RuPaul’s Drag Race: The Ball Ball

Posted on March 21, 2020

We wouldn’t say we’re easy to please as far as Drag Race goes. We do tend to expect more from the show than perhaps the average viewer, if only to have something to critique or talk about when we recap it. But an episode like this one, which really consisted of nothing more than a twerking contest and a fashion show, sometimes gives us everything we want out of our drag. And this week, we apparently only wanted two things: laughter and gag-worthy lewks.

 

All things considered, Drag Race is doing an admirably good job of taking the focus off Sherry Pie as much as possible. We didn’t think it likely that they would be editing episodes at this late date, but apparently, that’s exactly what they’re doing. The results are sometimes a bit choppy, though. And if she manages to stay in the competition long enough, they won’t be able to edit around her.

 

Sure. Okay.

Would’ve worked just as well with just the hoods and speedos, though.

 

This was pointless foolishness and of course we clapped and laughed all the way through it.

 

Why are they all twerking bees? Who knows?

 

 

 

 

 

 

This season has been slaying it with the guest judges, but there is simply no denying that Leslie Jones may have been the most enthusiasting and into-it judge in a long line of them.

 

 

Jackie’s look was cute, Nicky’s was absolutely stunning. Aiden had a great concept and a great wig, but the dress looks like an afterthought and barely qualifies as a take on vintage woman’s baseball uniform. Rock M. had a showstopper of a wig, but the rest of the look was dull. Jaida SLAYED IT. Brita’s look felt … overdone and underexplained somehow. Yes, she was a baseball … sort of. Crystal looked cute and it was nice to see her open up her look a little, but this is as basic a drag look as you’ll ever see. Jan’s look was pretty great – and tended to make Brita’s similar concept look weak in comparison. This is going to sound like a backhanded compliment, but Heidi’s really good at “cute” drag. This look wasn’t perhaps as dazzling as some of the others, but it was fully realized and, well … cute. Widow’s was okay, but it seemed to really stretch the meaning of “Lady Baller.” Gigi was sheer perfection.

 

 

Jackie’s great at taking really tacky looks and turning them into high drag. Nicky: PURE FASHUN. Aiden: Tacky,cheap and under-realized. Get a new face, girl. Rock M’s face work was fantastic, but the shapework and costume were shabby. Jaida: Perfection. Brita’s look was shockingly cheap and basic. LOVED Crystal’s look, which combined the kind of glam Michelle wanted from her, with the sort of cartoon drag Crystal prefers to do. Also loved Jan’s look, which was perhaps a bit too understated (if you can say that about a crystal track suit) and ladylike. Again, Heidi’s look isn’t necessarily high drag, but it’s polished and well-realized character work. Loved Widow’s top, but the pants weren’t friendly to her and the look didn’t really feel like it was about the challenge. Gigi is a fricking stunner.

 

The true judgement of each queen’s efforts came down to the hand-crafted make-do looks, many of which were surprisingly strong and well executed. It remains to be seen if this crop can nail all of the performance-based challenges, but as a group, they’re pretty high up on the looks scale. Even the more half-assed or raggedy-ass attempts looked fairly complete and cohesive. Running through the safe queens first: Jackie’s was astonishingly polished and she looked like a Star Trek character. Crystal was born for such a clowny challenge and she didn’t disappoint, even if the look wasn’t among the best. Jan’s bubble skirt is amazing. Heidi: Bless her heart. Widow: We don’t know what the hell that even is.

As for the tops and bottoms…

The storyline for Nicky is that she’s “holding back” on the main stage and “not letting the judges see the real her” or whatever. Look, we love this show but as with any reality TV competition (Project Runway comes to mind here, for obvious reasons), the longer you write about it or comment on it, the more you see it as a series of patterns that play out over and over again. Drag Race is loaded to the rafters with a ton of reality TV-standard critiques, but “You’re holding back” has got to be one of the more useless ones for the person being critiqued. Anyway, we’re saying all this because the judges tended to hold back themselves on paying Nicky too many compliments, but it’s clear that she’s got a very good eye when it comes to drag and fashion. The way she used color in her design is high-level.

