RUPAUL’S DRAG RACE: The Crystal Ball

Posted on February 25, 2023

And just like that… 200 episodes flew by. We’ve gotta say, when we were one of the first sites to write about RuPaul’s Drag Race back in the hazy, lens-smeared, Merle-and-Santino LOGO days we never could have imagined that not only would the show become an international phenomenon, but that we would spend the ensuing 199 episodes talking about it, writing about it, and even authoring a book about it. We, of course, have nothing to do with Drag Race’s success (and it has little to do with ours), but we’ve been bound up in each other for a decade-and-a-half now and it doesn’t ever feel like that bond is going to go away. So here’s to Drag Race for opening up the door on queer representation, telling the stories of LGBTQ lives, and entertainting the hell out of millions while forcing the culture to wrestle with some big questions about gender, queerness, presentation and representation.


Unfortunately, a 60-minute runtime for an episode with 27 runway looks means that the show has virtually no time to reflect on or celebrate its herstory. On the other hand, we did finally get a mini-challenge out of it, so at least there’s that. The queens were ordered into quick-drag (which is, we think, an essential challenge that should be imposed on them several times a season because the results are always revealing as to each queen’s technical skill and creativity on the fly).

We think Malaysia, Mistress and Sasha all did an amazing job of it. We’re not surprised that Spice looks a mess or that Marcia half-assed it, but Loosey’s rough drag is a bit of a surprise. Anyway, the girls were tasked with photobombing legendary Drag Race moments in herstory. The results were cute:

But Anetra was the clear winner:

That’s hilarious.


After that, the queens were tasked with unpacking two of the ball costumes they came with and making a third one for a Crystal Eleganza theme. Ru and Carson came into the Werk Room to talk with the queens about their efforts and process, but whoops! No time for that! We got two brief consults before the show moved on. It’s really a shame how badly the queens are being served by the shortened format this season. We wish Untucked had stepped up to give us more BTS content this season and not just have the queens sitting around mildly reading each other. Anyway, it’s time for the ball. The categories are Start Your Engines (an homage to Ru’s iconic racer look from the opening of each episode, My Favorite Ball, where the queens give their version of a look from one of Drag Race’s past balls, and Crystal Eleganza, which the queens had to make in a day from scratch.. Hit it, bitches.



The SYE Look: We had some issues with how some of the other girls interpreted this one, which is based on Ru’s iconic “racer” look that opens every show, but Mistress nailed it. It’s a recognizable homage and the quotes from all of the big girls was a nice touch.

The MFB Look: She took her inspirations from the Balls Ball from season 12, and while we wish there seaming had been executed a little better, there’s no denying that it’s one hell of a design.

The CE Look: Pure flawlessness. It’s amazing that she executed that in such a short time.  Honestly, we think she might have deserved the win this week.


The SYE Look: It’s really cute, although it falls into that samey-same aesthetic that plagues most of her looks. It’s also wandering far enough away from the original look that it doesn’t quite read as an homage, which was true of a lot of the attempts in this category.

The MFB Look: Came from season 12’s Ball Ball and it’s fine. Cute, even. But again, as polished as Spice’s drag is, she really does feel like a fashion doll who keeps changing outfits instead of a drag queen who can continually create and recreate personae. Every single look Spice serves is the same girl in a different outfit.

The CE Look: Having said that, we were genuinely surprised by how creative her handmade look was. The skirt looked too tacked together for the judges, but we didn’t think this was a bad attempt at all. The bustier is great.



The SYE Look: This is a great homage because you can see the reference but she took it in a creative direction.

The MFB Look: This is a pretty faithful Mugler recreation, based on season 3’s Hair Ball, which makes it perhaps not very original, but it sure is stunning. That cinched waist is ridiculous.

The CE Look: We’d have loved to have known how she made this, but whoops! No time for that! It’s beautiful and probably deserved a little more love from the judges.



