Pretty much any time a queen gets a supportive message from one of her parents, there will be tears involved, from both the queen in question as well as the others as they recount how their own parents were less than accepting.
Ongina revealing that she has HIV after winning the Viva Glam challenge.
Rebecca crying in the bathroom in the same episode, depressed and grieving about her friend who is dying of AIDS.
During Bebe's tic-tac lunch with Ru, Bebe recounts life in poverty-ridden Cameroon, where AIDS runs amock, and implies that she's had to experience several deaths up close while breaking down in tears.
Pandora Boxx recounting nearly being Driven to Suicide because of homophobic bullying and the lingering self-doubt even after the attempt.
Sonique crying at the 2nd season reunion show, before coming out as trans.
A little one. In the "Queens in Space" episode of season 3, Raja choking out tearfully that she doesn't want Delta to be eliminated because Delta is her best friend. Raja is usually quite stoic, and she is often called "fake" by other members of the competition, but there is no denying that Raja is a girl who loves and cares about her friends.
Alexis' boyfriend in the Marines, who is most likely dead. She's completely given up hope of ever seeing him again.
Alexis Mateo almost leaving the competition, looking completely fed up and disillusioned.
Same episode: poor Yara Sofia, having a breakdown during her lip-sync and collapsing to the floor in frustration, crying her eyes out. Before long, so is everyone else, especially her opponent, Alexis.
Sharon Needles' backstory. She grew up in rural Iowa and was horribly bullied, and even the school administrators partially blamed her for bringing it on herself for being different. She ultimately dropped out of high school and left her hometown at a young age. It was only during a stint in Des Moines—Iowa's capital and largest city—that she was exposed to drag queens and other gay people, inspiring her to craft her drag act and eventually settle in Pittsburgh.
Latrice Royale's speech to Ru Paul following her elimination, thanking him for all he has done for the drag community, equal parts heartwarming and heartbreaking, as it punctuates Latrice leaving the competition.
"You have changed my life forever. You have changed the world of drag forever. I love you and respect you so much, and thank you for seeing something special in me. Thank you. (Walks to back of stage to leave, before turning around and raising hand) She is large, in charge, chunky yet funky, the bold and the beautiful, I am Latrice Royale!"
From the season 4 reunion show, Latrice reading aloud the fan letter from a ten-year-old fan.
Jiggly crying in the 4th season reunion show as she recounts how she discovered that Phi Phi set her up for failure, saying that she let Phi Phi sleep at her apartment when they were first starting out as queens, and was completely devastated that her friend betrayed her.
All Stars 1
In real life, the death of season 2 contestant Sahara Davenport.
The episode of All Stars where Manila talks to Latrice about Sahara and shows off a photo of the two of them together is also a tearjerker in retrospect. Manila and Sahara were a couple in real life.
It is so, so disheartening to see Pandora Boxx - Miss Congeniality, mind you - look so dejected after being teamed up with the infamous Mimi Imfurst. She looks so depressed that it's kind of a damper on the season premiere by itself.note Pandy later explained that it wasn't even Mimi she had a problem with - actually, she considered Mimi a rather accomplished queen - she just felt like herself and Mimi were being set up for failure by being teamed together, in comparison to the other teams. Couple that with how ill she was during filming, plus the hate she got on Twitter for it, and it's no wonder that Pandy considers All Stars 1 an Old Shame.
The second half of All Stars Untucked: Episode 2. Chad gets a video message from his estranged father, who he hadn't seen in twenty-five years. Tear jerking enough by itself, as several of the queens start crying. Unfortunately, some of the queens' daddy issues come to light. Yara Sofia starts breaking down, and Chad comforts her. After this, Manila states that she feels unworthy in her dad's eyes because she's a drag queen. Finally, Latrice states that it's important to reconcile with their fathers, and how she never got that opportunity; her father died shortly after she was released from jail. You will need Kleenex during this episode.
Jujubee crying backstage, saying, "I miss my dad!"
Jujubee and Raven having to lipsync against each other in the penultimate episode of All Stars after saying that they can't stand the thought of having to do so, and the two of them can barely get through it without choking up. It's such an emotional moment that Ru can't bring himself to eliminate either queen, instead allowing them both to advance to the finale.
Season Five's Beverly Monica Hillz coming out as transgender. It was clearly a heavy burden.
During the Snatch Game critiques of Season 5, Jinkx Monsoon keeps on chanting, "Water off a duck's back. Water off a duck's back". It's heartbreaking enough, but it gets even more so when you realize that she's expecting to be trashed by the judges, just as she was trashed by the other girls (the exceptions being Jade Jolie, Ivy Winters and Alaska) in the work room before the runway. It leads to Tears of Joy when she actually wins the challenge.
