RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars 4: RuPaul’s Best Judy’s Race

Posted on February 02, 2019

Darlings, TODAY is the TENTH ANNIVERSARY of the debut of RuPaul’s Drag Race. You can check out our very first post about the show here. Of all the shows we’ve recapped and reviewed over the years, Drag Race is the only one we continuously recapped from the beginning, for an entire decade, spanning two blogs and a podcast. People tend to think of Mad Men and Project Runway when they think of shows attached to this site’s success, but no single show has had more of a long-term effect on our professional life than Drag Race (and the best is yet to come, but we’re not allowed to say anything about that just yet).

Now, let’s all take a moment to reflect on Drag Race’s stunning success and how it has literally changed the world.

Okay, moment’s over. Now let’s get back to that grand Drag Race tradition of bitching about the manipulations and storylines.  First matter of business:


It’s a cruel thing for a drag competition to float a Judy challenge in front of us and then not really make it about Judy at all.


Oof. What even is this nonsense? The song was terrible and everyone seemed to be winging it up there, which makes the total lack of any rehearsal footage more than a bit suspect.

Jim Bailey is currently screaming with frustrated rage in heaven:



THAT is how a muthafuckin DRAG QUEEN does a GOTDAMN Judy tribute, bitches. We don’t necessarily blame the queens for the piss-poor challenge parameters. The show handed them a really goofy-ass song and told them all to dress in Judy’s iconic “Get Happy” costume, and lip sync to it. Then they edited the fuck out of the whole thing which is usually an indication that the results were so awful and uninspired that the camera couldn’t linger on any of them for longer than three seconds without giving the game away.

Then they twisted the whole Judy thing up in knots in order to make the completely tortured point that because of the old “Friend of Dorothy” gay slang thing, Judy Garland represents “friendship” to queer folks.


Judy Garland, if she still has any cultural cachet amongst the gays, represents vulnerability, grandiosity, and mountain-shattering talent that can overcome a nearly unbearable litany of wounds and offenses. Judy represents the promise of the rainbow and the defiance of a note held just a fraction of a second too long to prove to all those bitches that you can. Judy is drama and sparkle, messiness and divatude. And the connection with the Stonewall riots is mythical and extremely overstated. AND the whole “Judy=Friendship” thing, besides being dumb and innacurate, has nothing to with a challenge that is always structured around the idea of drag families and drag mothers.


We shouldn’t have been surprised that the runway looks had nothing to do with the challenge, but it just made for further disappointment. Everyone just did the standard “Family Drag” challenge and skipped the whole Judy thing completely.


The season’s got a storyline and it’s going to stick with it. Now that she’s back, absolutely nothing is going to dislodge Latrice from her inevitable spot in the final three, not even a fairly generic and basic set of looks like these. Her pal was a sweetheart and utterly game to get her drag on, but they just look like two friends with similar tastes rather than family. Granted, Latrice was told that Judy Garland means friend in gayese, so maybe she was confused about the challenge. We don’t blame her for that. Her stale drag, however…



Wow! So Judy!

Hmph. The costume idea is a clever one, but the execution was pretty awful. We’re surprised the judges didn’t have more to say about that.


All-Stars is usually very entertaining, given the talent level and polish of the queens involved, but it sure does love fucking with them. Latrice has a storyline that ensures she stays no matter what. Naomi has a storyline that she needs a win no matter what, and Manila had a storyline laid over her that she’s won too many challenges and needed to be taken down a peg. None of what happened in this episode had anything to do with the queens’ respective efforts and everything to do with how their stories needed to play out.

To be fair, these looks were somewhat shockingly simply and underdesigned. We’d still place them higher than Monique’s craft projects.



We won’t deny that Naomi nailed the family resemblance part of the challenge and that the drag was pretty cute and witty. It’s just weird that she won a Judy-themed challenge by putting out Sonny & Cher drag. That’s just about the best indication that this challenge was poorly conceived and half-assed.



Sorry, Trinity. Your drag was as flawless as ever, you nailed the challenge parameters, and you even did a pretty okay job on that goofy-ass song, but you see, it’s not your turn to have a story so everyone had to pretend not to notice. Don’t worry. Next week they’ll decide you’ve won too many challenges and put you in the bottom.


And congrats to Monet, whose earlier anger at Manila secured him a win in this week’s challenge! Because there’s no frickin way the judges actually think he nailed the family resemblance thing here. The makeup job on his poor friend looks like clown paint. But like we said, storylines need to play out so this entry was considered better than Trinity’s clearly superior one. Having said that, this is one of Monet’s best looks ever. She fucked up her poor sister’s face, but her own look is perfect – and the only one that felt like a mild tribute to Judy.




The lip sync was similarly storyline-oriented. Naomi was due for a win and made it clear that she’d keep Latrice in, while Monet was wavering on that point. Naomi gave a lip sync that not only had nothing to do with Judy, but also came off like someone who’d never even seen her perform. Monet gave an old school Judy-style lip sync. She stood there and emoted, which is how Judy would have performed it. Now, we’ve always maintained that Drag Race is something of a museum of queer cultural history. When the show structures challenges around specific figures and touchstones in drag and queer history, it tends to reward those queens who bring something fresh to it rather than emulating past figures exactly. Maybe Ru loved Naomi’s lip sync because it was silly and youthful and energetic. Considering how little the challenge actually had to do with Judy, it was probably a mistake for Monet to serve her up for the challenge.


This is bullshit, of course. But like we said, it’s the tenth anniversary of Drag Race and bullshit eliminations are a long tradition with the show, so everyone have a piece of cake and raise a glass to Manila Luzon. Girl, you definitely should have been battling it out with Trinity for the crown at the end.



[Stills: VH1 via Tom and Lorenzo]




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