We never recapped Drag Race Thailand, but in the past several years of international Drag Race franchise recapping (a Canada, 2 UKs, a Netherlands and a Down Under – almost all of which were in English, it should be noted), this episode was the first time we really felt the cultural references and humor sort of float away from our American understanding. It was a pleasant experience in a lot of ways, because when the queens aren’t saying anything you truly grasp, you wind up taking in the visuals, personalities and performance styles a bit more acutely.
We can’t point to any one specific thing or instance (La Veneno was already well known to us from the research for our book); just a notably elevated number of jokes, references and phrases that made us smile and nod in confusion. There were times during this episode when it felt way more like we were watching a Spanish television variety show than we were watching an episode of Drag Race.
This is not in any way a complaint or a criticism. If anything, the slight remove from the conversations and references gave us a greater appreciation of this show’s commitment to staying true to its culture, unlike the Down Under, and to a much lesser extent, UK version, both of which seem to be playing to the Americans (i.e., Ru and Michelle) on a semi-often basis. We might have felt a little outside the circle, but it can only be considered a good thing when a Drag Race franchise plants its flag firmly and establishes its own identity. Ru’s not in the house. It’s not even her house.
We’ll return to this point when we get to the judging, which was so far removed from the Ru-and-Michelle style that it left us momentarily very confused. But first, let’s return to the comfortable, familiar side of the Drag Race experience:
Excellent use of the menzes. If anything, the international versions tend to make more use of the Pit Crew (and in better ways) than the American version, but we might just be feeling that way because of the cornucopia of international crotches the franchise served us this weekend.
Also familiar: A fairly basic song-and-dance challenge. Right off the bat we noted that the preparation, recording and rehearsal bits were barely touched on, which struck us as a little odd. It also seemed strange to have Supremme coaching the queens on their vocals, although Michelle has played that role before. Still, the relative lack of rehearsal scenes became a little more understandable once we saw the final numbers.
Which were uniformly awful. We’ll skip judging the translated version of the lyrics, but the singing was terrible across the board and the choreography was both amateurish in style and badly executed. No one was moving in sync and many of them didn’t even seem to be moving to the beat. Also of note: their costumes weren’t particularly well-coordinated.
To be fair, this was not explicitly described as a girl group challenge, but we would have thought a song about being a diva would have called for some sort of visual consistency. Vulcano and Hugáceo look like they crashed the stage while a group was performing and decided to join in.
Personally, we wouldn’t have called any of the performances confident or any of the performers smoothly professional. Carmen and Pupi stood out because they were better than the other girls and had costumes that drew the eye and made sense for the number, but that’s as far as our compliments go.
HAVING SAID ALL THAT, we were initially shocked to hear the judges make relatively kind and constructive critiques, focusing mostly on the parts that went well. These were, from our perspective, the kinds of performances that would have had Ru literally yelling at the queens to get their shit together. But as we noted, Ru’s not here and this panel of judges, while quippy and funny, are not interested in trying to outdo each other with quotably snarky observations. Ru’s vision of Drag Race is to make it a sort of training ground for ambitious queens to conquer all of the arenas and platforms he has, from modeling to recording to hosting an Emmy-winning television show. We see no evidence that Supremme views this show the same way (and the fact that she collects the votes of the other judges is a huge indicator of that). We don’t know if there’s anything inherently Spanish in that perspective, but it’s definitely (and in our opinion, obvious in a deliberate way) anti-Ru in its approach. Would we have wanted to see perhaps a bit more of a technical critique when it comes to things like choreography? Yes, but we’re more interested in watching this version of the show do its own thing.
Nothing felt more like the show doing its own thing than having a runway tribute to the legendary Spanish entertainer, sex worker, TV personality and trans icon La Veneno. The looks were fairly high-level across the board, with the queens opting for a fairly wide range of ways to pay tribute to the icon.
We don’t think we’re necessarily equipped to critique their efforts in terms of homage, although we agree with the judges that Inti and Carmen nailed the brief better than the other girls. Sagittaria went for body and a very uncomfortable looking tuck. It’s high impact, but it’s not much of a costume. The judges loved Pupi’s campy take and while we can’t say we disagree, we don’t necessarily think it rated the amount of praise it got. Vulcano’s look was very Vulcano. We would probably have found it more interesting without the annoying reliance on the hoof platforms. Inti looked amazing and it was genuinely fascinating to hear her talk about the difficulty of being trans in a drag competition before she has completed her surgical transition. We never considered the idea that trying to be sexy or wearing a boob plate might be triggering for her. We hope she can stay healthy while competing, because otherwise, the stress might not be worth it. Killer Queen’s look hit the mark, but the wings looked cheesy and cheap.
Dovima’s look was a bit underwhelming as a tribute, but it’s impressively far away from the style she’s presented so far. Arantxa’s look was a half-assed mess. Hugáceo wandered way too far away from the brief. Carmen nailed it, especially the facial work, which was almost astonishingly on point. Michelle would’ve dinged her for the visible (and untucked) brief, however.
We only note that because she’s the only girl who’s serving the kind of drag the American version of the show most loves: mainstream, realness-serving glamour. She earned her win this week, but we suspect her glamour and polish are going to bore this group of judges sooner rather than later.
The right queens wound up in the bottom, but we can’t say that either of them served up an exciting lip sync. The UK girls were great at this, but it feels like so many of the other international franchises just don’t place as much importance on lip syncing. Arantxa probably edged out Vulcano by being a bit more energetic and loose on stage.
We tend to think it doesn’t matter because while the judges are generally very supportive and gentle with their critiques, they seemed a bit turned off by Vulcano’s drag from the jump. She’s all look but not much personality and this is a show that seems to be placing way more importance on the latter over the former.
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[Photo Credit: Atresmedia, WOW via Tom and Lorenzo]