RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars: Clap Back!

Posted on July 25, 2020

You know, we’ve gotta hand it to Drag Race. This season suffered from the distinct whiff of franchise fatigue and we doubt it’ll wind up on many Best Season Ever lists. Look, we’re always entertained by Drag Race and will always have something of a vested interest in its continued success, but we can tell when everyone involved needs some time to rest and refresh. This wasn’t a wholly unentertaining season, but as All-Star seasons go, it was fairly underwhelming.


A not-insignificant factor: this season’s cast. Love all these girls in one way or another and there’s no doubt they’re all high-level professionals, but that’s not the same thing as being an All-Star. From the jump, there was really only one way this was going to go, barring any serious fuckery by the producers or undermining by the queens.


To our eyes, there was never any doubt that Jujubee and Shea would be facing off in the finale, given the other competitors. There was always the possibility that Blair or Alexis could make it to the third spot if the dice landed a certain way, but we can’t say Miz Cracker’s place in the finale comes as any sort of surprise. Reality competitions only truly dazzle when it’s a true competition and you spend a good deal of the season thinking it’s anyone’s game to win. From Day One, everyone thought this was Shea’s crown to win – both inside the competition and outside, from the viewers’ perspective. That tends to leave the other competitors feeling a bit outside the game and doesn’t tend to push them to give it their all in every challenge. There was a lot of backbiting and self-sabotage going on because on some level, all those girls knew they had no shot. The energy level simply wasn’t there through most of the season. How could it be? Seventy percent of the cast felt like cannon fodder from the beginning.


Despite all that, Drag Race still managed to give us a lightly entertaining (if not exactly unpredictable) finale by relying entirely on the very best tool the franchise has to keep itself alive: the queens themselves. Granted, we suspect the producers would have preferred to see a lot more fireworks and vase-throwing among the reunited queens, but aside from India’s rather deserved humiliation, the airing of grievances turned out to be a lot of fun to watch, largely because it seems most of these queens know good and well not to take this stuff too seriously. And we were genuinely charmed to see all of the girls given a chance to shine in both the musical number and on the runway. If you’re gonna call them All-Stars, may as well give each of them one final chance to show off a little.

Having said all THAT…




Good lord, this number is awful. We had to go and watch the “Read U Wrote U” and “Kitty Girl” videos repeatedly just to wash away the memory. Sorry, girls. You all tried, but Mama Ru did not hand you the best choice from her songbook. And we weren’t particularly feeling Todrick’s choreography, which was alternately too busy or badly matched to the performer. Granted, the whole number was so edited and wildly shot that there’s no way to get a good sense of how it went, especially since there were a lot of indications that this was shot over many takes.


We were like harried stage mothers watching Jujubee’s portion. We wanted so bad for her to nail this one. To her credit, she gave it everything she had and she only wobbled slightly, but the style of material really didn’t suit her strengths. Her wig and face were gorgeous, but we weren’t in love with the costume.


We’ll be honest here: Cracker’s drag just doesn’t appeal to us all that much. She’s an excellent overall comedy queen and we think she’s funny, but we have never liked her wigs, makeup or costumes. There was a lot of talk about the New Cracker and how she finally got out of her head, but we really didn’t get that sense from her over the season at all. She’s more focused, but she’s still constantly fighting to get out of her own way and a lot of times, that inner tension comes across in her performances. Anyway, her verse was rushed and her choreography was overproduced. It just didn’t match up with what the other two girls were doing.


And then Shea came out and suddenly we remembered why everyone assumed she was the frontrunner. The whole number shot up in quality the minute it focused on her. She’s made a few stumbles this season, but in so many ways, her energy, her focus, and her talent level were clearly above most of the other girls. The only one who came close to snatching that crown from her was Jujubee and the only reason she didn’t manage it was because the final number played to Shea’s strengths over hers.



Individual assessments aside, we feel like it was the choice of song more than anything that made this a disappointment to watch. There’s no denying these queens came in hard and gave it everything.





Derrick showed us a fabulous non-Britney look, Ongina’s redux was a bit of a letdown, Mariah showed us what she’s really capable of, Mayhem’s was a big nothing, India continues to rely on terrible proportions and weird wig choices, Alexis SLAYED, and we’ve gotta give Blair all the credit in the world: her pussy has been considerably stepped up. As for the finalists:



This was simply drop-dead stunning. Not just the best look Jujubee ever wore on the runway, but one of the best in the show’s history, we’d say. Our only quibble is with the trailing sash, which feels a little unresolved in the design.



We liked that she was doing a take on Russian doll/Faberge drag. It’s a cute idea and it clearly resonates with her. But man, this just looked like something you’d see on the back of a commode, covering a spare roll of toilet paper. She took these rich, beautiful cultural artifacts and works of art in such a tacky direction. To be fair, we love tacky drag. We just don’t think the final runway of All-Stars is the place to bring it. Again: Her drag has never quite been our thing. Take the assessment with a grain of salt.



Like so much of Shea’s efforts this season, her final look was poised, breathtaking, and carefully calibrated to paint a certain picture of herself. We don’t mean that in a bad way, but Shea has clearly been taking a steady, focused, diplomatic sort of beauty queen approach to the competition and we think interpreting her mother’s prom dress into haute couture was the final, perfect iteration of her plan. She looked gorgeous and her tribute was very sweet. If this look had not been as gorgeous as it is; if Shea somehow flubbed the final runway look, there’s every chance this could have gone to Jujubee in the end, simply because she leaped so far forward with that stunner of a final look.




We say that because the final lip sync was pretty vague in terms of results. Cracker was out of the running the second she stepped out in that hideous costume. Shea and Jujubee battled it out in both looks and performance and honestly, we couldn’t see a difference. They were both nailing the song.


In the end, the queen everyone thought was going to win it, won it. But there was just enough of a rally at the end there by Jujubee to make the outcome not quite so assured. We’re happy for Shea. Her work with the Black Lives Matter protests is showing her to be not just a high-quality drag queen, but an important and smoothly professional voice in political activism. That’s exciting for Drag Race as a franchise, because it desperately needs to catch up with the times and queens like Shea Coulee are absolutely where drag is heading as an art form. We feel bad for Jujubee, who has remained one of our all-time faves for a decade now. But we figure she got a major shot in the arm, career-wise and a renewed fan base who may not have known just how talented a bitch she is.

That’s it for us this time! If you haven’t bought our astonishingly well-reviewed book on Drag Race’s place in the history of queer culture, now’s the time to do so! Help a couple of bitches out over here!



“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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