RuPaul’s Drag Race: Madonna: The Unauthorized Rusical

Posted on April 11, 2020

Drag Race comes roaring back from a string of oddly edited episodes with Pie-shaped holes in them and gets back on track with a Rusical for the ages, some juicy drag bitchery, sisterhood, challenges, triumphs and by God, even justice itself. Also? Sickening lewks in the Visage mode!


Boundaries were stated and grievances aired in this week’s Sisterhood Circle. You never really can tell what’s going on with a show like Drag Race, which is pretty open about its unstated mission of being entertaining and fostering narratives over being a consistently applied competition. Every episode is so edited in the first place, but when Sherry’s part of the drama or at the head of the pack, it gets even weirder. Widow and Heidi really do appear to be fed up with some of the frontrunners, though.


And again, we don’t know how much of this is just storytelling pieced together out of footage, but this group really does seem pretty tight and supportive. It doesn’t look like Widow’s in any mood to participate in the lovefest, but we’ll see how that shakes out. Carrying a load of bitterness around every week certainly didn’t help Brita any.

Why is there just this … sea of fabric on the floor?


Two observations: Ru has stepped her pussy up, both in her drag and in her man-drag. This is a fabulous look. Second observation: Is it us, or are they barely utilizing the Pit Crew this season? Granted, we got cute boydancers this week.



Again – not to keep pointing out the man behind the curtain or whatever – but we wonder about the logistics here. The girls all acted like they needed to figure out who was going to play which Madonna, and then they each stepped out in a perfectly rendered, period-specific Madonna look that they clearly brought with them, expecting to use.


Shoutout to AOC, who was sweet, charming, and very into her drag.


As Rusicals go, this was definitely a great one, but some of the verses dragged and the overall tone of it seemed very defensive, like Madonna isn’t one of the most celebrated artists of all time. Granted, who are we to judge anyone for wanting to teach the children a little about queer cultural history, right?


And right off the bat, we’re going to step into the poo: We totally get why Jan didn’t win it this week. She’s got pep and verve and talent out the wazoo. She hit every note perfectly and smiled to the back rows, like the theater kid she is – and that was a bit of the problem. She didn’t give us Madonna. Not really. She was too eager, too happy, too polished.


Jackie really struggled here, trying to find a way to make this campy while living up to the sexed-up vibe of the lyrics and costume. He just came off tentative.


Here’s the thing about Gigi: she’s so striking that if she can nail the look and stick to the spirit of a challenge, she tends to come out on top. Which isn’t to say she didn’t do right by the lyrics and choreography. Her back flips and round offs were impressive as hell. But what she really got down cold was the Madonna attitude, which is pure stripped-back confidence paired with an on-the-surface sexuality. Madonna really isn’t complicated and any drag impression that succeeds is one that understands that. Like a Cher impersonation, you nail the look and you nail the attitude. Everything after that is window dressing.


Girlfriend was a MESS. And she really would have been so much better doing Gigi’s stripped-back Madonna. She was bad at the choreography, bad at the singing, and her verse felt like it was about three times as long as anyone else’s because it was so un-entertaining.


Like Gigi, she came out looking so strong that she won half the battle just standing there. She did okay with her verse, but she didn’t seem particularly comfortable with they sexy parts.


Jesus, she really is next-level. Her bodywork is flawless. No idea why she didn’t wind up in the top. Her verse was less energetic than the others, but that was by design.


HIGH-LARIOUS. We feel like we FINALLY got to see what Crystal’s all about with this performance.



Also failed to deliver. She better get out of her head.



We kind of get the judges critique that she didn’t really give us Madonna, but the verse itself was so unspecific about what it was trying to say about Madonna other than “She’s been around a long time.” With very little to go on in terms of characterization, Heidi put all the work into the performance itself, which was killer, if vague. The look, which is nowhere near as iconic as the others on the stage, didn’t help.


This really was a cute idea for a runway category and the girls had a lot of fun with it, nailing home the point that Ru has had a female drag queen sitting beside him for years (which is why the show should probably be a bit more open about who’s allowed to compete, but that’s another story). Safe girls first: Jaida did fine and looked great. We guess we can see why she wasn’t in the top. Sherry’s Visage was flawless, as was his Madonna. Widow’s Madonna was bad and his Visage was worse. Should’ve been in the bottom over Heidi.

As for the tops and bottoms:

Jan really nailed the look. So did Jackie. Gigi? Well, it’s a cute idea, but it’s also time to point out that she keeps her drag very restricted. She picked the least Michelle-like Michelle just so she could stick to her version of chic supermodel drag (including the exact same face she sports for every challenge) instead of doing what Jackie and Jan did: embrace the big-haired tackiness of Michelle’s drag.


Brita rallied with her Visage drag, which was flawless. Crystal went a bit far off the map, but it’s a real Visage look and she rendered it in a draggy, totally Crystal sort of way. It worked, but we would’ve put Sherry in the top over her, just for the consistently high quality of her work. Heidi’s look is hilarious and the judges were being assholes nitpicking it to death.


For all her energy, Brita only gives so-so lip syncs. We’d say Heidi won this one easily, but we also can’t say her lip sync set us on fire. It was better than Brita’s, but it wasn’t some sort of game-changer. Girl, we love you and you need to step that pussy up sooner rather than later.


Miss Brita came off more like Miss Bitter throughout the competition, but one thing she said this week stuck with us. She referred to herself as a hostess and to be fair about it, “hostess drag” or “MC drag” is absolutely a viable and longstanding form of drag with its own expectations and skillsets. It’s just that it’s not the kind of drag Drag Race is looking to reward. They want a combination of pageant drag, performance drag, and ball drag. We have no doubt Brita slays them in the clubs and bars of New York and that she’s worth going out to see, but her skills weren’t being called upon here and she didn’t have the ability to generate new skills on the fly.





“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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