“RuPaul's Drag Race All Stars ”Season 9 Queens Reveal the Real Reasons Behind Their Returns (Exclusive)

PEOPLE caught up with the stars of the Paramount+ series about coming back to the werk room for the show's first charity-focused season

<p>Santiago Felipe/Getty </p> The cast of

Santiago Felipe/Getty

The cast of 'RuPaul's Drag Race All Stars' season 9 — Gottmik, Nina West, Plastique Tiara, Angeria Paris VanMicheals, Roxxxy Andrews, Jorgeous, Vanessa Vanjie and Shannel — at New Heights at Top of the Rock on May 8 in New York City
  • New episodes of RuPaul's Drag Race All Stars Season 9 drop Fridays on Paramount+.

  • Stars Angeria Paris VanMichaels, Gottmik, Jorgeous, Nina West, Plastique Tiara, Roxxxy Andrews, Shannel and Vanessa Vanjie have all returned to earn their spot in the Drag Race Hall of Fame.

  • For the first time in the show's history, the cast is competing to raise money for charity, with no queens going home all season long in order to raise the most money they can.

The cast of RuPaul's Drag Race All Stars season 9 are spilling the tea!

Speaking with PEOPLE about the series, Angeria Paris VanMichaels, Gottmik, Jorgeous, Nina West, Plastique Tiara, Roxxxy Andrews, Shannel and Vanessa Vanjie open up about their decisions to return to the franchise that made them household names.

"It's all about giving back, baby," Vanjie says, a statement all of the queens echo.

The Paramount+ series is doing something different this time around, bringing back eight queens to not only earn a coveted spot in the Drag Race Hall of Fame, but also to compete to win a supersized donation of $200,000 for a charity of their choosing.

<p>Santiago Felipe/Getty</p> Vanessa Vanjie, Roxxxy Andrews, Gottmik, Angeria Paris VanMicheals, Plastique Tiara, Nina West, Jorgeous and Shannel attend RuPaul's Drag Race All Stars VIP Celebration at the Boom at the Standard on May 9, 2024 in New York City

Santiago Felipe/Getty

Vanessa Vanjie, Roxxxy Andrews, Gottmik, Angeria Paris VanMicheals, Plastique Tiara, Nina West, Jorgeous and Shannel attend RuPaul's Drag Race All Stars VIP Celebration at the Boom at the Standard on May 9, 2024 in New York City

Related: RuPaul's Drag Race Names Winner for Season 16! Meet America's Next Drag Superstar

That sum will be provided by The Palette Fund, a private foundation that, according to a release, is "dedicated to breaking down barriers and advancing social change in communities that are under-resourced and facing significant challenges."

"We're here to not just celebrate drag in all its forms, but show the the power it has on its communities and the good it does for people all over the world," says West.

Hear more from the queens below:

Angeria Paris VanMichaels (Season 14)

<p>Tasos Katopodis/Getty </p> Angeria Paris VanMichaels

Tasos Katopodis/Getty

Angeria Paris VanMichaels

Why did you want to come back? 
Drag Race
completely changed my life. I’m from the country; no one from where I’m from gets opportunities like this. To be on a platform like that? Nothing in my life was the same afterwards. So I already knew I would come back. I had so much fun the first time, I wouldn’t miss it — especially when given the chance to not just come back, but to give back.

How have you evolved since season 14?
I think viewers will meet a more versatile Angie this time around. I’m tapping into concepts that are more than just my normal pageantry box that I showed my first time around. Since then, I’ve been trying different styles, different designers, different types of drag. So I’m here to show all that I’ve been doing.

Who are you playing for? 
I’m playing for the National Black Justice Collective. They’re a civil rights organization that fights to end racism and discrimination for Black queer people. Everything that they stand for is everything that I stand for. I am Black, and I am so proud to be queer, so I wanted to work with a group that really embraces how beautifully diverse this community can be.

Gottmik (Season 13)

<p>Tasos Katopodis/Getty </p> Gottmik

Tasos Katopodis/Getty


Why did you want to come back? 
I love Drag Race. When I filmed season 13, I was making jokes about moving into the werk room because I had so much fun. And All Stars is just so fierce, I remember watching season 2 and thinking, ‘Wow, it almost sucks to win Drag Race because you then can’t go back on All Stars!” So I have manifested going on All Stars since the beginning. And to be able to raise money for charity is just icing on the cake. 

