Two episodes into Drag Race All Stars season seven and it’s already clear we are in for quite the treat. After a few questionable seasons of Drag Race that left viewers wanting more (we’re looking at you UK Vs. The World), it’s already obvious All Stars 7 is here to provide us with everything one could hope for in an all stars season of the beloved show. Part of that has to do with the caliber of talent on this season—the contestants aren’t just great drag queens, they’re great at the game of Drag Race. There’s also the lack of eliminations this time around, which not only grants the eight queens the ability to take risks without fear of going home, but also allows them to show off every single look they brought for the main stage and after the first runway, it’s clear why that’s so important. It’s known that All Stars runways are usually a caliber above those on a normal season. The queens have gained money and connections by the time they go on All Stars and that is most obvious when it comes to their looks. So, if that’s the case, it makes sense that runways for this inaugural All Winners season are even a head above the run of the mill All Stars, made evident when Shea Couleé stepped out for the episode one runway in Valentino Haute Couture.
In fact, All Stars 7 in general has shown the franchise’s gradual shift toward high fashion, a move that isn’t too surprising. Drag is an art form after all, one that relies heavily on fashion, and over the years, the quality of runway looks has been on an incline. “In season three, there was a lot of dolling up fast fashion with clever jewelry,” said Raja, who is considered the original fashion queen of Drag Race told W. “Eleven years later and everything has changed. Some have designer pieces and everything's encrusted in stones.”
It’s possible Raja was talking about Couleé, who has been showing off many designer looks throughout the All Stars 7 press circuit, including pieces by Marc Jacobs, Christopher John Rogers, and Valentino. It all led up to the premiere, which dropped on Paramount+ last Friday. For the first runway of the season, themed—“I’m crowning”—Couleé stepped out in a floral printed gown and robe with wool fringe from Pierpaolo Piccioli’s fall 2019 couture collection for Valentino, making her the first queen to ever wear haute couture on the show. The Nefertiti-inspired look was completed with a crown made of braids, jade green gage earrings, and beautiful gold accessories.
The exquisite look, though, was just the culmination of Couleé’s high fashion All Stars premiere, which also included a visit from “legendary queen” Naomi Campbell, who provided feedback to all the queens on their runway walks. Over the years, Drag Race has boasted many A-list guests, from Lady Gaga to Michelle Williams, but Campbell’s appearance seems like her way way of granting approval for the show to enter into the world of high fashion. It also made for a heartwarming moment. Many of the queens revealed they learned to walk the runway from watching Campbell, and it was Couleé who made it clear how important it was to walk for the supermodel. “This is my moment to show my teacher all that I’ve learned,” she said. When Couleé’s walk brought Campbell to tears, it became obvious why she has been chosen by many designers to be the queen to bring high fashion to Drag Race.
Drag Race has always been filled with high fashion references (just check out @fashioncandrag on Instagram who documents them) and this is hardly the first time a piece has gone from the fashion runway to RuPaul’s runway. Just last season, we saw Kerri Colby wear Versace on the main stage and Kahmora Hall, the self proclaimed “Mackie Doll,” wear a dress from Bob Mackie spring/summer 2001. Still, this season feels different. On the second episode of All Stars 7, which dropped along with the first, Monet X Change stepped out for the pleather-themed runway in a beautifully constructed brown column dress inspired by a look from Daniel Roseberry’s spring 2021 couture collection for Schiaparelli. While she didn’t wear Roseberry’s actual design, the reference proves these queens are working on a completely different fashion plane than ever before, and considering we’re only two episode in, chances are we’re in for a lot more high fashion moments.