Randy Barbato And Fenton Bailey Talk The Big Return Of RuPaul's DragCon LA - Exclusive Interview

They keep the televised drag world spinning, and they're bringing fans of "RuPaul's Drag Race" closer to more queens from the franchise than ever before. That's right: RuPaul's DragCon is back in May 2022 thanks to World of Wonder's Randy Barbato and Fenton Bailey after taking a break throughout much of the COVID-19 pandemic. Oh, and it's bigger than ever.


Barbato and Bailey have been executive producing "Drag Race" since its earliest days, and they continue to grow the series' platform across the world. Not only does the flagship series get bigger and bolder every year, but international spinoffs of the show — currently airing is Season 2 of "Drag Race España" from Spain — have been popping up left and right in recent years. Fans can also enjoy "RuPaul's Drag Race All Stars," whose cast for Season 7, which was recently announced ahead of its May 20 premiere date, has fans across the world shook (via Entertainment Weekly).

Now, as the "Drag Race" universe continues to expand, so does DragCon. This year's convention will be in Los Angeles from May 13 to 15, and will feature queens from the U.S. series just as much from its international counterparts. Fans can expect to see the likes of A'Whora and Tia Kofi from the U.K., Priyanka and Scarlett BoBo from the great North, Pangina Heals from Thailand, Envy Peru from the Netherlands, and many more.


Luckily for The List, we were able to chat with behind-the-scenes "Drag Race" stars Barbato and Bailey on what fans can expect at this year's DragCon, as well as if they could tease anything about "All Stars" 7. Maybe, just maybe, DragCon will let you into some of what you don't see on "Drag Race."

On what attendees can expect from DragCon in 2022

DragCon is back [in person] after a break because of the pandemic. What can you tease to our readers about this year's event?

Fenton: Bigger, better, more gag worthy than ever before. People are ready for it. It's going to be really popular and busy, but the thing is, we have more queens coming from more parts of the world than we've ever had, partly because it's been three years since we had DragCon in LA, and in that time, [we've also had] "Drag Race Down Under," "Drag Race France," "Drag Race Italy," "Drag Race Spain," "Drag Race Holland." There's been a lot of "Drag Races." 


I'm very excited that a lot of the queens are coming from those franchises to meet. They're going to meet other queens, and also they're going to meet their fans, but it's going to be a real global gathering of drag from across the world, which is really exciting. We're also doing these "Bring Back My Girls" panels. For example, we'll do "Bring Back My Girls U.K.," which will be all British queens, and they always have a fresh perspective. We're also doing "Bring Back My Girls Holland" [and] "Bring Back My Girls Canada."

Randy: Season 13 and Season 12, because they never had an actual physical reunion, they'll be brought together and those will all be hosted by Ts Madison. They'll be these cool reunion panels ... really dynamic and fun. 


Ts Madison's amazing. I have no doubt that those panels are going to be amazing, too.

Fenton: We were just on with somebody and we said, "You know 'Zola,' right?" They were like, "Yeah," but they didn't, because if you've seen "Zola" and you've seen Ts Madison in "Zola," it's not like you forget it. "Yeah, maybe." I was like ... Ts Madison is amazing. Then, of course, there will be a "WOW Presents Plus" booth because we've got so many new originals, Why R Humans, made by the guys who make "UNHhhh." Randy, are we doing a "Painted with Raven" thing?

Randy: I don't think we're doing a panel with "Painted with Raven," but we're going to have Instagram. We're going to have "Painted with Raven" there. There's going to be a lot of really cool experiential things. The floor is completely booked. The queens from "Queen of the Universe" will be there. A lot of them will be performing on the main stage. RuPaul will be DJing. It really is going to be a dynamic event, and like Fenton said, more queens than ever from all over the world.

Will DragCon become annual again?

Fenton: Lubricating it [is] House of Love Cocktails, who are sponsors of the event. They're available now on pre-order, but they'll actually be on site and you'll be able to get taste tests and what have you.


Randy: Served by the pit crew.

This is actually my first DragCon that I'll be in attendance in person. I'm so excited. Outside of all of the queens from around the world being there, what else might make this DragCon different from previous years?

