How RuPaul’s Drag Race Has Taught Me to Be a Better Tester – and Why You Should Watch it too!

OK. So I have only just discovered that the new season of reality TV show RuPaul’s Drag Race will air on Netflix Saturday 2nd Jan 2021 in the UK. I cannot tell you how ludicrously excited I am by this news. 🥳

If you’re not familiar with the show, it is a competition with a $100,000 prize fund, where Drag Queens from all over the world compete to win “the race”. It is incredibly popular, and I have loved watching it for years.

It seems a tenuous link, but I honestly think my all-time favourite TV programme has a lot to teach us all. Here are a few lessons I’ve learnt from the show:-

The power of community

If anyone is looking to join, build or grow a community this year, Drag Race is the perfect example of how to do it. It respects its roots, celebrating what came before it such as the iconic “Paris is Burning” documentary and the Stonewall uprising. It also embraces and celebrates all that is weird, “other”, non-conformist and challenging. As testers (and as people), we need to embrace other points of view, and be a part of a psychologically safe workplace. It might sound wooly but it makes the difference between dreading coming into work or staying around for years and years. RPDG provides a space for everyone spectacularly if, like me, you’re into the Testing Peers concept of culture-add not culture fit.

The importance of being authentic

I’ve always loved that Drag Race Queens are selected because of their “charisma, uniqueness, nerve and talent”. A drag act might be all about image and looks, but that alone won’t get them a ticket to the final. What matters is what you do and who you are. Queens who don’t fit the looks mold but excel comedically or are super kind or super talented do spectacularly well.

“Club Kid” looks celebrate the unusual and unique

I’ve always liked that I work in an industry where I’m not judged on my looks. That I come to work most days with no make up on, my hair tied in a crappy bun wearing an old jumper and jeans and that makes zero difference to people’s respect for me or their view on how well I can do my job. Trying to hide who you are at work to fit in is exhausting, and as a long term strategy will likely fail for you. Be yourself, and support others who want to be authentic too.

You will fail. Success comes to those who keep trying.

RPDG has become a phenomenon. It has spawned so many successful global careers for the contestants (who win or lose, yes you Porkchop) that they are often willing to come back and try again. Many who failed to snatch the crown first time around try harder, work on their failures and return to take the “All Stars” title – another RPDG series which takes past contestants and puts them through their paces once again. A lot of the contestants have endured genuine and profound hardships to be who they are, and to even make it on to the show in the first place is rightly considered a major life win.

The power of resilience and persistence in testers is a mighty one too. RuPaul himself says “what other people think of you is none of your Goddamn business” – and I believe this to be 100% true. Do not waste your time stressing about what others think, or being afraid to be the one who says “I don’t understand this”. Push those boundaries Queen.

Shea Coulee, runner up then crowned winner in 2020.

Don’t take yourself too seriously

From the pun-tastic names (“Bagga Chips”, “Heidi n Closet” and “Lattrice Royale”) to the tasks and even the guest judges, everything about RPDG has its tongue firmly in its cheek. Be prepared to work hard, but know life is for living and enjoying yourself.

I always work best in teams with a healthy approach to their work life balance and who enjoy lifting those around them to be positive and have a good experience at work. If your only focus is on delivery on time at all costs, this will lead to burnout, low morale and all the best people leaving. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, just don’t be a dick.

I intend to add to this post in future once I’ve watched the latest season (and probably gone back and watched the previous ones for like the 10th time too) but after the year we’ve had I would wholeheartedly encourage you to jump in to the the craziness and life-affirming goodness that is Drag Race.

Can I get an amen? ;o)

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