What RuPaul Thinks About Nicki Minaj's 'Drag Race' Judging Skills (Exclusive)

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Young money in the house!

Queen of the Barbz, Nicki Minaj, slips behind the judges' table of RuPaul's Drag Race as the first celebrity guest of season 12 on Friday. She joins the ranks of other star super-fans, like Lady Gaga, Miley Cyrus and Christina Aguilera, who were privileged enough to read Ru's girls during their main stage debuts. Naturally, ET had to go straight to the source -- RuPaul, himself -- to find out just how much “Chun Li” the rapper brought to the show.

"She understands the artistry and how much work it takes to go into it," Ru tells ET’s Keltie Knight. "But she's also -- she's not a pushover. She really lets you have it. If she sees that there's something you could've done better, she lets you know."

RuPaul says Nicki is "a combination" of permanent judges Michelle Visage, known for her tough love approach, and Ross Mathews, who typically keeps his critiques pretty light. Season 12 will welcome other celebrity judges including Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez, Thandie Newton, Leslie Jones and more to be ru-vealed.

Nicki Minaj joins the judges' table for the season 12 premiere of 'RuPaul's Drag Race.'
VH1

As far as the season 12 cast goes, it's one of the youngest crops of contestants in the show's her-story, meaning many of the queens came into drag while Drag Race was on the air.

"We of course, you know, the producers, try to trick them up, because a lot of these kids grow up watching our television show," Ru notes. "They think they got it. But we do our best to try to shake it up. But their personalities, because you know -- at its core, our show is about the tenacity of the human spirit, and all these kids who are little boys, who were-- may have been bullied or were told by society you cannot do that, but they persevered and they did. And they didn't let what people had to say deter them. So, they come with strength and courage and imagination and stick-with-it-ness, so that's always entertaining to watch and that's why I love drag queens."

While season 12 has barely begun, there’s a lot more Drag Race on the way, including the fifth installment of the show's All Stars edition and a Celebrity spin-off.

"Even with the celebrities, it's interesting to see someone who's never been in full-on drag to perform, because drag doesn't change who you are, it actually reveals who you are," RuPaul preaches.

The TV show is also now a stage show, RuPaul's Drag Race LIVE in Las Vegas. ET met up with RuPaul and his creative partner for the production, Jamal Sims, in Sin City to talk about the new experience, which is currently running at the Flamingo Hotel & Casino.

RuPaul and Jamal Sims on stage with the queens of 'RuPaul's Drag Race LIVE' in Las Vegas.
Ethan Miller / Getty Images

"This is the Super Bowl of drag," RuPaul quips. "It's a live version of our television show and Jamal, who has been part of our television show from the very beginning, is the perfect choice to you know direct the show and choreograph it, do the whole, all the footwork."

"I love Vegas," he adds. "Vegas is such an American phenomenon. It is so fascinating and you know I've -- it's always been a dream. Jamal and I worked together in Vegas 26 years ago at the Sahara Hotel. I had a review there and … Jamal was one of the dancers."

"I was actually a background [singer],” Jamal notes. “It was supposed to be dancing and background, but I think they might've cut my mic off during the show."

RuPaul's Drag Race airs Fridays at 8 p.m. ET/PT on VH1.

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