Of the 21 Latina queens that have competed on RuPaul’s Drag Race throughout its eight seasons, the vast majority of them are Boricua. Sixteen queens, in fact—and that’s a lot, sure, but the show still hasn’t come close to representing the breadth of the actual scene in Puerto Rico. It’s so vast, so diverse, that we can’t even cover the whole landscape in one story. But we’ll try to hit the high notes.
The island may be small, but throughout all of it there are pockets of thriving scenes, all of them overflowing with talent. In San Juan specifically, it’s anchored by two clubs: Scandalo and Circo. Independent music venues and other bars also host events, but it’s those specific Santurce-area clubs, which are located steps away from each other, where you’ll see the most brilliant late-night shows. And we mean really, really late—whether a one-off themed event or part of one of many series of local pageants.
Hometown RPDR contestants enjoy their fair share of out-of-town bookings, of course, but there’s an overall insularity to the community. It could be the literal insularity of island life that breeds hyper-creativity, or maybe it’s simply that Puerto Rican queens are naturally incredibly fabulous. Whatever the case, queens here are intensely creative. Nobody’s falling back on cultural stereotypes as performance fodder; artistry and genuine talent reign supreme.
Check out a selection of seven of the most original, inventive faces in the Puerto Rican drag circuit. It’s only the tip of a giant rhinestone-encrusted iceberg, but it’s a stunningly bright crop to get you started.
Warhola Pop returned to drag in 2014 after having explored it only briefly seven years ago, and while she didn’t quite find her niche at first try, she’s now pushing an idiosyncratic style of performance with early pop-art influences, particularly Andy Warhol.
During last month’s Generation New Face competition (during which she won first runner up), she outfitted herself as a re-envisioned Pinocchio for the cartoon-themed leg. Painted to look literally wooden, Warhola made puppets seem surprisingly fabulous. Other recent favorites include a glittering fuchsia ensemble, complete with matching hairpiece, a full-length bodysuit painted by hand in homage to artist Keith Haring, and her take on Edward Scissorhands for a Tim Burton themed show.
Rochelle Mon Chéri
Viewers only got a few glimpses of her in last year’s Mala Mala doc, but Rochelle Mon Chéri is actually the co-founder of the Doll House, of which RPDR contestants April Carrión and Kandy Ho’ are both members. Had she gotten a little more screen time, you might’ve seen looks the award-winning queen says have been likened to a telenovela villain, stars like Jenni Rivera and Alejandra Guzmán and even a Puerto Rican Bettie Page.
Rochelle’s flowery pin-up realness at Puerto Rico’s Gay Pride in 2014 was absolutely unforgettable, and she nailed Rollergirl Realness as early as last year, well before the recent RPDR challenge (she continues to skate around the neighborhood of Condado on the regular.) To say she’s got range is an understatement, but there’s something especially stunning when she takes a decidedly simpler approach. One of the strongest of the bunch in terms of social media game, Rochelle often gives her fans face—and nothing else—with incredibly striking results.
“I live for the WTF factor,” Adi Love gushes. The 23-year-old trans queen serves up super-vulgar shock comedy, and is notorious for dousing fans in confetti, glitter and even flour — and they love every second of it. Her fearless takeover of an entire club, from the bar-top to clearing space for insane death drops in the center of a packed crowd, add to her impressive performance prowess. Top that off with her mix of mainstream pop culture and underground scene references – particularly goth and punk – and it’s clear why watching Adi perform is a truly singular experience.
Queen Bee Ho'
Another seasoned and well-regarded Puerto Rican queen, Queen Bee Ho’ actually did get some due spotlight via Mala Mala—her superb, often mesmerizing dancing specifically. What you didn’t get to see, though, are her super-tight, elaborately choreographed group performances. She’s always center stage, of course, but the addition of back-up dancers takes things to another level of diva altogether.
Puerto Rico’s Miss Continental 2016, Miss Generation 2015 and Nuestra Belleza Gay the year prior, Alyssa Hunter is one of those really, really good looking queens. She’s versatile in styling, but whatever the wig shade or outfit inspo, it’s jaw-dropping gorgeousness every single time. And the girl sashays like a dream, too.
Kriss Du Cecile
Decidedly outlandish and over-the-top in both paint and performance, Kriss Du Cecile is one of the most followed PR queens on any given social media platform (even among RPDR contestants). That draw is anchored by the regularity with which Kriss churns out hilarious YouTube videos, but also her penchant for being brazenly outspoken about social and political issues – albeit with a bit of kooky humor included.
Her drag mother is Yara Sofia, the RPDR season 3 Miss Congeniality winner who coined the enduring catchphrase “echa pa’ lante!” With eight years of performing down already, Amalara is totally capable of following in Yara’s footsteps whenever Ru comes calling. She’s won plenty of local awards already, from Miss Gay Latina last year to Miss Legendary Continental this year.
Fishiness is a focal point, but Amalara says she stretches her spectrum of inspirations to include more avant-garde looks—occasionally even the dark and macabre make appearances.