Okay bitches, we’ve got a LOT of ground to cover, so we’re gonna hit it running – and it’s both rocky and (as per the usual) wholly unfamiliar to us. The ground, that is. Try and keep up.
We’ve always praised the mini-challenges on Drag Race for being some of the purest queer socializing and humor you’ll ever see on television, but we had to laugh when DR España once again showed itself to be way more interested in being a Spanish comedy program than part of the Drag Race empire. Why were they stomping grapes? Who cares? They look silly and it’s Spanish! We just wish they’d made them do it in dresses or something.
The drag goddesses must have been looking down on us this past week because having to dash off to do a small book tour left us with two episodes of DR España to recap back to back – and they just so happen to tell a complete story about a toxic queen whose heart grew ten sizes bigger through drag magic. If we’d recapped this episode last week, it would have been turned entirely over to reading Dovima to filth for being such a bitch to Hugáceo. But even before she had her highly dramatic moment of truth this week, she was pretty clearly indicating herself to be an all too common figure in young queer male socializing: a toxic queen who can’t even help herself. Her raging insecurities get expressed through her constant stream of insults and she’s self aware enough to know it’s a behavior she should stop but hasn’t figured out how.
That’s not much comfort to Hugáceo of course, who had to suffer through some pretty shady commentary that he didn’t deserve. We realize that Drag Race makes a poor platform for avant-garde queens to thrive and promote themselves, but we think he got some of the worst treatment we’ve seen in some time. To be fair, the judges really did seem to appreciate his work.
Anyway, we’re getting ahead of ourselves; probably because we are once again faced with a set of Spanish cultural references with which we are completely unfamiliar. Still, it’s not like a teen melodrama is all that hard to figure out and besides, it’s not like there was a cohesive storyline to follow; just a bunch of drag queens struggling to improv their way past their insecurities or performing deficiencies. In other words, it was as painful to sit through as any improv sketch on Drag Race, with roughly the expected number of passably good performances (Pupi and Carmen) and utter trainwrecks (*broad sweeping gesture indicating everyone else*).
It doesn’t help that the majority of the queens here have little or no performing background. They’re mostly looks queens of one form or another. This is why Pupi and Carmen dominate the competition so much. When asked to perform, they deliver with no hesitation. Dovima, Sagittaria, Killer and Hugáceo are not only looks queens, but looks queens with raging insecurities flying around all their heads. It can be painful to sit through sometimes. Having said that, we’d say Sagittaria and Killer were slightly less disastrous than the others.
Absolutely ADORED this runway category and results. Everyone met the challenge of dressing like living art and paying homage to Spanish cultural heritage. This is our favorite collection of Drag Race catwalk looks in some time.
The judges were right to point out the lack of shape to Dovima’s look, but the frame earrings were genius. Pupi is the only one who went in a camp direction, but that’s what tends to set her apart from the other girls. It’s not our favorite look here, but we got the reference and appreciated that she stayed true to herself.
Killer’s look is fantastic, but it could have used some editing to give it a bit more of a throughline or sense of cohesion to it. We realize that surrealism doesn’t call for structure, but drag costumes usually do and this one serves up too much information. We would have recommended toning down the hair and makeup or taking it in another direction. Hugáceo’s look is fabulous and brilliantly artistic. If he had given a passably non-disastrous performance in the sketch, this look could have saved him from the lip sync.
Sagittaria’s look was pretty (as expected) and surprisingly on point with the reference. Carmen managed to work an Alexander McQueen homage and a Miro homage at the same time and bitches? If that’s not High Drag, then what the hell is? Too bad the actual dress was only so-so – although we did appreciate the Shalom Harlow-esque hair.
Personally, we were rooting more for Hugáceo at this point, mostly because of the originality of his drag. To be fair, it’s not like you could call Killer’s drag generic or cookie-cutter. What you had were two fairly original queens answering the question of which one of them deserved to say and by that measure, Killer proved her point nicely.