Word on the street from the other queens is that your fashions are next level. 
The fashion industry has always been a passion of mine; I’ve been obsessed since I came out of the womb. Over the past few years, I’ve gotten to do mind-blowing things like be on the cover of British Vogue, walk in the LuisaViaRoma & Vogue show and work on a Versace campaign. So when I got the All Stars call, I reached out to all my designer friends and got some really insane, iconic, legendary pieces. Some bespoke couture… it’s crazy. It’s never been done before.

Related: RuPaul's Drag Race Names Winner for Season 16! Meet America's Next Drag Superstar

You’re famously the first transgender male to compete on Drag Race. Does that honor feel special to you, all these years later? 
Oh, to this day I am gagged because I remember when I was watching Drag Race, I never thought someone like me who was assigned female by birth could be a part of it. One day I was like, ‘I’m good at this, I’m going to audition.” And I had no idea it would not only change my life, but change the lives of others too, who every day tell me that. So it feels really incredible to have opened doors, and to receive that love from this community. 

Who are you playing for? 
I’m playing for Trans Lifeline. They’re an amazing organization, because when I moved to Los Angeles, I could not afford, basically, to be trans. It is so expensive to change your gender marker. It’s like, $500 to even file the paperwork for that! And even if you have the money, it’s so hard to do. You need the resources. 

Trans Lifeline is an organization run by trans people for transpeople. I’m honored to be able to put them on a platform, let around raise money for them. If I had that resource, I just feel like things would be so much smoother.

Jorgeous (Season 14)

<p>Tasos Katopodis/Getty </p> Jorgeous

Tasos Katopodis/Getty


How did it feel to come back? 
Honestly, it felt very validating because it made me realize I am RuPaul’s favorite, you know what I mean? I just did season 14 and I was so good, mama couldn’t get enough so I had to come back. 

You were the lip-sync assassin of Season 14…
I was just bad at all the challenges, bitch. I had no other way!

…But that tenacity, is that inherently Jorgeous? 
For real. Ever since I was a kid, I always dancing, performing and all this stuff. The fact that I was able to showcase it on Drag Race really meant a lot to me. I’ve been doing it for so long and the fact that RuPaul was actually living for me? I was like, ‘Oh, I’m doing something right!’ 

Who are you playing for? 
I’m playing for NAMI, The National Alliance of Mental Illness. They’re an organization dedicated to building better lives for people affected by mental health conditions. And that means so much to me because I deal with a lot of anxiety and a lot of depression, and they’re really about showing people that they’re not alone at the end of the day. 

One of my closest friend’s brother recently passed away, and he had schizophrenia. And after that happened, and just seeing how much it affected them, I said, ‘You know what? I’m going to do this for y’all too.’

Nina West (Season 11)

<p>Tasos Katopodis/Getty </p> Nina West

Tasos Katopodis/Getty

Nina West

What is it like to come back to Drag Race?
It’s everything you think it would be. It’s wonderful, it’s magical, it’s stressful, it’s exciting, it’s terrifying — it’s all of it. 

And you came to this after two years of playing Edna Turnblad in the national tour of Hairspray
Literally right after. I think I had 5 or 6 days to get my s— together and make it happen. So it was tight! 

Wow, not many queens would have done such a tight turnaround!
Well in full transparency, I was asked to come back twice before, and I said no because it just wasn’t the right time for me. But when they said they were doing a season all about charity, I thought, ‘Well that changes the game for me. I have to be a part of this.’ 

Related: RuPaul's Drag Race Star Q Reveals HIV-Positive Diagnosis: 'It's So Stigmatized' (Exclusive)

Who are you playing for? 
The Trevor Project. I’ve done a lot of work with them over the years. The Trevor Project is the leading organization in our country focused on suicide intervention and prevention for LGBTQ+ youth. It’s really important that these facts are heard: suicide is the No. 2 cause of death for children 10-13, and the No. 3 cause of death for children 14-23. There’s obviously a huge lapse for people reciting care and treatment, considering the conversation around identity, agency, authenticity and value in who you are.

