It may seem like an inglorious end when you're cast off first in a reality competition. But, unlike most other reality shows, the first queens eliminated on RuPaul's Drag Race have made the most of their limited screen time. Most notably is Miss Vanjie, who turned a catchphrase into internet fame, and Shangela, who has co-starred with Lady Gaga (in A Star Is Born, duh), walked the Oscar red carpet, headlined the opening ceremony for L.A.'s new facility for homeless queer youth, and did a medley of Beyoncé hits in front of Queen Bey herself at this month's GLAAD Awards. That's hard to live up to, but most first-cut queens are doing pretty damn fine themselves, performing and entertaining years after they sashayed away. Catch up with the girls:
The first queen ever eliminated from RuPaul’s Drag Race remains a memorable presence. Victor Bowling — the North Carolina native behind Victoria "PorkChop" Parker — boasts over 30K Twitter followers, often tweeting about politics (Porkchop is proudly blocked by Donald Trump) and promoting appearances at DragCon in L.A. PorkChop is also on Insta (with over 22K followers); check out her page for clips of her performing on a recent Drag Race European tour.
Shangela has come a long way.
This year alone, the performer had a role in the acclaimed film A Star Is Born starring Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga — and became the first drag queen to walk the red carpet at the Oscars.
Additionally, Shangela made the LGBTQ community proud earlier this month by dancing and lip-syncing to a medley of Beyoncé songs — in front of Beyoncé at the GLAAD Media Awards. The now-viral performance was so excellent, even Queen Bey herself rose for a standing ovation.
However, these glowing milestones in Shangela's career were never guaranteed. The drag queen was the first to be eliminated on season 2 of RuPaul's Drag Race — her first major media appearance. Her time in the spotlight may very well have ended there.
"If you haven’t seen it, and you go back and watch anything other than the first episode, you’ll miss me," joked Shangela Sunday at the grand opening of the Los Angeles LGBT Center's Anita May Rosenstein Campus. "I was the first in the door; I was the first to sashay away."
"I came back in a box on season 3 of RuPaul’s Drag Race," recounted Shangela, whose memorable personality helped her win a place back on the reality show. "Spoiler alert, didn’t win that either. But after seeing the episode and seeing the seasons, I knew I had some work to do. So I wasn’t afraid to go out there and do the work. I started working. I started traveling. I started getting better at makeup. I started getting better at hair a little bit."
"I started getting better at sewing — no, I didn’t," she joked — a reference to her infamously poor sewing skills. "But then I worked on myself and got to come back as what Beyoncé calls 'a grown woman' on All Stars season 3."
Shangela did not win her season of All Stars, either. A last-minute twist — eliminated contestants decided the final eliminations — snuffed out her chance to take that crown. However, even losing All Stars gave Shangela an opportunity for growth — in addition to A Star Is Born and the Beyoncé performance, she has appeared in Hurricane Bianca and its sequel, the animated Netflix series Super Drags, and Ariana Grande's thank u, next album. She presented her own story as an example to others who have encountered obstacles to achieving their dreams.
"It is about just doing the journey and not giving up and keep going," she said. "Because you never know when a great opportunity will come. But you’ve got to be prepared. You’ve got to have gone out there and put in the work so that when a great opportunity comes, you will be ready. And trust me, you don’t have to have a crown to be a queen."
Being the first to go on Drag Race's third season has not dampened Venus D Lite's performance schedule. Venus's alter-ego, Adam Guerra, is a renowned Madonna impersonator currently vogueing at clubs from El Paso to Palm Springs (Guerra reportedly spent $75K to resemble the Queen of Pop!). Venus is also itching to be part of a future Drag Race: AllStars, which you'd know if you followed her Twitter or Insta (the latter of which features plenty of images of Guerra and his adorable significant other).
Things have been quiet on the Alisa Summers front lately, but the drag persona of Tampa, Fla.'s Alex Hernandez is easing back into the public eye. Summers's Insta displays three recent images, with the queen giving face and body, and sporting some eye-popping wigs. Fun fact: Hernandez is a TLC super fan and Summers's first name is a play on the dearly-departed Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes.
This full-figured Ohio gal (the persona of Cincinnati-based Tony Cody) has not receded into the dragosphere. The happily-married Cody still performs often as Penny, often lip-synching for her life along other queens like Nina West, Jayda Mack, and Zsa Zsa Gabortion. Penny's social media is pretty impressive too, with over 33K followers on Twitter and over 13K on Instagram.
