Every year, RuPaul seems to assemble the most bizarre retinue of guest judges to serve on his competition show-turned-football league for the queer community; just last year, Season 11 led with Miley Cyrus (incognito as a drag king) followed by Bobby Moynihan, Tiffany Pollard (née “New York”), Elvira, Joel McHale, Clea DuVall and more, with a special guest appearance from liberal icon Rachel Maddow (sigh).
In a new trailer released Thursday for the forthcoming season, we’re shown a glimpse of several judges. Since Season 9 with Lady Gaga’s premiere appearance, the show has led with iconic pop stars kicking the show off. In the trailer, we get our first look at Nicki Minaj doing just that. Contestant Nicky Doll mentions Minaj is her drag namesake, to which the artist formerly known as (or currently? is she still the “bad guy”?) Chun-Li replies she’s “doing [her] proud.”
Among the other guests include NYC rep Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (a welcome face after All Stars 3 featured a guest appearance from Nancy Pelosi), Westworld legend Thandie Newton, the always-funny Leslie Jones, sad-pop icon Robyn (why couldn’t she have hosted the first episode? Especially given she provided one of the best lip-syncs from the show!), recently unmasked singer Chaka Khan, Normani, Jeff Goldblum, Rachel Bloom (justice for Crazy Ex-Girlfriend!), Daisy Ridley, Whoopi Goldberg, Daniel Franzese, Jonathan Bennett, Olivia Munn and Winnie Harlow. As mentioned before, the list is truly surreal.
It looks like this season is also sticking to the Fourth of July Americana theme from Season 12’s early promos—the trailer seems to showcase some sort of debate challenge, and ends with Minaj (rather hollowly) saluting and “pledging allegiance to the drag.” It’s all a bit tone-deaf, given the current climate, but we’ll see how it plays out. Drag Race has a history of handling hot topics with kid gloves. For a more in-depth look at what drag means today, check out our recent feature on RuPaul’s SNL appearance, the straight gaze and mainstream appeal.
Drag Race Season 12 is set to premiere Feb. 28 on VH1.