‘RuPaul’s Drag Race UK vs. The World’ Season 2 premiere recap: What does ‘vs. The World’ need to be?

A more international cast promises a true global battle—but what should the season look like?

Having written more words about Drag Race than I can reasonably quantify over my years of recapping the show, I’ve occasionally had some bad reads. Most recently, I thought Kitten Kaboodle would be making a deep run on Canada’s Drag Race Season 4, only for her to be eliminated the very next episode. (Justice for Kitten!) But one read I felt completely secure in when I made it—and was thus floored when I was proven wrong—was that the upcoming Global All Stars spin-off would mark the end of the vs. The World sub-franchises.

In theory, it made sense: Global All Stars’ premise of bringing queens together from across the various international series was exactly what both UK and Canada vs. The World had done. It would make sense to consolidate this kind of cross-country All Stars gameplay under one title. But what I did not reckon with is that World of Wonder’s producing partners in the UK and Canada would not want to let their chance to have other series’ queens—particularly the well-known American All Stars queens—appear on their show. And so we embark on another run of UK vs. The World, with another edition of the Canadian version also announced and coming soon.

So the question no longer remains (we’ll get to Tia Kofi in a second), but has changed. We’re no longer wondering if UK vs. The World should continue—it is continuing regardless—but instead considering what the show should be. In an increasingly saturated Drag Race market, and with Global All Stars around the corner later this year, what purpose should this particular series serve?

I’d argue for two in particular: introducing wider audiences to superstars from other franchises, and really leaning into the idea of the “vs.” in the title. And in the premiere of UK vs. The World Season 2, we can already see signs of both of these attributes.

Tia Kofi is one of four UK queens hoping to keep the vs. The World crown secure for the Brits Credit: Courtesy World of Wonder

Let’s start with the former: as a show with a built-in audience, RuPaul’s Drag Race UK has a substantial platform to offer queens from other franchises. We saw this with Season 1, in which three queens from non-RuPaul-hosted franchises (Thailand co-host Pangina Heals, Canada Season 1 standout Jimbo and Holland Season 1 runner-up Janey Jacké) placed in the top two for the first three challenges of the season. You can trace career developments for these queens, including Jimbo’s eventual All Stars 8 victory and Pangina joining the cast of RuPaul’s Drag Race Live! in Las Vegas—not to mention the surprise revival of Drag Race Thailand for a third season.

 

Of course, their success off the show was in huge part because Ru connected to them on the show, and I give the host major kudos for that. I was a big skeptic going into the first season, and thought that Ru would give preference to his existing RuGirls, and that queens like Jujubee, Mo Heart, Baga Chipz, Blu Hydrangea and Cheryl Hole would do the best. Granted, four of them did wind up in the finale—but to his credit, that wasn’t Ru’s fault! He gave wins to non-RuGirls for the first half of the season, only for Pangina to eliminate Jimbo, then Blu eliminate Pangina immediately after. By the time Janey was sent home by Jujubee, the season’s strong, internationally diverse start felt like a memory.

But Season 2 is starting on the same note, with hope for a different ending. The cast consists of two Americans, four Brits and five queens representing other countries. Two of them, La Grande Dame from France and Marina Summers from Philippines, landed in the top two, with Marina ultimately winning the lip sync. Meanwhile, every queen who scored low—including our bottom two of U.S. queen Mayhem Miller and British queen Gothy Kendoll—was a RuGirl. And after two vs. The World seasons in which every American queen made it to the finale, with one even winning (Canada’s Drag Race champion Ra’Jah O’Hara), it’s refreshing to see one of the two Americans sent home first in this premiere.

If this sounds like I’m praying on RuGirls’ downfall, let me clarify: I think you need queens both familiar and unfamiliar to Ru for this format to work. But as someone who hadn’t seen either LGD or Marina on Drag Race prior to this episode—although I was familiar with their reputations and excited to see them—this was my ideal outcome for the premiere. If this platform is going to exist, giving queens that the audience may not be as familiar with as much time to shine as possible is the best use of it.

Marina Summers is an early breakout star of the season, winning the first challenge and lip sync Credit: Courtesy World of Wonder

But back to those RuGirls; specifically the British ones. There’s a portion of the premiere in which Gothy and her fellow UK queens (Tia, Choriza May and Jonbers Blonde) all circle up to discuss strategy. Despite all being from different seasons—a very good casting choice, I’d say—they agree that, because this is UK vs. The World, it benefits them to stick together. Choriza even at multiple points emphasizes that despite being Spanish by birth, she considers herself part of Team UK for this show.

And honestly? Thank goodness for that. Because as I said, if we’re going to keep having UK vs. The World, let’s really make it a battle between the home team and queens from other countries.

I actually wish that the cast were more even than it is—if they had removed one American queen, for instance, and added two more Brits. The idea of a true battle between teams is a thrilling one, and it adds a whole dimension to the show that simply can’t exist elsewhere. True, Rolaskatox and the Heathers have shown us that cliques can and will succeed on the show, but a clique of friends is one thing; a group battling for both self and country is another.

If the speculated cast list for Global All Stars turns out to be correct, it will be a very different affair, with only one queen from each country expected to be on. That means the premise is something unique, and that the vs. The World spin-offs can continue with this sort of inter-country rivalry. If the seasons continue to lean into that—and provided the judging of all the queens stays fair—I think there’s real promise for it.

Ultimately, I’m just happy to have more cross-franchise series on the air. As Drag Race has become an increasingly global series, it makes sense to bring queens from all over together to battle it out. My only hope is that the series continue to prove that their various purposes can exist alongside each other.

And hey, if the premiere is any indication—giving us Marina slaying a lip sync, LGD giving us a frog swallowing the Eiffel Tower on the runway and more—we’re in for a fantastic second season.

Episodes of RuPaul’s Drag Race UK vs. The World drop on Fridays at 4 p.m. EST on WOW Presents Plus in the U.S., on BBC Three and iPlayer in the UK and on Crave in Canada. We’ll be checking in on the show again mid-season, as well as at season’s end. If you want more Drag Race coverage, subscribe to our drag newsletter Wig! for exclusive content delivered straight to your inbox every Tuesday afternoon.

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