The Cringiest Moments On RuPaul's Drag Race

The following article includes references to sexual abuse allegations.

Over almost 30 seasons worldwide, "RuPaul's Drag Race" has had arguably some of the most memorable reality television moments in recent history — both for better and for worse. From botched impersonations and comedy roast routines gone too far to everything in between, there is a significant list of cringe-worthy moments that have graced both the main stage and the backstage Werk Room.

"The reason why people are loving the show and tuning in is because of the human side," Season 1 winner and "All Stars 3" finalist Bebe Zahara Benet once told Gay Times. Meanwhile, YouTuber and Season 10 guest star Tyler Oakley shared with the outlet, "It's deeper for so many people, partly because it offers escape. They really have some deep moments where I think everybody would benefit from watching. ... It starts conversations within the queer community that are really necessary." 

No matter what emotion these moments elicit in its audience, no one can fault "RuPaul's Drag Race" for being a must-watch program in pop culture today. But these are the long-running reality TV series' cringiest moments.

Mimi Imfurst manhandles India Ferrah on RuPaul's Drag Race

It was one of the most memorable lip syncs in all of "RuPaul's Drag Race" herstory ... for all the wrong reasons. In Season 3, queens Mimi Imfurst and India Ferrah found themselves in the bottom after their poor performances during that week's workout video main challenge. As "Don't Leave Me This Way" by Thelma Houston began to play, what many thought would be a normal lip sync turned into, in the words of RuPaul herself, "a contact sport." Midway through the performance, Mimi lifted India above her head and walked her towards the back of the stage. "What the hell is she thinking?!" fellow competitor Manila Luzon said in the episode. "You can't be lifting up drag queens!" This wasn't Mimi's only "Drag Race" indiscretion — she was also on the receiving end of Shangela's now-iconic "Sugar Daddy" speech — but the heavy lifting was what ultimately sent her packing.

In the years after the show, Mimi continued to have a busy career and even appeared (albeit briefly) on "RuPaul's Drag Race All Stars 1." But in 2018, she became an even more taboo topic in the drag world after admitting to the online sexual harassment of two fans. As for India, she later appeared on "All Stars 5" after taking an extended break from the profession. "It was always about Mimi Imfurst, it was never about what I was bringing to the show," India shared with Entertainment Weekly in 2020. "That can f*** with you, mentally. ... That was really hard for me to cope with over the years."

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN's National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).

Joslyn Fox's interview challenge gets too in depth

During Season 6 of "RuPaul's Drag Race," contestant Joslyn Fox was one of the bubbliest queens of the bunch. In Episode 9, the queens were challenged to take turns interviewing two celebrity guests: the late Georgia Holt — mother of pop icon Cher — and Chaz Bono, Cher's son. When it came time for Joslyn's turn, what was supposed to be a normal interview quickly turned invasive and uncomfortable. 

With her guests clearly squirming on camera, Joslyn was seemingly unaware of the awkwardness as she pestered Holt and Bono with questions on abortion and other personal matters. She even introduced Bono, who first identified as a lesbian before coming out as a transgender man, in this cringe-making fashion: "Please welcome someone who has come out twice since coming out of Cher." 

Needless to say, the judges were not thrilled with her performance. Joslyn did apologize on-air to Holt and Bono, with the former accepting the apology. "Everything I did [on the show], good or bad, was a learning experience and made me the person I am today," Joslyn shared with The Advocate in 2014. "Chaz and Georgia couldn't have been more receptive to my contrition. They told me that the only reason they wanted me to know how off-putting my question was was so that I wouldn't make the same mistake again, because they thought I had a career in the talk-show business."

Pearl has something on her face, and RuPaul doesn't like it

Season 7 finalist Pearl had a notably rocky experience on "RuPaul's Drag Race," but in one tense stare down with the titular host, that experience went from tense to infamous. When RuPaul stopped by the Werk Room to chat with Pearl and fellow contestant Max in Episode 5, Ru commented on Pearl's lack of personality, causing the queen to share her displeasure in the statement afterward. Cue the stare down of the century. Even after Pearl said her now-famous retort ("Do I have something on my face?"), the damage was done — and audiences (and contestants) were left squirming.

Despite making it to the top 3 that season, Pearl's less-than-stellar legacy on the show seemed to follow along for years afterward. In 2018, she revealed in an appearance on "Hey Qween" that the pair shared yet another tense moment, this time off-camera. "I turned to RuPaul and I said, 'Oh my God, I just want to say thank you so much.' ... Just giving her everything I've ever wanted to say to her, and she turned to me and she said, 'Nothing you say matters unless that camera is rolling,'" Pearl explained. "And that broke my spirit, and that is the reason why I had one foot in, one foot out the entire time I was on that show." 

Needless to say, the fallout from publicly sharing the backstage bombshell was also rough, and Pearl has since claimed she has been banned by producers from competing on "RuPaul's Drag Race All-Stars."

