You’ve probably heard whisperings of Matthew Martin’s flawless impersonation of Bette Davis in the new film Hush Up Sweet Charlotte from Here TV. But what about all the other celebrity drag impersonators out there?
If mimicry is the highest form of flattery, impersonating a real-life figure is nothing short of adoration — or extreme mockery — and requires a certain degree of talent. Most drag artists craft their own identities, which is why celebrity drag impersonation has increasingly become a niche part of the drag world. In this list we honor the artists who have taken on impersonations of icons ranging from Cher to Adele, Little Edie to Fran Drescher, Bette Davis to Donatella Versace. You’ll recognize most of them from RuPaul’s Drag Race — the "Snatch Game" challenges have become the most widely watched celebrity drag impersonations in the world. But we’ve snuck a few noteables in the list that you may not have heard of.
Matthew Martin has been impersonating Bette Davis since he was 10 years old. This lifelong devotion to the screen queen led to partnerships with gay filmmaker Billy Clift for the 2010 film Baby Jane? — a drag spoof of Davis’ What Ever Happened To Baby Jane? — and last year’s indie follow-up Hush Up, Sweet Charlotte, which spoofs Davis’ 1964 thriller Hush … Hush, Sweet Charlotte.
Chad Michaels, who won the first season of RuPaul’s All Stars Drag Race, is easily the most famous impersonator of the “I Got You Babe” singer. The pair even performed together once in a West Hollywood club in promotion of Cher’s recent album, “All I Really Want To Do.”
Courtney Act, the second runner-up on the sixth season of RuPaul’s Drag Race, did a surprisingly spot-on impersonation of the nasal TV comedienne Fran Drescher — no small feat considering the fact that Drescher was known for her distinct Queens accent, and Act is Australian.
The RuPaul's Drag Race season 6 contestant (and top three finalist) did such a flawless impersonation of the boozy model and actress that RuPaul, who met Smith on more than one occasion, later commented, “She was really channeling her.”
Drew Droege’s hilarious impersonations of 90s it-girl Chloe Sevigny have been featured on Out, The Huffington Post, the New York Post, and were called “compulsively watchable” by The Advocate. Check out his viral video “Toast” below. And don't miss his live performances as Miranda Priestly in the The Unauthorized Musical Parody of The Devil Wears Prada at Rockwell in Los Angeles.
Davenport has to be only person to tell RuPaul to shut up — in Little Richard drag, of course — with such charisma.
Who knew country bumpkin Ginger Minj could mimic the posh British singer so perfectly? Also, Minj’s comedic timing in the role was perfect.
Teroy has made a name for herself on YouTube with her fierce celebrity impersonations and music videos. Could Drag Race be in her future?
Plus-sized queen Delta Work bit off more than she can chew when she impersonated the iconic singer. What do you think?
Jinkx Monsoon’s impersonation of the Grey Gardens star on the fifth season of RuPaul was fully-committed and won the Snatch Game challenge.
One of the most eerily convincing look-alikes and spot-on impersonations in Drag Race herstory, Tatianna, the youngest of the season two contestants, won the season’s Snatch Game challenge for her perfect impersonation of Britney Spears.
Atlanta-based, kinky drag performer Violet Chachki had words with fellow contestant Miss Fame the day before the season 7 Snatch Game challenge. Both performers had planned to do Donatella Versace. Luckily Violet pulled out a decent impersonation of season 5 contestant Alyssa Edwards.
That being said, New York fashion queen Miss Fame pulled off Donatella Versace’s signature look perfectly.
Drag Race season 3 contestant Delta Work has made a name for herself outside the Drag Race sphere as an Adele impersonator. She has even performed the impersonation at the Apollo Theater in New York.
Country queen Stacy Layne Matthews struggled on the fashion challenges during the third season of RuPaul’s Drag Race, but served a tough Monique from the film Precious.
Hollywood funnywoman Carol Channing is a gay icon, so the pressure was high when RuPaul season 2 contestant Pandora Boxx took on the impersonation. Luckily, the queen delivered a ditzy, hilarious, not-quite-there Channing and left the judges rolling.
Mariah Balenciaga missed the mark on the screen queen Joan Crawford and sashayed away following the season 3 Snatch Game challenge.
RuPaul season 3 contestant (and now transgender activist) Carmen Carerra did a fierce impersonation of J. Lo for that season’s Snatch Game. Carrera later reprised the role at gay clubs across the country.
