RuPaul’s Drag Race UK: Royalty Returns

Posted on January 15, 2021

Those saucy, sassy UK queens are back riding the franchise horse and while we loud-mouthed Yanks might have cause to think the Drag Race market is flooded at the moment, what with season 13 of the mother ship airing on Friday nights here in the colonies, our queers across the pond feel nothing but pure glee and giddiness at another crack at the crown airing homeside.

There are way too many queens this early in the game to gave any of them the full assessment, but the episode did a great job of just sort of breathing and letting the girls take over as much as possible. The challenges were fairly basic as these things go – a comedy photo challenge and a couple of catwalk looks – but every doll got a chance to show off what makes her a contender (or not). We’ll give our bare-bones assessment of each one, with the proviso that our take could change on a whim. Not all of these gals got enough spotlight time to make an impression.


Lawrence Chaney is LOADED with charisma – to the point that Graham Norton thought she was decades older than the other girls – and can back that up with great, polished looks and a quick wit. A major contender. Ru is clearly charmed.


Cherry Valentine is giddy and game with some fairly impressive looks in her trunk, but the jury’s out on whether she can handle whatever the competition throws at her.


Tia Kofi is slyly hilarious – she had all the best reads of the episode – but her drag is going to come in for some Michelle criticism for lack of polish if she doesn’t step her pussy up.


Bimini Bon Boulash got taken down several pegs in her first episode, strutting in full of confidence and ending the hour practically weeping at the chance to stay. She’s got that high-attitudinal, working class camp thing that’s so prevalent in British drag, but she came up against Drag Race’s insistence on American-style pageant-level polish. We’ll see if she can step it up.


Ginny Lemon strikes us a stealth threat. She’s hilarious and loaded with confidence, but what’s notable about her is that her drag is pure panto-style camp mixed with the kind of high-level polish and conceptual work that Ru and Michelle love.


Elle Diamond is very pretty and the judges were clearly smitten. She seems sweet. We’ll see.


Sister Sister’s a conceptual queen and while we found her very droll, we don’t think her concepts are particularly clear or well articulated. She’s got a lot of potential, though. She strikes us as one of the smarter girls.


Tayce has got the look, the sass, and the attitude to go far, but we have yet to see if she can perform the way Drag Race expects. She’s going to have to sing, dance and tell jokes before this is all over. Can she do all that?


Aw, Joe Black. We will always, always, always have a soft spot for old school drag queens who know the value of a good turban, but anyone who’s followed Drag Race for any length of time knows this kind of queen has an uphill battle trying to please the judges.


Here’s Veronica Black’s main problem: Her out-of-drag self is far more memorable and charming than she is. She’s way too undefined and generic, even if she’s can turn out a pretty look.


Asttina Mandela seems to have really charmed the judges. We loved her looks and her attitude, but we were surprised to see her snatch the win this week. Still, she’s obviously a major contender.


A’Whora … didn’t really register all that much, to be honest.



To be fair, this is quite a colorful and charismatic group of queens. Just managing to stand out at this point is an accomplishment.

As for the photo challenge…


Ru was clearly charmed the most by Lawrence’s mugging and quick wit. The results of these challenges are always outrageously arbitrary but…


We can’t say we disagree with the win.


Mother was serving. This is one of our favorite Ru looks in AGES.


We’re far too American to have gotten much of the hometown or even some of the gay icon references, but we’ll give our thoughts on the final looks.


Joe Black couldn’t have more effectively portrayed herself as an elderly and old-fashioned queen if that had been her goal going into it. Asttina looks amazing and on point. Those bitches tried to make an issue of her ASOS jacket, which is hilariously shady, but just shows them to be jealous of her. Ginny’s looks had high camp value and paid homage to queer trailblazers. We’re telling you: she’s a stealth threat. Tia’s look is cute, but a little basic. Bimini’s is too trashy and unpolished for Ru and Michelle.


Both of Lawrence’s looks were great (the Diana Rigg was shockingly well-executed), and the judges clearly have him pretty high on their list already.


Veronica’s look is old-school generic and she’s got a lot of work ahead of her if she wants to stay in. A’Whora was kind of a mess, to be honest.


Sister Sister’s look was too crafty and unpolished. Again, she’s high concept, but she’s low on follow-through. We still like her, though. Elle Diamond’s looks were cute and well-executed. The judges are in love. She seems sweet. Again: we’ll see.


We… guess so? She’s certainly very pretty and the final costume was well done. It’s not like it matters much who wins the first challenge, so why not. Congrats, girl.


We hate to see a seasoned queen get Pork Chopped, but that piss-poor lip sync seemed to seal poor Joe’s fate more than anything else. It’s hard for a well-traveled queen to restrict herself in the way Drag Race asks while at the same time living up to the show’s high standards. We think Joe had more to offer, but we can’t argue with the decision.



Legendary Children: The First Decade of RuPaul’s Drag Race and the Last Century of Queer Life, a New York Times “New and Notable” pick, praised by The Washington Post “because the world needs authenticity in its stories,” and chosen as one of the Best Books of 2020 by NPR is on sale wherever fine books are sold!




[Photo Credit: WOW via Tom and Lorenzo]

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