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Tuesday, February 2, 2021


Ladies, I am smitten with this season of RuPaul’s Drag Race. Yes, Symone is a revelation, and, yes, the format shakeup gave us a chance to get closer to every queen, but the challenges feel fiercer and the drama more consistently simmering. There’s something special about season 13.

It makes me wonder how much that pre-production quarantine affected the gals emotionally. Going on the show is already a jarring experience, but then to be even more intensely isolated ahead of shooting has got to make the queens a little loopy.

Things came to a head this week in a bag-themed ball challenge featuring a staggering 36 looks, followed by a knockdown-drag out Untucked that nearly turned Drag Race into UFC.

The conflict starts brewing right away, fresh off last week’s runway. Kandy, never one to keep an opinion all to herself, volunteers her belief that Elliott was deserving of a bottom three place. It’s a fair point, but Tamisha takes exception to Kandy singling out Symone as her primary competition. Tamisha wants Kandy to recognize her as a threat, but, objectively, it seems like a tough argument against Kandy’s point.

The tantrum rolls right into the mini-challenge: a deeply bizarre, baby-themed dance off. Lala Ri wins for going the hardest, but it’s all mostly silly.

The real work comes in the maxi challenge. It’s the Bag Ball, which means three bag-themed lewks, including one handmade out of other bags! Other categories include a punny “Mixed Bag” outfit and an oppa-lent “Money Bags” boss bitch fantasy.

Frontrunner Symone is concerned her lack of sewing skills will be an issue, but she’s certainly not the least equipped. That honor goes to Lala Ri. While Symone and Joey Jay also lack sewing skills, they at least find a way to loosely construct something simple. Lala is truly one of the rare contestants that truly does not know how to do this. Like, she reacted in a way I, someone who does not sew or do drag, would. She just started gluing completely unedited Dollar Store gift bags to a corset, and even that fell apart when she quickly ran out of materials.

If it sounds like a train wreck, that’s because it is. And yet, Lala Ri shines throughout this episode. She wins the baby mini-challenge, she makes a hilarious prayer (“Lord, bitch.”), shares an emotional (and vital) reflection on the Black Lives Matter movement and ends up turning a tragic challenge into a triumphant moment.

The runway was such an onslaught of outfits, we’ll give each queen their due in our rankings below. So, let’s fast-forward to the tops and bottoms.

While she did trot out a few wigs, Joey Jay gave us more Joey Jay this week. With hair and without, it’s more dark, edgy, but basic stuff, and the judges aren’t wowed. Tamisha Iman played it safe with pretty but plain clothes. Her three presentations all read as something a Real Housewife of Atlanta would show up wearing to a casual lunch.

Of course Lala, bags loosely flapping off her corset, lands in the bottom. How could she not? It doesn’t help that her Mixed Bag look (a bag of bones) lacks ambition. (Her bald Money Bags presentation was excellent, however.)

The top performers include RosΓ© (whose metallic couture fembot fantasy likely boosted her overall performance), while Utica slayed the sewing and Gottmik ultimately took the win for show-stopping style.

Guest judge Nicole Byer is the perfect person to revel in Lala Ri’s abject failure. As the host of Nailed It, she’s an expert in epic fails, and there have been few greater failures in thirteen seasons.

Lala’s lip sync is locked, and she’s joined by a semi-conscious Joey Jay. Their lip sync to Iggy Azalea’s unrelenting summer jam “Fancy” is another bloodbath. Joey pulls a limp stunt tossing cash in the air, setting up Lala for an excellent bit picking up the discarded dollars. A Lala v. Denali lip sync feels as delicious as it does inevitable.

Lala lives to slay another day, while we say goodbye to Joey Jay.

Now, usually I don’t go into Untucked here, but this week’s is an important one to discuss. After all the queens are together, a conversation about the best and worst of the week quickly turns to an intervention for Kandy’s arrogance.

Things escalate quickly. Tamisha continues to bore further and further into Kandy’s side, and the Bronx big girl responds with increasing fervor. Despite her outsized reaction, I tend to side with Kandy here. She was discussing folks’ drag and performance; whereas this became a conversation about her character, however valid it may or may not be. Tamisha, ever the sage elder, knows exactly how Kandy will react, and Tamisha even pursues Kandy as she tries to leave and de-escalate the situation.

Maybe Tamisha was a little cranky with her bottom three place, but regardless of the motivation, this has the potential to seethe over the next few episodes.

But first, let’s see where the queens stand in our weekly rankings.

