It says a lot about these queens that they can nastily hash out grudges and pay back insults in the midst of the competition but everybody shrugs it off and moves on to the next task at hand. Drag Race Canada has some kinks to work out and the Canadian queens who want to compete are going to have to learn about what the form expects of them (more on that in a sec), but it’s been a pleasure watching these dolls bicker and make up while clearly enjoying each other on their own terms.
The puppet challenge always winds up being a slightly nastier take on the Library challenge, with most queens using the buffer of a hand puppet to get a bit more biting in their shade. But everyone in this crowd took it with good grace, even when some took the opportunity to settle old scores. We don’t think Rita feels any closer to Jimbo than she did before her puppet smackdown, but she got to slap back after Jimbo came for her and everyone seemed to respect the situation for what it was. Just part of being a drag queen. You come for me, I come back for you.
With score-settling out of the way, it was time to settle down with one of Drag Race‘s most poignant and dramatic challenges; the “family makeover.” Some of the most meaningful interactions and scenarios in Drag Race history came about as a result of this challenge, which brilliantly uses the technical art of drag (from tucking to walking in heels to wearing a wig) to explore themes of queer life and queer families, both biological and chosen.
In fact, the family makeover challenge has such a strong history of exploring the emotional nuances of drag families and queer chosen families that it pretty much inspired our book on the show. It was the launchpad for the idea that Drag Race is about so much more than “just” drag.
To the show’s credit, Drag Race Canada took the opportunity of this expected challenge to highlight the lives of queer refugees from oppressively anti-LGBTQ cultures and to shine a spotlight on the work done by Rainbow Railroad. It’s a testament to Drag Race’s pureness of concept that it can return to the same challenges over and over again, season after season, in franchise after franchise, and still find ways to illuminate and celebrate the struggles and triumphs of queer people.
It was a joy watching these queens reach out to their queer siblings from Indonesia, Syria, Uganda and Jamaica and give them all a chance to talk about their lives, what they gave up and what they gained. Any of the bitterness or shade that had erupted in the last few challenges just evaporated as a bunch of queer folk hung out and talked about themselves. This has always been Drag Race’s great gift and it’s the reason why it still resonates and entertains even after years of flooding the market with too much product.
We just wish the results of the challenge lived up to the poignancy of it.
It seems a little crazy that Jimbo didn’t win, since the costumes were both flawless and hand-made, but we suppose there’s an argument to be made that Priyanka and Elektra looked like family members instead of clones.
Pri did a really great job on Elektra’s face and the costumes were similar but with little twists to set them apart. As gorgeously slutty as Jimbo and Bimbo looked, it was a little dull that their costumes, wigs and makeup were 100 percent identical, even if the work was impressive. And as much as we love Jimbo “I’m a slutty clown” is really limited drag. Time to break out more.
Scarlett saddled herself with a guy who just couldn’t get the drag thing down, from walk to attitude. The looks were serviceable, but we think the only thing that saved him from being in the bottom was his wig and makeup work. We think that tends to explain his standing in the competition so far. He’s okay enough in most challenges but his presentation skills are top-tier in comparison to the other queens, which is allowing him to skate by.
Lemon’s got a lot of charm, but for all her talk, we think she lacks that upper-tier level of polish. Her sister looked terrible and the dress was ugly. To be fair, we don’t think Rita’s drag has been all that impressive either. Her concept was vague, unfabulous, and unfunny.
In fact, it’s time for us to say something about the level of polish across the board: Most of these girls aren’t TV-ready with their drag.
The crooked lashes, harsh blending, and janky wigs have been an issue all season but we want to make clear that we don’t think it’s a commentary on the level of talent nor do we think it says anything about the Canadian drag scene. The girls in the first season of Drag Race UK weren’t as polished as we’ve come to expect from Drag Race contestants either. And neither were the girls in the first few seasons of the mother show. Drag is an art form devised for live performing, which is what all of these girls make their money doing. Drag presentation techniques were not devised for the screen and it takes time and practice for a drag queen to learn what every female performer already knows: there’s a big difference between wearing makeup out in the world and wearing it onscreen, which is why all female performers regularly submit themselves to the expertise of makeup artists. Look at Ru’s legendary “Supermodel” video. Her drag is nowhere near as polished and high-glam as it is now – and the whole point to the video is how sickening she’s supposed to look. Drag Race has essentially created a style of drag specifically for television, based largely on Ru’s own style (which is why it’s often criticized for being so limited in its definitions). We can guarantee that the next crop of Canadian queens and U.K. queens are going to come strolling into the Werk Room with faces far closer to flawless than the inaugural queens managed. It’s just the way of things. Which is a long way of saying that almost none of the girls have impressed us with their drag technical skills this season, but we’ve learned not to pay too much attention to it, knowing the history of the show.
Anyway, both of these queens deserved their spot in the bottom, we’d say. We like them, but we felt like they’d both been overpraised throughout the competition. And once again, we got a pretty great – if not exactly epic – lip sync out of it. Hungry queens always give the best lip syncs.
But Lemon misinterpreted the song by going for cutesy comedy and choreography. Rita knew where she was supposed to go. She got there quickly and never let go of the intensity or emotion. Lemon’s winks and hip cocks were just all wrong for it.
She’s fun, but she’s just not there yet. Still, despite the rough nature of the drag this episode, it was easily the best of the season because it leaned into the parts of Drag Race that make it truly special.
“Our critically acclaimed 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.”
[Photo Credit: WOW via Tom and Lorenzo]
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