch Game, The Reading mini-challenge) started there. Season 2 was so good, was filled with such amazing personalities and performances, that it should be held up as the gold standard of competitive drag queen reality programming.
Except that Tyra won. Or, at least, that’s the complaint you’ll hear from many, many Drag Race fans.
The first three seasons of the Drag Race were filmed in their entirety long before they started airing. The winner had been chosen and crowned, regardless what fans thought about it. The winners of Seasons 4 through 6 were only chosen after most of their episodes had already aired, and those selections certainly seem to have been based on which queen had the most vocal fans.
So the most recent season winners haven’t necessarily been the best queens, but rather the best reality TV characters. They’ve been the queens whose talent, personality, and style appealed to the most fans. Which isn’t meant to dismiss Sharon, Jinkx, or Bianca — I was rooted for all three!
What I’m saying is: Tyra would never, ever have won on the Drag Race based on fan reactions. Obviously. But that’s not what her season was about.
Ru picked her Season 2 winner based on her performance record in the challenges and on the runway. Tyra was alright in the performance challenges, but she was superb in that season’s frequent fashion challenges. She reliably brought dramatic, versatile looks to the runway, often with clever little costume changes.
I think Ru picked Tyra based on her mastery of the craft, the art of drag performance. Ru and the other judges did express skepticism about whether Tyra had star quality, but they had similar concerns about Raven, who often brought a chilly demeanor to the runway.
What do so many people have against Tyra? It all comes down to one unforgettable episode, “Here Comes the Bride,” wherein Tyra bizarrely sings and dances around the workroom until the other queens snap. Later, on the runway, several other contestants call her out on such frequently boorish behavior, and it’s a whole thing. In terms of televised drag queen drama, it is… everything.
But honestly, after things settled down, it seemed like Tyra toned down her behavior. I don’t remember anything objectionable that she did for the latter half of the season. She stepped up her game, approaching the challenges with a fierce competitiveness that won her the crown,… but not a whole lot of fans.
Season 1 of RuPaul’s Drag Race featured an eclectic cast of queens: lavish showgirls, sharp-edged genderfuckers, and… Tammie Brown.
But Season 2 narrowed the focus on fishier queens who could rock both the runway and the lip sync. Pandora Boxx stood out from the cast and brought something different, a contribution of camp and comedy.
I was lucky enough to chat with Pandora about her time on the show and the years since it aired:
CHAD: In recent seasons of the Drag Race, the show has celebrated a wide variety of approaches to drag. But you stood out in Season 2 with your comedic skills and campier sense of fashion. When you first met the other queens of that season, did you feel like the odd one out, or not?
PANDORA: I so did! I felt like I had walked into a room full of women. Everyone looked gorgeous. I quickly realized I was the campy queen. I didn’t realize how much I’d stand out as a campy queen but everyone was real, real fishy. The Season of the Fish!
CHAD: Do you consider yourself shy or introverted? What was it like to be filmed for the weeks of shooting under so much pressure and competition?
PANDORA: I feel like I’m an extroverted introvert, if that makes any sense. I can be quite quiet at times. Can you be funny and on 24 hours a day? That would be exhausting to me, and fake. There is a lot of pressure being shot that much. Plus, you want to stand out so you can last longer BUT still come across as genuine. It’s tough, but still exciting and fun.
CHAD: In every season of the Drag Race, queens struggle to find the right character for the Snatch Game–but your depiction of Carol Channing for the first one ever still stands as one of the most unforgettable Snatch performances in Drag Race herstory! How much were you told about the format of the game, and how did you prepare?
PANDORA: We knew NOTHING about the game until the day of the challenge. All we knew is that we might have to do a celebrity impersonation. Ru says it every season, “Make it funny.” Some queens choose people they do well in a lip synced show, but it’s harder to do for a few hours with NO lip syncing. I felt like, with Carol, I had the most leeway to do anything I wanted. Plus, Carol has the most amazing voice.
CHAD: It seemed like Santino always had something to say about your runway looks. How has your sense of style changed since the show?
PANDORA: He most certainly did. He literally said, “I don’t like your style.” How do you go anywhere from that? I think my style has evolved and certainly I have a little more money to invest back into drag. Drag is expensive! But now it’s also a full time job, so I can rationalize spending some nickels on sequins.
