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Monday, June 28, 2021


Yara Sofia is an agent of chaos on RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars premiere.

RuPaul All Stars 6 is back, and, no, there’s no Yvie Oddly, despite the mass of season 11 queens and more twists and turns than a contortionist’s routine.

Before we even get into the “game within a game,” we’ve got to talk about a few other “twists” in the franchise. All Stars season 6 is the first to air exclusively on Paramount+, which means many RuPaul’s Drag Race fans may now have three separate providers to keep up. I’ve been watching on Logo and then VH1 on old-school cable, international editions on WOW+ Presents and now All Stars on Paramount+. It’s like a gay tax! During this, our month of Pride?

Furthermore, Paramount+ is taking the Netflix/Disney+ approach and releasing episodes at 3 a.m. Thursday mornings. It’s certainly changed the way we watch. Drag Race is a community experience. Whether you’re watching on Twitter or at a bar, we are gooped and gagged in real time, together. It’s not dissimilar from televised sporting events. They wouldn’t release the Super Bowl in the middle of the night on a weekday. Plus, it makes the already pesky spoiler even harder to avoid. (For our recap purposes, we’re putting these up on Fridays to give folks a chance to watch.)

RuPaul All Stars 6: It’s A Lot, But Always Something

And I haven’t even started complaining about the overstuffed episodes, and, my favorite refrain, “Too Many Queens!” (available now on iTunes). Ma’am, we’ve got 13 queens, two full hours, 48 runway looks and so many mediocre dance songs with the queens repeating what they think their catchphrase was during their season. It’s a lot!

Folks have already snarked about the caliber of the All Stars cast, and last night’s double feature did little to assuage concerns. The preponderance of season 11 queens — one of the less beloved installments among the fandom — doesn’t help either. We’ve got Scarlet Envy, Ra’Jah, A’Keria and the divisive Silky Nutmeg Ganache. (Personally, y’all know by now I like a big girl with attitude, but judging by comments, your mileage may vary.)

And yet? I still had fun! By now we’ve watched queens, All Stars, international queens, gay veterans and C-list celebrities all play some variation of the game. The format just works. Sure, we’ll always find something to critique (otherwise what’s the point of even being gay?), but tell me you wouldn’t be equally invested in watching a spin-off called RuPaul’s Drag Race Worst Queens? It’s like queer people are just … inherently interesting?

What’s more impressive is, despite the exhausting runtime, it feels like very little substance. Barely a gag, nary a goop. It may not be the queens’ fault. With so many contestants to feature, the breakneck speed skipped across so many moments so swiftly, hardly anything the queens did left a sizable impression.

Take the premiere episode. After the queens arrive to show off their new teeth, lips and wigs, the first mini-challenge is the reading challenge. As we learn later in the episode Trinity K. Bonet has no relationship with any of the other girls, and it feels like that may be more broadly the case. The reads are mostly very basic variations on “you’re not good enough to be an All Star,” and nothing seemed to really crack Ru up (the surest sign of a good read). We didn’t see much from each queen, but the edit gives the impression Ginger and Pandora excel as expected, Yara gets laughs being Yara, while Serena, Jan and Silky struggle. Ginger Minj gets the first win of this race, but the real highlight is guest (via video) Miss Piggy, making a long overdue Drag Race appearance. Has anyone made her reactions into GIFs to drop into everyday group chats yet? (This is why we need synchronous viewing!)

The main challenge for this RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars premiere is a variety show that’s, well, light on variety. The task is to showcase your best talents, which for most of these All Stars is … lip syncing. It’s just, I don’t think that’s the assignment. That’d be like entering a beauty pageant and just “being a beauty pageant contestant” for your talent. It’s all original tracks, and they are … fine! They are fine. The dancing is fierce, but there are Real Housewives with better lyrics and more range.

It makes the standouts stand out even more. Ra’Jah manages to sew a simple. chic garment in a mere 60 seconds to the delight of the judges. (Many fans — and Michelle — clock that this is a signature Bianca del Rio routine, but Ra’Jah’s garment has more wow factor in less time.) Scarlet puts a fun twist on a burlesque routine using all manner of bubbles. Even though they were lip syncs, Pandora and Yara Sofia shine. Pandora infuses her performance with lots of campy, physical humor, but Yara takes physical humor to a whole new place — a place of sight and sound, but apparently no gravity. Wearing a massive chest plate filled with what I can only assume is … Flubber? … Yara performs a Spanglish sync while juggling these jumbo Jell-O jigglers to the absolutely delight of Ru. She’s the clear winner.

