For a subgenre that once ruled the middle American airwaves, makeover reality TV has seemingly largely disappeared on modern networks and streamers. Is it because of larger cultural shifts surrounding personal style? Or maybe the Kardashians' stranglehold on the very audience that makeover shows would otherwise cater to? We're … not sure. But despite the fact that dating and romance shows have long since usurped the reality makeover series, there's one outlier that's not just surviving but thriving: HBO's unapologetically joyful We're Here .
Starring Bob the Drag Queen, Shangela, and Eureka O'Hara (all RuPaul's Drag Race alums), We're Here sees the trio of queens playing fairy godmothers to three everyday residents of whichever town they're visiting that episode. Season three begins in the very religious, very red Granbury, Texas. While there, Bob, Shangela, and Eureka take a drag baby under their wings—not just to prepare them for a culminating performance, but also to unpack personal trauma and find a way to make their hometown a more welcoming place.
It's an ambitious premise, like Queer Eye with teeth. Though queer people visiting a community is one thing, bringing the art of drag to conservative towns is entirely another, and season three's opener makes no attempts to shy away from the real-world criticisms the series has faced over the course of its production. In fact, much of the conflict driving this ep came from online petitions and forums responding to the announcement that Bob, Shangela, and Eureka would be visiting Granbury.
Although homophobia (and transphobia) in rural America is certainly nothing new—and absolutely something this series has explored before—the way We're Here frames the hate the queens receive is pretty remarkable. The criticisms being leveled at them aren't easy to stomach, with a number of Granbury residents shown voicing concerns that Shangela & Co.'s appearance in town is somehow harmful to the children and dangerous.
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All this, especially for a series branded in dazzling color and loud, bold lettering, could cast a sorrowful shadow on an otherwise uplifting show. But the inclusion of the hatred works, acting as a much-needed reminder of why the queens are there to begin with. In taking the time to display not just their success but the failures and friction they encounter when trying to bring queer art and culture to these conservative communities, We're Here moves beyond just a simple makeover reality series into something bigger and HBO-worthy.
As for the trio, all three queens are in top form—as drag artists whose immaculate looks are featured in highly produced sizzle reels, as pros in those end-of-week performances with their proteges, and as mentors who provide emotional support and guidance through one-on-one interactions. The first three episodes of season three all give each queen a chance to shine particularly brightly, whether it's Bob the Drag Queen being honest about her struggles with the church and its pervasive presence in Southern communities, or Shangela facing backlash while attempting to read a children's book to a group of kids at a cafe.
The queens' willingness to be vulnerable on camera in turn prompts genuine confessions and growth from their mentees, a diverse group ranging from cis allies to young trans kids and nonbinary performers. While the process of them learning the ins and outs of choreography, performance, and makeup is often glossed over in favor of exploring their personal traumas and past struggles, it's understandable. The sincerity and ferocity with which the show addresses and then moves past this pain turns the series into a vital viewing experience, not an exploitative one, making this yet another dazzling season of We're Here.
We're Here season three premieres November 25 on HBO.
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