For Mathews, a self-proclaimed superfan, joining the panel “really is a dream come true.”
E! News’s red carpet correspondent, 35, tells PEOPLE, “I don’t know that I’ve ever been more qualified for anything else in my entire life. Not only do I watch this show on the regs I somehow always end up at the drag show [in any town I visit]. These are my people. I know what makes a good drag queen, and I certainly have an opinion about it.”
And season 7 starts with perhaps the Race‘s most challenging runway yet – for both the contestants and Mathews himself. When the queens have to craft a duo of looks (the second of which is … how shall we say? … revealing), Mathews admits, “My jaw dropped, and all three of my chins dropped.”
Unlike a certain January runway show, this nudity is only an illusion, but Mathews – who’s been upfront about his own struggles with weight – says, “If they would have assigned the nude illusion challenge to the judges, the closest I would have gotten is a khaki jacket. I go in my pool with a T-shirt – it’s not happening.”
The premiere’s eye-popping, clothes-dropping runway is just the start of a season Mathews teases is “full of jaw-dropping moments that, as a judge, I was shocked by and, as a fan, I was thrilled by.”
Also in surprising news, Mathews’s and Cressley’s entrances mean the exit of original judge Santino Rice (though Mathews says he’ll return for one episode). The changes naturally mean a shifting dynamic at the judges’ table, but Mathews says, “The energy [from the queens] on that stage is being matched by the energy on the panel.”
He sees his own role as “the elected delegate of all superfans. I want to sit on that table and say what you guys are saying in the living room.”
But superfandom doesn’t mean he’s holding back: “I won’t take just one queen to task. I will take them to task over and over and over again,” Mathews says.
“I know something about having a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and not letting it slip through your fingers,” he says. “Don’t forget, I started as an intern behind the scenes. I know how you can take a small opening and pivot and make it huge. Now this is a huge opening, and when people don’t take advantage of that, it gets on my last nerve.”
Joining Mathews in varying degrees of constructive criticism is a stunning lineup of guest judges. After Kathy Griffin pulls out her claws (and her extra weave) for the season premiere, Jessica Alba, Ariana Grande and Demi Lovato are among the roster of guest judges Ru and her crew have in store for the new batch of queens.
“What’s so refreshing is that these crazy A-list superstars come in, and they are dorked out to meet Ru,” says Mathews. “These people who you think are going to be pretty high and mighty are just sort of dorking out.”
With a newly “elected” superfan delegate holding court (and taking queens to task), something tells us they’ll be in fine company.
RuPaul’s Drag Race season 7 premieres Monday at 10 p.m. ET on Logo.