Aiden is, as we both muttered when she walked out in this, “Not ready.” Ru loves a rough, raggedy queen that she can mold into a diamond, which is at least partially why Aiden skated by on this low-rent attempt. The thing is, he’s got an interesting face for drag and just enough of a sense of style and drama to turn out looks that have some uniqueness to them. He stands out just because of how he looks, which tends to make Ru more intrigued than perhaps Aiden’s work warrants. Long story short: The costume’s basic and boring but the head and face work is hard to ignore, even if he only has one face in his arsenal.

We may get some shit for this because the conventional wisdom seems to be that Rock M. got shoved out the door unfairly, but there’s at least a partial argument in favor of her being on the bottom over Aiden and it’s one of the most common of Ru’s criteria for staying in the game. Aiden is loaded with bravado and confidence and fuck-you-if-you-don’t-like-it, which Ru LOVES. Rock M. is sometimes crippled by a lack of self-confidence, and Ru tends to think such a quality in a person is bad for their drag. “If you can’t love yourself, how in the hell are you gonna love somebody else?” is more than a catchphrase for Ru. And maybe we’re projecting too much meaning onto it, but this costume feels like someone frantically throwing everything at the judges. It’s not that it’s “too much,” which is a silly critique to make against a drag queen. It’s that there’s not concept there; no character being portrayed.

 

Jaida’s bubble look was surprisingly effective and there’s a very good argument to be made that she should have been the winner. As we noted, the percentage of super-polished fashion looks in this crowd is unusually high, with Jaida and Gigi at the top of the list. We can see the two of them duking it out for Ru’s blessings for the rest of the season. Brita’s concept was obscure – while she didn’t look like corn, as the judges claimed, she also didn’t look anything like a pineapple – and it barely made use of the balls that were the entire point of the challenge. Plus it looked like cheap drag. But as far as we’re concerned, there was one clear overall winner this week (even if Jaida came close).

 

Miss Gigi is just full of surprises, isn’t she? You’d be forgiven for initially waving her off as merely a looks queen with long legs and great bone structure, but she keeps coming out strong, no matter what the competition throws at her. Every time she’s been asked to perform, she dove right in and gave it everything, dropping verses that had Nicki Minaj asking “Who the fuck is this bitch?” Twerking her bee ass off, and not only serving sickening lewks, but making them from scratch. She’s a threat, girls. You better start paying more attention to her. We suspect the claws will be out for her soon.

 

Honestly, who knows? Rock M. seemed to be faltering at the beginning, but she came close to rallying. Even so, they both seemed to have problems with the lyrics and neither of them gave a performance with any standout moments. We think Brita’s a queen with more potential and more confidence at the moment, which is almost certainly a deciding factor, as far as Ru’s concerned.

 

We hate to see a queen cry her way out the door, beating herself up the whole way. Rock M.’s talented, funny, and can serve up the lewks when she tries, but we suspect a year or so of touring on a Drag Race alum’s schedule and salary would do a lot to get her good and trained for All-Stars season 6.

And if you’d love to learn more about the history of the balls or how drag and the world of fashion have historically overlapped, well have we got a book for you, kittens!

 

Our book Legendary Children: The First Decade of RuPaul’s Drag Race and the Last Century of Queer Life is on sale now!

The Los Angeles Times called it “a nuanced exploration of the gender-bending figures, insider lingo and significant milestones in queer history to which the show owes its existence.”

The Washington Post said it “arrives at just the right time … because the world needs authenticity in its stories. Fitzgerald and Marquez deliver that, giving readers an insight into the important but overlooked people who made our current moment possible.”

Paper Magazine said to “think of it as the queer education you didn’t get in public school” and The Associated Press said it was “delightful and important” and “a history well told, one that is approachable and enjoyable for all.”

 

 

[Stills: VH1 via Tom and Lorenzo]

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