RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 10 Contestants Spill Their Style Secrets and Fashion Influences

Kicking off its 10th regular season tonight on VH1, RuPaul's Drag Race has achieved something rare for a reality television show: It’s found genuine favor with the fashion establishment. Designers like Marc Jacobs and Jeremy Scott, as well as models like Gigi Hadid, have all served as guest judges on the show. You can find former contestants like Violet Chachki and Detox sitting front row at Jean Paul Gaultier Haute Couture or Vivienne Westwood Men’s. Meanwhile, Drag Race All Stars’ Milk has modeled out of drag both on the runway at Perry Ellis and in a campaign for Jacobs. And ever since Steven Meisel shot Carmen Carrera for the pages of W in 2011 (and then again, in a full spread, in 2013), contestants have been popping up in the pages of fashion bibles all over.

Recently, 10 of the 14 contestants from Season 10 stopped by the W studios to discuss their fashion inspiration and how they get their eye-popping looks together. Their mental mood boards, it turns out, are varied, drawing influence from celebrities, models, their own heritage, show business, and of course other queens. But runway fashion still figures prominently. Versace, Jeremy Scott, John Galliano, and Jacobs come up frequently, but perhaps it’s not surprising that even years after his retirement, it’s the maximalist French couturier Thierry Mugler who remains a favorite inspiration for drag queens everywhere. Three queens mentioned his theatrical and ornate designs as an inspiration. (We should note, too, that Mugler was an early champion of diversity as well; pioneering transgender models Connie Fleming and Robert Close, as well as drag-adjacent club kid Kabuki Starshine, walked his runways alongside the leading supermodels of the day). More than a few nods to Mugler or actual Mugler pieces—most notably, the black suit that Detox wore to the Season 5 finale—have turned up on the show’s runway throughout the years.

Of course, most queens are not working with couture-level budgets. To put together their striking ensembles, many rely on their own sewing skills, while others hunt for bargains in department stores or online. (There’s also a small cottage industry of independent designers who offer their skills to queens.) So while few queens wear actual high-end designer fashion, it’s no surprise that fashion has embraced the show. Strip the fashion industry of its business side, exclusivity, and marketable ideas of luxury, and what's really at its beating heart is a love for expression, wonder, and unabashed personal glamour. There’s probably no better group of people who embody that pure fashion drive—even on a budget—than drag queens.

Here, the queens of Season 10 reveal their style icons, fashion tips, and much else.

Monique Heart

Hailing from Kansas City, Missouri, by way of Long Island, Monique Heart grew up in the church and started pursuing drag after getting a sign from God. It was by divination, perhaps, that she began answering the questions we had written down in our notebook before we even asked them.

On her drag style:
“I would say Monique is fashion-forward, but she’s not like a fashion guru. I know what’s trendy. I know what’s cute, like this is inspired by Moschino. Jared Thompson, he’s a Kansas City local as well. Shout out to you. Or naked—so it’s either fashion or it’s naked. Rhinestones, pasties, all that. No in-between.”

On her favorite designers and style icons:
“I love Dolce. I’m really falling in love with Versace, especially after watching his little TV special. So I’ve just been falling in love with it. I love Naomi Campbell, and she’s just like Versace, Versace, Versace! So I just wanna be more like here.”

“If you’re thinking someone more current who inspires me, I would say SZA. She can just sell something. She can wear sweatpants and high heels shoes and I go, ‘…Amazin!’”

Shopping tips (and how she brings a look together):
"Now? Because I have the monties, I’ve been getting things made. Like this is made by GB Couture. I sew. Forever 21 has been giving me the hookup on the clearance with their sequins. I go to Gen X, which is like an Urban version of Marshalls. I’ll find cute shit, and I’ll rework it and refurbish it and make it something for the stage. So I generally don’t have a bunch of clothes. I generally have a bunch of performance pieces.”

