The art of accommodating the "Drag Race" cult with French sauce

The art of accommodating the “Drag Race” cult with French sauce

“I often say that we bought the hamburger recipe and that we made it with pan bagnat and foie gras,” laughs Raphaël Cioffi. It is he who, from the cult American franchise RuPaul’s Drag Race launched in 2009, simmered Drag Race France. The first episode will be available Saturday at 8 p.m. on France TV Slash and broadcast at 11:25 p.m. on France 2. On the menu of this drag-queens competition: “a compendium of queer culture, slapstick repartee, humor and sequences allowing to tackle more serious issues”, summarizes Nicolas Missoffe, producer at Endemol.

Concretely, the candidates lend themselves to challenges allowing them to demonstrate their creativity, their sense of humor, comedy and fashion, and all their other talents. Beyond entertainment, the show acts as a forum for voices LGBTQ+ (lesbians, gays, bi, trans, queer): the queens take the time to confide in their backgrounds, their experiences and their commitments…

The LGBTQ+ community portrayed ‘like a party’

Raphaël Cioffi remembers very well his discovery of the concept drag race, six years ago: “I was really shocked, it was the first time I saw my community represented like that, like a party. “He who was the author of the sketches of Catherine and Liliane and Fashion Freak Show by Jean Paul Gaultier immediately wanted to adapt the program in France while respecting its essence: “speak creatively, without apologizing for who we are, and celebrate who we are”.

It’s out of the question to make concessions by smoothing the rough edges. “That was the condition. When I went to see Endemol and France Télévisions, I met amplifiers, that is to say that, instead of explaining what had to be done and how, they understood perfectly what was involved and they beaten to do so. “” It is a work of enthusiasts, who arrived with a real look, confirms Alexandra Redde-Amiel, the director of entertainment for France Télévisions. To adapt a show as powerful as this, you had to have the right teams, at the right time, with the right cast. »

“The Americans loved what we offered them”

It remained to accommodate this “funny and committed” spirit with French sauce, knowing that American producers impose strict specifications. Impossible to invent new rules or completely overturn the visual codes that make the universe drag race recognizable at first glance. “For example, the Atelier had to [la salle où les candidates se préparent] be pink, but let us know immediately that we are in France, hence the side of the Palace of Versailles, illustrates Nicolas Missoffre. The Americans loved what they were offered, they didn’t ask for any changes. Proof of this Francophilia: Drag Race France is the only one, among the ten existing international adaptations, to have had the authorization to modify the logo – one of the “a’s” appears as an Eiffel Tower stylized…

The same confidence was in place for the francization of the emblematic expressions of the show. “Coming from New York, I expected to reuse jargon, which is the essence of our drag culture. Raph’ said to me: “Don’t you think that we borrow American codes because of a lack of French drag culture?” It made me think, says the Frenchwoman Nicky Doll who, after participating in season 12 of RuPaul’s Drag Raceanime Drag Race France. It was our duty, in providing an opportunity like this for our queens, to create a vocabulary for them and the public who discover them. We put our heart into creating our own expressions. How was the iconic “condragulation” – a contraction of “congratulation” and “drag” – translated? Suspense… We will only discover it at the time of the broadcast. One certainty: it will not be “congratulation”.

“The culture of cabaret and stripping…”

The ten candidates, they applaud. “We missed this lexical field in French. Using it has become almost natural”, confirms Kam Hugh. “Drag culture is Anglo-Saxon, our own culture comes from cabaret, Chez Michou, stripping…”, recalls Paloma. Drag Race France won’t miss an opportunity to honor French popular culture. The test of lip-sync – a performance in playback to decide between the two queens risking elimination at the end of each episode – will take place on French-speaking songs, while, during the challenges, the texts of Dalida or Juliette Armanet, among others, will be called upon.

“It’s important to adapt,” says the Bordelaise Elips. Copying the US version using the same pop songs that everyone knows would have less flavor. “Lady Gaga, we have already heard enough of her in other drag race ,” pings Muse’s Soa. “We have great lyrics, great music. I am very proud to know that we are going to contribute to exporting French music, ”engages La Briochée, recalling that Aya Nakamura is today one of the most listened to French-speaking artists internationally. Let the whole world prepare to savor these sounds between two bites of pan bagnat.

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