Thursday night, Lawrence Chaney was crowned the winner of Season Two of RuPaul’s Drag Race UK. This is the first time that a plus size winner has been crowned in the UK, and only the second time in the franchise’s 13 year run. The first is the fierce and talented Natalia Pliacam from the first season of RuPaul’s Drag Race Thailand.
I’ve seen many reactions to the news, some favorable and some not so favorable. There’s no pleasing everyone with these reality competition shows. No matter who you pick, you run the risk of pissing someone off if their fave doesn’t leave with the crown. It’s to be expected. And, despite the fact that many question RuPaul’s ability to make decisions that reflect a clear understanding of more progressive and unconventional styles of drag (that’s a story for another day), I think Lawrence Chaney’s win is well-deserved and important.
I will admit that I, like Mama Ru, was drawn in by Lawrence’s charm. I laughed so hard at her during the tennis ball photoshoot in the first episode that tears were streaming down my face by the end of it. And seeing those well-polished and perfectly executed looks on the runway was the cherry on top. I was sold. The confidence and wit that Lawrence brought to the competition already made her a winner in my eyes.
But, throughout the competition, we began to see another side of Lawrence. She cried during the first dance challenge, and when the queens came back after the COVID break, it seemed that Lawrence was in her head a little bit than she was in the first half of the season. There were obvious moments of insecurity, self-doubt and oversensitivity (she annoyed me during her exchange with Ellie Diamond about the order of the comedy show) that could have pushed Lawrence out of the competition after winning three RuPeter badges.
During these moments, it was obvious that Lawrence was having trouble seeing herself as a winner. And, because of that, many of the viewers began to have trouble seeing it as well. It’s one of the things that Mama Ru, despite being out of touch in many ways, gets right — she talks about the “inner saboteur”. Miss Saboteur is vicious, and she will eat you alive if you let her.
The truth of the matter is, I understand Lawrence. When you grow up as a fat kid who was constantly bullied, the remnants of that bullying haunt you well into adulthood. For some, it’s not just as simple as “thinking more positively”. When your brain has been programmed during childhood to be completely blind to your own greatness, one of the most disorienting feelings in the world is to grow into an adult who is told they are amazing, beautiful and talented. An ugly duckling can grow into a swan but still look in the mirror and see an ugly duckling.
I know this feeling all too well. I watched Lawrence burst into tears because she believed she was too fat to do choreography, and it was like watching a playback of myself during musical rehearsals. I watched her pick herself apart and lash out at others because of her own insecurities, and it took me back to every time I’ve done the same thing in the past. Those moments were hard to watch, because I just knew Lawrence was going to fuck it up. As she was allowing her inner saboteur to wreak havoc on her thought process, Bimini Bon-Boulash, the very definition of a GLOW UP, seemed to be speeding ahead of Lawrence.
But, in the end, Lawrence was crowned the winner. And though some people may not agree with the decision, I think I would have been happy with any of the top 4 being crowned — specifically Bimini Bon-Boulash. Lawrence’s win, however, marks the first time that a plus size queen has been crowned, and I couldn’t think of a better “big girl” to carry that honor.
Lawrence wasn’t perfect on the show. In fact, that’s what could have ended it for her — her obsession with being perfect. She didn’t always believe in herself, and many of her scars and flaws were exposed for the world to see. However, I personally think that’s what makes her a great winner. She pushed through those moments of self-doubt, and even at her worst she was still great.
I don’t say all this to say that Lawrence should have won just because she’s fat or because she’s had it hard in life. I think Lawrence deserved to win because Lawrence is talented and fierce. But after 13 seasons of Drag Race and only two plus size winners, it’s good to know that little fat queer boys and fat queens around the world will finally able to see that someone who looks like them can win RuPaul’s Drag Race. Representation matters, and I’m glad to see Lawrence carrying the torch for us fat queers of the world.
An earlier version of this article stated that Lawrence Chaney was the first plus size winner of the entire Drag Race franchise. That has been corrected to state that Lawrence Chaney is the first plus size winner of RuPaul’s Drag Race UK, and the second plus size winner in the franchise after Natalia Pliacam of RuPaul’s Drag Race Thailand.