Why Santino Rice & Merle Ginsberg Left As Judges

Original judges Santino Rice and Merle Ginsberg left RuPaul’s Drag Race over the years. Find out the reasons why each of them left the show.

VH1’s RuPaul’s Drag Race season 13 features RuPaul, Michelle Visage, Carson Kressley, and Ross Mathews as the four main judges, but the judging panel didn’t always look like that when the series first started. Over the years, different guest judges go on to join the judging panel and give their points of view. However, there is always a core group of judges that Mama Ru refers to as “family.”

Back when RuPaul’s Drag Race season 1 premiered on Logo, Merle Ginsberg and Santino Rice used to be the fellow main judges along with RuPaul. Because Drag Race was sort of a mash-up of Project Runway and America’s Next Top Model, it made sense to have fashion-focused judges such as Merle and Santino in the panel. Merle had an established career as a fashion writer, while Santino was best known for competing on Project Runway. And yet, as the years went by, the judging panel changed significantly.

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On season 3, RuPaul’s Drag Race added Michelle Visage as a main judge. This was by design, as Michelle was initially supposed to be a main judge on the show but was stuck in a very complicated contract that she could not get out of with a radio show. As such, Merle was always a temporary judge until Michelle could join on. Meanwhile, Santino disappeared after season 6. The show was undergoing some transformation, and while Santino had plenty of fashion knowledge, he lacked drag wisdom. Below, check out Michelle Visage explaining why she was not an original judge.

Merle’s disappearance became a long-running joke on RuPaul’s Drag Race, with an episode even parodying the events that led to Michelle joining the show. The season 7 episode “Ru Hollywood Stories” parodied fake explanations for how Michelle Visage sabotaged Merle out of her job. There is no bad blood between the two judges, and Merle is still working in fashion as a writer. On the other hand, Santino never really spoke about why he left the show. As time went on, however, the show became less about fashion and more about drag culture and presenting drag excellence. Both things Santino was not versed in. Since he left, he has focused on his veganism, 100-day fasting (which is excessive and unsafe), and questioning modern medicine. Santino has even taken a stance against the COVID-19 vaccine and is proudly anti-vax.

Santino and Merle helped launch RuPaul’s Drag Race when it was first starting. Their personalities brought great perspectives to the judge’s panel, and the show blossomed into the mega-blockbuster it is today. Maybe fans will get to see Merle again on the show in the future. The only way to know is to continue watching RuPaul’s Drag Race!

More: RuPaul’s Drag Race: How Symone Brought Black Lives Matter Movement To Show

RuPaul’s Drag Race season 13 airs Fridays at 8 pm EST on VH1.

Sources: Hey Qween’s Youtube

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