‘RuPaul’s Drag Race’ crowns first transgender winner

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For the first time in the history of the U.S. “RuPaul’s Drag Race” franchise, a transgender contestant has been crowned the winner.

The groundbreaking feat occurred during the finale of the sixth season of “RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars,” which streamed Thursday on Paramount+.

Kylie Sonique Love bested the other finalists — Eureka, Ginger Minj and Ra’jah O’Hara — to snag the crown after a competitive season that was filmed mid-pandemic. The 38-year-old entertainer walked away with the $100,000 cash prize and a spot in the “Drag Race Hall of Fame.”

Kylie Sonique Love during the finale of ‘RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars 6.’VH1 / Paramount +

“Kylie’s exhilarating blend of tenacity, vulnerability and talent made her a sizzling stand-out in the most compelling ‘All Stars’ in the franchise’s herstory,” host and executive producer RuPaul said in a statement. “Her trajectory from season two of ‘Drag Race’ to the winner of ‘All Stars 6’ is an inspiration to all who have had the privilege of sharing her amazing journey. All hail Queen Kylie!”

Love first appeared on the second season of “RuPaul’s Drag Race” in 2010 and was eliminated in the fourth episode. During that season, Love appeared prior to her transition, which took place shortly after filming wrapped. 

“I couldn’t have done this without thanking the universe every single day, for all my blessings and all the people around me that believed in my dreams,” Love said following her win Thursday. “I’m so grateful to Paramount+, World of Wonder and RuPaul for taking everything she’s learned in the business and for giving people like me an opportunity. Not just drag queens but trans people, and I’m so grateful to be the first trans representation with the crown.”

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While Love is the first trans winner of an American “Drag Race” contest, she is the second internationally. In 2019, Angele Anang won the second season of “Drag Race Thailand.”

Earlier this year, prior to the debut of the newly wrapped season, Love told NBC News that she struggled during her 2010 “Drag Race” appearance.

“I think for me, one of my biggest obstacles in my season was coming onto a show that I knew was going to basically document one of the most awkward parts of my transition, which is right before you start,” she said. “It’s just really hard to watch, because I don’t relate to that physical part of me, and I know what I was going through.”

She added, “When you’re not fully yourself and liberated, it’s hard to really give 110 percent of what you’re capable of doing, because you’re not 100 percent there.”

Watching that season back can be “triggering” for her, she said, but she also sees the silver lining. 

“I’m a lot better with it, because that person is the person that got me to where I am today,” she said. “So I have to learn to love that person just as much, because I went through a lot, and I’m really grateful for where I am now.”

When asked back in June what she hoped viewers would take away from season six of “RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars,” Love said she hopes fans recognize the growth of each of the contestants. 

“I hope that audience will think about who we were before and give us all a second chance,” she said. “We’re so much different and know that we’ve all grown up a lot more. It’s a breath of fresh air being around everybody, and we all have that passion to do an amazing job. I think sometimes people forget that the show isn’t about blood and guts. It’s about people being passionate, doing what they love doing in hopes to win something amazing at the end.”

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