9 "RuPaul's Drag Race" Queens With Musical Second Acts: From Shea Couleé To Trixie Mattel & Willam
Drag queen/singer Shea Couleé performs in Austin, Texas

Photo: Rick Kern/Getty Images


9 "RuPaul's Drag Race" Queens With Musical Second Acts: From Shea Couleé To Trixie Mattel & Willam

RuPaul broke down a barrier with her hit 1993 single "Supermodel," and these queens have stomped right through.

GRAMMYs/Mar 15, 2023 - 01:32 pm

When RuPaul first hit the mainstream in 1993 with the hit single "Supermodel (You Better Work)," it was the culmination of about a decade of work in music — from her time fronting the new wave band Wee Wee Pole to her years working the New York City nightlife scene as a club kid and dancer. "Supermodel" pushed RuPaul into the mainstream, giving her the opportunity not only to land cosmetics contracts and present VMAs, but also to get her brand out there. 

A talk show and some hosting gigs followed, and in 2009, Logo launched "RuPaul’s Drag Race," a then mostly unheralded reality competition show hosted by the queen herself. Since then, the show has aired more than 200 episodes featuring more than 270 queens. (That’s not even including the girls from the international "Drag Race" spin-offs, of which there are many.) RuPaul has also continued her musical career, to date releasing a staggering 15 LPs, six compilation albums, 68 singles, and 42 music videos. In short, RuPaul’s musical cred is bonafide.

That musical legacy has trickled down to Ru’s TV family, too. Now in its 15th season, "RuPaul’s Drag Race" has introduced the world to a generation of incredible drag performers, including more than a few who have made their mark on the musical world. Today, most queens who make it to the end of their "Drag Race" season end up releasing a collaborative single as part of the show, like season 13’s "Lucky" or "All-Stars" season two’s "Read U Wrote U."  

Some queens have gone beyond that, dropping solo LPs, fronting bands, and even touring arenas with their music. Here are nine "Drag Race" alums whose music has helped launch their second act. 

Shea Couleé

A stellar queen from Chicago, Shea Couleé first showed up on "Drag Race" in season nine, where she came in second behind Sasha Velour. She came back for "Drag Race All-Stars" season 5, which she won, and then took another stab at the crown for "All-Stars" season 7. 

That season, she was able to showcase her musical talent with a stellar performance of "Your Name." That song, along with a whole slate of other bangers inspired by Luther Vandross, Janet Jackson, and Chaka Khan are on her latest record, 8, which she’s touring now.  Couleé also will join five other "Drag Race" alum on a recently announced U.S. tour.

Bob The Drag Queen

A true multi-hyphenate, Bob The Drag Queen is not only "Drag Race" season eight winner; he’s also a comedian, podcaster, actor, host and musician. Best known for tracks like "Purse First," which he dropped the same day he won "Drag Race," Bob's latest effort is a great listen, too. The six-song EP Gay Barz is filled with stellar club bangers that mix camp and hip-hop, showcasing Bob's true musical sensibility.

Trixie Mattel

You can’t talk about musically successful "Drag Race" queens without talking about Trixie Mattel. While the "All-Stars" 3 winner makes a good portion of her income doing everything from refurbishing a hotel to curating and creating her successful cosmetics line, she still devotes time to her music.

She’s released four records — all of which are folksier and Fountains Of Wayne-inspired than anything else that’s come out of "Drag Race" — touring extensively around each, as well as a number of music videos. Some of her songs, like "Mama Don’t Make Me Put On The Dress Again," can seem a little tongue in cheek, but Mattel backs it all up with legit musical skills, playing both the guitar and the autoharp quite well. 

Adore Delano

Fans loved Adore Delano on "Drag Race" season seven and that ardor only continued after the show. The performer’s musical career really started to take off with 2014’s Till Death Do Us Party, which reached No. 59 on the Billboard 200 chart. Subsequent punky dance records like 2016’s After Party, 2017’s Whatever, and 2021’s Dirty Laundry EP have helped Delano sell out venues around the world

Delano’s music bops all over the pop landscape, with tracks like "Hello, I Love You" merging Katy Perry styling with coyly bubblebum lyrics while the electro-tinged "I Adore U" would fit perfectly on a packed nightclub dancefloor. 


Another "Drag Race" winner with a brazenly brash attitude and a heaping helping of musical talent, Alaska has released four albums, all with fairly spicy names. First came 2015’s Anus, followed by 2016’s Poundcake, 2019’s Vagina, and then 2022’s Red 4 Filth

Alaska’s singles have always been earworms, too, and she’s brought her "Drag Race" sisters along whenever she can. Kandy Muse features on  "Sitting Alone In The VIP," while "Girlz Night," which found Rose and Jan dropping in with their girl group Stephanie’s Child. Alaska has even brought her talent to the theater, crafting "Drag: The Musical," which sold out its entire debut run in 2022.


