With Season 6 of RuPaul’s Drag Race in the books and the new queen crowned, it’s time to reflect on how our pre-season forecasts did. In February I posted a wiki survey asking who would win this season before the first episode had aired. I posted this to reddit’s r/rupaulsdragrace, Twitter, and Facebook, and it generated an impressive 15,632 votes for 435 unique user sessions. Which means the average survey taker did a little under 36 pairwise comparisons.
The plot below shows the results. The x-axis is the score assigned by the All Our Ideas statistical model and can be interpreted that, if “idea” 1 (or, in this case, queen 1) is pitted at random against idea 2, this is the chance that idea 1 will win. The color is how close the wiki survey got to the actual rank. The more pale the dot, the closer. Bluer dots mean the wiki survey overestimated the queen, while redder dots mean it underestimated them.
So how did the wiki survey do? Not terrible. Courtney Act was a clear frontrunner and had a lot of star power to carry her to the end. Bianca was a close second in the wiki survey and finally outshone her when it came to the final. These two are relatively close to each other in score. This was actually the first season in which two queens never had to lipsync. Ben DeLaCreme is ranked third in the survey, although she came in fifth. Little surprise she was voted Miss Congeniality.
After that, it gets interesting. Milk was ranked four by the survey, but came in 9th on the show. I’m thinking her quirkiness may have given folks the impression that she could go much further than she actually did. Adore, one of the top three, comes in fifth on the survey, rather close to her friend Laganja.
April Carrion and Kelly Mantle were expected to go far, but got the chop relatively early on. Darienne was a dark horse in this competition, ending up in fourth place when pre-season fans thought she’d be middling.
Lastly, Joslyn and Trinity are the biggest success stories of season 6. They had a surprising amount of staying power when folks thought they wouldn’t make it out of the first month.
So what can we learn from this? Well, for one, for a more or less staged reality show, I’m somewhat impressed by how well these rankings came out. Unlike using wiki surveys for sports forecasting, we have no prior information on contestants from season to season. Prior seasons give us no information about contestants (unless you consider something like “drag lineages”, e.g. Laganja is Alyssa Edwards’s drag daughter). All information comes from the domain expertise of drag aficionados. Courtney and Bianca were already widely regarded drag stars in their own right before the competition. Although this didn’t seem to be the case with other seasons, it seems like there was a strong Matthew effect at work this time. Is this the new normal as more well-known queens start competing?