Alexis Michelle goes green and Farrah Moan doesn't get a laugh

In an episode that would land them both in the bottom two, Season 9 contestants Alexis Michelle and Farrah Moan made waves during the "Roast of Michelle Visage" that crashed and burned. Alexis, covered in "Wicked"-esque green body paint as a joking tribute to Visage's least-favorite color, made some cringe-worthy jokes during her portion of the roast. Then, during the judge's critiques, she unwittingly insulted guest judge Tamar Braxton. Braxton, confused by the make-up, asked, "Why is she GREEN?!" To which Alexis retorted, "Well, Tamar, have you seen the show?" Cue an awkward silence. "I mean, clearly, it was such a knee-jerk reaction for me," Alexis shared after the fact with Entertainment Weekly in 2023. "I did not think that all the way through, but it was just like, I knew, at that point, I was going to have to lip-sync for my life."

As for Farrah, her jokes didn't land either — and they were exacerbated by her befuddling delivery tactic, moans and all. "I think that when you're not feeling it, the audience can sense it," Farrah shared with Vice in 2017 after she was ultimately eliminated. "It creates an awkward atmosphere that was uncomfortable to sit through, and that's ultimately what happened to me."

Both queens have since appeared on "All Stars" seasons, but they have yet to live down their now-infamous roast performances. "That's what makes 'Drag Race' so fun to watch, too — you're seeing these drag queens having to do all this s***," Farrah explained to Vice.

Valentina would like to keep her mask on please

Even before the pandemic, Season 9 contestant Valentina was a fan of masks. During a now-infamous lip sync against her "RuPaul's Drag Race" competitor, Nina Bo'Nina Brown, Valentina initially kept her mask on during the performance — prompting host RuPaul to stop the lip sync mid-song and ask the queen to remove her mask. When Valentina protested, things got testy before she eventually acquiesced. But the damage was already done — after a shaky performance where she didn't know the words to Ariana Grande's "Greedy," Valentina (one of the initial frontrunners) was eliminated. "I just want to disappear," she shared of the performance.

It became one of the most shocking moments in the show's history, causing fans and fellow queens to react in a variety of ways. "I feel like that was the moment where Valentina was like [gasp], because she had been such a favorite up until that point and [the judges] had all been so kind and encouraging and just loving to her that it really did kind of gag her," fellow contestant Shea Couleé told "NikkieTutorials," sharing that things were actually more tense than what aired.

"In that moment, I did deserve to be in the bottom," Valentina later told Entertainment Weekly. "I remember feeling in a state of shock and it was something that I undoubtedly could not get myself out of." She eventually returned to the Werk Room in "All Stars 4" and became the host of "Drag Race Mexico" in 2023. Looks like she's continuing to feel her fantasy...

Asia O'Hara's failed butterfly stunt

During the Season 10 finale of "RuPaul's Drag Race," finalist Asia O'Hara competed against Kameron Michaels in one of the final lip syncs for the crown. In the middle of Janet Jackson's "Nasty," Asia opened her caged bracelets and brassiere to release live butterflies that were inside ... but what she ended up doing was essentially unceremoniously dumping the butterflies onto the stage as they failed to take flight as planned — much to the chagrin of the audiences in person and around the world.

"In my head, the butterfly release was going to work out perfectly," Asia shared of the cringe-worthy stunt with Entertainment Weekly in 2018. "... I wanted it to be a surprise to everyone and I wanted a genuine reaction. It just didn't work out." Asia ended up being eliminated from the competition after that lip sync, earning her a fourth-place spot. Needless to say, the Internet was set aflutter with memes and other reactions.

Asia went on to explain to EW, "I really did do my best to present it in the most professional way possible. I rehearsed with a professional company that specializes in safe butterfly releases and the moment was intended to be an amazing display of optimism as well as a surprise for everyone involved, including the audience, production, and the network." She added, "As you know, however, that moment did not go as planned and I would like to publicly offer the entire world my deepest apology."

Soju's shoutout to her cyst on RuPaul's Drag Race

Although she didn't make it far in Season 11, "RuPaul's Drag Race" contestant queen Soju did leave behind a memorable (and viral) moment when she shared some intimate details about a medical issue she'd been dealing with. On the main stage, Soju detailed the painful cyst she was experiencing in her nether region, and that it had popped on the plane ride to the show's filming. Both the judges and the other queens expressed their confusion and shock at this outburst, cementing Soju and her pop-worthy pustule in "Drag Race" herstory — and online meme infamy. 

"I didn't think it was gonna be such a big deal," Soju shared with Gay Times. "You never know how they're going to edit it. ... After watching the first episode and seeing the reaction, it made me feel, 'Well thank god! At least I shared that.'"

Soju ended up being the first queen sent home that season. For a while, she continued to make videos in her YouTube series "Shot with Soju," until she was accused of sexual assault in 2021. She has since deleted or locked her social media accounts, including her YouTube channel, and has retired from drag. "I ask for open-mindedness from the community as I seek to bring truth," she stated in part to Out, while refuting the claims and alleging that the accuser had attempted to extort her. "I would never dismiss or diminish a victim's experience, but all of the current evidence presented indicates this has been a plan in the works for more than year."