1.      Despite some lackluster bag couture, Symone still managed to turn out two incredible looks. I adored the Fun Bags “Mixed Bag.” That pink gown was perfectly fitted and stoned for the comical silhouette, and even the “popped” reveal looked visually appealing. Then, her “Money Bags” look was only overshadowed by Gottmik, serving a visionary interpretation of sci-fi success. That last little outfit was just barely safe, but with two other knockouts, that was good enough.

2.      I wasn’t as gagged by RosΓ© this week as the judges seem to be. The third outfit was the strongest, by far. The concept was cute, the execution was clean, and the styling was perfect. I agree with Michelle that her Big Business-inspired second outfit was a little too literal, though I would tack that criticism onto the Bag Pipes “Mixed Bag” as well. Still, she’s a strong performer, actor and singer, so even a solid showing here is enough to keep her in contention.

3.      Though she wasn’t a focus this week, Tina Burner remains one to watch. I was particularly taken with the way she transformed a bean bag into a chic and well-tailored dress in her signature colors. That was her strongest showing, though the houndstooth “Money Bags” ensemble also feels worthy of praise. Maybe the Brown Bag “Mixed Bag” was too campy?

4.      OK, yes, Gottmik‘s showing this week was legendary. The Body Bag “Mixed Bag” flawlessly toed the line between gorgeous and grotesque, elevating every element with exquisite care. The judges rightly lauded the “Money Bags” masterpiece with its stoned stripes and creative silhouette. The custom-crafted final piece stood in such stark contrast to the other queens, its brilliance became even more apparent among the other girls on stage. Gottmik is an artiste, but will acting, singing, selling pose too much of a challenge?

5.      Like Michelle, I, too, feel like I was wrong about Utica. All three lewks tonight were original AND beautiful. I love all the details, and what she did with a sleeping bag was pure magic. Incredible. At the same time, I also agree with Ru about how sometimes Utica’s twitchy, skittering energy undercuts her sophistication.

6.      Olivia continues to be the sleeper of the season. It’s unfortunate she kicked things off with a Punching Bag “Mixed Bag” that seemed like a cheap knockoff of Symone’s runway a few weeks back. Even her stylish “Money Bags” office drag and a killer, holographic armor couture ensemble couldn’t compensate. She’s had a solid start to the Race, but she’ll need to steal focus soon.

7.      I think Denali is still picking Kahmora Hall out of her teeth after the lip sync that had everyone talking. She acquitted herself well this week on the runway, serving memorable moments like the crash test dummy, cigarette holding acrylic nail and a creative Day of the Dead-themed custom gown. Denali is a known threat.

8.      What a weird week for Tamisha. Sure, the runways were a snooze from start to finish, but the behavior was more surprising. I’m sure Kandy isn’t the first girl with a big mouth Tamisha has had to square up with, but she should know better. She didn’t just pour fuel on the fire, she Super Soaked it. It leaves me thinking mostly of what it says about Tamisha’s own confidence at this point on the competition.

9.      I felt for Kandy this week. It seemed like she was really trying to remove herself from a situation in which she knew she was losing control. She knows she has a hair trigger. She presented some of our strongest fashions this week, but even at that apex, it was merely OK all around.

10. Good golly, Lala Ri. I just … what is there to say? What a mess! Bless her, though, she walked that armful of cheap gift bags down that runway like it was Fenty. While no trip to the bottom is really cause for celebration, it was delightful to see Lala lip sync. It was thrilling. That is the Lala I want to see every week. If I were on that stage with her, I’d be throwing her dollars, too.

11. Elliott‘s “Mixed Bag” gift bag dress was only slightly better than Lala’s. There, I said it. Her business bitch was blah, though I did admire the craftsmanship of her custom-made outfit. There’s just something … vacuous … about Elliott. The ’80s can’t be a personality, you know? Even the way she described her “Money Bags’ look as a 26 year old Rose Nylund CEO of Lending Library isn’t technically wrong, but sounds wrong. Like Drag A.I. trying to sound like a person.

12. Joey Jay can give you Joey Jay, and that’s about it. That lip sync was some real amateur hour stuff, even if she wasn’t up against a legend like Lala. I get the disconnect between her and Carson. She was playing on I.V./ivy, but, to Carson’s point, missed an obvious opportunity to elevate it. It felt very first draft. Of course, Joey Jay will be FINE (at least on Instagram, if not OnlyFans), but her ceiling is nowhere near some of these other queens’ floors.

How would you rank the queens?


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