Willam might be one of the most controversial "Drag Race" contestants of all time, earning an early dismissal from season four after RuPaul accused her of breaking the rules behind the scenes. (Willam has since explained that she was getting illicit hotel visits from her husband during taping.) 

Still, she had a successful Hollywood career before "Drag Race," with guest spots on numerous television procedurals. She’s only become more notable since, even snagging a speaking part in Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper’s A Star Is Born. Her musical output has always been as sassy and tongue in cheek as she is. Her parody tracks like "Aileen" and "Derrick" skillfully tread the thin line between musical triumph and well-executed gag. She’s also been a part of two drag supergroups: DWV with Detox and Vicky Vox, and the AAA Girls with Courtney Act and Alaska. 

Courtney Act

Courtney Act came to "Drag Race" fame after making the season six finale, where she’d ultimately lose to Bianca Del Rio. She’s been singing pretty much her entire career — she actually broke into entertainment by appearing on "Australian Idol" in 2003 — but much of her output has come since her "Drag Race" debut. 

Like her Australian sister Kylie Minogue, Act loves a soaring, inspirational club banger, as evidenced by singles like "Kaleidoscope" and "Fight For Love." She released  "To Russia With Love" in an effort to help shine a light on anti-gay purges in Chechnya.  

Since her "Drag Race" loss, Courtney Act has appeared on a variety of reality shows in both the UK and Australia, including "Dancing With The Stars" and "Celebrity Big Brother UK," the latter of which she won.


Known for her oddball humor, out-there drag, and frequent collaborations with Trixie Mattel, Katya came to "Drag Race" prominence on season seven before she returned to compete in "All-Stars" two. Her drag is half performance piece, half wacked out fashion show, and her drag persona is a sort of cold Russian uber-bitch. 

Katya's music follows suit, with much of her 2020 EP Vampire Fitness featuring songs in multiple languages as Katya channeled her favorite Russian nightclub singers. That’s not to say that the tracks don’t rip, though: "Ding Dong" is a certified earworm, Russian lyrics and all, while the breathy goth dance cut "Come To Brazil" (guest starring Alaska) has racked up over a million views on YouTube. 


The season one winner of "Drag Race Canada," Priyanka charmed fans worldwide with her charming earnestness and musical prowess. After snagging the crown, she released her debut EP, Taste Test, as well as a slate of five music videos in support of the record. The clips combine into a story of super villain-infused murder mystery that culminates in a battle royale between Priyanka and "Drag Race UK" contestant Cheryl Hole. The whole thing is as goofy as it is danceable. 

Fun fact: "Come Through," which is a great and catchy song as its own, also features a guest verse from Priyanka’s "Drag Race Canada" sister Lemon. The song has become so beloved among fans that a one-hour mix of just that snippet of the song has almost 750,000 views on YouTube.

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Virgin Fest 2020 Lineup: Lizzo, A$AP Rocky, Anderson .Paak, Ellie Goulding & More Announced

Lizzo performs at the 2020 BRIT Awards


Photo: Samir Hussein/WireImage


Virgin Fest 2020 Lineup: Lizzo, A$AP Rocky, Anderson .Paak, Ellie Goulding & More Announced

The inaugural festival boasts an all-inclusive lineup, composed of 60 percent female artists, and an eco-conscious approach

GRAMMYs/Feb 20, 2020 - 10:10 pm

Virgin Fest, a brand-new multi-genre festival debuting later this year, has announced its inaugural lineup. The two-day event, taking place June 6-7 across multiple stages throughout Banc Of California Stadium and Exposition Park in South Los Angeles, has confirmed recent GRAMMY newcomer Lizzo and rap giant A$AP Rocky as the headliners. The lineup also includes Anderson .Paak & The Free Nationals, Diplo's Major Lazer outfit, recent Best New Artist nominees Tank And The Bangas and many more. 

Virgin Fest, which is promoting an all-inclusive environment—its tagline boasts "All Are Welcome"—features a diverse artist roster. As Rolling Stone points out, the 2020 lineup is composed of 60 percent female artists, which include acts like Ellie Goulding, Kali Uchis, Jorja Smith, Banks, Japanese Breakfast, Empress Of and others. 

