World of Wonder (company)
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World of Wonder Productions is a production company founded in 1991 by filmmakers Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato. Based in Los Angeles, California, US, the company specializes in documentary television and film productions, with credits including the Million Dollar Listing docuseries, RuPaul's Drag Race, and documentary films Mapplethorpe: Look at the Pictures (2016), and The Eyes of Tammy Faye (2000).
|Privately held company|
The duo have produced programming for HBO, Bravo, HGTV, Showtime, BBC, Netflix, and VH1, and are considered pioneers in LGBTQ programming - having won an Outfest Annual Achievement Award in 2011. World of Wonder was instrumental in building the career of drag queen RuPaul, first as his managers, and eventually producing the majority of the franchises live shows, podcasts, television specials, and conventions.
Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato founded World of Wonder after meeting in NYU's graduate film program in the mid-'80s. Intent on becoming famous, they formed a disco-pop-rock duo called the Fabulous Pop Tarts under their “World of Wonder” record label and began performing regularly at Danceteria and other clubs in downtown New York City. They produced two albums, Age of the Thing which included their hit single, "New York City Beat," and Gagging on the Lovely Extravaganza, which included guest appearances by Lady Miss Kier, RuPaul, Martyn Phillips, and Filthy the Dog. World of Wonder was organized initially in order to manage the Fabulous Pop Tarts, enable projects in television production and licensing, documentary film-making, and career expansion of their friends and fellow artists, particularly RuPaul.
Bailey and Barbato began their partnership with drag queen RuPaul in Atlanta in the 1980s and have worked together ever since. They produced RuPaul's first album, “RuPaul is Star Booty,” in 1986 and became his manager shortly after launching World of Wonder in 1991. They have since produced all of his television shows, his DragCon bi-coastal conventions and music productions, earning multiple Emmy Awards along the way.
World of Wonder shares its name with one of its early television documentaries, Died on the 4th of July: Nelson Sullivan's World of Wonder. Nelson Sullivan was a central figure in the downtown New York City art and club scene of the 1980s, obsessively videotaping everyone and everything he saw before dying of a heart attack on July 4, 1989. He left behind over 1200 hours of video footage that he'd shot over the last ten years of his life. From this archive World of Wonder created the one-hour documentary portrait of Nelson which aired on UK's Channel 4, and is also included on the DVD release of Party Monster: The Shockumentary. Based, in part, on this documentary, Sullivan has continued to gain respect as a noted historian, with his videos gaining a younger and wider viewership on YouTube. The early focus on Nelson Sullivan formed the basis of the company's ongoing interest in documentary film-making. In 2014, Bailey and Barbato were honored with the IDA Pioneer Award, "celebrating exceptional achievement, leadership, and vision in the nonfiction and documentary community".
World of Wonder operates out of a historical art-deco building on Hollywood Boulevard. Designed by architects S. Tilden Norton and Fredrick H. Wallis and erected in 1930, the building served as the original home of the Directors Guild of America. The World of Wonder Storefront Gallery now occupies the ground floor retail space, with production and management offices occupying the upper three stories. The basement, once home to the punk rock club The Masque, now houses the company's video archive and a soundstage.
World of Wonder primarily produces television content for networks in the US and UK, including BBC, Channel 4, FIVE, HBO, Cinemax, TLC, PBS, Showtime, A&E, MTV, VH1 and Bravo. Productions over the past three decades include RuPaul's Drag Race, Manhattan Cable with Laurie Pike, The Adam and Joe Show,Tori & Dean: Inn Love, Good Work, Million Dollar Listing, docuseries, Heli-Loggers, Pam Anderson: Girl on the Loose, Big Freedia, and Island Hunters. World of Wonder also produced the documentary series One Punk Under God, Sex Change Hospital, and TransGeneration, one of the first unscripted television shows to focus on the Trans community, which won the 2006 GLAAD Award for Outstanding Documentary.
The company has been producing RuPaul's Drag Race franchise since 2009, including The RuPaul Show, RuPaul's Drag Race, and RuPaul's Drag Race: All Stars, the spinoff series RuPaul's Drag U (2010-2012), and RuPaul's Drag Race: Untucked, a behind-the-scenes after show which is aired following each new episode of the original series.
