It’s heartening to see that as Drag Race heads into its second decade, it can still come up with creative yet totally appropriate challenges that draw on drag culture. This has always been the show’s strength; the way it builds a variety show/reality competition around iconic or even traditional aspects of queer life and drag culture; from the drag balls of Harlem (every week on the runway) to celebrity female impersonators in Vegas (every season on Snatch Game). Nightlife is a huge part of the drag circuit and how many working queens make the bulk of their income, including many Drag Race alums. This was a great way to showcase how a Drag Race All-Star works and what should be expected of them. This would be a very different sort of challenge if it was part of a normal season of Drag Race, with relatively unknown queens competing. But built into this challenge was an assumption that the girls in the game knew how to play this particular part of it and the expectations were high for all of them to deliver.
The Black Hole
Like so many challenges on Drag Race, the results are so ridiculously edited that it’s impossible to determine who really nailed the challenge and who didn’t. Having said that, if you asked us which club and which queens we’d want to spend the most time with, it would be The Black Hole and its hostesses. The concept was original, if a little goofy and under-fabulously rendered. It seemed like they relied on a light of blacklights and under-lighting to make their club look intriguing. The drag was appropriately weird and memorable, but it struck as as odd that they could’ve wandered over to the Hive club and worked as hostesses over there. Was there some cancelled bee-inspired challenge this season?
Those ferns are tragic. We love them both, but they belonged in the bottom just for that bit of awful staging. The drag was as dull as the set and the concept. Valentina’s delusions make for fun reality TV but she was practically begging her fellow queens to send her home. And Naomi really needs to look at why she found herself in the position of not only being in the bottom, but not having a very good argument as to why she should stay. The competition-obsessed Trinity put it best when she said she doesn’t even think about Naomi. Time to step your pussy up, girl. Having said that, Naomi’s whispered “Club 96” was instantly iconic. She clearly has good instincts and can step it up when she needs to (see last week’s lip sync), but her energy comes and goes.
We suppose we can understand why Ru picked 2/3 of this team for the win, but honestly, we think a lot of that came down to storytelling. Latrice had only one of two stories this week: either she flopped horribly and went home or she did well and was granted a win. Since she didn’t flop horribly, the win was a given. Such is the way of Drag Race. The hostesses seemed a little tense with each other, but that could have been editing. And as much as we love Manila, we had to agree that her mugging and eye-crossing can come off a little obnoxious at times. As for the club, it was extremely well-rendered and looked the most like an actual space, which helped a lot in securing the win. And to be fair, Latrice’s beehive was fantastic. Again: was there some reason so many queens showed up with bee-inspired looks at the ready?
A fun and perfectly appropriate bit of Leigh Bowery/Club Kid drag, which was fabulous to see from Latrice, since her runway drag has been pretty uninspired and generic most of this season.
We hate to sound like we’re souring on Manila because we still think girlfriend deserves a crown at this point, but as the judges noted kindly but somewhat backhandedly, this sort of comedic costume drag is her thing and she clearly has a fabulous designer. But she just stepped out with spaghetti on her head last week so this felt a little been-there-done-that. She seemed a little chastened by the judges’ sudden cooling toward her, which makes us think she’ll be coming on red-hot next week.
This bitch is next-level.
As the judges noted, we’ve seen her in this kind of dress before. What the judges didn’t say but we will: Her hair and makeup are all wrong for her. We don’t want to put the girl in a box, but this is a competition and high-fashion lewks are her sweet spot, not the candy-cartoon drag she keeps going for.
It’s cutely witty and she looks stunning, but Michelle was right to point out that she’d already done a Latina beauty queen joke before.
The judges rightly noted how glamorous and polished her drag had become and we totally agree. Having said that, we don’t love the costume. The proportions are a little off and we tend to think it required a nude bodysuit underneath.
It’s fun and she’s selling the hell out of it, but like a lot of her runway looks, it’s got a crafty, home-made feel to it. And that’s fine, but the judges tend to expect some pretty fine costuming from their All-Stars.
Like we said, Latrice was either going to be lip-syncing for her legacy or begging the queens who were doing so to let her stay another week. Her spot on this lip sync was pretty much guaranteed.
Trinity has been slaying left and right but she wouldn’t have been our choice for the second spot. We don’t know if Ru decided she had to pick two queens from the same team, but we’d have found this a much more interesting lip sync if either Monet or Monique had been up there in Trinity’s place. As for her … bold, shall we say, choice of costume …
Man, we don’t know. Kudos to Trinity for not relying solely on glamour drag, but this is the kind of drag that tends to get accusations of misogyny underlying it. This is the kind of drag that people point to when they ask “Doesn’t drag just make fun of women?” We kept hoping there was some sort of reveal or transformation coming, but that was it. That was the whole joke. A naked old lady with floppy tits. We’re not exactly clutching our pearls here, but even Ru seemed a little taken aback by it. Again: Latrice was almost certain to win this, but it’s almost like Trinity decided to help her out with this odd and off-putting choice.
The final shock of the evening was Latrice doing the right thing, because the editing sure made it look like she was struggling with it. Friend or no friend, Valentina was off in her own world and while it’s a fun and fabulous world, she was pretty untethered from the competition. Naomi may be playing it too safe, but at least she’s playing the actual game. Still, Valentina couldn’t have asked for a better-timed exit, since her network television debut as Angel on Rent Live is airing 48 hours after her sashay did. The Drag Goddesses are raining good fortune down upon her, clearly.
[Stills: Tom and Lorenzo via VH1]