As per the usual with a first episode of Drag Race, these bitches threw a lot at us, so we better get down to it. It was fun watching the various queens from each country react to the other ones, but the collective response to the American queens was both hilarious and illuminating. We have to admit, we always wondered how some of the international queens would fare if they went up against a shade-throwing American queen, especially if that queen is Black. If you’ve *ahem* read our book, you know that shade and reading are specifically African-American comedy and social traditions.
We also wrote that drag queens, no matter the culture, are always smack-talking each other or giving each other obviously insincere compliments. It’s a part of the culture, across the board, from Thailand to Brazil to Italy. As we’ve noted throughout our coverage of the international versions, the library challenge tends to be really informative about how shade is rendered in that culture. Some are better at it than others. The UK and Down Under queens all had sharp tongues and a way with a put-down at a level that, say the Italian and Spanish queens did not.
We don’t tend to think of Monique or Jujubee as particularly vicious queens. If anything, we’d place them more on the Miss Congeniality end of the Drag Race scale than the villain end. But the UK queens in particular had their antennae up for the Americans almost instantly and it was interesting to watch Monique go from zero to sixty at the drop of an eyelash. You could tell they weren’t quite expecting that level of pushback. We don’t know if that’s what emboldened the two US queens to get so openly shady in the Werk Room, but one thing’s for sure: the Yanks aren’t winning any points among the other girls at the moment.
Okay, let’s run through the queens efforts, shall we?
Baga had a pretty strong opening week. It surprises us a little that we haven’t really seen Princess Diana drag from any of the UK queens before, but we have to admit, the tiara is the only part that really sells it. Her song was a bit grating, but that was certainly the point. Loved her second costume.
Blu came out strong as well, although we didn’t love her entrance look and thought her number could have used a little more polish to it. It started off funny, but got progressively sloppier and more frantic the longer it went on.
Cheryl kept referring to herself as mediocre and we saw no evidence that would compel us to argue with her on that.
Janey’s opening look was one of two really great serves from her this week and we were a bit surprised by how much more polished she seemed – until she did her number, that is. Those costumes were heinous. If you’re going to do a striptease number – and it’s as legitimate a talent as anything else done up on that stage – you have to at least make it dazzling or exciting or, at the very least, hot.
Jimbo had a fantastic night. His entrance look was spectacular and his performance piece was genuinely hilarious and original. Ru got her start making such absurdist fare with lunch meat, so it wasn’t a surprise to us that she was delighted by Jimbo’s clownery.
We realize that there’s all kinds of shenanigans regarding who gets sent home and Lemon’s fans have plenty of reasons to want to defend her performance, but it really did strike us as one of the weaker ones, death split aside. Having said that, the complaint that from the judges that it wasn’t original struck us as silly when the majority of the queens did a song and dance number. And we definitely don’t consider her the weakest of the week.
Pangina ate the whole stage up. These bitches better recognize quickly. She is a force.
Monique also came out of the gate pretty strong, with a fun and fabulous entrance look and a powerful (if odd in context) musical salute to the Lord. If nothing else, watching Jimbo looking like a haunted sperm bobbing his head along while Monique sang about God’s love was worth turning in.
We love Jujubee and it pains us to say this, but she was among the weakest of the lot and we think we would have placed her in the bottom over Lemon. She has a nice voice. She does not have a voice so spectacular that it makes up for standing still in off-the-rack dresses while performing. A pussy needs stepping up.
The queens were all tasked with interpreting “Winner” for the runway and it was kind of interesting to see how things shook out.
Sorry to say it, but Lemon’s look is weak. The satin was way too puckery and the entire look felt dated – and not in an ironic, winking way. Monique’s look is drop-dead gorgeous. So is Janey’s to our surprise. We didn’t love Baga’s look all that much and the fact that she had to inform everyone she was supposed to be an Oscar isn’t a mark in its favor. She does not, in fact, look anything like an Oscar.
Jimbo’s look is stunning. Easily the best costume he’s ever worn on Drag Race. Cheryl is wearing a plain dress with some party decorations attached to it. Jujubee is just wearing a plain dress. Pangina’s look is gorgeous and loaded with subtle cultural references. Blu does not seem to have read the brief.
Lemon and Janey wound up in the bottom. We can’t make the strongest argument in the world for putting Jujubee there over Lemon, but we admit, we expect a queen who’s been on the merry-go-round as many times as she has to come out stronger than the other girls. Lemon’s performance was good, but not great. Her looks were the same. Janey gave a terrible performance, but her final look is gorgeous.
Jimbo and Pangina had to lip sync for the win and the chance to send one of the girls home. Yes, it’s shenanigans. No, it doesn’t allow for the competition to be purely talent-based or objective. Such is Drag Race. It was ever thus.
Pangina won easily. Jimbo lumbered all over the stage in a performance so bad, he acknowledged its badness almost immediately.
It sucks to be sent home first, but girl, that wig isn’t helping your case.
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: VH1 via Tom and Lorenzo]
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