Another franchise by WOW, Million Dollar Listing, debuted in LA in 2006 and has since expanded to include New York, San Francisco and Miami series. The spin-off, Sell It Like Serhant, featuring one of Million Dollar Listing New York's top broker, Ryan Serhant launched in 2018.
World of Wonder's work in television has been honored with over two dozen Emmy nominations and multiple wins for RuPaul’s Drag Race, including awards for best overall in the reality category and best host. They have also received several Emmy nominations for their documentary programming.
World of Wonder has produced many feature-length documentaries on provocative subjects over the years, several of which have garnered industry awards and nominations. These include Inside Deep Throat, which premiered at Sundance; the HBO biopic Wishful Drinking, starring Carrie Fisher and received two Emmy nominations; and Becoming Chaz, which premiered at Sundance as the OWN network's first-ever documentary and was nominated for three Emmys. They also produced the feature films Party Monster starring Macaulay Culkin and Seth Green, and Menendez: Blood Brothers starring Courtney Love, Nico Tortorella, Benito Martinez and Myko Oliver.
Bailey and Barbato have produced a host of other original documentaries, including Party Monster: The Shockumentary, which won an editing Emmy; The Eyes of Tammy Faye, Monica in Black and White, Gender Revolution with Katie Couric, and The Last Beekeeper. In 2017, Out of Iraq, their documentary chronicling the relationship between two enlisted men serving in Iraq won a daytime Emmy for Logo TV. In March 2018, the documentary When the Beat Drops, directed by Jamal Sims, premiered at the Miami International Film Festival, where it won the Knight Documentary Achievement Award. In 2018, World of Wonder produced and directed an HBO documentary examining the history of the Statue of Liberty, “Liberty: Mother of Exiles.” The company was also commissioned by YouTube to create Stonewall Outloud, a documentary based on the Stonewall gay rights protests of 1969, using the audio recordings of StoryCrops founder, Dave Isay.
Over the years, World of Wonder expanded their presence into new types of media, including conventions, video-on-demand, social media and blogging. The WOW Report, a blog providing daily coverage of the pop culture and nightlife sectors and was named Best Counter Culture Blog by LA Weekly in 2011.
In 2015, World of Wonder added conventions to their portfolio with the launch of RuPaul's DragCon LA located at the Los Angeles Convention Center. The largest celebration of drag art and culture in the world with over 50,000 attendees, they launched RuPaul's DragCon NYC in the city's Javits Convention Center in 2017, where it was a complete sell-out.
In November 2017, World of Wonder launched the subscription streaming service WOW Presents Plus. The service provides access to its exclusive library of TV shows, movies and live events, along with new original material spanning the realm of pop culture and LGBTQ society. Its exclusive original series include “Cool Mom with Jinkx Monsoon,” "UNHhhh," and “Detox’s Life Rehab.” WOW Presents Plus also has a focus on documentaries, having produced “Becoming Chaz” and “Died on the 4th of July: Nelson Sullivan's World of Wonder.”
World of Wonder has a YouTube channel, which features over 3,000 videos and has almost 1.5 million subscribers.
- The company blog, The WOW Report, was named "Best Counter Culture Blog" by LA Weekly in 2011.
- Million Dollar Listing New York was a 2015 Emmy Award nominee for Outstanding Unstructured Reality Program.
- RuPaul's Drag Race won the 2014 TCA Award for Outstanding Achievement in Reality Programming.
- Big Freedia (Fuse) won the 2014 GLAAD Media Award for Outstanding Reality Program.
- Barbato and Bailey were given the IDA Pioneer Award in December 2014.
- Mapplethorpe: Look at the Pictures was nominated for two awards at the 2016 Emmy awards, for "Outstanding Cinematography For A Nonfiction Program" and "Outstanding Documentary or Nonfictional Special".
- World of Wonder won a Daytime Emmy Award in May 2017 for Out of Iraq, a documentary on Logo TV.
- RuPaul's Drag Race has been nominated for twenty nine Emmy Awards and has won thirteen, including Outstanding Host for a Reality Series in 2016 and the same award in 2017 along with Outstanding Makeup and Outstanding Editing.
