RuPaul’s Drag Race UK: Stoned on the Runway

Posted on March 05, 2021

Well, it looks like we’ve reached that point on the Drag Race season calendar; the moment you can practically predict like clockwork: when it switches over from being a semi-friendly (in a shady, drag queen sort of way) competition into something significantly more intense. But some version of this show has been on the air a long time and any queen who’s still in the game at this point knows deep down that she’s going to have to get a little hard and a little cutthroat in order to make her way to the end.

But first:

Mama Ru is here to serve you the absolutely worst wig she’s worn in public since that protest drag she did when she was a guest judge on Project Runway. Don’t know what that mess is all about.

 

It’s always a bit hilarious when you ask drag queens to do a drag version of masculinity. It’s rarely on the level of true drag king artistry but it can be an interesting challenge to ask them to step so far away from the performed femininity the show highlights and rewards most. We’re in the homestretch now, which means the attempts were all better than we might have expected. Put it this way: there were no disasters. Was Ellie’s the best? Who knows? But it sure as hell lit a fire under a semi-boiling storyline.

 

We have to admit, it struck us as a little odd that the remaining queens were so blasé about telling Ellie her time was all but up. Of course you can expect queens to be shady with each other and there’s something to be said for fucking with an underperforming queen’s confidence, but if you’re going to be so bluntly open about it, you should be prepared for any backlash that might come your way.

 

Her decision to use the advantage granted her by winning the mini-challenge to place the queens in an order that did none of them but her any good deserves exactly the response Ru gave it. She’s a shady bitch, but that’s how the game is played. Poor Ellie thought she was doing the right thing by being so open about her intentions, which were clearly not so much about sending specific people home as it was about giving her the best advantage. There wasn’t a thing about it that wasn’t completely above board and seen many times in Drag Race herstory. We can kind of accept A’Whora’s initial annoyance (if not her later seething anger), but boy, did Lawrence come off poorly here. His indignance that another competitor might endanger what sounded like a crown he thought was all but inevitably his, wasn’t exactly an ingratiating thing to see. Bimini and Tayce had the right attitude, and at first we held it against them that they didn’t speak up for Ellie, but again: we’re at the endgame now. If other queens want to have meltdowns, it’s only going to do the coolly collected ones the most good at this point. They were smart to sit back and let this all play out.

 

A’Whora had good reason to be at least annoyed or intimidated by starting first, but she didn’t really succumb to the pitfalls that come with that placement. It’s hard to be first because she have to come out strong and keep your energy level high without anyone having come before you to rev things up or build up momentum. That wasn’t what was wrong with her performance. If anything, she did an admirably good job just going for it, fears be damned. Ru loves and rewards that sort of thing. She effectively overcame any disadvantage her first-up placement gave her. It was her material that damned her. You can always expect drag queen comedy to get raunchy, but Drag Race has mainstream sensibilities and while Ru loves a good dick joke as much as the next queen, she’s not one for working blue.

 

 

Ellie looked great and attacked her set with all the gusto she could muster. We didn’t think it was as funny as the judges seemed to (we didn’t think it was funny at all, actually), but she deserved recognition for giving it everything she had. She did okay for herself here, although a winning performance would have clearly been better for her.

 

Bimini continues to reveal herself as smoothly professional and simply the coolest queen of the lot. The combination can’t help but wow the judges. Her looks are sharp and interesting, but she’s been toying with more and more mainstream drag, which is smart when you’ve got Ru and Michelle deciding your fate. Her set was funny and she kept the entertainment level high by projecting a cool confidence and high self regard. Not a joke, just a fact.

 

 

We think Lawrence’s reaction to Ellie’s gamesmanship tripped him up way more than where his place in the lineup. As the judges noted, he’s clearly the most comfortable in this sort of setup; smoother even than Bimini. And we suspect he’s the type that feeds off a crowd’s energy, which he obviously couldn’t rely on here. But if he faltered, it’s for the same reason A’Whora did: the material suffered. His setups were way too long and he clearly lost his train of thought a few times. If we’re being a little hard on him it’s only because he’s got the highest skill level for this sort of thing compared to all of the other queens. He should have aced this, but his tantrums and reactions to Ellie’s choices tripped him up and distracted him. The only reason he didn’t suffer is because he’s naturally good enough at comedy that he was able to rally and make his way through the set.

 

It surprised us that Tayce was so scared of doing comedy. Sure, she’s a looks queen, but she’s also the queen with the sharpest mouth in that Werk Room. Her set had some potential to it because she allowed herself to be a little vulnerable and she avoided going to far into the raunchy stuff. We weren’t surprised she was in the bottom, but we didn’t think she was all that bad. It’s just that there are so few queens to choose from and the top three were marginally better.

 

A’Whora wowed the judges with this look, which was clearly the best one up there. All of the queens left are pretty polished in their drag, but in terms of looks alone, she was among the best of the girls this season. Ellie’s look is very cute but we’re surprised she doesn’t get more criticism for being so samey-same in all her styles. Bimini’s look is weirdly beautiful and her Meryl Streep line pretty much handed the win to her. We’re starting to think Lawrence’s semi-panicked response to Ellie’s lineup might be fueled by the realization that Bimini’s in his rearview mirror.

 

Having said that, we can’t argue with his look at all. It was fun, technically perfect, and unexpected. Tayce’s look was great too, giving us a Naomi in Mugler sort of vibe. It’s really a tight game at this point and everyone’s serving great looks and giving performances that really aren’t all that far apart in quality or execution. This is turning out to be quite the competitive final stretch.

 

 

Which is why that lip sync was so damn captivating to watch. These queens love each other and they’re both highly adept and backed into a corner. They tore that shit up and it was a joy to watch. We half expected Ru to keep them both, but if she had to choose, we think she made the right decision.

 

At the end of the day, she found herself in the bottom not because of her place in the lineup but because her material turned the judges off. Ellie had nothing to do with that and A’Whora’s elimination, while kind of a shame because she’s clearly a top girl, is no one’s fault but her own. Ellie may not have gotten a RuPeter  badge out of it, but she’s in the top four, which means her ploy paid off, even though it left her a bit horrified by the outcome.

 

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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