RuPaul’s Drag Race Down Under: Talent Show Extravaganza

Posted on June 13, 2021

For a talent show challenge, the producers wisely opted to dispense with the niceties and get right down to the business of forcing the remaining girls to defend their place and step up to the final four. It was a smart move, not only because it puts that much more pressure on the girls, but because whatever drama they might try to devise in the Werk Room, this lot is not particularly interested in delivering.

 

There’s the usual level of shade-throwing, with most of it being dumped on Elektra at this point, but just about everything’s been said on the matter at this point. Even Elektra seems a bit bored by the other girls’ low estimation of her. We give her credit for delivering the kind of cringe-worthy “I’m going to show these bitches that I’m better than all of them” that producers love to see (especially if it comes off a bit delusional), but it felt clear from the start of the episode that she was heading toward the exit.

 

Her “I’ll show them” attitude had hardened and become a bit humorless. She’d become way too obsessed with proving other people wrong when she should be more focused on what she needed to do to remain competitive.

 

In other news, Raven stopped by to swan through the Werk Room and get all the queens atingle. She’s smooth and funny and these sequences rarely yield anything new or revealing about the contestants, but it’s always a pleasure to see her.

On to the main stage…

 

So many strange things about this performance and about Karen generally. First, the whole “I don’t know how to be sexy and this critique has shook me to me bones and now I have to dig deep and tap into a side of myself that I don’t even know if I ha–” Stop right there, bitch. You packed that costume. Come on, now. We’re fine when reality shows want to craft a storyline (Drag Race excels at it, which is why it wins Emmys), but this one made no sense. No one who’s uncomfortable expressing their sexy side owns a pair of thigh-high PVC platform boots. It’s a great costume, actually. It’s still recognizably Karen From Finance (that fabric is decidedly less fetish and quite a bit more “office blouse”), but it hits all the marks of being sexy. It’s good drag because it’s also great character work.

We would not considered ourselves well-versed in this area, but in our limited understanding of balloon animal acts, there’s usually a structure and sometimes even a story involved. Like, even if a mime is doing it, they tend to build tension and up the stakes with more and more complicated forms. She just licked a few balloons, made a poodle, and sashayed away.

 

Art was really building up expectations with his inscrutable rehearsal scenes. What we got was more or less in line with what we assumed we’d get, but like Karen’s act, we would have appreciated it more if there had been a point or a punchline or a climax to it other than just building up to shoving a fist in his mouth. It was a cute bit, but we think the judges overpraised it. The hair and makeup are as amazing as always, but that gown is sitting weirdly low.

 

We’ve seen a lot of jaw-dropping reveals on various Drag Race main stages, which is why it’s so amazing that Kita managed no less than 4 reveals in a fairly short routine – absolutely none of which managed to come anywhere close to “jaw-dropping.” That’s the thing about drag reveals. Even out in the real world, away from the restrictions and expectations of a competition like Drag Race, you don’t do them unless you have something worth revealing. She’s super-charming and talented and the act was well-paced and constructed, but those were some of the all-time chintziest costumes in the history of Drag Race. Real “local children’s story hour programme” stuff.

 

Like Karen’s whole “I don’t know how to be sexy but I’m glad I packed my leather thong” schtick, we simply didn’t buy the story Scarlet was telling about never having performed pole work before. We also don’t think she needed to rely on it, because the performance was so clearly head and shoulders above all the others. Her entire look was amazing and she served the very definition of “tucked for the gods.”

It’s interesting to watch Scarlet, who started off cocky and bitchy, but is … well, she’s still bitchy and maybe a little cocky, but she’s a lot more restrained about it. Between the embarrassment of her Blackface (which may not have been handled well on Ru’s part, but clearly scared the shit out of Scarlet) and the surprisingly good drag some of her competitors are serving, she seems to be a bit more into keeping her head down and doing the work.

 

Oh lord. We cringed all the way through this performance. While we don’t hold ourselves to be any sort of modern dance critics (we wouldn’t even know what kind of language to use to critique a dance performance), we don’t think this number was quite as jaw-dropping as Elektra clearly thought it was. The problem with taking a firm and stubborn “I’m going to knock these judges 0ver with my highly trained skills and talent” stance on Drag Race is that you’re going to inevitably be following an act where someone won the judges over by shoving her fist in her mouth. The routine was fine, but not spectacular. We’d rate the effort somewhere near the top in terms of skill level and talent display, but it suffered from being boring and crashed because the drag was so poorly rendered. Knowing that Scarlet was going to be impressing the judges while wearing 6-inch platform stilettos, Electra opting to do her routine barefoot and in barely-there drag wasn’t so much a bold risk as a stubborn over-estimation of her skills.

 

At this level, it’s very clear that once again, Drag Race has settled on a top five that feels inarguable because of the high level of polish and professionalism on display. There’s not a bad costume in the bunch here. Every one of them looks amazing.

If we have any critique of Karen’s, it’s that the shoes feel too small and underwhelming. It’s impossible to balance out that head piece, but we tend to think platforms would work better. We have a similar very minor problem with Art’s stunning look: we wish the “hair” had a little more volume to it. Kita’s look was a very pleasant surprise. It’s so perfect and so charming that it probably helped save her in the lip sync.

 

 

Scarlet’s may not have been our favorite on that stage – the previous three were all more creative. But it’s a stunning look, even if it’s a bit confusing to pair a showgirl headpiece with a very heavy-looking gown. And we’re surprised she doesn’t get read more for the harshness of her makeup. This is the best thing Elektra’s worn on the stage. It wasn’t the best of this lot, but there’s no denying that her drag has improved over time. It’s just that this is probably her at her best and it wasn’t the best.

 

This was the first lip sync showdown on Down Under that felt like it had the capacity to become epic and for that, it was probably the most entertaining of the season. We hate to keep shitting on Elektra, but even if you think this was close to call, it means her dance training was no better than Kita’s ability to hold your attention while barely able to take a step. Kita was just more fun to look at and in the end, that mattered more than whether she nailed the lip sync harder than Elecktra. The latter’s drag had become just a bit too dour and bitter while Kita’s seems to get more charming (and polished) as the season progresses.

 

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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