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN's National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).

Utica Queen's roast goes way too far

It was the cringe felt around the world ... Season 13 contestant Utica Queen brought new meaning to bombing a challenge when her comedic roasting skills leaned a little too mean. The "RuPaul's Drag Race" challenge was to playfully roast former contestants who were named Miss Congeniality, which included Season 9's Valentina, Season 11's Nina West, and Season 12's Heidi N' Closet. But Utica's performance became ugly when she focused her, um, jokes around body-shaming roastee Nina West and judge Ross Mathews, and even poking fun at guest judge Loni Love's comedy career. Needless to say, little laughs were heard — until Love shot back at Utica with, "You're the one bombing!" 

When the episode aired, Utica took to Twitter to apologize for her act: "The jokes were in bad taste and my attempt at roast humor was for the lack of better words, horrible.. Making fun of people's size is not okay. I'm truly sorry." But many fans and critics were not very forgiving with what they saw as a lackluster apology.

Ultimately, Utica ended up lip syncing for her life against eventual season winner Symone that episode and got sent home. "At the time, I didn't understand the difference between humor and insults," Utica shared in the Season 13 reunion (via Yahoo!). "I've grown and seen the way that jokes can be told and how they can come from a place of love. I definitely want to strive for that."

Coco Montrese's dance routine sends her home first

Even the "All Stars" seasons of "RuPaul's Drag Race" are privy to some cringe-worthy moments. During the "All Stars 2" talent show, Season 5's Coco Montrese — known to be a lip-sync assassin in her original season — opted to take a risk and perform a dance number to kick off her "All Stars" run. "I decided to step out of my box just to show a different side of myself," Coco revealed in the episode. Unfortunately, that step fell flat, and her risk didn't pay off; she was the first queen to be sent home on that season. 

"I don't regret it," Coco told Out in 2016 after her elimination. "In this industry, in order to have longevity, you need to take chances and you need to be able to evolve and not be the same. ... Of course I wish it turned out a bit better. But hey, that's a part of being an entertainer. You have to grow."

Luckily, Coco had the chance to return to the Werk Room, as that season's twist was to put the eliminated queens back into the competition. She competed in one more challenge before being sent home for good. But overall, Coco has expressed that she is grateful for her run on the show. "It's 'All Stars' so I wanted to take a chance and just give 'em what I got," Coco told The Observer. "It didn't pay off for me this time, but I don't regret it."

Blair St. Clair fails the stand-up challenge

After losing out on the crown in Season 10 of "RuPaul's Drag Race," Blair St. Clair returned to the Werk Room in "All Stars 5" ready to claim her title. But after a comedy challenge fail, her dreams were crushed once more. Unlike some of the other comedy bombs seen in "Drag Race" past, some of Blair's jokes got genuine laughs from RuPaul and Co. But it was her delivery that tainted her talent. Between flipping the pages of her notebook awkwardly to the punctuation of her speech, Blair's overall performance was considered lackluster compared to her comedy-heavy competitors, Jujubee, Miz Cracker, and Shea Couleé. Fans and critics alike were confused by the cringey performance, with one review from TV Line claiming, "Blair indeed tripped, delivering an endless stream of bizarrely cruel one-liners while clumsily flipping through her notes on stage." Ouch!

In the end, the comedy bomb sent Blair home for the second time, this time right before the finale. "I was excited and energized to perform, but when it came to the actual challenge, I bombed," Blair revealed to Entertainment Weekly in 2020. "I knew I bombed because I was so nervous, but I wanted to do so well. I was so much in my head and not in the moment."

This RuPaul's Drag Race Snatch Game is a total disaster

There have been plenty of cringe-worthy "Snatch Game" impersonations on "RuPaul's Drag Race," but the majority of the Season 14 cast took the proverbial cringey cake when it came to their series of impressions. With the exception of contestant DeJa Skye's performance as Lil Jon, the rest of the contestants couldn't seem to find the funny in their chosen characters. These included a flat take on Ilana Glazer by Jorgeous, a shaky William Shakespeare by Lady Camden, and a truly puzzling take on Betsy DeVos from Jasmine Kennedie. The game went so poorly that it prompted RuPaul and the judges to make a shocking decision to put all of the queens up for elimination in what was called a "Lip Sync Lalaparuza" smackdown. 

In a confessional, fellow contestant (and eventual season winner) Willow Pill shared (via Entertainment Weekly), "You know when your mom says, 'I'm not angry, I'm disappointed'? That's what this feels like. I think everyone right now is just trying to not go cry in the bathroom." Despite it all, some of the queens were able to turn out some incredible lip-sync performances. But in the end, it was Jasmine who was sent home. 

"Are there small things I would've turned up the octave on a bit more? Sure, but I don't live in regret," Jasmine explained to EW in 2022. "I'm happy with how I went out because you can tell I'm not angry. I was pleasantly happy to be there."