LADIES, START YOUR ENGINES …
We know some folks think their faves were robbed (which is true of every season), and we also know a lot of folks would rather not see Sherry Pie get any recognition, but looking at this lineup of queens, we can’t help but think two things. First, that this season was packed to the rafters with some uncommonly talented and driven queens; and second, that these queens would probably be our picks for the top six. Stated plainly: in a season with a lot of talent, Ru and the judges did a fairly good job of figuring out the best of the best. This figures into Ru’s final decision of the episode. She recognizes what she has in this lineup.
If you pay attention to these sorts of things – and oh Lord, we try our best not to, but in our line of work, it’s impossible to avoid the splashback – there was some grumbling amongst the Drag Race fandom when it was announced that a line-up of the show’s hand-selected “super fans” all turned out to be presumably cis and/or non-queer women.
And y’know? Not for nothing, but even now, we wouldn’t leap to that assumption. Not because we’re making suppositions about any of these women. Quite the opposite. If there’s anything we’ve learned over the last few years of queer immersion, it’s that you can no longer credibly apply strict definitions as to who gets to call themselves queer. That, however, is a story for another day – or rather, it’s a story told over and over again in our book(, they noted shamelessly). Our point here is that anyone who sat through this episode and still thinks these gals didn’t represent the best parts of Drag Race’s fandom is … someone who has a very different understanding of this show than we have. And we’ll leave it at that. They were game, they were vulnerable, they were kindhearted, fun, queer-positive, and understood the sanctity and value of queer spaces. And they all turned out to be fairly excellent drag queens.
As we noted, this has been a fantastic season from a talent perspective and we’re wondering if that’s why Ru’s Werk Room visits have seemed so forced and stiff to us. From the too-hard laughter to the obsession with El Debarge, it feels like Ru loses a bit of focus when he doesn’t have a queen to fix. Having said that, he’s been pretty helpful to Heidi, but that’s more to do with Heidi’s pliability in trying to figure out what the show wants from her. We suspect if Ru asked or suggested that any other queen change their name, he’d be met with a lot more attitude and resistance.
In fact, these queens are so good that they’ve pretty much taken over Ru’s job in the Werk Room:
Attention should be paid to Jaida, who really came out and proved her worth this week. She was more concerned with making sure each fan was well taken care of than trying to get one over on her sisters by pairing them up with someone ill-suited to them. We don’t know if she realized ahead of time that Heidi would be able to connect with her daughter Honey Almighty as well as she did, but considering how on-point and drama-free all of the interactions were, it would seem Jaida really understood the heart of this challenge in making her choices. Believe us, we like our drag subversive and dirty and fuck-you as much as the next two queens, but there’s nothing wrong with heart-based drag when it works well.
Category is: Drag Family Resemblance 👯♀️
— RuPaul’s Drag Race (@RuPaulsDragRace) May 2, 2020
It bears repeating: These bitches are good.
In other seasons, at least three of these looks would have been the winners of this challenge and the rest would all be in the top three.
It would seem that Heidi might have had a matching jumpsuit on hand but it didn’t fit her daughter. We thought the judges were just a bit rough on her for not whipping up a costume on the spot, especially since several of the other queens clearly showed up with killer costumes on hand. Our problem was that she gave her daughter a very good makeover, but it didn’t really feel like a drag makeover. She looked the same, only more glamorously made up. Given how far some of the other looks went in painting their girls, this more than anything else is what killed it for her. The judges actually liked the dress. She could’ve made it work by bumping up the rest of it.
Jackie, Jackie, Jackie.
Just what are we going to do with you, girl? You are so clearly a fabulously talented queen, but you keep offering up not-quite-good-enough drag week after week. They look cute. They coordinate well. There’s nothing much else to say. Like Heidi’s lackluster effort, it’s all underwhelming in comparison to the other looks.
Part of what was so great about Jaida’s work on her daughter Jazz was that she turned someone who was nothing like her in looks or personality into a near carbon copy of herself. The looks aren’t quite as original as some of the other top entries, but they’re both so ridiculously polished and Jazz’s drag embodies that transformative quality that tends to win this challenge. She looks amazing.
This is genius-level drag creativity. Who would ever think to do drag versions of Ernie and Bert for a family resemblance challenge? Crystal Methyd, that’s who. There’s a decent argument to be made that these looks should have won the challenge based on creativity alone, but we are forced to admit that we find the presentation a little rough in parts. It’s a nitpicky critique, but the talent level is high and the differences in quality among the top are going to be minute.
People sure don’t like hearing this – and we get it, but Sherry Pie is a very good drag queen. She doesn’t just put on dresses and wigs; she creates fully realized, iconically simple and easily understood characters. And while he’s helped enormously by having an apparently huge costume design budget, it’s impossible for us to look at Tara Misu’s face and wig and conclude that Sherry doesn’t have crazy drag skills. On resemblance alone, Sherry nailed the challenge. And the looks, while bought and paid for, are gorgeous.
We dub this lazy as hell and we think the judges should’ve been a lot harder on Gigi. There are some sickening costumes on that runway. It’s not a time for resting on pretty. The looks are very cute, admittedly. But as we keep saying, all of the queens were helped considerably by having such game daughters – and you need no more evidence of that fact than to watch them joyously perform that most draggiest of drag traditions, the lip sync.
LIVING FOR IT.
It was truly fun to watch.
But the actual Lip Sync For Your Life was almost excruciating to watch. We say “excruciating” because we didn’t want either of these queens to go. We say “almost” because…
It was too damn entertaining for us to be upset about it. These bitches not only brought it, they co-served it, leaning on each other for support and playing off each other like true performers instead of cutthroat competitors. When two queens serve up a lip sync that looks like they spent a week rehearsing it together, Ru’s choice is – or should be – clear.
Say what you will about the gimmick of a once-a-season double shantay, but we couldn’t rightly argue that it wasn’t the correct choice this time.
“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]