Alaska is critiqued for lacking heart by the judges, and visibly is unable to stop herself from getting emotional. Carries on to Untucked where she expresses some frustration that she's been constantly compared to Sharon, and that being told that she lacked heart by RuPaul deeply hurt her.
Jinkx admits how close she's gotten to Ivy Winters, and even admits she has a bit of a crush on her. And that very same episode... Ivy is sent home, and Jinkx is devastated.
When Roxxxy Andrews revealed she and her sister had been left at a bus stop at 3 years old, recalling what the scene looked like and how her mother said she was just going to the store, only to be gone all night, then being a ward of the state for a year before being raised by their grandmother. Just wow.
Detox relating how his ex-boyfriend, who had been threatening and stalking him, died shortly after they broke up. While he tries not to let it show it's obvious he's still deeply hurt by it.
While working with gay vets in season 5, Jinkx's partner vaguely references a "medical condition" as a reason why he has trouble bending over. After dancing around it for a bit he eventually confesses that it's AIDS, and that side effects of the medication caused him to gain weight and reduced his mobility. Jinkx assures him that they'll get through it, but after the vet goes off for a bit we see Jinkx lose it for a moment, being disabled herself with narcolepsy.
In a "Untucked" episode, Alyssa Edwards gets a video message from her estranged father, who apologizes for giving her such a hard time growing up and says that he's proud of her. Both Alyssa and Jinkx recount how they used to pray to God when they were younger to make them different and Coco tearfully begs Alyssa to forgive her father because "there's gonna come a time when [Alyssa] won't be able to".
During Untucked Laganja Estranja received a very touching message from her parents, telling her that they have come to accept her as a drag queen, and her mother apologizing for avoiding her for so long due to her career choice.
Trinity revealing that she's HIV-positive and that the reason she came on the show was to be a role model for other young adults with the virus.
Joslyn getting a video message from her boyfriend who says that they both were effected hard by the death of their 6 year old nephew.
More of a meta thing but the fact that the show's attempts to be more trans positive has been responded to so harshly by the fanbase is quite upsetting when you consider that the show itself hasn't necessarily had the most positive history with trans people.
During the Snatch Game episode, Katya discusses her ongoing struggle with anxiety, as well as her previous alcoholism. It's a reminder of the fact that the normally lighthearted Katya has her own demons like everyone else.
Miss Fame talking about her grandfather, who had been the father figure in her life, and how he was murdered when she was 15 years old. Miss Fame actually starts crying after she stumbles on an old photo of them with his grandmother she had brought with her to the competition.
And season 8 gives us one with the first elimination. The moment Ru announces that the Laila is staying you can see how crushed Naysha is. And when makes her exit you can see her choking back tears as she writes her farewell message. Made even worse when you realize she has been trying out since season 1.
Even moreso in the Untucked, the moment she leaves the stage the tears start flowing a she chokes back sobs. As she's led to the workroom, the stage hand assisting her gives a very sad Aside Glance, obviously feeling for Naysha's misery.
Also in the first episode of season 8. Kim Chi explaining her fear that her mom will discover her drag career. As far as her mom knows, Kim Chi is a makeup artist, and thinks that the pictures of Kim Chi that she saw were just Kim Chi's makeup jobs. Kim Chi states that she doesn't want to let her mom down, and is saddened that she isn't the kind of son an Asian mom would want. This comes through later when she has to dress in an outfit inspired by her mother, and the judges all comment that although it was beautiful, there was an incredible somberness to her runway, likely caused by the turmoil with her mother.
When the queens are asked what they'd like to say to their younger selves, Kim Chi breaks down in tears, saying she wished she'd known when she was younger that things would get better, and not to self-harm.
Fridge Horror: During the aforementioned mother-homage runway, all of the queens feature photos of themselves with their mothers ... however, Kim Chi's mother's face is blurred out. This could mean that even after filming Kim Chi still did not come out to her mother (so the show could not approach her mother for rights for her face to be shown), or Kim Chi did come out to her mother, and her mother took the news poorly.
Confirmed in the reunion that Kim Chi has not told her mother about her career yet, and has no intention of ever telling her.
Thorgy Thor tells the girls about her hippie parents, in particular, her mother. While young she went off to college and partied all the time, but always called home to see how her parents were getting along. Turns out her mother was dying from cancer and had taken a turn for the worse, but her parents and sister didn't want her to know because they didn't want to take away the 'college experience' from her. Finally, her father tells Thorgy to come home while her mother was literally on her death bed, but the cancer had deteriorated her so much she was already gone mentally, meaning Thorgy never got the chance to give a real goodbye to her. She says to this day she's angry and resentful towards her father and sister for keeping it a secret from her.
Bob the Drag Queen breaking down in tears as she shares the very real terror she felt when her mother was diagnosed with a rare form of pneumonia that nearly took her life. One day Bob's mother was healthy and active, and suddenly she was practically a skeleton.
