BeBe Zahara Benet teaches women how to harness their inner drag queen in new makeover show

Bebe Zahara Benet of "Dragnificent" speaks during the TLC segment of the 2020 Winter TCA Press Tour at The Langham Huntington, Pasadena in January.
Bebe Zahara Benet of "Dragnificent" speaks during the TLC segment of the 2020 Winter TCA Press Tour at The Langham Huntington, Pasadena in January.
Photo: Amy Sussman/Getty Images
  • BeBe Zahara Benet, joins drag queens Alexis Michelle, Jujubee, and Thorgy Thor as co-hosts of TLC's new makeover TV show Dragnificent!
  • The series follows the Dragnificent! team as they transform women into their best, most beautiful and confident selves for the big days in their lives.
  • Dragnificent! starts Tuesday 7 July at 21:00 on TLC (DStv 135).

Channel24's local entertainment news editor Graye Morkel talks to RuPaul's Drag Race season 1 winner and co-host of TLC's Dragnificent! about harnessing the confidence-boosting power of your inner-drag queen.  

From the moment I watched my first ever episode of RuPaul's Drag Race, I've been in complete wonder of drag queens. Their confidence, fearlessness, and drag's powerful message of self-love has been an important lesson that  I continue to carry with me as I explore my own identity and nourish my self-worth. 

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Now in its 12th season, and countless spin-offs later, we often forget that not so long ago, a show celebrating queer culture, would have never made it to air. 

In 2020, Ru Paul's Drag Race not only fuelled pop culture's references (Hunty, I'm not throwing shade, but these queens have been beating their face to filth, way before these beauty influencers) but LGBTQIA+ TV shows like Queer Eye, Discloser, Dancing Queen and Pose are putting queer people and issues, front and centre. And that's the tea.

WATCH THE TRAILER FOR DRAGNIFICENT! HERE:

When I got the opportunity to talk to BeBe Zahara Benet, about the new series Dragnificent! I was, for lack of a better turn of phrase, absolutely and utterly gagged, and I ended the Zoom call with new-found courage not to be afraid to be the best version of myself. 

And I hope that after you've scrolled to the very-end of the article, you'll feel inspired too. I've learnt that especially now, whether you are supporting Black Lives Matter, fighting for LGBTQIA+ rights and gender equality or protesting violence against women and children - we all need love more than ever.

ALSO READ | Review: Queer Eye S5

Dragnificent! started as a TV special titled Drag Me Down the Aisle which aired in 2019. The show featured Alexis Michelle, BeBe Zahara Benet, Jujubee, and Thorgy Thor (RuPaul's Drag Race alumnae) who helped an engaged woman plan her wedding. The show was such a big hit with audiences that TLC renewed the Queer Eye-style makeover show for a full season, titled: Dragnificent!


About the show being commissioned for six brand-new episodes, BeBe says they could feel it in the waters that the show would be a knockout with viewers.

"There is something about the art form and about drag entertainers that is very uplifting. The energy that is brought to the makeovers and transformations is something that people are fascinated about, and that's why we've been seeing so many mainstream artists incorporating the art form into their projects to enhance and intrigue," she says. 

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BeBe adds: "For so many years women have reached out to drag entertainers asking for help or advice with their style, makeup or they just want to be our friends. Of course, when bringing amazing women with amazing stories together it's a recipe for success - a little sweet dessert." 

According to BeBe, Dragnificent! isn't just about the outside transformation, but it's about these women's inner journey toward self-love and personal growth. But of course, who doesn't love a good makeover, right? 

"We meet all these beautiful women, Sarah, Laura, Kari, Amy, Danyale, and Corinne, who share their different hardships, and life experiences," Bebe says, in explaining the premise of the show.

She emphasises: "We're not coming in from the point of view that we want to 'fix' them, but we share our own experiences and sprinkle a little bit of fairy dust. We are not a therapist, but we can identify with these women's struggles because everybody goes through challenges - believe me! We can bring some light, laughter, fun and a splash of makeup."

Together with her drag sisters, Alexis Michelle, Jujubee, and Thorgy Thor, BeBe says her hope has always been for the women on the show to take what they've learnt with them as they move to the next chapter in their lives. 

"It's easy to fix the outside, but what about the inside? The inside is first and foremost the most important thing. If you can get someone to truly see themselves, celebrate who they are, then the makeover part is just the icing on the cake," says BeBe.

Being such a big fan of drag culture, I've always been amazed by the confidence a drag queen radiates when performing, and ask BeBe how this relates to these women, as many people (including myself) view drag queens as ultra-confident, supernatural beings, who are fearless.

"People sometimes think that drag queens are always really confident and fearless because we transform ourselves into these beautiful creatures, and they believe that it's how we live our everyday lives. On stage, we embrace every ounce of ourselves, we celebrate who we are, we are honest and live our truth - and we inspire people to do the same. 

"But when we take off the wig, the costumes and wipe off the makeup, we are all human beings, who face the same hardships and challenges in life." 

Although filming of the first season has wrapped, BeBe and her drag sisters still keep in contact with the ladies on the show. "They send us messages and updates, saying that we inspired and encouraged them to move forward in the next phase of their life. It's so beautiful to see that the little time we were able to spend with these women, which was not a lot, had such a positive impact on them," says Bebe. 

When watching Dragnificent! BeBe says she wants viewers to "feel amazing about themselves and inspired".

"I want them to feel like we brought love and light into their homes. I want them to feel encouraged and go out into the world and be champions of themselves," Bebe says.

"Women need to understand that they are special, unique and deserve to be celebrated." 

Before appearing on Drag Race, and becoming the BeBe we know and love today, the drag queen (whose real name is Nea Marshall Kudi Ngwa) was an events planner and will be flexing her design skills on Dragnificent! 

"I am an event planner. When I moved to the country, I worked in decor and design, and I still do that even now. There is a similarity between drag and design; it's about creating illusion and fantasy. I'll be bringing my design expertise to the show, but more so I'll be bringing heart.  But I am so excited for people to see my work, and that side of me, because many people only know me as a musician or a drag artist," BeBe says. 

Even though we might not all be able to experience an over-the-top Dragnificent! makeover, BeBe says we can all embody the confidence of a drag queen everyday.

"We might put on drag before going on stage to perform, but you can wake up every morning, look in the mirror and put on the same armour and energy - and be just like me, Jujubee, Alexa and Thorgee." 

Dragnificent! starts Tuesday 7 July at 21:00 on TLC (DStv 135)