We hate making these sorts of comparisons, but with the franchises all airing back to back, it’s kind of hard not to look at the cast members of two different iterations of Drag Race and note the differences. The recently concluded Drag Race Holland season 2 featured a bunch of stunning looks queens who weren’t particularly adept at performance challenges. We mention this because this episode, we sat through a bunch of UK queens trying to make a dance parody of Peloton classes (a truly ludicrous string of words) work and to our complete astonishment, they almost pulled it off. The UK queens are only so-so on the looks-serving, but it feels like being able to go balls-out (you’ll pardon the term) on any performance is a basic job skill for them.
But first, a little bitch needs to get told.
At some point early in the episode, someone (possibly Ru) made a “balls in your face” joke and it struck us how that phrase, which has been passed around several times in every season of Drag Race, doesn’t feel quite so universal a joke when one of the queens is a lesbian. Not that we found the reference (or Victoria’s presence) problematic; just that it’s interesting to note how some of the things you tend to take for granted on Drag Race don’t always coordinate with the ways the show has changed over the years. We bring this up because it felt like Krystal’s shade session hit differently partially because it’s not a room full of gay men anymore.
There have been plenty of instances of big girl queens being on the receiving end of fat jokes during shade or library sessions – and to be fair, they weren’t shrugged or laughed off in every instance. One of the reasons drag makes such a perfect backdrop for a reality TV show is because that confrontational and insulting aspect of drag culture is encouraged. She doesn’t say it as often as she should, but Ru used to introduce the Library challenge with “In the grand tradition of Paris is Burning…” and in the first version of the challenge, explained to the audience that shade is “part of our culture.” All of that remains true and we’ve been among the old-school fans who think complaints that the Drag Race queens are too mean sometimes miss the point of what drag is supposed to be.
But there’s just no denying the fact that when a skinny teenage gay kid calls a woman fat to her face, it’s going to hit different, drag or no drag, cultural norm or not. We had to hash it out a little on this one because we weren’t entirely on the same page. Tom thinks everyone handled it really well. Most of the queens (many of whom were also insulted by Krystal’s clumsy attempt at reading them) seemed to immediately understand that he was a kid who just didn’t know how far over the line he stepped. Victoria did a wonderful, even-keeled job of explaining to him why he was out of line, although it was clear that she was really hurt by it. And Krystal herself seemed genuinely sorry. But Lorenzo was mad at Ru for not making a bigger issue of the insult and he felt like Krystal got off too easy for being a bitch to her betters. Who’s right? Who can say?
That bit of drama out of the way, it’s time to check in on the …
Peloton parody team dance number…? It feels like this challenge was devised using a dartboard and random words. While we can’t say the songs or the choreography or even any of the jokes truly worked, we were just so damn impressed how game all of these queens are.
It’s always hard to get a real sense of who’s acing these massive numbers and who’s doing the worst, but Kitty really stood out for her character work and how polished her performance was, as did Krystal and Veronica. River… bless her heart. She’s trying.
Charity made us eat our words from last week when we complained that she had only one look. Her drag has a wider range than we gave her credit for, but she really wasn’t all that great in the number. Ella Vaday is very cute out of drag and completely generic in it. Scarlett’s okay, but she really needs to break out a little more. Victoria’s knee injury is clearly serious and the timing of this challenge couldn’t have been worse.
Choriza is hilarious, but we don’t love her drag. We noted last week that Elektra’s lip sync was kind of a mess and she didn’t do anything to change our minds about her performing style. Energy is fine, but if it’s all you’ve got, you just come off like a maniac up there. Vanity was holding back but we thought the critique about her wig was stupid.
The queens were asked to serve their best red carpet looks for the runway. The results were pleasingly pretty on the whole and it didn’t feel like a bunch of queens modeling tens of thousands of dollars of the best stagewear money can buy, which is what the American version tends to be and also a bit of what the latest Holland season was like. We’ll start with the safe queens. Moving from left to right: Choriza’s drag is really fussy and clumsy. We hope Ru and Michelle give her some actionable pointers soon. River was so proud of her look and oh, honey. Ella’s gown was pretty and felt like of one of the more on-point entries, but we don’t love her face work. Once again we say: Scarlett really needs to step her pussy up. We almost feel like we can’t judge Victoria’s entry, since so much of her drag was compromised by her physical pain this week.
Elektra’s was simply terrible. For us, it wouldn’t have mattered how well she did in the lip sync. This was the worst look in the lot and one of several unimpressive looks served over a two-episode span. Vanity’s gown is gorgeous and her wig is all wrong for it. She should have gone for mainstream glamour. A Beyonce wig was called for here.
Kitty’s Marilyn drag wasn’t the most original idea in the world (and it felt like she just slotted one of her existing costumes into the category), but it’s cute and well done. Say what you will about the bitch, Krystal is world-class when it comes to serving looks. Her costume isn’t even all that jaw-dropping or original, but she’s delivering some of the best old-school gender illusion drag the show’s seen in a while. Her makeup skills are miles ahead of anyone else’s.
Veronica’s dress was cute enough but the color looked bad on her and we didn’t agree with the judges at all about the wig or the makeup. We thought both looked clownish. Charity continues to impress us with this look, although it had nothing to do with any red carpet we’ve ever seen, except for maybe the Met Gala, depending on the theme.
Anyway, the bitch took it again.
We don’t know if we can say that Vanity definitely won the lip sync against Elektra, but of the two of them, she’s the one we want to see more of. Some queens flame out quickly on this show and Elektra managed nothing but notably poor work the short time she was on it.
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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