Derrick Barry talking about the falling out she had with her mother, after she came out and the first thing out of Derrick's mother's mouth was effectively if they could keep it a secret from everyone else. Derrick says the experience made him lose a lot of respect for her mother, and that it really left her broken in a way that she still hasn't really recovered from.
All Stars 2
It's sad that the good vibes among the queens in All Stars 2 were brought down significantly by Ru's announcement that they'd be eliminating each other. None of them are particularly happy with the twist, and both Roxxxy and Tatiana are heartbroken that they have to make a choice like that. When Roxxxy eliminates Coco, she actually bursts into tears, and neither she nor the other queens seem that happy come the final dance.
Adore breaking down backstage after Michelle reads her outfit and she ends up in the bottom 3. The fact that Michelle basically tore Adore down for just wearing an outfit that's typical for her style is pretty heartbreaking; she says it takes her back to being "baby Adore" and makes her feel like she doesn't belong.
In a Periscope video after the episode had aired, Adore confesses that Michelle's critiques were not what made the decision, just part of the factor. Guest judge Raven-Symone being incredibly harsh to her for some reason, and in Danny's personal life, he had been dealing with depression stemming from his father passing away and his boyfriend suddenly breaking up with him. He says that part of the reason he decided to come onto All Stars was that it would keep him occupied as he worked through his grief, only to realize that it wasn't helping.
Following the hardships of the first episode and her inability to persuaded to stay, knowing her heart isn't in it, Adore quits before Snatch Game. Especially sad since she was an early favorite to win and all the other queens loved her, leaving one to wonder What Could Have Been had she stuck it out.
Roxxxy, Detox, and Ginger discussing the Pulse Nightclub massacre at the All Stars 2 reunion. All three of them had first started performing in drag at Pulse so the shooting hit them pretty hard. Season 1's Jade Sotomayor even lost a cousin in the massacre. Ginger is in tears when she recalls meeting the other queens there and Detox describes the experience as losing a home.
The Season 9 queens also had a heartwrenching discussion about the Pulse night club shooting.
Trinity Taylor is from Orlando and used to be a regular, and while she wasn't there the night of the shooting, her coworker lost her daughter.
Cynthia Lee Fontaine was supposed to perform that night, but had to reschedule, and a friend of hers went to the club just to see her. When he found out she wasn't there, he decided to stay anyway and enjoy the night, and was killed for it.
Charlie Hides talking about burying all of her best friends in The '80s due to AIDS.
Eureka's medical evacuation. Oh God, Eureka's medical evacuation. Eureka was crying, the other queens were crying, Farrah can only choke out an anguished Little "No" between sobs, hell even Meghan Trainor was starting to tear up.
Season 10 explores this further when Eureka reveals that the she had to have surgery and after a rough recovery process, she wasn't sure if she would be able to return to the show or even dance again.
Despite the controversy around Maskgate, Valentina clearly wanted to be in the competition, and ends up in tears on both the main stage and in the confessional when she realizes she's going home. Ru's final words to her hit the tearjerker home:
Rupaul: "Valentina, I thought you had what it took to go all the way."
Nina Bo'nina Brown's final episode: she laments sending home Valentina and blames herself for having the latter in the bottom two with her. It was at that point that the queens completely exit the discussion and ignore her after Nina understandably admits that she did not feel victorious winning a lipsync against a queen who was clearly devastated and lacked the will to fight, where Rupaul then told the girls to never give up. Even in the Makeover Challenge, it became evident that her creative drive also tanked. Come the runway, Ru's words become an Ironic Echo for Nina, as she's pitted against Shea, a queen who has been rooting for her since day one, and decides to throw the lipsync, her inner saboteur and depression winning over her. When Shea is told to stay, she literally break downs while we see Nina's makeover sister also break down back stage, all while Nina herself gracefully accepts defeat. Through Ru's final words to Nina were ridden with love, seeing her enter the werk room pumped in the beginning and later sashay away completely dejected due to her self-doubt is jarring.
At the Season 9 Finale, Ru prompts Shea to talk about her family, of whom in particular, her relationship with her father and his cancer diagnosis was discussed during the season. You can see Shea struggle to hold back tears when she says that not only did her father die of his cancer mere weeks before the season aired, her sister also died of cancer barely a month later.
Sasha, Valentina and Shea admitting that they've had problems with eating disorders. Valentina mentions that before she came on the show, she promised her mother that she would eat every day, even though sometimes she feels like she's forcing herself to do so.
All Stars 3
Kennedy discussing her feelings of neglect at conventions. She points out that whenever Drag Race queens are performing at meet and greets, the lines for the other queens are always full, while only one or two people will come to visit Kennedy, and always as an afterthought after going to meet other queens. Kennedy clearly feels unloved by fans in the Drag Race community.