- When the Beat Drops - Knight Documentary Achievement Award in 2017
WOW Presents PlusEdit
In 2018, World of Wonder launched a streaming service called WOW Presents Plus. The service contains a multitude of original series, mostly starring alumni from the Drag Race franchise, and is also the main international distributor in some region for RuPaul's Drag Race, RuPaul's Drag Race All Stars, and international incarnations of the franchises. A WOW Presents original series serves as the prize for the winner of RuPaul's Drag Race UK in lieu of a cash prize, since BBC is not allowed to give out money to contestants on game shows.
A list of select WOW Presents shows with descriptions pulled from the WOW Presents Plus website.
- RuPaul's Drag Race Extra Lap Recap (10 seasons; 2013–present) – "John Polly recaps episodes of RuPaul's Drag Race"
- Ring My Bell (1 season; 2013-2016) – "Ring My Bell features television personalities receiving calls from their loyal fanbase."
- Transformations (6 seasons; 2013–present) – "Watch as James St. James gets transformed by special guests each episode." A "Don't Touch Me" edition was launched in April 2020, a re-tooled version of the show to fit with social distancing guidelines.
- Alyssa's Secret (6 seasons; 2013–present) – "Alyssa's Secret" is a digital series starring the shining star of RuPaul's Drag Race, Alyssa Edwards. Each week she spills the T on an array of topics."
- Fashion Photo RuView with Raja and Raven (19 seasons; 2014-present) – "The two RuPaul's Drag Race alums critique the runway looks from the RuPaul's Drag Race mainstage. Will they TOOT or BOOT the Queens looks from the runway? Watch now and find out!" Due to frequent absences by both Raja and Raven, multiple guest co-hosts have filled in for one or both of them over the years. Some queens that have guest hosted include: Delta Work, Alaska, Mariah Balenciaga, Manila Luzon, Morgan McMichaels, Bob the Drag Queen, Detox, Mayhem Miller, Kameron Michaels, Eureka O'Hara, Katya, Violet Chachki, Ongina, Vanessa Vanjie Mateo, Nina Bo'Nina Brown, and Asia O'Hara. A "Stay The Fuck Home" edition launched in April 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic. It features a similar format to the regular show, but with Raja and Raven offering criticism via video chat to maintain social distancing.
- Be$tie$ for Ca$h or Couple$ for Ca$h (5 seasons; 2014–present) – "Couple$ for Ca$h is kind of like The Newlywed Game, only better because it features your favorite wowlebrities!"
- Oh Pit Crew (5 seasons; 2014-present) – "While the Queens' engines are running on stage, the members of the RuPaul's Drag Race Scruff Pit Crew are bulging backstage, gearing up for the next challenge. But what actually happens backstage? RuPaul is determined to find out in the new webseries for WOW Presents, Oh' Pit Crew! Join Ru as he checks up on our favorite crew members Shawn Morales and Jason Carter. You'll also get to 'meat' the two newest undie-clad members; Simon Sherry Wood and Miles Davis Moody! Things heat up backstage, as the banana hammocks are in full swing."
- Milk's LegenDAIRY Looks (3 seasons; Mar 2014-2018) – "MOO-ve over, James St. James! There's a new transformations web series, starring RuPaul's Drag Race Season 6 breakout star, Milk!"
- Bro'Laska (6 seasons; 2014–present) – "Bro'Laska is a returning web series to WOWPresents Plus featuring Alaska Thunderfuck, winner of RuPaul's Drag Race All Stars 2, and her straight brother Cory Binney. Despite having the same mother, Alaska and Cory couldn’t be less similar. In fact they may as well be from different planets! This hilarious pair of polar opposites tackle new topics such as sex ed, parenting and spilling the T on All Stars 2."
- Drag Queens React (1 season; 2015–present) – "The Queens from RuPaul's Drag Race react to Mean Comments and other shelarious things."
- How To Makeup (2 seasons; 2016–present) – "Comedic riffs and real-life make up tips and tricks with some of your favorite queens form RuPaul's Drag Race."
- UNHhhh (5 seasons; 2016–present) – "RuPaul's Drag Race season 7 queens Katya Zamolodchikova and Trixie Mattel in UNHhhh. It's a show about nothing, and yet it's about everything."
