The Ball Challenge is a recurring challenge every season on RuPaul's Drag Race. It is traditionally the second-to-last challenge the queens compete in before the final challenge.
Typically, the ball challenge involves the remaining queens receiving three runway categories they must design outfits for, one of which must be designed from scratch out of some unconventional materials or based on a certain theme. In addition, the queens are usually required to perform a musical performance they must choreograph and rehearse themselves.
This challenge takes inspiration from actual drag balls, which often include multiple categories of outfits and some sort of dance performance. This ball scene is best shown in the documentary Paris Is Burning, which Drag Race takes much of its inspiration from.
For the first 5 seasons of the show, the ball challenge took place at Final 4. However, starting with Season 6 it took place at Final 5, to accommodate for a queen being eliminated during the final challenge. Within the third season of All Stars the ball features as a challenge during the middle of the season as compared to the ending.
Types of Balls
Season 1: Absolut Drag Ball
As this ball was sponsored by Absolut Vodka, the queens' 3 outfits each had to represent one of four flavors of Absolut Vodka: citron, mandarin, mango, and raspberry. As the winner of the mini-challenge, Nina Flowers got to assign the themes. Bebe Zahara Benet was the winner of this challenge, and Shannel was eliminated.
- Executive Realness
- Evening Grown Extravaganza
Season 2: The Diva Awards
This ball took a different format: Rather than taking place under the context of a single ball, the setting given to the queens was one of an awards show. The girls had to perform an opening number as well as put together outfits for 3 different styles of award ceremonies. As the winner of the mini-challenge, Tyra Sanchez was tasked with choreographing the opening number. Tyra also won this challenge, while Tatianna was eliminated.
- Teen Diva Awards
- Diva D.C. Press Awards
- Diva Hollywood Extravaganza Awards
Season 3: RuPaul's Hair Extravaganza
For the first of Season 3's two balls, the queens had to make three outfits centered around hair. Of these three looks, the last one (Fantasy Hair) had to be made entirely out of wigs. Yara Sofia was declared the winner of this challenge, and Shangela was eliminated.
- Historical Hair
- Red Carpet Glamour
- Fantasy Hair Extravaganza (made out of wigs)
Season 3: Make Dat Money Ball!
Season 3's second ball featured money as a central theme. All three categories had to do with money and elegance, and one outfit had to be made entirely out of fake dollars and coins. In addition, the queens had to perform a musical number homaging 42nd Street, involving large coins as a prop. As the winner of the mini-challenge, Yara Sofia received an additional million dollars to work with, but was also tasked with choreographing the performance. Manila Luzon won this challenge, while Yara Sofia was eliminated.
- Swimsuit Body Beautiful
- Cocktail Attire After 5
- Evening Gown Eleganza (made out of fake money)
Season 4: The Fabulous Bitch Ball
This season's ball took inspiration from dogs. The three looks were themed after dogs, and the third look had to be inspired by a dog assigned to each queen. For this third look the queens would walk the runway with their assigned dog. As the winner of the mini-challenge, Chad Michaels got to assign each queen her dog, but was also tasked with choreographing the opening number. Sharon Needles was the winner of this challenge, while Latrice Royale was eliminated.
- Daytime Dog Park
- Pooch in a Purse
- Canine Couture (inspired by assigned dog)
Season 5: Sugar Ball
Season 5's ball was themed after candy, with a candy-centric opening number and candy-themed outfit categories, with a requirement that the third outfit of the ball be made entirely out of candy. As the winner of the mini-challenge, Alaska received additional time selecting her materials from the candy table before the other girls, but was also tasked with choreographing the opening number. Alaska would go on to win this challenge, while Detox was eliminated.
- Super Duper Sweet 16
- Sugar Mama Executive Realness
- Candy Couture (made out of candy)
Season 6: Glitter Ball
This ball was inspired by glitter, jewels, and other precious materials. Each girl was tasked with creating an outfit inspired by a certain gemstone (white diamond, sapphire, ruby, topaz, and pink diamond) assigned to them. As winner of the mini-challenge BenDeLaCreme got to assign each girl's theme, but also had to choreograph the opening number. This challenge was won by Adore Delano, while BenDeLaCreme went on to be eliminated.