The SYE Look: This is very cute, but it’s one of those entries that feels like it’s straying a bit far from the original look.

The MFB Look: This girl really loves herself a matte fabric and some low-key makeup, doesn’t she? We know some of the fans have been annoyed by the critiques she keeps getting to drag her looks up more, but this is a prime example of what Michelle’s always going on about. This look, based on season13’s Bag Ball, is cute and it creates a character, but it should feel a bit more like stage drag. Stone that shit up, honey.

The CE Look: This is beautiful and impressive, however. She really does seem to prefer fairly streamlined and simple costumes, which probably isn’t helping her in the competition, but at least this one has some real sparkle and drag energy to it.


The SYE Look: Again. this probably gets too far away from the original to count as an homage, but it’s still one of our favorite entries in this category. It’s not just a great look, it’s a great character-based look that took the original and made it very Salina-specific.

The MFB Look: This was based of season 3’s Money Ball and we’re afraid it was kind of a mess.

The CE Look: The interesting thing about this attempt is that it might have looked pretty gorgeous if it had been executed well, but it was sloppy and underwhelming.



The SYE Look: If she wasn’t carrying the helmet, which clearly isn’t going on her head, would you have recognized the homage? This is pretty, but it’s too generic for what the category asked.

The MFB Look: This is for season 3’s Hair Ball and it’s pretty spectacular.

The CE Look: Really impressively executed. We suspect that belt is giving the dress its shape and we think the wig and makeup do a lot to elevate the look. She looks gorgeous.


The SYE Look: Like Malaysia’s this is so far away from the original look that it doesn’t even read as a racer-themed outfit, let alone an homage to Ru’s. It’s so overdesigned that it takes a minute to even read what she’s trying to portray.

The MFB Look: Shockingly underwhelming, based on season 13’s Drag Ball. This is so basic and low-key that we would have thought this was the one she had to make in a day.

The CE Look: It’s cute, but the longer she’s in the competition, the more we think her drag is very stale. Just compare her three look with Sasha’s:



The SYE Look: This is a stunning and creative way to interpret the look while still feeling tied to it. She looks sexy and her makeup was gorgeous.

The MFB Look: We suspect that this was an existing costume that she shoved into s13’s Bag Ball theme, but it doesn’t matter. It’s creative, funny, and looks fantastic.

The CE Look: As handmade looks go, this was more about creative design and killer styling than it was about impressive execution, which is why we tend to think Mistress had the more impressive showing over all. Even so, it’s a gorgeous look, which is the whole point at the end of the day.



The SYE Look: This is pretty spectacular. We don’t need the homages to be the same color or the same shape as Ru’s, but it’s got to look like she could stand next to Ru’s look in a photo shoot and look like she’s supposed to be there.

The MFB Look: This was based on season 5’s Sugar Ball and it felt extremely half-assed to us. You can’t just glue a lollipop to your hip and call it a theme.

The CE Look: Absolutely stunning. Not just well-executed, but a really gorgeous runway-ready design to boot. This was so good that we suspect her MFB look dragged her down from any chance of winning.


Tops (Mistress, Sasha, Anetra) and bottoms (Salina, Spice, Loosey). This seems about right, although it’s kind of a shame Luxx didn’t get a little more love.


Condragulations to Sasha, who really is the one to beat this season.


Spice and Salina wound up in the lip sync, which was a little underwhelming overall. Spice tried to be cute and funny throughout it, but Salina wisely focused on delivering a dramatic performance.


Honestly, she should leave the competition extremely proud of herself. She lasted way longer than a lot of more seasoned queens, she showed herself to be flexible, open, and willing to learn, and she left the competition absolutely beloved and respected by her peers. From where she started, that’s a hell of a win.


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 The Year by NPR is on sale wherever fine books are sold! 

It’s also available in Italian and Spanish language editions, darlings! Because we’re fabulous on an INTERNATIONAL level.




[Photo Credit: MTV via Tom and Lorenzo]

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