Raven was the first runner-up on the second season of RuPaul (and the first runner-up of the first season of RuPaul’s All Stars Drag Race). During All Stars, she did a perfect Bea Arthur — and got a pie to the face.
Matthew Martin isn’t the only queen who can do Bette Davis (although, let’s be real, nobody does the screen queen quite like him). The Cher impersonator took on the Baby Jane star for the first season of All Stars and later won the competition.
Jujubee missed the mark a bit, but Fran Drescher is a hard one to impersonate — just ask Courtney Act.
Following her run on the first season of RuPaul’s Drag Race, Shannel rocked her Lucille Ball impersonation at the Dreamgirls Revue in West Hollywood.
Arizona queen Adriana Galliano frequently impersonates the Cabaret star.
Ivy Winters ranked low on the RuPaul season five Snatch Game, but was safe and didn’t have to lip sync. Winters made all her own costumes and nailed the look, just not the performance.
Frank has taken on the role of iconic film queen Joan Crawford more times than he can shake a wire hanger at. He performed in various theatre products of Baby Jane?, a drag spoof of the Crawford-Bette Davis 1962 cult classic What Ever Happened To Baby Jane?, held in small theatres across the country (here he is pictured in the world-famous Castro Theatre in San Francisco). When Hush Up director William Clift brought the performance to the screen in 2010 with his film of the same name, he obviously knew exactly who to cast.
Feisty Puerto Rican queen Yara Sofia impersonated Latin singer Charo on the third season of RuPaul’s Drag Race. Sofia later met the real Charo at the World of Wonder Christmas party where they did an impromptu performance together.
RuPaul’s Drag Race season 2 winner Tyra Sanchez impersonated Queen Bey for the show’s Snatch Game. Following the show, Beyonce told Flaunt magazine, “Miss Tyra is fabulous!” We’re kinda jealous.
Atlanta-based drag artist Evah Destruction is a character queen; she fully embodies the role she is impersonating. Evah comes from the same house as RuPaul season seven winner Violet Chachki (The Legendary Children). The two have performed together on a number of occasions. Watch her dramatic “I Dreamed A Dream” by Anne Hathaway/Fantine from Les Miserables below.
It was bad. Michaels’ impersonation was over-the-top, misplaced, and simply not Beyonce.
Sonique did an okay Lady Gaga, but was bested by other competitors in the RuPaul’s Drag Race season two Snatch Game and landed in the bottom two.
Drag Race alum Morgan McMichaels does a flawless P!nk. Watch her rendition of the campy rocker at the Dreamgirls Revue below.
Kenya Michaels, a contestant on season 4 of RuPaul's Drag Race, did a fierce Shakira medley at the Dreamgirls Revue in West Hollywood, California.
Before Phi Phi came on the fourth season of RuPaul’s Drag Race, she had been doing Gaga impersonations for some time. But on the show’s Snatch Game challenge, her impersonation was badly overdone. Easily the most hated queen in Drag Race herstory — by viewers and contestants alike — Phi Phi actually made it to the top three before losing to her enemy for the entire show, Sharon Needles. Don't miss Phi Phi's latest project, 365 Days of Drag, which also includes celebrity impersonations and cosplay fun.
One of the best Whitney Houston impersonators, Drag Race season 2 contestant Sahara Davenport frequently performed the impersonation before her tragic death in 2012. Watch her Whitney performance in New York City below.
Alexis Mateo’s impersonation of Alicia Keys involved the drag star flirting with female guest judge Amber Rose on the third season of RuPaul’s Drag Race — a shady nod to the singer’s rumored lesbianism.
Tired of this queen yet? Us too. Yara Sofia took a character with so much material to work with and delivered a flat Snatch Game performance.
Phoenix, Arizona drag queen Coco St. James is known for her celebrity impersonations. She’s done Jessie J, Cyndi Lauper, and Gwen Stefani, but is perhaps best known for her Lady Gaga impersonation. She was hired to do a mall tour to promote Lady Gaga’s perfume “Fame” and was even invited onstage by Mother Monster herself at the ArtRave concert in Phoenix in 2014.
Shangela did an OK Tina Turner on the third season of RuPaul’s Drag Race, but her signature “Hallelu!” interrupted the facade. Shangela is the only contestant to ever have returned from a previous season (she was the first queen eliminated on season 2).