The Vixen

Chicago has sent many queens to the Race, but despite several standouts, none has taken the crown in a regular season. The Vixen is close friends with last season’s favorite, Shea Coulée (the poncho she wore for the shoot was made by Shea’s drag daughter Kenzie Coulée), and like Shea and other Windy City queens, she’s a smart, polished contestant whose drag persona draws from her heritage.

On her drag style:
"Well, I am very Afro-futuristic. I like to do things that harken to Afrocentricity, but also the sense of the future, a sense of modern fashion. But I like to keep some flavor in there. A lot of times when you see dystopian fashion, it’s very void of culture; and I believe if anything, we’re going to become more cultural. I like to push that while pushing the envelope.”

On wearing Grace Jones:
“I saw this. I love Grace Jones. She’s such an inspiration, so not only to be wearing something that looks like her but to wear her, feels good."

On her favorite designers and style icons:
“I really love the 3-D printing works that Iris Van Herpen does. Elie Saab is always an inspiration. Jeremy Scott and more fun things like that. Jean Paul Gaultier. One of my favorite movies is The Fifth Element. All [Gaultier’s] costume work in that is like goals, goals, goals.”

Shopping tips:
"I say this all the time, but it always rings true. If you’re shopping and something comes in black and one other color, get it in the other color because everyone is going to get it in black.”

Eureka O‘Hara

Fans will already know this Tennessee-based queen. She started out strong in Season 9 before a knee injury forced her to exit the Race. She’ll return in full form this season, and her experience level was already evident on set.

On her drag style:
“I think for me, I try to go high fashion, high glam, but still having a little bit of camp with everything that I do. I like there to be glamour aspects and fashion aspects to everything that I wear, but also like a campy, fun aesthetic piece to it as well. Obviously with this one, it’s made well for my figure, so it accentuates my curves and makes me look good, but it’s also like a random graffitied fabric. I just like to take fashions and make them look good—one, for a plus-sized figure, and then two, have like an element of camp and fun to it.”

On her first drag outfit ever:
“I wore this see-through blue gown. I was so nervous I carried a purse out on stage that did not match, and everyone just cheered for me anyway. And it really made me realize what drag was about. That kind of what made me do it again, weirdly.”

On her favorite designer:
“Mugler is one of my favorites designer icons. I love his vision. He has range in his fashion, and it goes anywhere from simple and stylized to overdramatic, almost costume Broadway aspects. Also fetish—he goes so many different directions with his fashion. I think he has a great eye, and, you know, he’s also a gay man. So I love that.”

Shopping tips:
“Maybe a shopping tip specifically for a bigger woman: Find things that accentuate size in the breasts and the hip area. Make sure it’s slimming in the middle. Anything that flairs at the hip is going to help you get some shape. Anything that’s baggy up top, or bigger in the shoulder, bosom area is going to give you more shape. But cinched in the center.”

“Don’t be afraid to shop around online and look. I love stopping at random Ross’s and different outlets stores like that across the country because you never know what you’re going to find.”

Yuhua Hamasaki

This New York City queen has made her mark on the city's drag scene but is also one of the area’s top drag seamstresses. She’s made outfits for past contestants like Bob the Drag Queen and Peppermint, but also provided some of the outfits for the queens she’ll compete against on Season 10.

On her drag style:
“It is very Asian-inspired because it’s a part of my culture and heritage. A lot of the stuff that you see me do and say performance wise, and also aesthetic wise, it’s very inspired by Asian culture.”

On her first drag look:
“The first time I did drag I wore angel wings, and I wore very high heels, and I wore a white outfit.”

On how she brings a look together:
“Luckily I know how to sew, so that saves me a lot of money. So I make most of my stuff. Eighty percent of the stuff that I wear I make myself, and I sew for other girls too. "

Blair St. Clair

The 22-year-old St. Clair may hail from Indianapolis, but she's a spiritual baby of Broadway. Whatever inspiration she doesn’t find in Playbill, she finds in 60s Vogue.