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The festival is also celebrating the LGBTQ+ fan and artist community. In addition to booking LGBTQ+ artists and allies, including Clairo, Trixie Mattel, singer-songwriter and former Fifth Harmony member Lauren Jauregui and others, Virgin Fest is offering gender-neutral restrooms and is screening all vendors to ensure they align with the festival's values of inclusivity and positivity, with a focus on the LGBTQ+ community and an "emphasis on correct pronoun usage," according to PRIDE.

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In an interview with PRIDE, Virgin Fest CEO and founder Jason Felts discussed the festival's LGBTQ+-focused lineup and its approach to creating an inclusive environment.

"Being a gay man who loves music and loves people and loves diversity and loves humanity on the whole, I thought, 'Why don't we have a festival that celebrates all of that?'" he said.  

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Virgin Fest is also taking an eco-conscious approach focusing on sustainability. The festival is "handpicking vendors who share its values and have policies that comply with their commitment to sustainability"; it will also be the "first festival in California to employ a reusable cup deposit system instead of single-use plastic cups," according to a post shared on the Virgin Group's, the festival's parent company, website. According to the event's website, the festival is also banning all single-use plastics onsite and will feature a "robust renewable energy and solar program," among other green initiatives.

To purchase tickets and to view the full lineup for the inaugural Virgin Fest, visit the festival's official website.

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Watch: Shea Coulee's Most Touching Video To Date For "Rewind"

Shea Coulee

Photo: Photo: Santiago Felipe/FilmMagic via Getty Images


Watch: Shea Coulee's Most Touching Video To Date For "Rewind"

Directed by Sam Bailey, the black-and-white visual takes viewers through Couleé's memory as they relive both tender and volatile moments with their lover

GRAMMYs/Aug 2, 2019 - 09:08 pm

Shea Couleé delivers a stirring dramatic performance in the video for one of their most vulnerable songs to date, "Rewind."

Directed by Sam Bailey, the black-and-white visual takes viewers through Couleé's memory as they relive both tender and volatile moments with their lover.

"It has a very cinematic quality to match the cinematic quality of the song," Couleé exclusively told Billboard. "And it's kind of a glimpse into my life and my past .. the concept of rewinding, as if our lives were films that we have the ability to go back and re-do." 

They add that the video touches on how minds can alter memories to be less painful: "We try to get the best edit that we can so it doesn't hurt as much."

Putting their usual lively, fierce side on pause, Couleé let their guard down about a past relationship in the song with producer and songwriter GESS. 

"The fans had only seen this high-energy, dance-y, confident music [from me] and this was my opportunity to show a little bit of vulnerability," Couleé said. "The only relationship I ever had, other than the one I'm in now, he suffered from bipolar disorder and he wound up taking his life. It's really, really hard. It's such a weird heartbreak because there's so many unanswered questions." 

Music has allowed the former RuPaul's Drag Race cast member to show different sides of themselves. "I enjoy being able to surprise people and reveal my different sides to them – sometimes people only see a certain side, and music allows yourself to express yourself a bit more," they said. 

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5 Takeaways From 'TLC Forever': Left-Eye's Misunderstood Reputation, Chilli's Motherhood Revelation, T-Boz's Health Struggles & More
TLC (L-R: T-Boz, Left Eye and Chili) in 1999.

Photo: Ron Galella/Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images


5 Takeaways From 'TLC Forever': Left-Eye's Misunderstood Reputation, Chilli's Motherhood Revelation, T-Boz's Health Struggles & More

A&E/Lifetime's latest documentary, 'TLC Forever,' features never-before-seen footage and untold stories of the group's iconic legacy, from their tribulations to their triumphs.

GRAMMYs/Jun 2, 2023 - 07:49 pm

When Tionne "T-Boz" Watkins, Lisa "Left-Eye" Lopes, and Rozanda "Chilli" Thomas joined forces as TLC, the landscape of girl groups changed forever.

During their exhilarating run, TLC smashed records, set new style trends, and shined a light on important issues like HIV/AIDS and body image. Their unique sound and willingness to take risks helped solidify their status as one of the best-selling female groups of all time. And now, their legacy is immortalized on film.

TLC Forever, a new documentary premiering on A&E/Lifetime on June 3, dives into the drastic highs and lows of the trio's 30-year career. Amid their many incredible achievements, there was also a lot of struggle, including bankruptcy, headline-making brawls, and tragedy. As Watkins jokingly declared at the 1996 GRAMMYs, "TLC will leave this business being remembered for a lot of things."

The nearly 120-minute film follows the iconic musical trio from their first meeting to Lopes' untimely death in 2002, and follows Watkins and Thomas as they prepare to perform at the 2022 Glastonbury Festival. It will be particularly special to fans, as the doc sees Watkins and Thomas watch the rare footage with longtime manager Bill Diggins in real time. 

