Ironically, this is the softest her face has ever looked on the show. Even her Tyra was harder looking than this. Even knowing beforehand she was doing a Carrie look, we still gasped when she walked out. As a performer, she was engaging. Except for the Dad line, she wasn’t exactly knee-slappingly funny, but she connected with the audience and they seemed to enjoy the performance. This is why she’s a contender. She’s a seasoned performer and a natural in front of a crowd. It was interesting to see the almost orgasmic rush she got afterwards. That’s someone who lives to perform. Some viewers seem to think she’s mean-spirited, but we don’t find her any more so than a great many of the other queens and besides, we’ll say it again and again: throwing shade and reading for filth are long-standing drag queen traditions. For a lot of these gals, this is just another form of performance. And that goes for Shangela too. In fact, there’s a distinct possibility, given their pre-RPDR history, that this whole rivalry between these two is nothing more than a long-term performance that they’re both in on. We wouldn’t be a bit surprised.
We honestly thought the judges graded on a pretty steep curve here. Carmen kept the audience’s attention but we tend to think that had more to do with the very pretty face, the what-the-hell-is-she-wearing tension with the giant fur, and the where-the-hell-is-this-going tension with the kind of odd “I want to be a big, fat bitch” setup. They laughed, sure, but no one was rolling in the aisles. The judges fell all over her because they had such low expectations going in. It’s the Stacy Layne Syndrome and to be fair, Carmen did better than we would have thought.
She got an A for energy and she set up her jokes pretty well (“…and I didn’t come here to clean toilets, honey!”) but like Carmen’s bit, we thought the use of body props to get a laugh weakened the routine overall. Still, they laughed and she didn’t falter.
It’s a 3-way tie between Raja, Shangela, and Manila if we’re grading on looks alone. They each brought fully realized and instantly grasped looks to their routines. Unfortunately, it was Manila who gave the worst performance of the three and the second-worst of the night. We know she had to lip synch to secure her place (and she did one hell of a job), but we think she had a slight advantage because Delta’s dark pity party of a routine was worse than Manila’s bumbling attempt. She’s a naturally funny queen in a bantering kind of way (like a lot of drag queens), but the pressure of writing a structured routine really fucked with her head. And while the getup screamed for Sesame Street humor, the whole “gay PBS” thing was dead on arrival.
Can we be honest here? We laughed, but we laughed more in a “What the FUCK?” kind of way than in a “What a good joke!” kind of way. If we were being even more honest, except for something about shitting and big dicks, we don’t really know what the hell she was talking about. But if you’re looking at it from, say, a comedic performance art point of view, then it kind of works. The look was pretty amazing and we found ourselves staring at her face while she was talking. Bottom line: we’d never seen anything like it and like we said, we laughed. Mission accomplished, even if it left us scratching our heads.