The Finale: Rather than Ru choosing the top queens of the season, it's revealed that each of the eliminated queens will vote on who from the remaining four queens they want to see in the Top 2. Despite Shangela performing statistically best and expressing a strong desire to want to win, the jury chooses Kennedy and Trixie as the Top 2, believing they need the win more. The look on Shangela's face as she realizes she's lost despite doing everything she possibly could do is utterly heartbreaking.
Her expression during her elimination was much more jarring in comparison to her past seasons: Season 2 and 3, Shangela is overall content with making on the show the first time and fighting as hard as she did in Season 3. All Stars 3, she's absolutely devastated from getting blindsided by the jury while being within inches of the crown, queens she deemed as friends, which makes it even more heartbreaking given how much she was looked down upon on Season 3.
Vanessa Vanjie Mateo being eliminated in the first episode of Season 10. Of course, any elimination is tough, but Vanessa's heartbreak is palpable, as she can't even bring herself to look at the judges, even as Ru assures her that she has made her drag family proud, especially her drag mother, season 3 second runner-up Alexis Mateo. Backstage, she ends up choking back tears as she hopes she hasn't disappointed anyone.
Her memetic exit from the runway is also this; she later revealed she did it so she could keep her composure instead of breaking down into tears.
Kalorie has a similar reaction following her elimination. As the first queen on the show from New Mexico, she clearly feels a lot of pressure to do well, and as she gives her elimination interview she begins to cry, fearing she let her state down by being eliminated second.
While stories of familial strife and hardship are, unfortunately, nothing new within the queer community (and the show itself by extension), Dusty's backstory is especially gut-wrenching. She has completely cut her family out of her life to the point that they had no idea she was going to be on the show, and likely still don't at the time of it airing. What makes this especially heartbreaking is that this is the good option for her relationship with them, as before she left her family, they sent her to conversion therapy and even went so far as to have her exorcised, as they felt her homosexuality was the result of possession.
In keeping with Season 10's tearjerking elimination, Dusty Ray Bottoms' tugs many heartstrings with her episode 4 elimination, especially as she recounts on Untucked how she would watch the show at the lowest volume so that her anti-gay parents wouldn't realize what she was watching, and how the show made her come to terms with who she is...which apparently wasn't enough to survive the show.
Blair St. Clair takes the cake when she reveals that her first sexual experience was being raped in college in episode 6. The trauma visibly shakes her and everyone on the stage, even eliciting the Vixen's Mama Bear side. It doesn't help when Blair is eliminated in the same episode. It was no coincidence that a phone number for sexual assault survivors was aired as soon as the show went to commercials.
At the Reunion, Asia is clearly distraught after The Vixen leaves. When Ru is dismissive of The Vixen's feelings about her conflict with Eureka throughout the season, Asia is completely unable to hold herself back from tearing into Ru for it. This coincided with a horrific incident around the same time where racist fans threatened to burn Asia alive. This and her clash with Ru at the Reunion led to moments like this, where Asia's fashion effectively morphed into protest statements overnight.
All Stars 4
In episode 4, Latrice's elimination. While Monique is torn during the deliberation due to having to choose between the two queens she worked with on the challenge (not to mention even outside of the challenge itself, Latrice is... well, Latrice, and as Monique points out a huge inspiration to all black queens in and outside the show, and Monét is not only Monique's Season 10 sister, but maybe one of her closest friends from said season), the moment that takes the cake is Manila not winning the lip sync and realizing that this means Latrice will likely be going home due to her track record. Every remaining moment she has on camera in the episode is spent sobbing.
Mercedes discussing both her difficulties with being a Muslim immigrant and getting placed on the US's no-fly list, and the subsequent strain of performing and traveling under those conditions leading to a stroke which left her wheelchair bound and paralyzed on the entire right side of her body. It's made clear that the anxiety of all of this affected her performance and led to her being placed in the bottom two in the second episode. The judges were quick to say that she should be trying to make her circumstances work for her, but it's incredibly hard to not sympathize with the hardship she's been put through. When Mercedes talks about it in the workroom, many of the queens are visibly shaken and angry on her behalf.
In Episode 3 Honey Davenport's elimination. After the six-way lip-sync, Ru goes down the line of queens and tells each of them to sashay, each time with a zoom in on Honey's face getting more and more anxious, and when the last queen is told to stay, you can actually see on Honey's face how heartbroken she is. Made worse by her actually collapsing to the ground and wailing in pain after leaving the stage on Untucked.
Yvie's disease, Ehlers-Danlos syndrome. While it lets her be very flexible and pull off some extremely great stunts on the runway, it is also slowly degrading her body. She's always in pain and often has to cover it up, her joints can easily pop out of place if she's not careful, and her entire career has a ticking clock on it because eventually it will be too much for her to perform. She's a badass for going as hard as she does and putting on such a brave face all the time, but it's daunting to imagine that looming threat over your passion and livelihood.