RuPaul’s Drag Race: I’m That Bitch

Posted on February 29, 2020

What?

Did we just…? Did they somehow …? Is this not … ?

We’ll start again.

 

Look, we’ll be up front here, as two bitches with a Drag Race book dropping, we wondered and fretted over the last year while waiting for publication day to finally come, worried that Drag Race might peter out as a cultural phenomenon or that the fanbase might finally revolt or that the show would just do what most other reality competitions do right around the time they hit their 12th or so season: coast. And to be fair, Drag Race has had its less-than-fabulous to downright mediocre seasons as the show has aged into a television institution. We hoped that wouldn’t be the case this year — and to be fair, for a few more years to come because we truly do love the show and find it to be an important cultural document. What we did not expect, what left us a bit flabbergasted and mouths agape, the question that has vexed us for nearly 12 hours now:

 

Was that an incredible premiere of Drag Race or are we just hyped?

It’s sort of a chicken-or-egg question: Did the producers of Drag Race decide to split the premiere, resulting in a shockingly entertaining episode in which every queen so far got a fabulous introduction and several opportunities to show off her goods? Or did the producers of Drag Race look at this year’s crop o’ queens and realize they cast an uncommonly talented and entertaining group and realized they better split things in two to give them each a chance to show it up front?

 

Whatever the reasons for splitting the cast into two, the results couldn’t be argued with. One of the more common complaints about the show’s casting and format in later seasons is that the queens are much more likely to show up with tons of high-end costumes and stagewear; a massive toolbox that allows them to be sickening no matter what Mama Ru throws at them. There’s something a little deviously fun about a premiere that forced the queens to cycle through five high-end costumes in one episode. We doubt many of them will be lacking for lewks going forward, but it’s a smart thing to make them blow their wads (so to speak) this early in the game.

It’s also a bold move to force the girls into a song-and-dance challenge right from the jump. These are generally considered some of the hardest challenges each season and they tend to send at least one queen spiraling down into self-doubt or shyness as she fails to hit any notes or get the choreography down. And while there was some minor drama surrounding which bitch was in charge of the kitchen, by the time they go to the actual performance, it wound up being shockingly entertaining.

 


We did not expect THAT. Neither did Nicki Minaj, who looked shocked through most of it. That’s the kind of performance you tend to see either at the end of a regular season or halfway through an All-Stars season, when only the best girls left are on that stage. Fine, the song itself is not going to win any Grammys, but every single bitch on that stage was giving it everything she had; so much so that the critiques by the judges had that nitpicky quality when there really isn’t much to criticize. Clearly Widow owned this one by serving look, performance, and comedy, but the real surprise for us was Gigi, who we’d never have pegged for such a contender on the main stage.

Let’s backtrack a bit to the introductions, since the show went to such lengths to make sure we got to know each girl.

 

Brita is clearly here to win it, but she’s got that really great quality of being a hellaciously ambitious queen who also seems kind of fun and without much attitude. If she’s not a contender for the win, we suspect she’ll be a contender for Miss Congeniality.

 

NOUS ADORONS Nicky! We have no idea why the judges were picking her nits, because we thought she was fricking fabulous from the get-go. This look is gorgeous and her makeup skills are the best in the group so far.

 

We under-estimated Widow VonDu from her introduction. She’s sharp, funny, and hits the stage like a bomb going off.

 

LOVE Jackie but we’ll say here what we say about every single bouffant’d sixties queen who walks through that door: Can you do anything else? Because this is a very standard look in drag. Put a pin in that because we’re not done with it.

 

Bless Heidi’s heart. We will always have a soft spot for the country queens; especially if they’re of the make-do variety – the ones who come from communities that have absolutely no support for them but in which they still somehow answer the call of drag. We’re not kidding. They’re heroes and artists just by virtue of their existence. She’s super-sweet and can be HILARIOUSLY funny. Her crack about her wig coming off to reveal her “civil rights hair” had us howling. Ru likes this sort of queen and tends to give them a lot of space and encouragement to prove themselves.

 

Bone structure for days and a mother who’s a costume designer? It would be easy to hate Gigi or write her off, but her stage performance really made us sit up and take notice.

 

Crystal is definitely going to get on our last gay nerve, but that doesn’t mean we don’t fully support her freaky/clowny drag. Any time the show gives space to a form of drag that isn’t solely concerned with performing gender tropes is a good thing for the show and for drag. We may yet get Ru to cast a drag king or bio-queen one of these years and if that ever happens, it’ll be the freaky queens like Crystal who helped nudge the show along.

 

For a minute we thought this was a new main stage design and y’know? It’s not a bad idea.


Widow’s Missy Elliott drag is a standout here, but Jackie’s sixties drag is so good that we may have to amend our expressed concern about whether she can do anything else. If you can do one thing this well, you should be doing it as much as possible in a competition.

 

 


Not a bad one in the bunch, but Crystal’s Freddie Krueger drag was pretty damn amazing. Gigi’s high-fashion fetishwear was another standout, as was Nicky’s extremely haute drag.

As for the main stage, category: sparkle looks…

 

As the judges noted, Brita’s shape skills are first class and flawless. We LOVE Crystal’s devil drag and we hope Michelle doesn’t come down too hard on her for this kind of thing. As we said, give the freak some space to be a freak.

 

We honestly don’t get Gigi’s repeated use of helmets, but we can’t deny her look is so eye-catching and well-suited to her model proportions that it really stood out to us. Heidi’s gown is fine for the challenge, but her wig and makeup are seriously lacking. We hope the girls help her out a little.

 

Like we said, Jackie’s sixties drag is so exquisitely rendered that it doesn’t feel like a cliche. We’ll see how long that lasts, though. At some point, Ru or Michelle will get tired of the beehives and bouffants. Nicky looks fricking stunning and Widow’s look is boldly unforgettable. She’s not afraid to take up space, which is a great quality to have in this competition.

 

As for the twist, it was fun to see two queens lip sync for cash instead for their lives, but we hope it’s not going to be the format going forward. The best lip sync moments come when some queen is up against the wall and fighting for her life, not when two queens are declared the best of the bunch and are just fighting over a check.

On the other hand, it’s kind of hard to argue with results like this:

But we tend to think that was a stunning lip sync because of the two people involved (Who knew Gigi could bring it like that?), the song itself, and the presence of its extremely appreciative singer, who was having the time of her life watching it all unfold in front of her. Who knows? Maybe “Lip Sync For Your Cash Prize” will produce moments as good as this every week. All we know is that this was fun as hell and while Gigi surprised us, Widow almost literally mopped the floor with her.

More of this, please!

Also, because Daddy and Papa are proud and need to pay the bills…

Our book, Legendary Children, The First Decade of RuPaul’s Drag Race and the Last Century of Queer Life drops this Tuesday, March 3rd and we definitely think it’s worth your time to pre-order it. Of course we would, though. But Kirkus said it was “Informative, entertaining, melodramatic in its obsessiveness, and written with equal amounts of insight and wit.” Glen Weldon of NPR’s Pop Culture Happy Hour said, “The more you read it the more you understand that it’s a useful focus for a topic that’s as broad as queer history…they are constantly name-checking and paying homage to what’s come before and you learn things,” and Cosmopolitan called it one of the best new books of 2020.  You can read the introduction to the book here and by all means go and register to win the LEGENDARY CHILDREN “Drag Race” Viewing Party Kit, which is FABULOUS.
 

[Stills: VH1 via Tom and Lorenzo]

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