- Banjee Girl Bling
- CEO Platinum Card Executive Realness
- Dripping In Jewels Eleganza (inspired by assigned gemstone)
Season 7: Hello, Kitty Girls!
Season 7's ball took a different approach: rather than requiring the queens to make 3 outfits, one from scratch, with an opening number, this ball had no opening number and the queens were only required to produce 2 outfits, with the caveat that both had to be made from scratch. As the week's special guest judge was Hello Kitty, both of the looks were Hello Kitty-inspired: the first was creating a new best friend for Hello Kitty in the style of a Hello Kitty character (with large, cartoonish blocky heads being given to each queen), and the second was a traditional outfit made out of Hello Kitty merchandise. Violet Chachki was the winner of this challenge, while Katya was eliminated.
- Hello Kitty BFF Realness (done in the style of a Hello Kitty character)
- Hello Kitty Eleganza (made out of Hello Kitty merchandise)
Season 8: RuPaul Book Ball
Season 8 returned to the traditional ball theme, this time inspired by books. As RuPaul's semi-autobiographical novel had recently been released, Ru tasked the girls with telling their life story across three outfits, from being a child to a full-fledged drag queen. The final outfit came with the additional challenge of being made entire out of books. Further the opening number paid tribute to Strangers With Candy by having each queen perform as Jerri Blank. As winner of the mini-challenge, Chi Chi Devayne was tasked with choreographing the opening number. Kim Chi won the challenge, while Derrick Barry was eliminated.
- Baby Drag Realness
- That's My Mama Realness
- Book Couture (made out of books)
Season 9: Gayest Ball Ever
For this season's ball, Ru threw the gayest ball ever. Each of the outfit categories was based around traditionally "gay" symbols, and the opening number involved the "gayest Olympic sport of all:" ribbon twirling. One of the categories was based on the Village People, and for the look each girl had to create an outfit inspired by one of the Village People (construction worker, cowboy, cop, leather biker, and Native American) assigned to them. As winner of the mini-challenge, Sasha Velour got to assign the theme to each queen, and also had to choreograph the opening number. Shea Coulee won this challenge, while Alexis Michelle was eliminated.
- Sexy Unicorn
- Village People Eleganza Extravaganza (inspired by assigned Village People character)
All Stars 3: Pop Art Ball
For the top six of the third season of All Stars RuPaul threw the Pop Art Ball, also called the Andy Warhol Ball. In the mini challenge the queens had to get into quick drag and pose for Pop Art Portraits, which Aja won. For the maxi challenge the queens had to design two looks, one on a soup can that showcases their All Star brands with slogans and flavours, and the other a Studio 54 Dance Club inspired look, which was showcased with the queens riding in on a white horse. Trixie Mattel & Bebe Zahara Benet were the top two all stars of the week with Bebe winning the lipsync, while Aja was eliminated.
- Soup Can Realness
- Studio 54 Disco Eleganza
Season 10: TBD
- Season 3 is the only season to have two ball challenges, with the Hair Ball on episode 11 and the Money Ball on episode 13.
- Yara Sofia has the biggest placement difference between her two balls, winning the Hair Ball but being eliminated in the Money Ball.
- Bebe Zahara Benet is the only queen to win two Balls, winning season one's Absolut Drag Ball and all stars three's Pop Art Ball.
- Season 3's Hair Ball & Money Ball, Season 4's Bitch Ball, Season 5's Sugar Ball, Season 6's Glitter Ball, and Season 7's Hello Kitty Ball were all used as inspirations in the design challenge in episode 1 of Season 8.
- The Ball Challenge is the longest running challenge in Drag Race Herstory, being featured at least once in all regular seasons and in 1 All Stars Season