So that’s why I chose Trevor. It’s personal. 

When I was a kid, there were times where I felt like I wasn’t good enough or worthy and even at times, I would say, suicidal. Trevor didn’t exist. And there’s this organization now for kids to be able to speak their truth and insecurities and talk about their mental health. It’s really important. 

You’re a former Miss Congeniality. Is this a congenial season? 
It is, but it’s also a shady season. Drag’s love language is given in shade. So you know, we express our love a lot. [laughs]

Plastique Tiara (Season 11)

<p>Tasos Katopodis/Getty </p> Plastique Tiara

Tasos Katopodis/Getty

Plastique Tiara

Why did you want to come back? 
It’s a great opportunity to showcase what I’ve build over the last few years, to represent a community that has supported me throughout this journey, and most importantly, to compete for a cause that I’m very passionate about. Because I believe we have a responsibility to give back.

Who are you playing for? 
I’m playing for the Asian American Foundation (TAAF), which supports to end hate, discrimination and violence the Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander (AANHPI) community. For a long time, I was very alone when I moved to the U.S. from Vietnam because I didn’t see a lot of people of my skin color in the media, let alone queer. And during the pandemic, there was a lot of anti-asian hate crimes committed — which, the thought of my grandma walking down the street and someone doing that to her, just breaks my heart. 

The Asian American Foundation was born out of that because we need to protect ourselves, when there’s no one else to protect us. And they also strive to teach Asian American history in schools, and advocate for more representation in Hollywood. I just really am so grateful they’re out there, fighting for a better future. 

You famously have the most social media followers of any Drag Race alum. But social media queens for a long time were looked down upon the show by the other contestants. Why do you think that is? 
Well, for one, it’s something new, and when people don’t know something, they’re afraid and they want to criticize. But RuPaul is out here doing Reels and doing transitions every day. So if she gets with it, they should get with it as well. 

Roxxxy Andrews (Season 5, All Stars 2)

<p>Tasos Katopodis/Getty </p> Roxxxy Andrews

Tasos Katopodis/Getty

Roxxxy Andrews

You're back, back, back again! 
Third time’s a charm! 

What made you want to go down this path one more time? 
Drag for me started as a hobby and then became a career. And Drag Race, it’s like being at the Olympics. Walking into the werk room is like walking into heaven. To have chance to do it again? Who would say no?

Who are you playing for?
I chose the Miracle of Love, Inc. (MOL). They’re from Orlando, Florida, and they specifically provide accessible HIV/AIDS prevention programming and assistance to members of the community in Central Florida. So everything from HIV testing, to safe housing, to information about PrEP. 

And under their umbrella is a group called Divas in Dialogue, which is started by transgender women of color. And they work with people who are newly transitioning to give them the support they need — from helping them through the process to get their gender marker changed and their legal name changed, to even just providing them with a community where they can go together on bowling outings and whatnot to be their authentic selves. 

And they work to get the transgender community off of the streets and doing sex work, too, helping them build their resumés to get jobs. Basically just giving them the chances that they need.

So I see the work they’re doing on the front lines with my own eyes, because they’re local. And it’s just really close to my heart.

You’ve lived by the “thick and juicy”mantra. What does it mean for you? 
I’ve always fluctuated with weight, but I learned a long time ago to just embrace what you have. “Thick and Juicy” is all about that. Everybody loves a little meat on the bones. You got to love who you are. Don’t look in the mirror and see negativity and what you don’t like; look and see the positives and embrace it. 

Shannel (Season 1, All Stars 1)

<p>Tasos Katopodis/Getty </p> Shannel

Tasos Katopodis/Getty


Drag Race has come a long way since you were on the first season. 
It’s crazy, right? Who would ever thought? Certainly not me! 

What was it like back then?
Well we had no idea what we were getting into. There was no blueprint, you know? Nothing to compare it to. First of all, it was on the Logo network, which none of us had even heard of. Then, they sent us a 1-page that said, ‘Bring 18 of your favorite drag outfits.’ In my mind, I was like, ‘Am I going to be driving race cars?’ That’s how clueless we were. So to think what the show has become and the magnitude the power it has now, it’s unbelievable. 