This poised Oklahoma queen remains one of the most shocking first eliminations in Drag Race history. But the bisexual, gender-fluid Mantle took that lemon of a loss and turned it into lemonade she's still sipping. Mantle has long pursued acting and, in 2016, made history for being the first person eligible for an Oscar nomination for best supporting actor and best supporting actress (it was for Mantle's role in Confessions of a Womanizer). Mantle continues to act and perform, and has a sizable social media presence, where she announced recently that she met Meryl Streep.
Feelin my notes! #waitforit So stoked to be performing at the very first #CosmicSlap this Friday & Saturday 4/05 & 4/06 at the #cavernclubtheater at @casitadelcampo with this stellar lineup hosted & curated by our fierce pilot Mz. @puzziniggrr Get your tix at cavernclubtheater.com or the link in my bio. #rocknroll #psychadellic #funk #livemusic #drag #trans #dragrace #portishead #peaches #fuckthepainaway Video by @littlemisssarcastic
Many feel the "sacrificial lamb" of season 7 was done dirty by Ru and the crew. This mature queen has long been perfecting her drag art, but didn't get much time to shine on the show. No matter, Tempest is still very much a presence in the drag world, appearing at DragCon, performing (usually in her home state of Arizona), and cracking up her 63K+ Twitter followers. She was also the star of a film, Cherry Pop, directed by Assaad Yacoub. Tempest's alter ego, Patrick Holt, is also busy raising his two kids.
Season Eight is a bit of an anomaly in that this queen, Naysha Lopez (aka Fabian Rodriguez), was the first eliminated — but not the first queen to leave the season. Lopez was brought back after sashaying away, so she nabbed much more screen time than Laila McQueen or Dax ExclamationPoint. So, technically, Lopez was the first to go, but she's still kickin'; performing from Orlando to West Hollywood, commanding a sizable social media presence, and showing off her gorgeous man.
A young, ambitious queen, Laila actually survived for two episodes but then was sent home in a double elimination. This alterna-beauty also known as Tyler Devlin is still only in her 20s, so her Twitter and Insta game is fierce (nearly 300K followers combined!); check out her take on icons like Marilyn Manson and David Bowie on her platforms. Laila performs a lot, so catch her next time she's in your gayborhood.
Another Southern queen, Dax was eliminated in the second episode of season 8, along with Tempest DuJour. For a relatively young queen, Dax Martin's drag creation has a long history on the scene, serving as mother for season 7 winner Violet Chachki. Dax's interesting style is based on a love of comic book and gaming characters, where she's modeled looks based on Wonder Woman, Lara Croft, Sailor Moon, and Chun-li. Dax's Insta is packed with her cosplay looks, and her Twitter is also very active and entertaining.
#SHAAAAADE had a FANTASTIC time this weekend in California with @heyqweentv @sinagrace @danikaxix !!!Filming day was long but so worth it! I absolutely can’t wait for you all to see the final edit of the episode. NOW. time to pack up all this drag. Until next time!!! Special Thanks to @ardawigs for the hair and everyone who helped make this trip happen!!! #cosplay #drag #xmen #typhoonicorn #hollywoooood #stuff #things #catsound
This season 9 queen won over fans, if not the judges. Struck by nerves, Jaymes Mansfield (a.k.a. James Wirth) struggled to get a word in alongside more Type A queens and was cut in episode two. Nevertheless, Jaymes's signature bombshell look and sweet puppeteering skills promises she won't want for gigs. Don't forget to follow Jaymes on Insta, where she uploads video and pics regularly.
Miss Vanjie, the diva in a bottle brought to life by Jose Cancel, is more than a catchphrase. Yes, her iconic backwards goodbye where she said her name three times before disappearing into the ether will live on long after we're all gone. But Miss Vanjie is also a quick wit and a treat for the eyes; of course she was asked back for season 11 of RuPaul's Drag Race. Miss Vanjie, who happens to be Alexis Mateo's drag daughter, parlayed her season 10 stint into lit live performances and social media fame, with over 800K Insta followers and 140K on Twitter.
Yes, she was 15 out of 15, but that hasn't dimmed the wattage of this Korean-American queen. Proudly sporting her heritage in her K-Pop-infused looks, Soju is a breath of fresh drag air. Since being eliminated from season 11, Soju has continued to perform and attracted more followers to her already popular YouTube show, Shot With Soju. Expect this drag daughter of Kahmora Hall to remain a fixture on the Chicago drag scene for years to come. Oh, and yes, the persona of Tony Hyunsoo Ha is on the socials, of course.