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Above: Yara gets grilled.
"What qualities do I look for in an All-Star?" pondered RuPaul Charles, leaning back in a patio chair outside the Abbey, a posh gay bar in West Hollywood. "These are the kids who have risen to the top. Listen, they're all great, but some of these kids, quite frankly, you can't remember their names. But the ones that we've chosen... you understand who they are, why they're there, and what they bring to the party. And what makes them special is star quality. They have star quality."
The world's most famous drag queen was, for the moment, out of drag. Behind him, however, a procession of gowned men strutted the red carpet at the RuPaul's All Stars Drag Race premiere party. They were the "kids," the heroes and villains, the "Heathers" and "boogers" from past seasons of Logo's popular reality television series RuPaul's Drag Race.
For nearly all of these drag queens, the title of America's Next Drag Superstar slipped from the tips of their press-on nails. (Raja was the only champion present.) But thanks to a special edition All Stars season, which premieres Monday, 12 former contestants will have another opportunity to snatch the crown.
"The public wanted more of the show," RuPaul said. "So the obvious choice was to bring back 'the Avengers' of drag: the biggest and the baddest."
Above: Latrice works up the crowd.
For fans of Drag Race, the names of these Avengers are legendary: Nina Flowers, Shannel, Tammie Brown, Raven, Jujubee, Pandora Boxx, Manila Luzon, Alexis Mateo, Yara Sofia, Mimi Imfurst, Chad Michaels, and Latrice Royale. Together, they're a powerhouse of drag that spans factions and genres, a tapestry of age, race, ethnicity, and regional diversity. Any would make a worthy champion. According to RuPaul, this is exactly what the show intended.
And then there were those who didn't make the cut. Willam Belli camped out on the red carpet for several hours, signing autographs and passing out star-shaped stickers stamped with his likeness.
"I am sober tonight," confided Belli, whose rendezvous with a boyfriend resulted in his disqualification during season 4. "I am trying to rein in my personality because people think I'm a wild child. I don't know why I'm not on All Stars. People think it's because I'm difficult to work with or I won't follow the rules. So I'm just trying to be a team player." Across the patio, a man yelled that he could see up Belli's dress.
"Bitch, there's an attached panty," he pointed out. "I don't care. It's Leger!"
As West Hollywood previewed the upcoming Drag Race, another fierce competition raged across the country: the presidential debate between Mitt Romney and Barack Obama. Even in the Los Angeles limelight, the specter of politics threw its shade.
"I think regular politics is a stupid bore," RuPaul said. "Politicians say things to get people to vote for them, so they can get into office and have power. But they don't believe what they're saying. Even when they say it, they don't believe it. I don't have time for that. I vote, but I don't take any of that bullshit seriously."
He added, "I think once you decide to follow your heart ... that's the most political thing you could ever do in your life."
Above: Mimi Imfurst in a mellow moment.
Though the national debates have remained silent about LGBT issues, there were many at the Drag party more than willing to address the pink elephant in the room.
"We are all created equally," stated Tiffany Pollard, known by her reality television moniker New York. "We all demand a certain amount of love and respect. Everybody is their own leader. Whoever doesn't get with that? Shut the fuck up. I'm so sick of people telling other people what to do."
"I should be president next," she added.
"It's very important to vote this year," said Pandora Boxx, whose single "Nice Car, Shame About Your Penis" is forthcoming. "You have one presidential candidate who is very adamantly against gay people and gay rights. And you have the first sitting president ever to speak out for gay people. So it's a very crucial year."
"You can't sit on your ass and complain," urged Drag Race judge Michelle Visage later in the evening. "If you want to do something, fucking vote."
And who has RuPaul's vote?
"Oh, I think you know who I'm rooting for," he concluded, in his trademark laugh.
UPDATE: Willam Belli has informed The Advocate that he was working the red carpet as press for New Now Next. He will also make an appearance in an upcoming episode of Glee.