Randy: Oh, my gosh. Everything we just said. It's different. It is bigger and more comfortable. It's more. There's an extra day. It's longer, there are more panels.

Fenton: One of the things is that ... The queen's walk is after the ribbon cutting. The queens walk, all the queens come in who are in attendance. I'm really excited for that this year, because I think it's just become, will have become, such an epic runway fashion show gag worthy event.


Are you able to divulge if ... this will be an annual event again?

Randy: Oh yes.

Fenton: I can divulge that. Yes, absolutely.

Oh, wonderful. From here, it seems like it's only going to go to even bigger places, which is really exciting.

Fenton: Yeah. For this year, this is the one. It is DragCon L.A. because we've been in such a period of uncertainty and many times, we all thought, "Well, maybe the pandemic's over, and it was like, "No, it's not." I think we can safely say this is it.

At what point during "Drag Race's" journey on the air did you all realize, "Oh, we could make a really amazing convention out of this"?

Fenton: Well, that's a really good question because this will be, I want to make sure I'm getting this right... This is the 10th in-person DragCon.

Randy: Slightly confusing. It's the 10th DragCon, but not the 10th in Los Angeles.

Fenton: No, it's the 10th ever in person.

On when they realized Drag Race could make a fun convention

Randy: I will answer your question because I remember the question and Fenton, thank you for that confusing bit of information, which I hopefully I've clarified, but the question, it was within the second or third season of "Drag Race" that Ru[Paul] started saying, "Wouldn't it be great if we could bring the tribe together?" Then, everyone at World of Wonder started talking about it and we were like, "Well, we don't know how to do a convention." Then we said, "Well, who cares? We'll figure it out." That's what we've done.


Fenton: You don't remember what season that was, Randy, so actually, you can't answer the question either.

Randy: But I managed to fudge it in a way that he wouldn't have even noticed. I said after the third season we started talking about it. That's good. 

How long did it take from the time the idea was born until the convention actually happened?

Fenton: Randy's the perfect guy giving all the perfect answers, but let's see what he has to say.

Randy: After the third season, we started talking about it and then soon thereafter, eventually –

Fenton: I reckon it was about a year.

Randy: No, it was several years, Fenton.

Fenton: Was it? Really? Yeah.

Randy: "Several many years." That's the answer.


[Laughs] I'll take it. I know DragCon U.K. is happening, I believe in January, which is really exciting. Are there plans to make more DragCons around the world now as well?

Fenton: Absolutely. We were very excited. DragCon U.K. was the last DragCon we did before the pandemic. It was January of 2020. I dread to think how many people in that venue were already –

Randy: No, don't say it.

Fenton: Because it was pretty insane. I remember, at one point, the Frock Destroyers took to the stage and the number of people crammed into that venue was amazing. We're not doing it like that this time.

Randy: Although the Frock Destroyers are going to perform at DragCon.

Fenton: Awesome.

What determines where DragCon will be held?

I didn't know that.

Randy: By the way, that convention in the U.K. will be the 11th time that there has been an in-person, what did you call it, Fenton? An in-person drag event.

Fenton: In-person. I opposed to not in-person.


Randy: All right, fine. I didn't know we had DragCon online.

Fenton: Not in-person. During the pandemic, Randy, we did some digital events, which I guess you didn't attend.

Randy: No, I didn't.

Fenton: "Bring Back My Ghouls." Did you go to that? Yes. That was really good.

Randy: I produced it, Fenton.

I know online, many of the international "Drag Race" series are becoming incredibly popular. "Drag Race España," especially, I see everywhere, which is amazing. Is Spain maybe somewhere you're thinking about taking DragCon?

Fenton: Maybe, couldn't say right now.

Randy: Hola, hola!

Fair. I won't push it. [Laughs] We have to ask, of course, what are some of your personal favorite memories from DragCon?