Whether you're familiar with TLC's story or are eager to learn more, TLC Forever is worth the watch. Below, take a look at five key takeaways from the documentary.

Left-Eye's Infamous Mansion Torching Was Misconstrued By The Media

In the spring of 1994 — a mere five months before TLC's best-selling CrazySexyCool dropped — Lopes sought revenge on her then-boyfriend, former Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Andre Rison. After she allegedly caught him cheating, Lopes set a pair of his sneakers on fire in a bathtub in his two-story mansion, which subsequently spread to the rest of the home. 

Charged with felony arson, placed on a five-year probation, and sentenced to a $10,000 fine, the then 23-year-old rapper was never quite able to shake her "crazy" reputation brought on by the incident. However, TLC Forever uncovers details that give her actions more context. 

In the doc, Thomas describes Lopes and Rison's relationship as "toxic," before adding that "it was always something going on." Months after they started dating, Lopes and Rison got into a heated argument in a grocery parking lot, where Rison allegedly assaulted her and fired a warning shot to stop bystanders from getting involved. 

"I felt so bad for her, because when I walked in the room, I just remember the look on her face," Watkins says in the film, referring to the house fire. "Her nails were popped off, she was scratched up, bruised up and bleeding, and the whole world was looking at her like, 'What did you do?' And everybody didn't respond like they should've."

As many fans know, Lopes had protested CrazySexyCool's lead single "Creep," due to its lyrics promoting infidelity (especially amid the ongoing AIDS epidemic, which claimed nearly 42,000 lives in the U.S. alone that same year). Plus, the chart-topper went against what TLC had been known for: wearing condoms on baggy clothes as a way of advocating for safe sex. 

Though the song was actually inspired by Watkins' own relationship woes, Lopes feared that Rison would think she was cheating on him, possibly triggering more alleged abuse within their tumultuous relationship. So, for the remix, she wrote a verse warning listeners of the consequences of creeping: "Creepin' may cause hysterical behavior in the mind/ Put your life into a bind and in time/ Make you victim to a passionate crime," she raps.

Chilli Re-Evaluated Her Relationship With Dallas Austin After Becoming A Mom

Early in Thomas' longtime romance with LaFace producer Dallas Austin, she became pregnant ahead of the trio's debut album, Ooooooohhh... On the TLC Tip, which jeopardized her future with the group. Not receiving much support from Austin and fearing then-manager Perri "Pebbles" Reid would find out, Thomas reluctantly had an abortion at the age of 20, calling it a "horrible experience" in the documentary. 

"After that, I probably experienced some kind of breakdown. I couldn't forgive myself," she says. "I just felt this tremendous guilt for what I had done, and that guilt not being properly dealt with is what made me latch on more to Dallas."

In 1997, Thomas and Austin had a son named Tron, which acted in many ways as closure for the singer. "Once I had Tron, it really put the relationship I had with Dallas into perspective. It was clear that wasn't a functioning, healthy, loving relationship," she admits. They went their separate ways a couple years later, still working together creatively and co-parenting their son, who is now 26.

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Left-Eye's Absence On FanMail Was Partly Due To Her Beginning A Spiritual Journey

Despite CrazySexyCool selling 15 million copies worldwide, spawning two No. 1 hits on the Billboard Hot 100, and winning two GRAMMYs, TLC filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 1995 before going on a five-year hiatus that was prolonged by tension within the group. In the months leading up to TLC's third studio effort, FanMail — whose title was coined by Lopes and dedicated to the fans — Lopes expressed her dissatisfaction with the project after a handful of her songs were rejected by Dallas Austin. 

"I cannot stand 100 percent behind this TLC project and the music that is supposed to represent me," Lopes famously said in a 1999 interview with Vibe, which fueled rumors of a breakup. "This will be my last interview until I can speak freely about the truth and present myself on my solo project."

Around the same time, Lopes challenged Watkins and Thomas to record solo albums and offered a $1.5 million prize for whichever member sold the most copies. Lopes' raps can only be heard on three of FanMail's 17 tracks — and while a lot of her absence was certainly due to internal conflict, Watkins and Thomas confirmed that where Lopes was creatively "just didn't match" with what Austin was producing. At the time of Lopes' passing, she was on a 30-day spiritual retreat in Honduras, parts of which were recorded and released as 2007's posthumous documentary The Last Days of Left Eye.

