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'Drag Race' stars reflect on season 14's transgender visibility

While talk of the franchise’s first straight male contestant dominated headlines going into the season, as it ends, the focus is on its record-breaking trans representation.
The cast for the 14th season of RuPaul's Drag Race.
The cast for the 14th season of “RuPaul's Drag Race.”VH1

Prior to the debut of “RuPaul’s Drag Race” season 14, the focus was the reality competition’s new, history-making contestant: a straight, cisgender man. But as the latest chapter of the hit VH1 series comes to an end, the chatter is all about the season’s record number of transgender queens.

Five of the season’s 13 contestants are transgender, with four of them coming out publicly either during or after the season’s filming. 

Image: Kerri Colby
Kerri Colby on the "RuPaul's Drag Race" Season 14 finale red carpet at the Flamingo Las Vegas on April 18.Denise Truscello / Getty Images

Kerri Colby was out ahead of her casting on season 14, making her one of the first trans people to ever compete on a regular season of the series.

“The audience has been hungry for it,” Colby told NBC’s of trans inclusion on the series as the season began. “We’ve been ready. We’ve been thirsty for it … And if you are living your life authentically, well, now you have a voice, a face, a name that you can relate to, so you don’t feel so alienated.”

Jasmine Kennedie came out as transgender in an episode of “Untucked,” the behind-the-scenes counterpart to “Drag Race.” 

“We’re here, and we’re loud,” Kennedie told NBC News at a red carpet event prior to the taping of the final episode, which airs Friday. “It’s been really amazing to have such an open and diverse trans community on the show as well. At the same time, we all represent a different part of our transition.”

Image: Jasmine Kennedy
Jasmine Kennedy on the "RuPaul's Drag Race" red carpet at the Flamingo Las Vegas on April 6.Greg Doherty / Getty Images

She said watching the episode where she comes out is difficult for her because it’s “very emotional” and “raw.”

“I did kind of let everything out, not knowing it was going to come out that way, but I’m very happy with everything that has happened because of that,” she said. “I get messages daily from a parent, a mother, anybody that is dealing under the trans umbrella, whether it be someone who is trans or related to them. I’ve gotten so many messages of love, warmth, support and care. It’s touched my heart, honestly, what’s gone on.”

Season 14 debuted on VH1 in January, but, with the exception of the finale, the episodes were filmed over the summer. While Colby was out as trans prior to filming and Kennedie came out during filming, three of the queens — Willow Pill, Bosco and Kornbread — came out as transgender earlier this year as the season aired. 

“The people who came out on the show were a lot stronger than I was at the time,” 

Image: Kornbread
Kornbread on the "RuPaul's Drag Race" Season 14 finale red carpet at the Flamingo Las Vegas on April 18.Denise Truscello / Getty Images

Kornbread said. “I did everything after the season was done because I was afraid to see all of that in the light before talking to the family or whatever. But to be in such a high-pressure competition and to come out as trans on top of the pressure that’s already there, it’s a lot, and it forces you to be on top of your game. So I must commend them.”

For the season’s final episode, which was taped last week, Kornbread donned a costume that combined aspects of both Belle and the Beast from the Disney classic “Beauty and the Beast.” The outfit, she said, was intended as social commentary on beauty standards and gender identity. 

“There is not one way to be trans,” she said. “You can look how you want to and live your best life. Not all of us are going to look like the same people. That does not lessen who you are and lessen yourself as a trans person. … There’s beauty in all of this.”

Image: Bosco
Bosco on the "RuPaul's Drag Race" Season 14 finale red carpet at the Flamingo Las Vegas on April 18. Denise Truscello / Getty Images

As for Bosco, she pointed to the interconnected history of the transgender and drag queen communities. 

“There’s no separation of church and state when it comes to drag and trans people,” she said. “They have always fed into and built along with each other. It’s so incredible to be a part of a season that’s highlighting so much trans talent.” 

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