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Monday, January 24, 2022


Shower of Shenanigans, Rupaul’s Drag Race New Golden Rule

Leave it to RuPaul’s Drag Race to follow up a two-part premiere that highlighted the show’s simple strengths with an overstuffed episode full of shenanigans.

Right off the top, the two halves of the cast are united, and it’s clear this is already a big group. Then, Ru appears to announce he’s also bringing back the first two eliminated queens, Orion Story and Daya Betty. Neither elimination felt particularly unjust, so these returns do little more than sap the season’s early momentum.

Just when you think the stakes couldn’t be more meaningless, Ru introduces a new wrinkle to the competition. This season, each queen will receive a wrapped chocolate bar. They will open their bars only after losing a lip sync. If they have a gold bar inside, they get another chance.

No, you didn’t pass out on your keyboard and navigate to a recap of the new Timothee Chalamet Willy Wonka. (Timothee is still somehow a bigger twink than anyone here.) Ru has decided to go full Wonka and introduce a new element of chance to the proceedings. Sure, this adds another thrilling, surprise element, but seeing someone get a second chance (or double-shantay) is so meaningful, because they earn it. Even when Ru decides to bring back Shangela over and over, it at least feel like she did something to earn that attention.

But whatever! It’s Ru’s rules. (Ruules? Ru-les? You get it.) So, the drag queens all go one-by-one, grab a chocolate bar, sign some paperwork, and what this even remotely has to do with drag, I have no idea! Couldn’t they at least hide a golden ticket in a dental dam? A bottle of poppers? A lipstick tube?

Before we can fully unpack the creative choices, Ru drops another bomb. We’re not just getting one ball, we’re getting TWO BALLS this week, each with three lewks. The first week queens will serve at the Hide ‘n’ Chic animal print-themed ball, while week two ladies will walk the runway in the Red White and Blue Ball. With Daya and Orion back in the mix, that’s FORTY-TWO (42) outfits.

One Of These is Not Like The Others — Hetero Queen?

And still, this episode crams a ton of content into the werk room scenes. While the queens perform the usual pre-ball sewing frenzy, we get a whirlwind collection of scenes that span the tragic to the disgusting and everything in between.

Maddy Morphosis’s heterosexuality comes up for a brief, but interesting conversation. Kornbread asks Maddy if she still cares what other people think of her. Maddy takes this opportunity to talk about how she doesn’t care if people think she’s gay, and being part of the community made her feel more comfortable with herself.

Sure, yes, ok. We love to see it. But, I first took Kornbread’s question to mean how does Maddy deal with the opinions of other people IN THE DRAG/LGBTQ+ community about her participation in drag. Considering the history of drag as a refuge for the LGBTQ+ community precisely because they had so few other avenues to live authentically, taking up space as a straight man is certainly worth discussing. It’s not a straight man “isn’t allowed” to do drag, but when a straight man is taking up airtime in one of the few shows dedicated largely to the LGBTQ+ community, it warrants some examination.

I don’t mean to imply Maddy has never considered this or had those conversations, personally. I just sort of wish the show used this as an opportunity to dig a little deeper. On a show by and for LGBTQ+ people, it just felt kind of gross to dedicate even a moment to a story about drag teaching a straight man not to care if anyone thinks he’s gay! Save that for Drag U and Secret Celebrity Drag Race.

Especially when the room is full of tales already desperately underserved on television. In this episode alone, we got to hear a little bit about Kerri, a trans woman of color, seizing her agency and leaving her disapproving family. We saw firsthand how deeply affected Kornbread is still to this day by her experience as an effeminate young person of color. Orion Story shares how drag is her way to pay homage to her mother, who loved Drag Race and struggled with mental health. Kornbread and Willow bond as Kornbread helps Willow warm her hands — a symptom of her health conditions that makes it painful to work.

Before you go canonizing Kornbread for her heart of gold, she also paid Daya Better $1,000 to eat a dead dragon fly found on the floor, which played out like a very specific findom scenario.

42 Outfits Later…

Somehow, in the midst of all that, the ladies still put together 42 ensembles. The Hide ‘n’ Chic queens compete in zebra-print resort wear, leopard-print evening wear and a custom-made animal print bridal piece. The other gals are doing red resort, white evening wear and a red, white and blue bridal. There are so many runway walks that at one point Ru’s track “Kitty Girl” actually restarts mid category, and there’s something chilling about hearing it loop back to the start. (Sort of like John Mulaney’s old Salt and Pepper Diner bit.)

I’ll put more thoughts on everyone’s lewks in the rankings, but let’s fast forward to the judges’ tops and bottoms. Ru is in rare form tonight, blaming it all on coffee enemas, but it yields some pretty insane feedback. Most notably, in response to June Jambalaya’s struggle to dress her body type, Ru tells her to just copy other people. That’s good advice for everyday life, but coming from the host of a show whose winning criteria is 25 percent UNIQUENESS, it’s, uh, strange to hear. Ru is basically shrieking not to reinvent the wheel from the same seat she’s repeatedly told girls they need to give everything a unique spin.