CHAD: It took a while for the Drag Race to build an audience and permeate queer culture. Did you feel like everything changed for you after Season 2 aired, or did it take a while for people to catch on to the show and catch up on past seasons before your career really took off?
PANDORA: It really took off after Season 2. There are certainly more viewers now, but from the beginning the audience was really passionate about the show. Certainly now, all the queens know what they are getting into and thus have really stepped up the game.
CHAD: Do you still feel like the Susan Lucci of the Drag Race?
PANDORA: I did win Miss Congeniality, which was voted on by fans, and that was a little bit of sweet justice. I’m very proud and thankful to have been voted fan favorite.
CHAD: Where can I get one of those amazing Pandora Boxx tank tops I’ve seen all over??
Prints of my new Pandora illustrations are available for sale here!
[Chad’s note: I made some very minor punctuation changes to the interview for clarity. No content was altered or omitted.]
Tatianna was the most fascinating queen to watch when I was revisiting Season 2 of the Drag Race. She was such a complicated character — young, but thoughtful. Inexperienced, but versatile and adaptable.
The drama between her and Raven was one of the predominant storylines of the second season, and it was so gripping because it was so relatable. Tatianna was a fresh, young queen bursting with talent and surprising us at all the right moments. Raven was a seasoned, accomplished queen who felt like Tati hadn’t earned her place in the cast. I could see both sides of the rivalry — neither queen was the villain.
Tatianna very graciously answered some questions about her time on Season 2, and she proved to be even more reflective and thoughtful than I expected!
CHAD: There was a lot of discussion during the season about your experience as a drag queen. On one hand, you had been dressing in drag since you were a teenager, but on the other, you had only performed seven times prior to Season 2. What was it like to be on the Drag Race so early in your career as a performing queen?
TATIANNA: It was a little intimidating, especially because I embellished how much I had actually performed. It was actually like 3 times. After seeing all the girls on the first day, I assumed I wasn’t going to last very long!
CHAD: Looking back on it, are you glad you were on the show so early, or do you wish you had been on a later season?
TATIANNA: I’m happy I got on, period! The only reason I have grown and progressed the way I have is because I was just kind of thrown into this business following the show, so I’m definitely happy I was on so early. Who knows what kind of queen I would be, or if I would even be performing now, without having my experience on the show?
CHAD: During Season 2, no one questioned your impeccable beauty, but some of the queens claimed you weren’t taking your drag far enough. How has your approach to drag evolved in the years since Season 2?
TATIANNA: I’ve definitely come full circle. There was a moment where I was really piling on the make up and trying to be as costume-y as possible in an effort to be more “drag”. Now I try to stay true to the realistic look I’m known for but also mix in different characters and looks to keep it interesting and fresh.
CHAD: Something that’s always interested me about the Drag Race is that the best queens don’t necessarily make the best reality TV stars. How do you think your personality played on TV? Would you have done anything differently after seeing the season aired?
TATIANNA: Well, for me, I feel a lot of the reason I lasted as long as I did in the competition was my personality and the drama I was a part of. If I could change anything, I would probably try not to care so much about having the other girls like me. To me, I came off a little whiny. But to my own defense, I was 21 years old lol… being almost 27 now, there are a lot of things I would do differently.
CHAD: You really, really nailed the Snatch Game. Like, it was perfection. Did you know what you were in for with that challenge? Had you ever done celebrity impersonations before?
TATIANNA: I honestly walked into that challenge really scared. I had never done anything like that, and I had never actually done an impersonation of anyone before. I didn’t even really get a feel [that] I was doing so well until everyone laughed at the “I got lost” joke.
CHAD: Season 2 seemed to really put you through the wringer, highlighting a lot of drama between you and some of the other queens. Are there any favorite friendships or memories that we didn’t see on screen?
TATIANNA: During my time on the show I got really close to Pandora, Juju, Jessica, and Sahara. I wish some of the times I spent with Sahara got highlighted a little more. She was hilarious and had my back a lot of the time.
[Chad’s note: I made some very minor edits for punctuation, spelling, and grammar. No content of Tatianna’s responses was altered or omitted.]
Thanks so much for reading! Tomorrow morning, I’ll share my new portraits of Pandora Boxx alongside my interview questions with her!