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  • Writer's pictureSarah

RuPaul's Drag Race vocabulary guide

My friend Tyler is a doctor of clinical psychiatry who recently put his brainpower to work in an email thread introducing a friend to a dictionary of RuPaul's Drag Race terms. In honor of the upcoming Season 6, I've pasted it with minimal edits below.


"Dearest ladies and lady-boys venturing into RuPaul's Drag Race:

To minimize the jarring nature of your transition to euphoria, I've crafted a little insider's guide to all things drag, particularly the nuanced lexicon in use by these world-class enterTAINTers.

Dictionary (the library is OPEN):

Fishy: generally used to refer to a queen who seems "real," in terms of femininity. Sometimes, this is used in a derogatory fashion (i.e., "She may be fishy, but she's not that talented"). It is also possible to "serve fish," meaning you're going for a particularly "girly" look.

Ki-Ki: the process of gossiping with another queen. You may often hear reference to a "Ki-Ki session." 

Not to be confused with...

Kai-Kai: the act of drag queen sex, which presumably would take place while both parties are in drag. Generally perplexing to most drag queens who are often gay men (at least on Drag Race) who in all likelihood would find the notion of having sex AS a woman WITH a woman rather off-putting.

Reading: calling another drag queen on a perceived flaw, usually in a clever or subtle manner (i.e., a backhanded compliment). References will often be made to "getting your library card," how "reading is fundamental," and that "the library is open." All of these sayings just mean that a good queen should be adept at clocking her follow competitors.

Which brings us to...

Shade: a direct insult. Shade is generally "thrown" and may also be associated with "T," which means "truth." Drag queens will often preface a read by saying "no T, no shade," which generally means they're about to be totally shady (the way a biological woman might say "no offense" right before being offensive, as if that absolves the insult). Recently, queens have taken to ironically saying "all T, all shade" before making an insult, meaning they don't care if others think they're being catty.

Gagging: meaning overwhelmingly awesome. Think of something else that might make you "gag." When someone is "gagging," they can't handle taking in all the awesomeness at once.

Sickening: "sickening" is to Drag Race as "fierce" was to Top Model or Project Runway, circa 2007. Presently, this approximates the highest order compliment one drag queen can offer another.

Serving (insert anything) Realness: this is an expression used to convey what you're trying to embody in your drag look. For example, you may be "serving evil henchwoman realness," if you're dressed as a super villain. This may be the single most over-used phrase among drag queens. Get ready to GAG!

Sissy dat walk: meaning make sure to look feminine while coming down the runway. This saying is more of an "up-and-comer" on the show.

Hunty: sort of like "girlfriend," but meant to be a tongue in cheek amalgamation of "honey" and, well, you know.

Pageant Queen: a drag queen who primarily competes in drag queen pageants. Yes, apparently, there is such a thing and I should probably get to one, STAT. This term is generally used in a derogatory fashion, meaning the way she carries herself is almost "princess-y" and she may not be as edgy, funny, or spontaneous as the other girls.

Other vocab tips

Be ready for various nonsense words that Rupaul will use to express how absurdly sickening things are about to get (i.e., "eleganza," "glamorousa," etc.). Bonus points if they contain "Ru" (e.g., "Rupocalypse," "Ruview").

Lastly, always be ready to protect your Charisma, Uniqueness, Nerve, and Talent (which spells...?) from particularly penetrating double entendre.

I think that pretty much covers it! Welcome to the family, HUNTY!"


Who else is excited for Season 6? I'll leave you with me, Tyler, and Chris high-fashion posing with Season 4 winner (and my all-time favorite) Sharon Needles. I paid her homage by dressing up like Robin Mansions.


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