RuPaul’s Drag Race: Grand Finale on Lock(down)

Posted on May 30, 2020

We had our issues with last week’s Zoomed-in reunion, owing mostly to the impossible situation rather than anyone involved in the production of the episode, so we approached this season’s finale with lowered expectations. It really isn’t anyone’s fault that they can’t quite figure out a way to provide mass media entertainment during a worldwide lockdown. All we can expect of a finale like this one is for everyone to do as well as they can.


As Ru is fond of saying, this lockdown finale was “IN THE GRAND TRADITION OF DRAG.” While Drag Race has always worked to mainstream and elevate the art of drag, we really loved the low-def, old school, put-on-a-show-no-matter-what feel of this attempt at a finale extravaganza. Not every part of it worked, but enough of it did to make it worth the attempt. Everyone was working so hard to give us a show and give these queens the showcase for their talents they deserve. Well. Almost everyone:


Ru, what the hell. As we noted in our discussion of the reunion, the gimp mask was distracting and it limited his facial expressions and even his speech, which means his performance this episode (and hosting is a performance) was so underwhelming that it almost came off disrespectful. Cast your mind back to past grand finales, when Ru came out sickening, played to the crowd, and gave every queen a chance to bounce off her energy on stage. A lot of folks have suggested that because Raven has been doing Ru’s makeup for so long that Ru can’t beat her face on her own. We can sort of understand if Ru’s high drag requires a team in order for her to stay on brand. Note that Ru’s drag is so consistent no matter what she’s wearing that she basically serves as her own brand logo. If she didn’t want to present a half-assed off-brand look for this finale, we can sympathise. Just put on one of your colorful suits and a little concealer to even things out and call it day, Ru. We’d rather see you interact with some energy than see you beat for the gods.

Whatever. Congrats to Heidi:

But let’s face it: everyone figured she’d snag Miss Congeniality. We’re happy for her, though. Now let’s see how the finalist girls did in all the categories. First up, Eleganza:


We respect the hell out of Crystal for not bending to the expectations of the finale and staying true to herself – in all her weirdness. She said in her interview that she wanted people to question what drag can be and she’s certainly working in the margins here. Drag can be so many things and we see no reason to suggest that what she’s doing here doesn’t fall under the rubric, so to speak. We do, however, think she was signing away a real shot at winning by essentially wearing a giant box instead of a drag costume. This look is hilarious and we can see an entire act built around it, but as funny as it is, we wouldn’t call it the right choice for an eleganza look.



As always, Gigi is high-fashion and drop-dead stunning. The Gaultier homage is on point, if not the freshest fashion drag we’ve seen. The helmet is a stroke of genius, though.



We suspect Jaida’s look works best on stage. It tended to crowd her surroundings and come off a little crafty in her living room.



Again: we give Crystal all the credit in the world for staying true to herself, probably knowing that she was making a win less likely. This look is so weird and so off-putting that we have to applaud the hell out of it. Yay for freaky drag. Ain’t no way Ru’s crowning it. She’s just not that girl and this show is, at the end of every season, a pageant.



VERY well done but good lord, girl. Could you be sucking up any more? Gigi’s looks for the finale were all appropriately gorgeous and wittily referential in that way that she does so well, but we think each of them showed a lack of imagination.



Jaida came to SERVE LEWKS and honestly, when the only option you have for a finale is to dress up in your living room, she had the right idea of bringing high drama. She nailed this one easily.



All three of them did fantastic on this one and it was a cute idea to focus solely on their faces. Crystal is better at the lip sync than you might expect. To our eyes, Gigi won this one. Of the three of them, she is the best at working her face for both drama and comedy. The eye-batting in time to the beat was hilarious.





Crystal, you blessedly wonderful freak. We hope someone gives you a children’s show. But again: there was no way in hell this sort of off-the-wall drag was going to get crowned, much as we love her for doing it.



The look is gorgeous and the production values were impressive as hell, but is this really all that imaginative? It’s a straight-up re-do of the original video’s art direction with a cute, stylish look that feels a little basic in terms of design and concept. She looked fabulous and the entire production was well done, but it didn’t wow us in concept or choreography.





Here’s where Jaida took the clear lead. Because she clearly didn’t have space to mount a production, so she kept her drag simple and stunning, allowing her to set off her flawless lip-sync and killer choreography. She did the most with the least – and Ru loves that.



For the final showdown, all three queens remained – and who didn’t see that coming? Come on now. Ru wasn’t going to eliminate anyone from this bare-bones finale until the last second. We loved the little drag-revue stage setup for each of them, which was a great idea because it completely leveled the playing field and it made it feel like we were watching some little gay bar drag night show that just happened to have three world class queens on stage.





Crystal looked amazing and she really held her own with material to which she’s not particularly well-suited, but as far as we could see, this was a showdown between Gigi and Jaida. Once again, Gigi’s look was gorgeously witty, but so referential that it came off stale. The quick-change reveal was extremely well done and she slayed the lip sync, but Jaida was several steps above her. She had the choreography, she had the attitude, she nailed the lip sync and she served up a focus-pulling look that literally crowned her at the end of the number.


Ru’s choice was clear and correct. We think Ru and World of Wonder like to occasionally fuck with fans’ expectations when it comes to picking a winner, but it really felt like she knew which way the wind was blowing and wanted to end a complicated season at a weirdly unprecedented time with a win that would make the majority of fans happy. A win that no one could argue with. Jaida slayed and we hope as soon as all this weirdness ends, all of these season 12 queens (except one) can get out there and make more money than they’ve ever seen. Until then, we thank them for working so hard to keep us entertained and we ask the show’s fandom to consider throwing some money at some of these girls if you can. They deserve it. Where would we be without these fabulous queens to keep us entertained?

We’ll be back next week to start the recapping of Drag Race All-Stars, but in the interim, you should absolutely buy our book, Drag Race fans!



“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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