- M.U.G. (2 seasons; 2017-2018) – "From RuPaul's Drag Race season 8, best friends and makeup mavens Kim Chi and Naomi Smalls dish on all things maquillage. They are your Make Up Girls (MUG). Each week they discuss the hot trends in cosmetics and give advice on how to achieve the look. On Season 1, the make up mavens bring specials guest including Manny MUA, Vander Von Odd, Mariah Balenciaga and more to help them through a gambit of make up tips, tricks and topics. Each episode features a special tip of the day help you improve your skills!"
- Puff Puff Sessions (2 seasons; 2016-present) - "Langanja Estranja shares the benefits of Marijuana while getting blazed with some of her best Judys!"
- Gaymer Guys (3 seasons; 2017–present) – "Chase Koloszi and Evan Michael Lee discuss everything video games with an emphasis on queer in Gaymer Guys!"
- Cool Mom with Jinkx Monsoon (3 seasons; 2017–present) – "Twenty-Nine years ago, winner of RuPaul's Drag Race season 5, Jinkx Monsoon, gave birth to a homosexual son (best friends in real life). Jinkx is on a mission to be a more active mother and spend quality time with her gay son. Because she’s not just a regular Mom...she’s a cool Mom. This quirky duo cover topics such as hooking up, internet slang and smoking marijuana."
- Detox's Life Rehab (2 seasons; 2018–present) – "When lip-sync legend Detox (RuPaul’s Drag Race season 5 & All Stars 2) is not pummeling runway, she’s looking for ways to better her life...and yours too! Inspired by the magazine shows from the late 1980s, Detox’s Life Rehab tackles a variety of topics such as toxic relationships, botched plastic surgery, and outrageous hair styles. Special guests include Alaska Thunderfuck, Michelle Visage, Candis Cayne, Ts Madison and her best friend, Vicky Vox. Life’s a joke, so make fun of it!"
- Bobbin' Around with Bob the Drag Queen (1 season; 2018–present) "Since winning season 8 of RuPaul’s Drag Race, Bob the Drag Queen has been traveling the world with her bubbly assistant Luis. Check out videos from their adventures and learn where to find the spiciest meat in Brazil and how to find the hottest trade in Australia. This odd couple is sure to make you smile."
- Wait, What? (3 seasons; 2018–present) – "The queens may know fashion, but do they know some of the basics? Will they pass with flying colors, or get schooled in the first round" Hosted by Kimora Blac, frequent guests include Derrick Barry, Gia Gunn, Mariah Balenciaga, Ongina, and Jaidynn Diore Fierce
- Jasmine Masters' Class (2 seasons; 2018–present) – "Etiquette! Propriety! Welcome to Jasmine Masters' Class!"
- JewTorials (2 seasons; 2019-present) - "Miz Cracker teaches you the Jews and Don'ts about Drag, Life, and Drag Life!"
- Connie-wood (1 season; 2019–present) – "Would you do anything to make it in Hollywood? She would. Connie-Wood! Love Connie tells the story of her journey to becoming a Hollywood-adjacent star!"
- Werq the World (1 season; 2019) – "Follow some of your favorite queens on the Werq The World Tour! WERQ THE WORLD is an unprecedented backstage pass and intimate look into the global phenomenon of drag."
- Alyssa Raw (1 season; 2019-present) - "If you thought you knew the Grande Dame Diva of the South, you've got another thing coming. The new series starring the Dancing Diva herself!"
- Morning T&T (1 season; 2020–present) - "The Vivienne and Baga Chipz star as Donald Trump and Margaret Thatcher in the irreverent take on the morning talk show format. Morning T&T goes off the rails with bigly guests and huuuge topics. It's the pinnacle of morning television!"
- Trixie and Katya Save the World (1 season; 2020-present) - "Trixie & Katya are answering questions asked @WorldofWonder on Twitter using the hashtag #WOWHelpMe. Each Monday, the two queens will give their not-so-professional advice to your queries. And while they may not save the world, they hope to at least save you from yourself."
- Headlines with Alyssa Edwards (1 season; 2020-present) - "The Grand Dame Diva herself spills the tea on the goopery in the news these days from her home in Mesquite, Texas!"
- The Vivienne Takes On Hollywood (1 season; 2020-present) - "The Vivienne is taking on the city of dreams and taking us behind the scenes as she films her first music video in her new series, The Vivienne Takes on Hollywood." It will also air on BBC3 in the UK.
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