With 11 seasons and multiple spin-offs now under its belt, it’s hard to remember what a revolutionary show RuPaul’s Drag Race was when it premiered in early 2009. At the time, there was very little LGBTQ representation on television, much less an entire series dedicated to celebrating drag culture. A decade-plus on, the show is both a critical and commercial success, with a large, passionate following and more Emmy nominations than any show in the history of VH1 (at last year’s ceremony, it won both Outstanding Host and Outstanding Competition Program for the second year in a row).
Whether you’re already a dedicated fan or want to check out the show for the first time, here’s a primer on what to look forward to when the 12th season premieres Friday, Feb. 28 at 8pm ET on VH1.
Who are the judges?
In addition to RuPaul, season 12 will see three other judges returning to the show for the fifth year in a row: Michelle Visage, Carson Kressley, and Ross Matthews. Visage has been a judge on the show since season three and works closely with RuPaul on a variety of projects, including their podcast What’s the Tee? Kressley is still probably best known as the fashion expert on Queer Eye but he’s had a successful career appearing on everything from Holiday Wrap Battle to the Queer Eye spin-off Get a Room With Carson and Thom. Along with Kressley, Ross Matthews joined Drag Race in Season 8. Since his early days as Ross the Intern on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, Matthews has appeared on multiple shows, including the American edition of Celebrity Big Brother, where he took second place.
Who are the contestants?
This year’s collection of competitors looks like one of the best yet. In addition to established drag performers like Brita Filter and Jan Sport (who, for copyright reasons, will be referred to only by their first names on the show), season 12 features colorfully named contestants like Heidi N Closet, Crystal Methyd, and Sherry Pie. Watch the video above and visit the VH1 YouTube channel to learn more about this year’s contestants.
Who are the guest judges?
As the show’s influence and popularity has grown, so has its roster of celebrity guest judges, and this edition of Drag Race may be the most star-studded season yet. We already knew that rapper Nicki Minaj was going to appear in the first episode, but the big names don’t stop there. Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez makes an appearance, as do singers Chaka Khan, Normani, and Robyn (whose music will presumably appear in the Lip Syncs), Star Wars star Daisy Ridley, Olivia Munn, Rachel Bloom, Whoopi Goldberg, and Jeff Goldblum, among others.
With a great lineup of contestants and guest judges, you won’t want to “sashay away” from the show this year. Tune-in to VH1 for the season 12 premiere of RuPaul’s Drag Race on Friday, Feb. 28 at 8pm ET.