Thus does the Sasha Colby meet-and-greet come to its widely predicted end. While the outcome was practically written in stone and the format was somewhat stale, the finale for season 15 of RuPaul’s Drag Race still managed a moment or two that served to remind us of why it’s such a phenomenon even now, nearly a decade-and-a-half past its debut. Surprisingly, it felt like the eliminated season 15 queens were sidelined more than we would have expected. The Top Four got their usual level of focus, but to our relief, a good portion of the finale was devoted to addressing the ongoing legal threats against drag and transgender rights in this country. We spent a recent podcast criticizing Ru and the larger Drag Race franchise family for not stepping up at this time, and while we’ll always hope for more from her, it was nice to see the Drag Race family address the issue. We were especially heartened to see the shoutouts to queer spaces in Tennessee, Kentucky and Texas. We don’t know if a QR code to donate to the ACLU is the best or the most that Drag Race can do on this issue, but there’s no denying that it’ll do no small amount of good. We would be remiss not to include a link ourselves, so please consider donating if you can. Now sissy that walk, Top Four:
Love the look. It’s not over-the-top eleganza, but that’s never been her thing. She’s more in the showgirl/anime/superhero range of drag and this nicely fits the bill.
There have been more than a handful of ballerina looks on the Drag Race main stage over the years, but we really like this one for taking the basic form and spinning it out to fantasy drag levels. Her hair and makeup are gorgeous.
You just can’t touch this bitch for looks. This is absolutely gorgeous. Best costume of the night, actually.
It seemed to us like Sasha was dialing her drag back just a little bit, offering something softer and more basic, knowing that she had the goods to pull it off and the standing to get a win for it. This is pretty and glamorous, to be sure, but we think it was a deliberate flex not to go for something fiercer or more fabulous.
Each of the Top Four performed (lip sync’d) an original song written to their specifications. This would be a good place to reiterate our often- (or over-)stated point that Drag Race isn’t really a competition.
Because if we’re being honest, a pre-packaged number isn’t the best way to determine or even highlight a queen’s talent level. All of the girls are roughly at the same level, all of the songs were largely indistingishable from each other, and the choreo was similar across the board.
In other words, the results of the worst effort and the best effort were not that far apart. Sure, you could say that’s just an indication of how talented these four are, but we tend to think numbers like this are fun little showcases rather than glimpses of each queen’s artistry. It’s all very same-y, with a lot of the individualism stripped out.
We’re being slightly more negative than we mean to sound here. This is what Drag Race is and what it does best: serve as a high-profile showcase for mainstream drag. Maybe these queens didn’t get the chance to really stretch themselves with this number, but every one of them are likely to have been extremely grateful for the chance and the platform. Having said all of that, we would rate the performances here in the following order: Sasha, Luxx, Anetra, and Mistress.
A moment was given for drag artists, transgender people and allies to speak their truth, which was nice. As we said in our recent podcast, you can’t ever expect Ru to be Marsha P. Johnson or Harvey Milk. A civil rights leader she is not. but it can’t be denied or downplayed that this is probably the largest national platform given to full-throated support to drag queens and trans people right now and we’re glad it’s being used responsibly.
Orville Peck, Leland, and the eliminated queens (who finally got their moment) sang the “Drag is a Protest” song from this season’s “Wigloose” Ru-sical. We get that a lot of viewers might find this sort of thing cringey and we certainly don’t think it’s likely to lead to any true change in the world, but it’s very much in line with how Ru and World of Wonder tend to see their role during this time of political backlash. They want to use the power of drag to entertain people and remind them of its beauty and that is, of course, exactly what an Emmy-winning reality show about drag should be doing. Anyway, this was lovely, well-intentioned, and gave the queens a minute to shine.
Recent Broadway superstar Jinkx Monsoon was brought out to wow the crowd and bring the roof down with her rendition of “When You’re Good to Mama” from her turn in Chicago. As Lorenzo said to Tom halfway through her number, “Jesus Christ, no Drag Race girl is doing it like she is.” Her talent level is insane and we can understand why the show wanted to trot her out as one of its biggest success stories, but between this and Orville and Leland’s number, the Top Four felt like a bit of an afterthought. Like we said: it’s not really a competition at all.
Willow Pill came out to remind us that she’s a superstar and Kornbread came out to give the Miss Congeniality prize to Malaysia, which was a bit of a surprise to us. We were sure that Spice was going to walk away with it.
Luxx and Mistress were gently told to get the fuck off the stage. We can’t say we were surprised by the outcome here, but we do think Anetra had a slightly off night and that there’s an argument to be made for Luxx being in the Final Two.
We’ll repeat what Tom said to Lorenzo after a full minute of silence went by during the lip sync: “Am I wrong or is this just… not sickening?” For multiple reasons, the final faceoff against Anetra and Sasha just didn’t have that epic quality we look for in a lip sync for the crown. Maybe our expectations were too high, but honestly, we think they were warranted, given how insanely talented they both are. Part of the reason this number fell flat came down to the song choice.
“Knock on Wood” is a disco classic, but the somewhat staccato and straightforward vocals don’t make it particularly good for lip syncing, let alone well suited for the kind of performing these two queens like to do. You can’t really duckwalk to it and while it’s never a bad idea to serve body on the main stage, it’s not really a sexy song in the way Sasha might have liked. It felt like both queens struggled to connect with the song at various times.
We were also extremely disappointed in their costume choices. After a season of sharp, sexy showgirl looks, Anetra came out in a hellaciously unflattering body suit, which only made her look dumpy next to Sasha’s eventual nekkidness. Having said that, we think the finale of Drag Race is where you show the full effect of your drag skills and while she made for an impressive figure, we think Sasha stripping down to nearly nothing was something of a copout. Yes, the body is sickening, but where is the drag, girl?
To be fair, she went through several reveals to get there and her opening look with the coat was very dramatic, but the reveals were somewhat clumsily executed, as was whatever Anetra was trying to do with the scarf-vomiting heart on her costume. We got very snippy with each other about it because Lorenzo really wanted Anetra to win and Tom thought the chances of that happening were very slim because of Sasha’s inarguable skill level (and Ru’s clear preference for her). It didn’t feel like either of them slayed the other one.
It was an entertaining finale that did the work of standing up for drag and trans people, but it wasn’t quite the epic showdown we would have liked. Then again, everyone seemed pretty open about the fact that Sasha was going to win it, so maybe a shrug and a bunch of music numbers was the best way to go.
And of course it can’t be overlooked that crowning a trans woman as America’s next drag superstar at a time when the existence of both trans people and drag is under the worst attacks in half a century is one hell of a political point for the show to make. Not that Sasha didn’t deserve it on the merits, of course, but even she saw the moment for what it was. Ru has had an extremely problematic and rocky road to this point, but we think his evolution in thinking is to be commended here.
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 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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