How Paris Is Burning Inspired RuPaul's Drag Race

"RuPaul's Drag Race" has become a cultural sensation, with ratings growing throughout the years. According to Deadline, the premiere of Season 14 was met with the highest number of viewers since Season 10, which hit the airwaves in 2018.

Drag queens and LGBTQ+ culture have not always been accepted by the mainstream (via The Conversation). RuPaul and "Drag Race" have been credited with bringing the entertainment art form into the general public and garnering more acceptance. Before "Drag Race," there were only a handful of successful drag queens working in the mainstream industry. Now, some of the show's most popular queens are selling merchandise, touring the world, and working in film and television after graduating from RuPaul's competition show.

RuPaul has also helped bring many aspects of drag culture into the mainstream, not just the queens themselves. Before there was a show about drag queens on VH1, there was a documentary about New York City's drag and ballroom scene called "Paris Is Burning." Much of "RuPaul's Drag Race" has been inspired by the performers showcased in the film.

One of the show's most beloved challenges was inspired by the film

"Paris Is Burning" was the original insight into LGBTQ+ culture for those outside of the community. According to X City Plus, the 30+-year-old film has paved the way for shows like "RuPaul's Drag Race." Filmed in Harlem, the documentary introduces mainstream culture to terms like "reading," the ballroom and voguing scenes, and a glimpse into the lives of NYC's LGBTQ+ community.

So much of what we see on "Drag Race" has been inspired by the film, from the runways where the queens showcase their fashions to the vernacular uttered by RuPaul and the cast. However, the most notable inspiration has come in the form of the iconic and well-loved mini-challenge seen each season: the reading challenge.

The reading challenge shows the queens poking fun at one another with playful shade (via Mental Floss). The inspiration behind the challenge was pulled from "Paris Is Burning," where Venus Xtraveganza explains how to read someone. The idea isn't to be offensive, but rather to make everyone laugh with shade directed at someone.

Lemon, who competed on Season 1 of "Canada's Drag Race," spoke about how important the reading challenge is with Mental Floss. "When I arrived, I saw everyone in the workroom, and that night I went back to the apartment and I wrote everyone's name and started making a read." She continued, "Everyone knows the reading challenge is coming! It's my personal favorite challenge on 'Drag Race,' so I'm like, 'I can't let everyone down watching at home.'" 

At the end of the day, it's about humor and fun!