RuPaul’s Drag Race UK: The Pearly Gates Roast

Posted on November 20, 2021

It’s about as straightforward as a semi-final episode of Drag Race can go, so let’s get to it.


We are happy to have been proven correct that Kitty was always the girl to watch, but we must also admit that we missed out on seeing Ella’s potential until well into the competition. We thought her drag was a little generic (which, to be fair, it was in the earlier episodes), but she’s turned out some killer looks and delivered some fairly slick performances. She may not be quite as funny as Kitty naturally is, nor is she as experienced in performance work, but her game attitude and ease with herself has taken her far. Vanity knew she was looking at the chopping block and it’s started really settling in for Krystal as well, even though her favored status is well documented.



A comedy roast is one of those challenges for which the U.K. queens are more naturally suited than their American counterparts because first, even mainstream British comedy can be a lot rougher and more insulting than mainstream American comedy and second, the U.K. queens just naturally have a more laid back attitude about taking the piss. Kathy Burke praised a queen for calling her a “fat old twat,” for Pete’s sake.  American reality television rewards those performers who are really good about taking offense at every little jab or insult, but it’s much less of a feature on most of the international Drag Race franchises. You’ll note that the queens had no problems zeroing in on Alan Carr’s and Kathy Burke’s looks (to their great delight) but never really went there with Ru and Michelle.

Anyway, here are the brief but obvious assessments:

Looked great, gave a fully game performance, didn’t really land too many punchlines. Not good, but in a different week, not a disaster.


Looked good (her wigs are still a little dicey sometimes), outdid our expectations for her, which were already pretty high. We thought Kitty would have this challenge in the bag, but Ella not only gave her a run for her money in terms of laughs, she met her level of professionalism and possibly bettered it.


One of her best looks of the season. Much like Krystal’s set, Vanity came of game and willing to give it her all, but the jokes just weren’t there. As the judges noted, there was a spark of something when she stumbled and threw out some off-the-cuff insults, but she was stumbling just a bit too much and her confidence level visibly lowered in front of our eyes.


A cute, but not great look. We love Kitty as a performer and we think she does really well with big girl glamour, but her faces all tend to be the same and sometimes her costumes just aren’t up to the other queens’ level. Her set was as funny as expected but the fact that she wasn’t off book and had to do the set with notes in her hand was just enough of a mark against her to give Ella the win. Kitty may just be relying too much on her natural charm and wit. Ella comes prepared, and at this stage in the competition, that makes a huge difference.


The category for the runway was “Oh my goddess” and it’s interesting to note how samey the girls all interpreted that. Lots of gold breastplates, for some reason.


It’s gorgeous, of course. The bodysuit isn’t anything new from her, but she styled this well and we’d rate this the best of the looks this week.


Definitely one of Ella’s best looks. She was the only one who took the theme in a slightly original direction. We don’t love the cape and we agree with the judges that the hair just doesn’t feel very draggy, color aside.



Absolutely her best look of the season and a close second best overall this week.



It’s cute. We love the wig. The costume feels a little craftsy and we wish she’d take her makeup a little further, especially for a fantasy look like this one. She has the potential to be at Eureka levels in terms of her glamour, but she’s not getting enough critiques to that effect from the judges.


Like the Pit Crew, which seems to be a mostly forgotten element of Drag Race these days, the video messages from home isn’t as prevalent a feature as it used to be. It was nice to see all of the girls get love from various partners and other family members and as always, these check-ins serve as a document of queer lives and how they’ve changed over the course of Drag Race, as family acceptance became more commonplace and marriage became an option on the table.


We’d say there’s an argument to be made that Vanity outshone Krystal during the lip sync, but for us at least, it didn’t feel particularly clear cut and when things are this close, it’s hard not to look at the overall picture instead of what happened in the last few minutes.


Given the history of drag as a queer art form, it’s never great for Drag Race when the finalists are all white, but it’s hard to argue with this result given her record. It’s true that Ru gushed a little too much over Krystal over the season, making any decisions in her favor feel a little suspect. But while Vanity and Krystal were at about the same place in terms of performing talent, Krystal had the advantage of serving nearly flawless looks throughout her entire time in the competition. We realize how arbitrary the judging on this show can be, but when there’s a close lip synch and you’re down to the final four, all of the previous criticisms tend to factor into it.


Our book, 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 Plus via Tom and Lorenzo]

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