Less successful are Silky, whose low-energy live singing I’ve seen at lesser school recitals, and our bottom two, Trinity and Serena ChaCha. TKB tries to recapture the magic of her “Grandma’s Light Bill” routine, but she stumbles and never fully recovers. Serena’s spastic lip sync feels like a huge missed opportunity, forgoing the chance to better use props, tell more of a story or, as Ru request, do more cha-cha!

The All Stars format is in tact (so far). The top of All Star of the week, Yara, will pick the lipstick of the queen she thinks she should be eliminated. The other queens will pick their lipsticks. The winner faces off in a lip sync battle against a former lip sync assassin. If the week’s winner is the victor, she picks who goes home. If the assassin wins, the other queens’ pick goes.

Between Serena and Trinity, it feels a bit like a foregone conclusion. Yara turns in a satisfactory performance against Coco Montrese to Bruno Mars’ “Uptown Funk.” Coco is certainly lacking the legendary diction she displayed during the absolutely iconic “Cold Hearted Snake” lip sync. Neither seems particular committed to the words, and the stunts are minimal. Ru declares Coco the winner, and Ms. Montrese reveals the gals are sending Serena home.

But wait! As Serena packs, Ru appears on screen like a gay Jigsaw to let her know there is still a game afoot. Does she want to play?

Onto episode two of the RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars premiere, we begin with the ceremonial certifying of the lipstick votes. They take out all the lipsticks from the non-winning queens and quickly deduce they ALL voted for Serena, which makes Trinity feel good. They unanimously have her back.

Then, Yara, agent of chaos, chooses violence, taking out her lipstick and revealing she would’ve eliminated Trinity. Now we’re getting started.

Brace yourself, because we’re going right into the next challenge: the Blue Ball! That means we’ve got a staggering THIRTY-SIX LOOKS to get through. Oh, honey, I’m not gagging, I’m CHOKING! Someone give me the Heimlich, there’s a paillette blocking my airway!

The categories are Blue Betta Work (blue-collar realness), Blue Jean Baby and Blue Ball Bonanza, custom-made from unconventional materials. A few of the girls are traumatized from former sewing challenges — I’m looking at you, Jiggly. (May I call you Jiggly?)

The show is a blue blur, but Ra’Jah, Kylie Sonique Love and Eureka manage to make a good impression on the judges and get a top spot. Ra’Jah takes the ultimate win with her smartly tailored lewks and sickening futuristic jumpsuit made in the werkroom.

It’s no surprise Jiggly is less lucky. Her second sk8r ensemble looks right off the rack at Pacific Sunwear in 2002, and her constructed garment is something anyone with a throw blanket and a safety pin could whip up (in a minute or less, even). The judges also find fault in A’keria’s presentation, but it’s mild criticism and she’s clearly safe.

In a bit of a shocker, joining Jiggly in the bottom is episode one’s winner, Yara Sofia. Carson thinks Yara’s unconventional outfit is too busy, and the return of her bouncing boobies felt a bit redundant.

It all comes down to Ra’Jah and the lip sync assassin, Brooke Lynn Hytes. In the pantheon of dancing queens, BLH has got to be somewhere toward the top of the list. Ra’jah absolutely keeps up in a neck-and-neck lip sync that combines sex, competition, interplay and acrobatics in the way all the best syncs do. Ru has no choice but to call it a tie. (Although, I would have given the edge to Ra’Jah.)

That means there’s potentially two gals going home, but both lipsticks say Jiggly. We bid adieu to Jiggly — for now — before Ru appears again like a puppet on a tricycle to see if Jiggly wants to play a game.

That just leaves one enormous piece of business: rankings! Longtime readers know the deal by now, but for any new squirrel friends, these are my own, personal, completely subjective, armchair drag critic rankings based on this week, previous weeks, previous seasons, perceived potential, star power, moxie and whatever my mood may be. Disagree? Leave your rankings in the comments! And remember: It’s only drag!

