Drag Race's BeBe and Ongina reveal the truth behind season 1's infamous filter
OG queens reveal the truth behind the infamous filter and how Ongina might've indirectly caused Akasia's runway fall.
Few things in life are as immediately clear as RuPaul's cover girl beauty, but fans had a memorably difficult time literally seeing that — or much of anything at all — through what appeared to be a glob of vaseline smeared across the camera throughout the filming of RuPaul's Drag Race season 1.
OG queens BeBe Zahara Benet — who walked away with the Emmy-winning series' inaugural prize — and fan-favorite competitor Ongina recently stopped by EW'S BINGE podcast to lovingly recap their season 1 journey through the future ratings juggernaut's fabulous fledgling waters and that infamously blurry camera lens as part of Mama Ru's debut crop of contenders vying for what would become the most coveted crown in queer television history.
"It seems like every two seconds they had to change some lighting thing," Benet affectionately jokes of season 1's aesthetic, which she tells BINGE cohosts Joey Nolfi and Jillian Sederholm was a recurring point of comedy for the first group of girls to face off on Drag Race. "[It was] that filter!" Ongina continues. "They had to keep changing the plastic layer they kept adding to the camera! They had a man with different color cellophanes. We were just sitting there!"
Benet remembers that the group had no idea the season would end up playing on national television as if it was being broadcast through a cloud of mist, which fans have adoringly come to love as one of the show's most memorable artistic choices across its 11-year history.
"We didn't even know what it was. When we looked at the final product we were like, oh, they sure blurred our faces, honey, we must not have been that cute!" she quips.
Before the show went on to score gold with the Television Academy and morph into a global phenomenon on VH1, queer-focused network Logo shepherded the series into existence on a much smaller budget than it has now, which resulted in what appeared to be a tiny runway Benet and Ongina claim was easier to navigate than fans suspect. That wasn't the case for season 1 competitor Akashia, however, who fell atop the stage after getting tripped up on a gorgeous ballgown.
"It seemed like she was very down and very sad. What I remember from that day is she had asked me [to help her pick] between two outfits," explains Ongina. "She showed me the gown which she wore, and then she was showing me another hoe outfit. I was like, 'You should probably wear a gown this time because you've been a hoe the last few outfits you've worn.' I'm not saying it was my fault she fell, obviously that was her fault because she couldn't walk in a gown, but maybe I added to that!"
Ongina maintains that she made the call as a genuine move to help Akashia, who'd already landed in the bottom twice leading up to that point. Benet backs up the sentiment, speculating that the magic of season 1 stems from a lack of knowledge about how the show operated, so there was no secret plotting or back-stabbing like we see on today's televised pageants.
"Whether you hate or love us, we were very genuine," Benet stresses. "We didn't have blueprints to say 'I want to be the bitch' or 'I want to be this,' we were just who we were.... nobody came with some preconceived notion or strategy!"
Listen to Benet and Ongina's full interview on EW's BINGE podcast — which recaps one season of RuPaul's Drag Race per episode — above. New episodes premiere every Thursday with new queens (including Bianca Del Rio, Trixie Mattel, Katya, and more), so subscribe now on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you find your favorite podcasts.
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