RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars: The Charles Family Backyard Ball

Posted on July 11, 2020

We’re in this really weird reviewing space where various feelings and impressions about the Drag Race franchise intersect. First there’s the increasingly dire situation of Drag Race needing to take a breather, there’s the lingering impressions of the Canadian version being a bit too rough and unformed as of launch time, and there’s even ongoing (and completely unsubtle) marketing and promoting of our book about the show all in the mix of every recap we write.


On the one hand, it was something of a relief to check back in with some polished and competitive queens after the raggedy (but honestly charming, for the most part) Canadian bunch. On the other hand, we still can’t shake the impression that the energy is really off somehow. Ru did manage to check all the way in this episode, doing something she hasn’t quite managed enough this season: connecting with each of the girls. We’ve all heard the stories from alumnae queens who say that Ru goes cold and distant when the cameras are off, which must be disappointing if you come into the competition enamored of her.


But there’s no denying that Ru is very good at these little Oprah moments with his girls. If you ask us, one of the things he has yet to figure out about his appeal is that being an excellent drag mother doesn’t necessarily mean the broader public wants you to be their guru.  When he connects with Shea about family loss or with Jujubee about sobriety, you’re getting the Ru that deserves those Emmys.


The energy in the Werk Room was definitely weird this week, with a lot of slightly awkward exchanges between the queens. We’ve got to give India some credit here, girlfriend really knew how to play that Mean Girl shit all the way to the end – and after she walked out the door. We never truly considered her competitive in this season, but damn if she didn’t stir the pot like a world-class drag queen. The trust level has plummeted and even that weird love note she left Alexis felt like it was meant to unsettle her – which it clearly did. In other news …


Oh, sorry. That’s not actually news. More for the Lifestyle section, really.


Credit to Mother. She’s been stepping her pussy up these last few episodes.

The Backyard Ball was a cute idea that allowed the queens to combine costume design with character design. If that isn’t the essence of what drag is about, we don’t know what is. Have we mentioned that we wrote a book on the subject?  Anyway…


We can kinda sorta see why Cracker won this week, although she wouldn’t have been our first pick. Having said that, her character work was flawless here and her description was definitely the funniest.


Or maybe that’s “second-funniest,” because we laughed just as loudly for Jujubee’s “Ping but my family calls me Amber.”



All of the queens went for a kind of trashy character, but Blair’s felt less like a sharp observation of a certain type of person and more like a fashion model in a Halloween costume.


Shea clearly came prepared, with a tribute to her character from Season 9’s “90210-Ho” challenge. It was a great look, but her character description came off a little too nice and safe. We don’t mean this in a shady way, but Shea is definitely playing the game by maneuvering the politics of it. She used this moment to say something nice about Ru and while we don’t want to take away from her essentially kind nature, she admitted that she helped all the girls in the Werk Room because she doesn’t want to play the game a certain way. She’s the most diplomatic queen the show’s ever had.



Alexis opened with a cute, draggy look, but the character went nowhere and she actually designed a reveal that wound up making her look worse.


We didn’t quite agree with the judges in their runway critiques. Although we have to commend all the queens for the advanced-level work the all did in making their own costumes. They’re all nearly polished enough to be professional.


We just weren’t as impressed with Cracker’s look as the judges were. Conceptually, it was all cutely done, but the shape is really terrible and we don’t think the severe hair makes any sense with it.


We thought Jujubee’s was the clear best of the bunch. The concept was cute and fully realized as Cracker’s, but the overall look was way more flattering and pretty. Carson’s nitpicking about the seams not matching felt a little too “Project Runway” for a drag competition. She looked amazing.


We’d say Blair’s was easily the worst. You can only drape and pin so much to disguise your lack of sewing skills. After a while, it starts looking like scraps hanging on a dress form. He tried to fall back on his fashion model looks, but as far as we were concerned, it didn’t carry it for him.


We didn’t like Shea’s at all. Conceptually, it didn’t make a lot of sense. We got the Backyard Bride idea, but the chaps didn’t go with the concept at all. The little body suit was cute. She’d have been better off without the chaps completely.


We were impressed by Alexis’ ability to evoke true pageant queen high style in a hand-made challenge. The kiddie pool was a clever idea, but it didn’t work nearly as well as the neckline embellishments.


Congrats to Cracker, but we’re glad she didn’t win the lip sync because showing up in that hideous look was reason enough to deny her the prize.



It wasn’t the most epic lip sync in the world, but she was clearly outclassed the minute Roxxxy stepped out onstage. It’s not so much that she gave a clearly better lip sync performance (the whole affair was oddly low energy), but she came prepared with killer looks that won the judges over.


And India got her final revenge because everyone had doubts that they could trust Alexis. Damn, girl. Shady as hell, but well played.




“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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