On her drag style:
“Blair St. Clair is your 1950s, 1960s Broadway retro vintage girl. I’m very inspired by Twiggy and models of the 60s and emulating their high-class looks, but also pairing it with theatricality and the spectacle of Broadway.”

On her first drag look:
“The first time I did drag, coincidentally, I was actually cast in a musical, and I was playing a drag queen in the show. I was wearing a lot of beaded, sequin-y things. The first time I did drag as Blair St. Clair in a club, I wore a highlighter-green mesh costume that was, like, see-through, over a black panty and bra combination. It looked very trashy and horrible. It was nothing anywhere close to what my brand is today, but it was something that I just kind of threw together that I could find at a Goodwill—something that I thought maybe a drag queen—or the art of what I thought drag was—could wear."

On her drag evolution:
“I’ve always had an idea of what I find beautiful or very enticing to me, and that’s a lot of refinement, class, sophistication, Old Hollywood. But back then I just thought what drag was what people wanted to see. Since then, I’ve learned that I could be and do what I wanted to do, and that’s still cool enough where I don’t have to make it mainstream.”

On her favorite style icons:
"Bernadette Peters, Barbra Streisand, Julie Andrews, Ann-Margaret. Twiggy is a huge inspiration for me. I also love Cindy Crawford, and any kind of model that you’ve seen in the 60s or the 90s because I feel like the 90s kind of reinvented the 60s in a new way. I’m also just really inspired by empowerment in women.“

Style tips:
“I say that a look is finished head to toe. The little accessory pieces are always additions that make a look finalized. Whether it’s a little bow or a hat fascinator on your head, whether it’s making sure your nails are polished, the fine, minute details make it look fully complete. You can have an amazing concept or an amazing look but the details make everything perfect.”

Monét X. Change

A New York City native who’s already a marquee name among Manhattan nightclubs (fellow New Yorkers should get the pun in her name instantly), Monét is a talented, multifaceted queen. It doesn’t hurt her chances that she’s BFFs with Season 8 winner Bob the Drag Queen.

On her drag style:
“I would describe my style as being very unapologetically black. I love celebrating the black experience, and that’s what a lot of my drag is informed by—really powerful, strong black women. So I try to do that a lot through my drag, whether that be natural hair, or wearing African print, or doing very sociopolitical numbers that make commentary on those issues. And, honestly, a lot just women in general. I think women are the shit, and I love women. I may not love vaginas, but I love women, and I like to celebrate that as much as I can in my drag.”

On her favorite style icons and designers:
“Being a drag queen you are allotted a chance to showcase a lot of unknown designers, people like Dominic Couture, or Christopher Palu, or people that don’t get the shine or the recognition that they deserve. We get to do that as drag queens, so I try to do that as much as I can by using those designers. But, of course, I’m still inspired by people like Zac Posen, and by the style of Grace Jones. Her edginess, her grit, to me is so high-fashion urban, which I really cling to.”

On the first thing she wore to do drag:
“It was a quarter-length sequined jumpsuit from, like, Forever 21. Saying it was sequins is really nice—it was, like, glitter dots that they just threw on this fabric.”

Shopping tips:
“I think it is very important that when you buy clothes, don’t be afraid to mix and match. Don’t feel like you have to break the bank every time, you know what I mean? Get some really expensive things, get some really cheap things. When you are able to bring those things together, a very high-priced item with a lower-priced item, you can still look and feel very rich and luxe. Not necessary to feel like you need to have Gucci from head to toe, no girl. Get you a dress from K-Mart, but pair it with a really chic Gucci belt and you’re giving the essence.”

On her favorite lip sync songs:

“Patti LaBelle, hands down. Patti’s music transcends races and ages and creeds. You can play Patti LaBelle ‘I Think About You’ to a room full of 21-year-old millennials and they fall in love with it even though they’ve never heard of it before. You can do that same number for a room full of old black and white ladies and they’re like, ‘Oh my God!’ It’s such great music to lip sync too because Patti LaBelle is so expressive and that’s how you get to an audience, by making the choice with the things that she’s expressing that they didn’t think you would do."