Andrew Ryan is the newest cast member of the celebrity drag impersonators at Frank Marino’s popular show, Divas Las Vegas. The “I Kissed A Girl” singer is Ryan’s speciality.
Ever-lovable Latrice did a decent impersonation of the iconic singer on the fourth season of RuPaul’s Drag Race and eventually won Miss Congeniality during the finale.
Milan’s Diana Ross was more of a hyped-up, drag-addled Diana Ross — “Diano Ross first thing in the morning,” one judge commented — with an evident eyelash malfunction.
Frank Marino is the iconic host of the show Divas Las Vegas, the biggest drag show on the strip and one populated by the best celebrity impersonators in the country. Known for his ever-changing wardrobe and sharp one-liners, Marino’s Rivers impersonation earned him the title of Las Vegas “Entertainer of the Century” in 2009 and an appearance on the film Miss Congeniality 2.
Willam’s vapid and spot-on Jessica Simpson impersonation got several laughs from the judges during the RuPaul season 4 Snatch Game. Why’d you have to go and break the rules, Willam?
Nina Flowers did a stellar rendition of the Latin soul singer La Lupe on the first season of RuPaul’s All Stars Drag Race.
Manila did a stellar rendition of the “Living For Love” singer on the first season of RuPaul’s All Stars Drag Race.
Drag Race alumnus Alexis Mateo performed an 11-minute tribute to the fallen Latin singer at the Silver Dollar Saloon in Nashville in 2012.
Lineysha Sparx bombed as Latin singer Celia Cruz during the fifth season of RuPaul’s Drag Race. At the end of the episode, Sparx lip-synched against Detox and lost.
Coco Montrese is a seasoned impersonator of Janet Jackson. After impersonating the singer on Snatch Game, Montrese reprised the character at iconic Micky’s bar in West Hollywood.
Edwards has been a fan favorite since her run on season 5 of RuPaul’s Drag Race — but her Snatch Game impersonation as the “I Kissed A Girl” singer fell flat.
Detox lip-synched for her life at the end of the Snatch Game challenge on season five because her Ke$ha impersonation was that bad.
Texas-based Erica Andrews was considered by many across the country as one of the best celebrity impersonators before her tragic death in 2013. Her flawless Jessica Rabbit (who, if not a living celebrity, is still a character everyone knows) is the stuff of drag legend.
At BS West, one of Arizona’s biggest gay clubs, Saellah V. is known for her fierce celebrity impersonations — especially her performances as “Stupid Hoe” singer Nicki Minaj.
Cutie pie Jade Jolie surprised everyone with her turn as country and pop singer Taylor Swift during Snatch Game on RuPaul season 5. Jolie has since reprised the role several times at F Bar in Houston.
The queen of creep did a bold move when she chose to impersonate RuPaul’s right-hand lady on the fourth season of Drag Race — and kept Ru laughing the whole time.
On seaon 4 of RuPaul, Jiggly Caliente’s Snooki look was good but her performance missed the mark.
Although she had fierce lip sync skills, Dida Ritz did not stand out during most of season 4 of RuPaul’s Drag Race, and neither did her turn as daytime talk show host Wendy Williams.
After she left Drag Race, Latrice Royale launched into the spotlight and performed at clubs across the country. One performance at Micky’s in West Hollywood saw the drag star impersonate soul singer Pat Hodges.
After Venus D’Lite was eliminated early in season three of RuPaul’s Drag Race, she continued her work as a professional Madonna impersonator, including a recent performance at a pop-up event, Madonna Bar.
On the first season of Drag Race All Stars, comedy queen Tammie Brown impersonated over-the-top Christian singer Tammy Faye Messner, to rather mixed responses.
Roxxxy Andrews scored high for her impersonation of Grammy-nominated singer Tamar Braxton on the Drag Race season 5 Snatch Game, but eventually lost to Jinkx Monsoon.
On RuPaul season 5, Gunn sashayed away after her lackluster portrayal of Kim Kardashian.
Surprisingly, Joslyn Fox did a pretty good Teresa Guidice from The Real Housewives of New Jersey — “Can I have a Pinot Grigio?”
Katya was a fan favorite on season 7 of RuPaul’s Drag Race. For the season’s Snatch Game, she did a solid impersonation of Suze Orman, the TV host and financial advisor.