Hugáceo has an amazing approach to drag and we’re sorry to see him getting bullied by a prettier girl, but there was probably no way for him to make it all the way to the finals, even though the judges really appreciated him. Drag Race, no matter what country it’s in, has a format that weeds out queens like him.
Alright, enough of that. NEXT!
In the next episode, the queens continue to show themselves for who they are (top contenders vs. looks queens who can’t perform), but one poisonous queen came up against the ultimate antidote and one front-runner faltered while another lapped her. Things are getting all kinds of dramatic all of a sudden!
Two things about Carmen we would not have predicted: first, that she’s a true all-around threat and never fails to step up to do what’s asked of her (we thought she was just a looks queen); and second, that she’s actually a really sweet person who looks out for other girls like a true drag mother does (again: we thought she was just a looks queen, i.e., a bitch). We don’t think Carmen’s ascent and Pupi’s stumble are unrelated. Pupi often comes off way too cocky. Granted, her confidence is kind of understandable given how bad almost all of the other girls are at any sort of performing. Dovima and Sagittaria may have given the absolute worst puppet show reads in the entire history of Drag Race – and it’s not exactly the toughest challenge. But Carmen was damn near crowned a saint by everyone in the room at the same time she utterly slayed every single challenge this episode, going so far as to leave Ana Locking open-mouthed at the dress she managed to make on the fly. No wonder Pupi stumbled.
We admit to sighing in relief at this week’s challenge. You really don’t need to do hours of googling and wikipedia-ing to understand a basic drag roast. Quick rundowns of the queens:
Killer came up with a pretty good hook, stuck with it, and didn’t go off the rails. The problem is that she doesn’t quite know how to skate down that line of being shady without being nasty.
As noted, she looked great and delivered the best set.
We’ll give Dovima credit for one thing Sagittaria couldn’t even manage: she served a look we haven’t seen from her before. We surmise that she was going for some sort of drag Joker or Cruella vibe to give her a more “wacky” persona, but she’s such an inexperienced performer that she never even gave a thought to the practicality of that wig, let alone that the look isn’t as wacky as she may have thought. We’re usually fairly unforgiving of bitchy queens and especially of queens who choose to give up, but it really felt like Dovima came up against the inescapable realization of her own limitations and that combined with Carmen’s kindness to her (which we aren’t entirely convinced didn’t result in a little crush on Dovima’s end) completely undid her. We can accept her choice not to fight for her stance because it really felt like she was going through something real and she knew it would be better to leave.
Pupi just came in too confident and delivered an unsteady and unsure performance that surprised everyone; him most of all. He’s still a contender, but it seems clear that this is a race between him and Carmen alone, with maybe one slot for a spoiler.
We were able to track down most of the costume references and it looks like the only real quibbles the judges could make were over the executions, since almost all of them nailed the references. From that perspective, Dovima’s is a pretty sad attempt. We saw the video that Pupi took her reference from and she absolutely nailed it, but we wish she’d done something to drag it up. Glitter on the weapons; that kind of thing.
What an absolutely gorgeous look on Carmen. She’d have won any season of Project Runway for whipping that up in a day. Like the judges, we weren’t completely in love with Killer’s look, but we liked that she opened herself up a little so we could see her face and body more. That growing display of confidence can only help her going forward.
Looks like a pretty great attempt to our ignorant eyes. It wasn’t enough to save her from the bottom, though. Such is the fate of the looks-only queens. Sagittaria almost certainly has more to offer than the far too walled-off Dovima, but like her former roomate, she came up against how limited she really is here and it shook the hell out of her.
And yes, we were on the edges of our seats watching the HIGH SPANISH DRAG MELODRAMA of Dovima refusing to compete against her one-time nemesis while her new love Carmen weeps in the background. There is simply nothing better than when these queens let their innate sense of drama take over. The lip sync itself wasn’t even all that interesting to watch (no tea no shade against Sagittaria), but dear God was it operatic in tone.
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]