Russia's unofficial 'Drag Race' show has activists calling for change


Thanks to popular shows like RuPaul’s Drag Race, drag is becoming a mainstream form of entertainment around the world. So much so that World of Wonder, the producers behind the RPDR franchise are constantly expanding the universe with drag competition shows abroad. 

Now, Russian TV is attempting something similar with their own unofficial version of the cult drag competition show. However, the program is receiving criticism, not only from Russian authorities but also from LGBTQ+ activists. 

Last week, Russian social media star, Nastya Ivleeva unveiled her new unofficial adaptation of RuPaul’s Drag Race. The show, Royal Cobras stars Ivleeva, a straight cisgender woman stars as host while the panel of judges will also be straight celebs.

However, many were quick to acknowledge that it lacks any mention of ties to the LGBT+ community. Conversations about LGBTQ topics and issues are not discussed.

Activist Nikita Andriyanov told the Moscow Times that Royal Cobras has “nothing to do with the LGBT+ agenda in Russia” because it doesn’t explicitly say “this show was about the LGBT+ people.”

In the first episode of the show, an opening disclaimer reads that Royal Cobras is “not aimed at former nontraditional sexual attitudes.”

Even more, the disclaimer references Russian’s “gay propaganda law” which was signed by Vladimir Putin in 2013. The ordinance bans the “promotion” of “non-traditional sexual relationships.”

Those found guilty under the law can be sentenced to large fines or up to 15 years in prison.

According to the Moscow Times, "Complaints have already been filed with Russia’s communications watchdog and the Prosecutor General’s Office over possible 'propaganda of nontraditional values' represented on the show." 

Similarly in 2019, a cinema in Makhachkala in Dagestan banned screenings of the K-pop band BTS’s film, BTS World Tour: Love Yourself. A local anti-LGBT group called the band “Korean homosexuals” and accused them of “over-the-top immoral behaviour.”

Andriyanov believed the wording in Royal Cobras’ disclaimer “belittles human dignity.”

“The main problem lies in the silence – hence the feeling that LGBT+ people have never existed and that all this is ‘just show business’,” he added.

For Andriyanov, he thought Royal Cobras could've serve as an introduction to drag culture to Russian media as well as raise more awareness about LGBT+ community.

“The only thing this show can do for the community is that drag queens can get their moment of fame and possibly earn more followers on Instagram,” Andriyanov said. 

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