T-Boz Struggled With Depression After Brain Tumor Diagnosis

In 2006, Watkins privately battled an acoustic neuroma, a potentially fatal brain tumor that sat on her facial, hearing and balance nerves. The then 36-year-old underwent surgery to remove the tumor, a risk exacerbated by her ongoing complications from sickle cell anemia since childhood. 

"[The doctor] said in case something goes wrong and I can't save either your hearing or your face or your balance, give me the order that you want to save yourself," she said in the doc. "This industry is about your face, your voice, your dancing — that's my whole job. So, they took my balance, I saved my face for the most part, [and] I only lost three percent [of my hearing] at the time."

Watkins added that she felt depressed and unattractive for many years after the surgery, until her mother changed her perspective. "I remember looking in the mirror one day and I started crying, and my mom said, 'No.' She said, 'Look, this is just your journey back to normal. This is not how you're gonna stay, this is not how you're gonna be. This is only your journey back to how you started,'" she recalled. "I said, 'Yeah, okay, if I look at it that way, then all I gotta do is survive this and get through it and I can be cool. And then the fight kicks in that I'm living, I'm going to survive this, I'm going to beat this."

Now 53, Watkins is still going strong. However, the film gives viewers a deeper look into just how much preparation is required for her to be able to perform without compromising her health. Before and after hitting the stage, Watkins must receive enough fluids and oxygen to keep inflammation at a minimum.

T-Boz & Chilli Were Faced With An Ultimatum Right After Left-Eye's Death

Watkins and Thomas discuss the immense amount of pressure they faced from their label to move forward without Lopes, who tragically passed away at 30 years old in a car accident during her Honduras trip. "After Lisa passed, the record company said they were gonna put out a greatest hits [album] if we didn't finish [3D], so we kinda felt forced to go back into the studio," Watkins said in TLC Forever. "We were given an ultimatum." Thomas added, "We had tunnel vision, let's just finish it."

Despite going platinum, 3D was seen as a commercial failure by TLC's standards, selling fewer than 700,000 copies and its lead single, "Girl Talk," peaking at No. 28 on the Hot 100. Following their first live performance without Lopes at Z100's annual Zootopia concert in 2003, the music industry seemingly wrote them off — but Thomas said she never felt it was truly over. It wasn't until their VH1 Super Bowl Blitz concert in 2014 that promoters started reaching out, which eventually led to the biggest performance of their extraordinary career: taking the stage at Glastonbury last year.

"The greatest reward is when you don't have the No. 1 song anymore and you're able to sell out your tours," Thomas says as the film wraps. "That means you have a great body of work that can stand the test of time, and time has told us that we did good. We did alright."

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GRAMMY Rewind: Brandi Carlile Nervously Accepts Her First GRAMMY After "The Joke" Wins In 2019
Brandi Carlile at the 2019 GRAMMYs.

Photo: David Crotty/Patrick McMullan


GRAMMY Rewind: Brandi Carlile Nervously Accepts Her First GRAMMY After "The Joke" Wins In 2019

Fourteen years into her career, Brandi Carlile won her first GRAMMY award — and because the long-awaited victory was so meaningful, she couldn't help "violently shaking" on stage.

GRAMMYs/Jun 2, 2023 - 05:02 pm

Brandi Carlile has been making waves in the Americana community for nearly two decades. But in 2019, Carlile's career began a different — and much bigger — trajectory thanks to a little song called "The Joke." 

The lead single from her sixth studio album, By the Way, I Forgive You, "The Joke" is dedicated to marginalized communities who constantly feel underrepresented and unloved by society. As a trailblazer in the LBGTQIA+ community, her impassioned vocal performance struck fans and critics alike.

In this episode of GRAMMY Rewind, we revisit the day "The Joke" helped Carlile win her first golden gramophone, for Best American Roots Performance. (It was one of three GRAMMYs Carlile took home that night, as "The Joke" also won Best American Roots Song and By the Way, I Forgive You won Best Americana Album.)

"It's our first GRAMMY!" Carlile cheered alongside her longtime collaborators Phil and Tim Hanseroth. "This means so much to me [...] and Dave Cobb, who wrote this song and brought the best out in us. We can't thank you enough."

Carlile went on to praise her team at Elektra Records and her family. "So many people to thank, but I'm violently shaking right now," she added, then passed the mic to the Hanseroth twins. 

Before the trio left the stage, Carlile quipped, "Whoever we forgot, forgive us. You know we love you, and you know we're terrified!" 

Press play on the video above to watch Brandi Carlile's complete acceptance speech for Best American Roots Performance at the 2019 GRAMMYs, and check back to for more new episodes of GRAMMY Rewind.

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