The producers of RuPaul’s Drag Race Down Under tried five times to get Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern to sashay down the runway – and made a point of stating they didn’t want to ask Judith Collins.
The first local iteration of the popular US reality show filmed in Auckland during January and February this year, with US host RuPaul and judge Michelle Visage being granted entry to the country to front the show.
Correspondence released under the Official Information Act reveals producers from production company Warner Bros sent at least four emails to Ardern’s office asking if she could make a cameo appearance, with reference to at least one follow-up phone call with her chief of staff Andrew Campbell.
“We would absolutely love to have Jacinda Ardern appear as a guest judge on the show, in fact RuPaul herself wanted to convey how much of a fan she is of our Prime Minister and all the work she has done, as well as her support for the rainbow community,” a producer wrote in an email on December 15, over a month before the show was officially announced.
Another, more informal email that has the author retracted praised Ardern’s “fierce leadership” and said that it would be “absolutely criminal if we didn’t feature OUR most faithful Judy” on the show. Judy – a reference to American actress Judy Garland – is gay slang for a best friend that is used frequently within the vernacular of Drag Race.
The letter also said that they hoped Ardern could find time in between “Clarke asking you if you want fish for the fifth time this week”, and encouraged Ardern to respond within the week – noting that they “really don’t want to have to ask Judith (not my best Judy)”, a reference to National Party leader Judith Collins.
While initial emails asked if Ardern could take place as a judge, later correspondence offered up a briefer appearance in the workroom where the contestants prepare for the challenges.
However, Campbell eventually responded on January 15 after two further emails from production to inform them Ardern wouldn’t be able to appear.
“The start of the year is very busy for the Prime Minister with various events being juggled,” he wrote.
“Best wishes for filming and we look forward to watching it.”
The first season of Drag Race Down Under featured a mix of Australian and New Zealand drag queens competing for the title of “Down Under’s first drag superstar”, and was eventually won by Auckland-based queen Kita Mean.
Local stars Rena Owen, Suzanne Paul and Rurangi actor Elz Carrad made in-person appearances, while Taika Waiti, Dame Olivia Newton-John and Kylie Minogue made video appearances.
Ardern has only made a handful of appearances on TV shows, most notably picking up American talk show Stephen Colbert from the airport when he visited New Zealand in 2019.
However, it’s not unusual for politicians to show up on Drag Race. In the flagship US version of the show, Democrats Nancy Pelosi and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez have previously appeared as guests.
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