These rankings were tough, and not because it’s such a tight race for the crown. It’s just a struggle to see a majority of these queens in the Hall of Fame. Maybe this season will slowly change my mind. But for now, here’s how they’re shaking out for me.

1.      I am so here to see Ra’Jah get some Ru-demption in the RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars premiere. The talented queen and expert confessional quipper has more talent than attitude, despite her reputation. Her speedy sewing skills were on full display in both episodes, and holding her own against Brooke like that was impressive.

2.      Eureka was already one of Ru’s favorites, competing on two previous seasons of Drag Race, reaching the finale in her second go-round. Now, she’s got a lot more exposure and experience, thanks to her work on HBO’s We’re Here. Her variety talent performance — which borrowed the projection technique most recently in the zeitgeist thanks to previous winner Sasha Velour — was too overly earnest for me, but it’s the kind of thing I can see RuPaul eating up. Eureka is the kind of queen custom made to excel here.

3.      Even A’Keria‘s competitors want to be her, that’s how fierce she is. We know she can be funny, we know she can turn it on the runway and we know she can lip sync. I thought her placement in the bottom on episode two was misguided, but her variety lip sync was meh enough to justify it for me.

4.      I love how Jan came in so determined to undo her narrative of being so over-the-top extra, and she immediately is 10x more intense. Her variety show singing escalated until she was just fully screaming. It was impressive, but not necessarily pleasant. Every single one of her Blue Ball outfits were incredible. Methinks she may have gotten some fashion notes from recent Ru girl RosΓ©.

5.      Ginger is a pro, there’s no doubt about that. Her “Gummi Bear” lip sync in the variety show was dumb, but it was dumb done right. She considered all the details, from the set to the Gummi Bear belt buckle to her Gummi Bear-esque puffs on her head. Everything was executed with precision and showmanship. For Ginger to really shine this season, she’ll need to surprise us. It doesn’t matter how well she does “Glamour Toad” — we know she’s got that — but if she can give us sex or edge, it would really make a statement.

6.      Similarly, you know what you’re getting with Pandora. It’s good! I like it! But does she have the versatility, branding and media savvy to take the title?

7.      I wasn’t a huge fan of Scarlet her first go round, but so far, so good. She has looked consistently great. The bubble routine was very fun (and an incredibly refreshing change of pace), but she had little memorable confessional presence. Maybe she’ll have more room to shine in coming weeks.

8.      I’m glad to see Kylie Sonique Love get a proper run at the Race. One of two trans women competing this season, it’s great (though long overdue) to see Drag Race catch up and highlight all the talent in the community. Kylie is already worlds ahead of where we last saw Sonique. Let’s hope coming episodes give her more highlight.

9.      I was all in on Yara in episode one, but, like the judges, I fell off in episode two. Bringing the boobs back the next time on the runway was a big mistake. Yara is still Yara. There are flashes of brilliance in all the chaos, but it’s just a matter of catching it at the right moment. One thing you can say about the rest of these gals, they are CONSISTENT. That makes Yara a wild card. A little surprise can go a long way, it’s just a matter of in which direction.

10. Silky may not be the most popular Drag Race alum, but I was ready to root for her. The variety show performance was a real disappointment that started uneasy and went nowhere. She looked good at the ball, but my favorite part was the crash sound they edited in when she put the box down on the third runway. That’s some *chef’s kiss* foley work.

11. Trinity is another queen so many people are rooting for. She came in with more confidence, but it dissipated on the main stage when she stumbled. It was tough to watch. I think Blue Collar lewk should have earned her a spot in the bottom. It was Kohl’s lady pants and a summer camp craft Stop sign. Not good enough for All Stars!

12. I wish it weren’t true, but Jiggly was the right call to go home in episode two, just based on challenge performance. I think she has potential, and there’s still the lingering hope of whatever this “game within a game” turns out to be.

13. Serena is certainly improved, but, alas, not quite an All Star.

What did you think of the episode? Let us know in the comments. And, FYI: If you share your thoughts online using the hashtag #ParamountPlusPride, the streaming service will donate $1 to the Point Foundation, the nation’s largest LGBTQ scholarship granting organization for more than 20 years. Make an impact while spilling the tea.


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