Randy: I have an answer. DragCon is a family affair. I have two twin boys who are now eight years old. They've been going pretty much since they were born. [It was] Eureka [O'Hara], Storytelling Hour, and Eureka was reading a book to my boys. I'm so excited about taking them this year because this is the first season they really watched and watched it really closely. In fact, today on the way to school, we listened to "I Hate People" and "My Checklist is Strong" and all the girls' songs and they cannot even believe that there's a possibility that they may see some of these girls and that they may even meet them. The family aspect of DragCon is one of the most satisfying to me because it's "Drag Race" bringing families together.

Fenton: In that vein, I'm not sure that you're going to see DragCon in Florida anytime soon, though God knows they need it. Maybe that's what we do. Maybe we run to the raw and go say "gay."

Honestly, if there's anyone that could change this legislation, it would be "Drag Race."

Fenton: Exactly. As RuPaul says, every time I bat my eyelashes, it's a political act.

Another thing we wanted to ask is what factors maybe decide where [events] will be held?

Randy: Well, it's availability.


Fenton: It is availability, actually.

On why DragCon left New York City

Randy: It was great having DragCon in New York, but New York City is expensive. Their convention center, and I hope someone's reading this, but that convention center is expensive. We brought so many amazing, beautiful people to that convention center and to New York, but apparently, we're just as valuable as a rug company, which was downstairs when we were doing it. I also feel like it's important to work in a city and with a convention center that respects what we're doing and is excited about what we're doing. We did not feel that in New York City. We feel a lot of love in Los Angeles, right, Fenton? There's a lot of love for "Drag Race" in Atlanta. We have been having conversations with them and that could be a future place for DragCon.


That would be so fun. Shifting gears a little bit, how has World of Wonder changed the way that brands work with the queens?

Fenton: Brands have slowly woken up to the fact that queens are talented artists, no different from any other celebrity and makes sense. It's in their own interests to find ways to collaborate and work with them.

Likewise, the fashion industry and the beauty industry, they're really following drag and "Drag Race." What can you speak to in regard to the way that the beauty world has changed because of "Drag Race"?

Fenton: Well, it has. That's how to speak to it. It has, in the sense that, like Ru says, you're born naked and the rest is drag. He often is talking about — a lot of people think that's just about clothes and what you put on. It's a true point, but makeup is the same thing. The makeup and beauty business is drag. They go together like peanut butter and jelly, drag and brands and makeup and beauty brands, especially.


World of Wonder ... you mentioned the House of Love cocktail line. Because of the way drag is so involved in the beauty and fashion industries, have you considered ventures in those realms as well?

Fenton: Well, these cocktails, when you drink them, they make you more beautiful. The House of Love cocktail range is a beauty product as long as you drink responsibly.

Randy: Excuse our beauty.

Randy Barbato offers one final piece of advice for DragCon

Generally, because we're so invested, what does the future of World of Wonder look like? Are there more things you can tease or tell us about?

Randy: World of Wonder is a company built on passion, and the future of World of Wonder is us continuing to pursue our passion in lots of different areas. "Drag Race" is important to us and drag queens inspire us and stories inspire us and people inspire us. You'll see lots more documentaries, lots more independently produced series on WOW Presents Plus. We'll be investing a lot more energy, time, and money in WOW Presents Plus in original programming. We're really looking to make that the new Netflix. I'm mainly being facetious, but we are really looking to double down on WOW Presents Plus, because to be able to produce our own content without having to answer to –


Fenton: The algorithm.

Randy: ... the networks, we love working with all of them, but to pursue stuff that turns us on and to try and create more opportunity for more storytellers and more talent is a dream. That will be what we continue to do more of. 

The next season of "Drag Race" premieres May 20, "All Stars" [Season] 7. Is there anything you can tease to our readers about what "All Stars" 7 might entail?

Fenton: No, no, no, no, no, no, no. What do you think? All stars in "All Stars." It's "All Stars" winners. It's going to be pretty modest, quiet, understated. It's going to be incredibly satisfying for people. The cast is so talented and you're going to gag on the beauty, the talent, the heart. It will exceed people's expectations and there will be a number of surprises.


RuPaul's DragCon will be held in Los Angeles from May 13 to 15. Meanwhile, "RuPaul's Drag Race All Stars" Season 7 premieres on Paramount+ on May 20.