The point of an All-Stars season of Drag Race has always been fairly self-evident, but it feels like this season, when everyone competing is a previous winner, the show is leaning all the way into that point without any pretense. It’s simply about giving proven world-class drag queens the time and space to deliver their best drag, showing off every skill in their collective arsenal. That’s it. That’s the brief. Everything else – from the badges to the plunger to the cash prizes – is simply window dressing and framing; a way to provide some dramatic structure to what is basically a weekly variety show.
It’s honestly our favorite thing about Drag Race in all its forms. Formulaic or shenanigan-ridden it may be at times, with performances from Ru and the contestants that don’t always feel up to the standards of the show at this point, but at the heart of every season of Drag Race is a love of the art and commitment to providing a performing space and an audience for it. The game show framing of this week’s challenges felt just a weensy bit geriatric – and we say that as members of the judging panel’s generation – but it mostly didn’t matter because the point was simply to give the queens a little framing and a chance to do cute things like spin a giant wheel for prizes or queen out at the sight of Vanna White herself.
The true reason for each episode is so obvious and overt this season that even the various naked attempts at creating drama have fizzled out in the face of it. No one’s getting eliminated, so Shea’s attempt to imbue the Platinum Plunger with secret powers or Monet and Trinity’s attempt to expand their alliance were mostly met with collective shrugs. Everyone’s been down that road before and they all know they’re there to do their best drag and scoop up as many cash prizes as possible. There’s a purity of concept/mission in this season that makes it great fun to watch.
There’s going to come a point in the season where frontrunners and lag-behinds will probably have some sort of moment of truth and the true competition will begin, but for now, it’s just a bunch of really talented performers supporting each other and doing their best. All of the queens were given high-end materials for their ball looks (as opposed to some sort of unconventional pile of trash) because the point is to give everyone their best shot at being great.
It’s why Trinity felt secure enough to give a floundering Jinkx a little help putting her look together. The point is the ball itself. Trinity’s a pageant girl, which means she can be extremely competitive but she also knows the value of helping another girl backstage. It’s part of who she is and the kind of drag she did coming up in her career. Little moments like that only happen when a show makes it clear that it’s about the performance of drag rather than being cutthroat and drama-seeking.
The Realness of Fortune ball was a take on Wheel of Fortune, with the categories being Vanna White Realness, Before and After (in the Wheel of Fortune category sense) and The Realness of Fortune Eleganza, a final hand-made look based on international vacation spots assigned to the queens.
Jinkx’s Vanna was, as the judges noted, a somewhat classic and generic “Old Hollywood” glamour look. It wasn’t terribly off-base but you’d have to be told she was doing Vanna White. Her Before and After, Whatever Happened to Baby Jane Fonda, was pure camp genius and pretty great drag. Her final look was pretty good, all things considered.
Shea’s Vanna was also a little generic, but pretty. Her Gold Tooth Fairy was a witty and cute idea, but the hiked skirt seemed a bit off to us. Her hand-made wedding gown was well-executed, but very simple, with all of its impact in the styling. The turban was a brilliant touch.
As Carson noted hilariously, Monet was giving “Wheel of Fortune After Dark,” but the look was pretty gorgeous. We thought the Bob the Drag Queen Elizabeth idea was cute if a little underwhelming. Her hand-made Ireland-based disco look was a lot of fun and surprisingly well executed.
Jaida’s Vanna was flawless, which isn’t too much of a surprise. Her Bag Lady in Red was a clevery and stylish mashup. Her “black sand beaches of Hawaii” look was shockingly well-executed and risky for a hand-made design.
Yvie clearly had no idea who Vanna White was. Her Cardi Bea Arthur look was inspired, however – especially when she revealed that she made it herself. Her official hand made look managed to turn pink punk and stay true to the Yvie aesthetic while serving some fairly high-fashion drag.
The Vivienne is serving pure polish, week in and week out. Her Vanna look was pretty, if a little generic. Her Princess Diana Ross was brilliant. Her hand made look was a stunner.
Raja served probably the second-best (in terms of being recognizable) Vanna on the runway. Her Olivia Newton John Waters was a total bust of an idea. You can’t rest the whole thing on one pencil mustache. She needed to do her whole head up like the legendary director for this homage to work. Her hand-made look (which she said was inspired by ball legend Pepper LaBeija), was simply drop-dead gorgeous.
Trinity delivered the best Vanna White drag because like recognizes like. Her RuPaul Charles II was a silly idea that never quite came together as a recognizable homage to either of them. Her hand-made eleganza was jaw-dropping.
Trinity and Jaida won badges. We can see the argument for Trinity and we suppose it’s also true that Jaida didn’t falter in any of her entries, but it seems crazy to us that Raja didn’t wind up in the top with that insanely gorgeous LaBeija homage. But like we said, it’s less about the competition as it is about putting on a great show week after week. Trinity and Jaida tore it up to Beyonce, but we think the latter was the easy winner of this face-off.
She handed the plunger to Jinkx and we wonder if this gimmick has already reached its limit as a device for stirring up drama. It seems to us that there will be a rule change at some point fairly soon.
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: Paramount Plus via Tom and Lorenzo]
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