TV

The Reason Bebe Zahara Benet Was Brought Back For “All Stars”

"We are as loyal to Porkchop as we are to every single one of our queens."

Randy Barbato and Fenton Bailey are the founders of World of Wonder, the production company behind critically acclaimed documentaries like The Eyes of Tammy Faye and Mapplethorpe, and some of TV’s biggest reality hits like Million Dollar Listing and RuPaul’s Drag Race.

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On the eve of the Drag Race retrospective panel at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, NewNowNext caught up with Randy and Fenton to talk about All Stars Season 3, what fans can expect from Drag Race Thailand and how drag is bringing families together.

Fans were shocked when Bebe Zahara Benet was revealed as the surprise tenth contestant on All Stars. Aside from her being a fierce queen, what was the reason behind bringing Bebe back?

Randy: A big motivating factor for that was the show has grown so big since the premiere season. In many ways we felt that first season, when we were trying to find our drag sea legs, it didn’t get the exposure. Bebe is a fierce queen, all of the girls from Season One are fierce queens, and we don’t want them to ever feel left behind. We thought we should bring Bebe back because it would be a great surprise, and it would remind everyone that Drag Race is a family. We are as loyal to Porkchop as we are to every single one of our queens.

Fenton, I saw your tweet last summer about Katy Perry’s YouTube Witness livestream where she was filmed in a house for 24 hours a day. Would you ever consider doing something like that with the Drag Race contestants?

Fenton: Well, I love the way she [Katy Perry] took the Big Brother concept and gave it her own twist. I think that 24-hour surveillance can be done in a lot of different ways, so never say never.
 

We recently published an essay, “How Valentina Helped My Mexican Mother Accept Me.” Do you witness Drag Race bringing families together?

Randy: We see it. We hear the stories, but more than anything we see it happening. DragCon in particular has become a family event. RuPaul has said: “As gay people we get to choose our family”—and we do, but the families we see at DragCon are non traditional, and also the most traditional. It does really feel that drag has become a family affair. We have jokingly said that for a long time, but I do think there is truth to that.

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What can fans expect from Drag Race Thailand?

Fenton: It’s an amazing cast. The whole vibe feels great. They are really going for it. I can’t reveal any of the challenges, but it is really the first version of Drag Race internationally that’s an original version, but sticking to the format.

Your anti-Trump art show last year was really well received. Do you have any other political events planned for this year?

Fenton: It’s funny, I was thinking we should just do the same show again [laughs]. We should carry on resisting Trump. We are talking about it. There has been so much great art in the past year. If there is any upside to this whole nightmare it is that people are creatively, and in a whole variety of ways, resisting.

Going back to Drag Race, what is a word you would use to describe All Stars this season?

Randy: Surprising.

Fenton: Unprecedented.

Randy: Unexpected.

Fenton: Unbelievable. Un! Everything un!
 

RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars Season 3 airs Thursdays at 8/7c on VH1.

Pop culture junkie. Dolly Parton once ruffled my hair and said I was "just the cutest thing ever."