Why did you want to return to Drag Race all these years later? 
The only reason I’m here is because it's all about giving back. That's what the show really has done for all of us; it's given us this incredible platform to really take our art to the next level. And we're all just fortunate to be able to use that opportunity to pay it forward to these organizations.

Related: RuPaul's Drag Race Winner Jimbo Wants to 'Push Expectations' with Her Wild Circus World Tour (Exclusive)

Who are you playing for? 
The Anxiety and Depression Association of America
 (ADAA), which is really near and dear to my heart. Although I am not a sufferer of depression, I am of anxiety, specifically a hypochondriac. It’s something I’ve dealt with my entire life. I’m a germaphobe, and when the pandemic hit, it was like the worst thing in the world for me. I ended up getting into therapy and going on medication. So they’re really committed to advancing research and helping people overcome these conditions. 

You know, there’s this stigma attached to people who have anxiety and depression that if you have these things, you just have to get over it. And I think there needs to be a stronger voice reminding people that at the end of the day, it’s okay to not be okay. We all sort of suffer in our own way, and once you accept that, it makes it better because you don’t feel alone. 

You were the very first queen to ever walk into the werk room on that initial Drag Race episode. Tell me about the Shannel we’re meeting now. 
I was a different person then. That was 16 years ago. I’ve evolved. I’m now in my 29th year of doing drag for a living and aside from the pandemic, I was never unemployed. So I’ve been really blessed and really fortunate, and I think you’ll see that in all my work. 

It’s weird, now coming into this season, I really had a lot of self-doubt because I was like, ‘I don’t know if I can do this. Can I live up to what these younger queens are doing?’ My drag persona is so over the top and bold, but me as Brian, I’m an introvert. So I was scared because all of these girls are so good. But I found my confidence again when I got out there. It was a really powerful experience.

Vanessa Vanjie (Season 10, 11)

<p>Tasos Katopodis/Getty </p> Vanessa Vanjie

Tasos Katopodis/Getty

Vanessa Vanjie

It’s your third time competing for the crown. Why did you want to do this again? 
I knew I always wanted to come back to do All Stars. They’ve always invited me since I wrapped season 11, but I wanted to go back at a specific time and I thought the charity aspect was the perfect combination to come back and compete. 

Who are you playing for? 
The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals
 (ASPCA). I was always passionate about animals. If I didn’t do drag, I’d probably be a veterinarian or some s—. I just find comfort in the unconditional love you get from animals. Especially, growing up, I was young and gay and flamboyant and crazy, and you don’t get judgement for your pets. So I thought, by raising money for them, I could put two things I’m passionate about in one.  

How has Vanjie changed since you first walked into the werk room in season 10? 
Vanjie has changed, but for the better. I feel like I’ve grown a lot. I’m not on the tricycle, I’m on the motorcycle now. A little bit faster. I’m excited for everyone to see the growth. 

You became such a meme with your “Miss Vanjie” exit. Looking back all these years later, how does that feel? 
Honestly, It’s still hard for me to wrap my mind around it. I went from the first girl voted off to all these people screaming my name. And it happened all at once. So it was a lot to take in, but I’m forever grateful. Things like that, you can’t ever predict. I just got super lucky. 

Was there a celebrity you hear repeating it that had you star-struck?
Andrew Garfield. When I saw him say my name and mention the whole thing, I was gagged. And when Rihanna wrote me in my DMs, I was gagged too. Both those things, when they happened, I was like, ‘Okay, I’m on to something here.’ That’s when I got a little bit of a big head, I ain’t gonna lie. I’m pretty humble usually, but that was when I was feelin' myself. It just goes to show you how impactful the show is. Ru did a damn good job!

The winner of RuPaul's Drag Race All Stars Season 9 will join champs Chad Michaels (Season 1), Alaska (Season 2), Trixie Mattel (Season 3), Monét X Change and Trinity the Tuck (Season 4), Shea Couleé (season 5), Kylie Sonique Love (Season 6), Jinkx Monsoon (Season 7) and Jimbo (Season 8) in the Drag Race Hall of Fame.

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RuPaul's Drag Race All Stars and RuPaul's Drag Race All Stars: Untucked are both streaming on Paramount+.

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