Sometimes it seems like All-Stars is designed to fuck with the queens for entertainment value. Granted, you could reasonably define most reality television shows as a format that fucks with people for entertainment value. And we long ago shed the illusion that any reality TV competition is the final word on someone’s talent or lack of it. Anyone with a little Drag Race knowledge under their belt could reasonably make the case that the previous three All-Stars titles should have been held by other people. If we can all accept that the Oscars are more of a PR campaign than an actual award based on merit, then we think it’s a good idea to take a deep breath and apply the same reasoning to a drag reality competition.
Which isn’t to suggest that feeling some kind of way over this turn of events is out of line or out of the question. But our jaded old reality-recapping souls can’t work up the rage that’s been bouncing around fandom this morning. We just feel kind of disappointed because the show complicated things for no reason and the ending wasn’t satisfying in any way. Worse, an everyone-gets-a-trophy ending goes against everything the show’s been about up until now, kind of smacks the runners-up from every previous season in the face, and will subject the winners to a ton of abuse from fandom.
Okay, real quick before we get into the meat of it all:
Give Monet a fashion challenge or an acting challenge and you never quite know if she’s going to nail it, but give her a song-and-dance challenge and that girl comes to life. The Dora Milaje drag was inspired. There was no question that she aced this number over the other queens.
Nothing against Monique, who came out looking gorgeous and who surprised us with the ferocity of her performance. It wasn’t enough to stand out against some of the others, but it was very good. We suspect if her look had a little more oomph to it, she would have made a stronger impression. She had the weakest Super Queen costume.
Naomi leaned into her looks and her legs on this number, which is really the only way for her to go. The costume is a stunner, making good use of the long lines of her body. Couldn’t hear or understand a word she was singing, though.
After spending most of the episode fretting over her chances, Trinity did exactly what the editing suggested she was going to do: She wiffed it. Not in a major way, but in enough small ways that it should have made a difference. First, this costume is one of the goofiest things we’ve seen her wear. It’s just a little too “Space Chicken” and not enough “Super Queen.” Second, we don’t know how fair it was for Todrick to openly admit he gave her the hardest choreography (seems pretty shady to us), and she should be commended for not fucking it up, but she had none of the smoothness of the other dancers. Her herky-jerky moves kept making all the pointy bits of her costume vibrate, which left her looking a bit less fabulous than she should have.
On to lewks:
This is stunning drag. Easily the best drag she’s turned out yet. We have no critiques at all. She clearly did better than anyone else in the Super Queen number and we’d argue she was neck-and-neck with Trinity for the best look on the runway. It’s hard for us to come to any other conclusion: she won this challenge.
As Ru noted, Monique Heart is well-named and we truly hope this experience strengthened her resolve and boosted her confidence. She is still primed to be a world-class, total-package queen in the Ru mode, but her drag isn’t there yet. It’s close, but she’s not at the top of her game yet. This look is dramatic, but it gets goofier the longer you look at it.
As we’ve been saying all season, she can’t go wrong when she leans into her supermodel drag, since it’s what she’s literally built for. This is a drop-dead fabulous drag look, combining haute couture style with an over-the-top draggy cartoon quality. It’s perfect for her. She was never going to win this one and we suspect a part of her knew it, which is why she spent so much of this episode either complimenting herself or fishing for compliments. She was getting it all on the record before she walked out the door. Clever girl.
Michelle’s correct to call this one of the best looks to ever walk that stage. It’s absolutely stunning. That it’s a clear ripoff of a Guo Pei design doesn’t particularly matter to us because drag is always about snatching from the culture and repurposing through a queer lens. The teacup bust was a perfectly hilarious addition. There is no question to us that Trinity is easily one of the most polished queens in the show’s history. Her drag is always top-level. She’s hilarious, witty, and charming. The total package.
Trinity definitely had the momentum heading into the finale, but as she noted, she only had one more win than Monet. All Monet had to do to reasonably snatch the crown from Trinity was to nail the final challenge and runway and hope that Trinity wobbled enough in the end. The funny thing is, that’s exactly what happened. Trinity was unsteady on her feet (literally) all through the rehearsals and right up through the main challenge. She was good, but she was clearly second-best. And when it came time for the lip sync and she badly bobbled a cartwheel, that should have made Ru’s choice all the clearer and easier to make. If the producers and Ru really did feel the pressure to give the crown to a queen of color, then Monet hand-delivered them a reason to do so. Instead, she’s going to have to spend years defending her win from angry – and racist – fans because of a wholly unnecessary twist.
We can’t speak for Trinity of course, but she was very clear last night that she didn’t consider her win a foregone conclusion and she was nervous about the competition. When the queens practically hand you reasons to go in a certain direction, it makes absolutely no sense to ignore all that and impose a problematic “solution” to a problem that didn’t exist.
Incidentally, the editing this episode was so bad it was downright insulting. There was so much time spent laughing at who could and couldn’t complete a cartwheel, then there were no cartwheels during the main number, THEN the queen who laughed hardest at the people who couldn’t do cartwheels fucks up her own cartwheel at the worst possible moment and … nothing. It wasn’t mentioned or shown again, even though there was all this pointless setup for it.
But absolutely nothing can compare to the infuriating editing at the end, where both wins were clearly shot separately and edited together with an offscreen voiceover from Ru. There’s a lot of talk this morning about how this double win must have been planned from the beginning and to be fair, we’re wondering how the budgeting for this worked out, since you don’t just find an extra hundred grand lying around to hand out as a prize. But if it had been planned, then we think an actual joint crowning would have been shot. Instead, they cobbled together this weird non-ending and both winners found out they tied for the prize last night while watching the show:
Poor Trinity looks so confused by it all. We don’t blame you, girl.
Look, we don’t begrudge anyone their win. We were rooting for Trinity the whole time. But this was a truly awful decision to make because reality competitions only work if you stick to some sort of framework of rules. Twists can be fun, but routinely deciding to chuck it all only leaves the viewer frustrated and the queens at the mercy of an angry fandom. This was a bad choice.
And not for nothing, but Ru, you need to start acting like you’re into all of this, because you sure come off looking awfully bored with your Emmy-winning show.
We’ll be back recapping season 11 of Drag Race when it premieres in a couple of weeks. In the meantime, go read all about our upcoming book about Drag Race and LGBTQ history!
[Stills: VH1 via Tom and Lorenzo]
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Emily Blunt and John Krasinski at the 2019 Writers Guild Awards