Asia O’Hara

Dallas-based O’Hara is a busy, busy queen who always surprises. She’s won national pageant titles (and never had to give a gown back), nurtured numerous drag daughters (including Season 4’s Phi Phi), and is a talented seamstress who makes all her own clothes. She’s almost as eclectic as she is accomplished, and you’ll probably never guess her favorite lip sync song.

On her personal style:
“Growing. Evolving. Ever-changing. Organic in nature but always growing and evolving into the next state of my creativity.”

On the first thing she wore to do drag:
”The first thing I ever wore in drag was a pair of black booty shorts and a little pink fur shirt, and I did Britney Spears and thought, ‘I guess I was gonna be a stripper.’ That didn’t turn out to be the case.”

On her favorite designer:
“My favorite fashion designer of all time is Thierry Mugler. I also love The Blonds. Style icons? I love Naomi Campbell. Lady Gaga. Diahann Carroll. Sophia Loren. Lucille Ball. Kind of all over the place. But Thierry Mugler by far my favorite of everything.”

On how to bring a look together:
“When creating a look, my biggest tip is to let the look speak to you. Don’t try and force something that is not working. It’s kind of like doing hair. A lot of people do hair and say you have to start doing the hair and let the hair talk to you, and that’s the same thing with creating a look. A lot of my looks start off as something completely different than what they end up being, but as you begin to create and sketch and look for fabrics, things will speak to you and things will start to go in different directions. So just be open-minded and let things develop.”

On her favorite lip sync songs:

”I love ‘Seasons of Color’ by RuPaul. Probably my favorite thing to lip sync to is ‘Like The Way You Do’ by Melissa Etheridge. I like a lot of Melissa Etheridge. I like a lot of Alanis Morissette. I love a lot of Beyoncé. I love a lot of Rihanna. So again, all over the place.”

Aquaria

Though she’s the youngest contestant of Season 10, she’s already got a foot in the fashion door, having modeled for Nicopanda and sat front row last season at Jeremy Scott.

On her drag style:
”My style is definitely inspired heavily by the New York City club scene meets Lady Gaga and Madonna. It’s always about creating a specific fantasy with the look.”

On her favorite designers:
“Just as with any drag queen, Theirry Mugler is always up there with his silhouette and theatricality. I also love me some good Galliano at Dior, and I love what he’s been doing with Margiela. Honestly, I take fashion inspiration from a lot of different places. So whether it’s high fashion or it’s more street fashion, I don’t always limit my preference to a single designer. Oh, but Versace. I love me some Versace. I’m Italian.”

On how she puts a look together:
“I’m actually horrible with shopping. I never know what I want, never know what I need. A lot of the times when I’m making a look it will just come about given whatever resources I have. Whether it’s things that I’ve pulled from a designer or a trash bag a drag queen gave me of their old hand-me-downs. My style is very much dictated by my resources.”

Dusty Ray Bottoms

Originally from Kentucky, Dusty moved to New York City a few years back and has made a name for herself in the city’s competitive drag scene.

On her drag style:
“Goth. Glam. She’s very artsy. She’s got dots all over her face. A big lollipop hair and a stick body.”

On her favorite designers and style icons:
“One of my favorite designers that I actually get to work with is Christopher Palu; he was on Project Runway. Also Mondo Guerra—I love working with them. They make a lot of my clothes, but as far as people I look to outside of that, I would say would be Rihanna, Blac Chyna, Amber Rose. I love what those girls are turning and what they wear.”

On how she puts a look together:
“It usually depends on what that look is for. If there’s a theme to the night, if there’s a feel to the number, I usually design around that story.”

On her favorite lip sync songs:
“One of my favorite songs to lip sync to is ‘Don’t Stop Me Now,’ by Queen, or ‘I’ve Got Love,’ the Jennifer Hudson version. I’ll give you a little taste of everything.”

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