As far as looks go, Raven did a perfect Paris Hilton on the second season of RuPaul’s Drag Race, but her voice sounded nothing like the celebrity.
Gary Dee has been impersonating Joan Rivers for over 25 years. He is currently the host of the show Diva Royale — considered by many to be the greatest female celebrity impersonation show in the country — in Atlantic City, New Jersey. According to his bio, the real Joan Rivers had hired him numerous times to work alongside her during her lifetime.
The punky New York glamazon Pearl turned it out on season 7 of Drag Race as Big Ang, a.k.a. Angela Raiola, the breakout star of VH1’s Mob Wives.
Controversial, boundary-pushing Milk flopped as the French culinary chef and writer Julia Child on season 6 of Drag Race.
Darienne Lake played it safe as Paula Deen, the butter-loving chef from Savannah, Georgia.
In a ballsy move, Jessica Wild did a weird, over-the-top RuPaul for the season 2 Snatch Game. It takes guts to impersonate someone standing 10 feet away.
Fully-committed queen Alaska did a loud and raunchy impersonation of Lady Bunny on the fifth season of RuPaul.
It’s always a risk when a drag queen from one season of RuPaul impersonates a queen from an earlier one. Max nailed Sharon’s distinctly gothic look, but failed to deliver on her oddball personality.
Arizona drag queen Savannah Stevens has made a name for herself as a frequent Cher impersonator.
RuPaul’s Drag Race season 2 contestant Jujubee delivered a mediocre impersonation of Kimora Lee, the former lead designer for Baby Phat.
Raja had an upper hand going into the Snatch Game competition on season 3 of RuPaul: she had worked with Tyra Banks for years as a makeup artist. Needless to say, Raja nailed it with over-the-top “smizing.”
Another widely disliked queen, Laganja Estranja attempted to impersonate Rachel Zoe on season 7 of RuPaul and thoroughly missed the mark.
On season 3 of RuPaul’s Drag Race, Manila Luzon was hilarious as the former first lady of the Philippines, who reportedly owned thousands of pairs of high-fashion shoes.
Orlando queen Danielle Hunter has built a reputation as one of the best Dolly Parton impersonators in the country.
Transgender icon and model Amanda Lepore recreated famous high fashion spreads impersonating models Claudia Schiffer, Naomi Campbell, Linda Evangelista, Karen Elson, and Nadja Auermann for Tush magazine. While it may not strictly be performance impersonation, the photos deserve mentioning, as well as her famous performances as Marilyn Monroe.
Paolo Ballesteros has gained over one million Instagram followers for his celebrity drag impersonations and makeup tutorials. With makeup and wigs, Ballesteros has rather convincingly transformed himself into Katy Perry, Ariana Grande, Khloe Kardashian, Kris Jenner, Megan Fox, and many others.
Dressed in candy, Jessica Spirit impersonated the “Teenage Dream” era Katy Perry for the pop singer’s perfume launch event in Berlin.
Cloe Richards, a drag queen from Houston, Texas, has frequently impersonated the iconic country star.
Divas Las Vegas, the biggest celebrity impersonation show on the strip, features Zink’s flawless Reba McEntire — so flawless that when the real singer dropped by backstage, no one could tell the difference.
She’s back! One of the lead celebrity impersonations from the Illusions show in Tempe, Arizona, Stevens also does a knockout Reba McEntire.
Controversial drag king Kristine Karr from Southern California was featured on Ovation TV for her celebrity drag king impersonations of Pitbull, Adam Lambert, Rob Zombie, even Jesus.
Joining Matthew Martin/Bette Davis in Hush Up, Sweet Charlotte are some of the best drag artists working today, including Varla Jean Merman (and a brief cameo by Raja). Merman is known for her parody music videos and roles in films like Varla Jean and the Mushroomheads and the 2003 indie Girls WIll Be Girls, and was one of the performers featured in the HBO documentary Dragtime. In Charlotte, Merman flawlessly stars as the evil twin after her family’s fortune.
BenDeLaCreme won the Drag Race season 6 Snatch Game for her impersonation of Maggie Smith's character, Violet Crawley, from the hit BBC show Downton Abbey.
Drag Race season 7 contestant Jaidynn Diore Fierce did Raven-Symone — specifically, Raven from the Disney show That’s So Raven! Her comedy started solid, but then she did the same “I have a vision” joke again... and again... until the short performance went stale.