And now we come once again to the Drag Race recapper’s most vexing episode: the All-Stars finale. Granted, sometimes these things turn into real nail-biters, with high tension and the ensuing drama that comes with it. Sometimes there’s an astonishingly well-executed number that really sells the idea that Drag Race is a university of drag that turns out highly accomplished and skilled queens at the end of their gauntlet. But let’s face it: those kinds of All-Stars finale are rare and what we had this time was the far more common combination of exit interviews, pageant speeches, great gowns…beautiful gowns, and somewhere in there a rather underwhelming musical number.
We’re not mad at it; just a little bored by it. Everything is so formulaic in the Drag Race format now. Still, a countrified finale challenge was a cute idea and especially appropriate given the final four. It almost felt like the fix was in when Tanya Tucker showed up. If you’d asked us to sum up Kylie’s drag before this episode, we’d have said she was a combination of showgirl and Tanya Tucker.
And that may be why Kylie’s performance stood out so much more than the other girls. They were all as good as they could have been given the material (which was tragically weak), but Kylie was the most well-suited to the style of song. It doesn’t help that some of the other girls tried to rap, which really didn’t make for a good fit.
As for looks, we think Kylie had the best costume with Ra’Jah a close second. Ginger’s felt a little underwhelming and Eureka’s made no sense at all given the context. Don’t get us wrong. Everyone was fine. Not setting the world on fire, but good enough to be an all-star and make her way through fairly dreary song. But Kylie once said she was country as a biscuit and in a challenge like this it made a difference. She just understood the assignment best and sometimes that’s all Ru wants to see.
There’s also a consistent thread in all of Ru’s decisions that respects really well-polished, highly professionally, clearly talented queens like Ginger and Eureka, but when it comes to the ones who impress him most in the competition, it’s the rougher queens who make a show of digging down deep inside of themselves to find something they didn’t know they had. It’s all very To Wong Foo and Drag Race has had that sort of preference baked into the format since its earliest days.
Again, when it came time to serve looks on the runway, Kylie really did stand out among the girls. We’re not quite sure what happened to Eureka and Ginger, who seemed so strong at various other times in the competition, but it just didn’t feel like either of them were bringing their A game this week. All our attention was focused on the hungry girls: Kylie and Ra’Jah, who both turned up the volume on their drag and their, for lack of a better term, personae. They just seemed to come out of all of this improved and with a better understanding of what their particular strengths are.
Eureka has had such amazing costumes throughout the season. That beachball look she wore several episodes back may have been our favorite of the entire season and we loved that colorful catsuit she wore for her lip sync showdown against Silky. But this is… honestly kind of hideously unflattering.
This is very cute. We won’t take that away from Ginger. But it’s not the best thing we’ve seen from her this season (that would be her Drag Tots look). As finale looks go, it’s a little underwhelming and it doesn’t really have any of the wit of some of her better looks.
Once again, she understood the assignment. We hope if there’s one thing she understands coming out of this is that she’s in her drag sweet spot when she’s combing her showgirl and country girl personae. It’s time for America’s next drag superstar to be a trans woman with a showgirl’s body and a Tanya Tucker twang to her. Coming out of this, she felt like the freshest choice.
Having said that, we don’t want to take anything away from Ra’Jah’s showing, which was also fun to see, showing a true growth and demonstrating the kind of polish you want from an All-Star. She remained charming, funny and glamorous throughout the season and her hunger to be better and snatch that crown made her a compelling competitor. This look is fabulous.
After that came the lip sync and once again, some of the choices made by these queens confuse and underwhelm us.
Eureka and Ginger are both wearing the most basic drag we’ve ever seen from them. Talk about stumbling at the finish line. They also weren’t super-great in their approach to the song. Gaga may have her camp value, but their mugging and comedic performances just weren’t as compelling as a straight up diva serve, which Kylie and Ra’Jah both delivered. But just as the musical number let her country girl shine, the Gaga lip sync let Kylie unleash the inner showgirl and she simply looked great doing the number. It’s not that we can say she was clearly the best lip sync, or even the best singer, but her story was consistent, compelling, and exactly the kind of thing Ru loves to see most.
It’s also (not for nothing) one more way the Drag Race franchise can remain viable and open to all forms of queer expression while at the same time correcting or erasing the memory of Ru’s comments from several years ago, when he said he didn’t think there was a place for transgender queens in the competition. Maybe the choice was just good PR or maybe it was made for what some might call political reasons, but from where we were sitting, Kylie delivered fantastically all season long and rose to the occasion exactly when the competition demanded the most from her. It’s a good day for Drag Race.
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[Photo Credit: Paramount Plus via Tom and Lorenzo]