Originality is the least of June’s problems. The judges hate on the short wig on her first lewk. She was so swallowed by leopard-print fabric she couldn’t walk in her evening wear. Her original design was so poorly made, she tried to hide it behind an overly large bouquet. The judges are also unimpressed with Orion and nail her for over-accessorizing her outfits with too many straps, bows and animal jaws.

Michelle calls out Jorgeous for a bridal gown that’s not very bridal, but it’s not enough to keep Jorgeous from the top three. Ru tells her she was born to do drag, which is pretty high praise. Angeria also scores another strong performance this week with three flawless presentations. It just wasn’t enough for the win.

That goes to Willow. Even though her fashions may read a bit more pedestrian (her word!), each one offered a little something different. She served pastel zebra print that felt right off a pack of Fruit Stripe gum. She did black-on-black leopard and made a bridal jumpsuit. Ru loves it all, and Willow clocks the win.

Less successful is Maddy. The feedback can be reduced to “not feeling the fantasy,” though, to be fair, most of Ru’s criticism came in the form of literal incoherent noises. It does sound crazy, but if you compare Maddy’s vibe to, say, Jorgeous, you can see what Ru is saying. It’s less about the differences between LGBTQ+ and straight queens, and it’s more about putting on a wig/makeup versus DOING DRAG.

Maddy goes up against June Jambalaya in a lip sync to “I Love It” by Kylie. June takes it all off — dress, wig, shoes — and dances actuals circles around Maddy. It’s chaotic. It’s too much.

And yet it’s not enough. After two sloppy weeks, Ru bids June adieu, giving Maddy another chance to prove herself.

Now that’s we’re all together, and I think this eliminations is going to stick, let’s review where we’re at in our rankings.

3. The Rank of the Rankings

1.      What’s not to love about Angeria? All three outfits stunned on the runway tonight. She looked light and effervescent in her red, short resort dress. The white evening wear was jaw-dropping, and her custom-made bridal gown looked just as good as her other two. In addition to the fashion, Angeria has a great personality that’ll surely carry her far.

2.      I can’t get enough Kornbread. Her safari-style zebra resort lewk was my favorite of hers, but all three were solid. I did think Kornbread’s facial expressions got distracting on the runway this week, but she’s clearly come prepared. She’s another queen with a big personality, which is leading to a lot of screentime. I think she’s in this for the long haul, and I’m excited to see what else she can do.

3.      Willow Pill keeps surprising. Usually, when a girl comes in wearing platform sandals telling everyone they’re underestimating her, they usually … aren’t. Not the case here. She described her own fashions tonight as pedestrian (and also “corporate lesbian rich wedding”), but it was all so creative and purposeful. Plus, we know Ru is fan.

4.      There’s a lot of competition in the middle of this pack, but I still think Bosco is a hair ahead of the rest. All three outfits were very Bosco, but didn’t feel repetitive. Even when she does straight-up Bettie Page cosplay, she gives it a twist with her makeup or silhouette. I loved how she combined prints in her second two looks.

5.      Jorgeous is a star, no doubt. She’s delivered Jorgeous, jorgeously. She looked easy, breezy, sexy all night. Her white evening wear was particularly chic, offering a nice contrast to the other overly-embellished gowns. I worry her sexiness won’t carry as far as Bosco’s vision, but maybe there’s moregeous to come.

6.      It was a little shocking to see Jasmine Kennedie miss out on a top placement this week. (She should have snagged Jorgeous’s spot.) She served some of the strongest lewks tonight, including a campy crustacean theme to her resort wear. Her evening wear looked right out of Carrie Bradshaw’s And Just Like That storage unit, and I wish we spent more time appreciating her custom created third outfit. She’s a killer dancer and a talented designer; Ru is beguiled by her references. Lots of potential here to become a frontrunner.

7.      Kerri had me until the last look. She looked great as vision of ’90s fabulousness in a zebra-print dress and hot pink stockings. I loved the chic spinning headpiece with her purple leopard print second look. While her custom-sewn final outfit wasn’t amazing, she sold it serving face-face-face like no one else on stage.

8.      I’m all in for Lady Camden‘s ’90s girl-group fantasy, so I was disappointed to see her stray from that vision this week. She was hardly recognizable in her red resort wear, which read more like something a Disney villainess would wear to the beach. It was pretty, but I wasn’t getting Posh Spice. I was getting Old Spice. I liked the idea behind the architectural element of her white evening wear, but in execution the prop was doing most of the heavy lifting (and hampered her presentation a bit).

9.      If I were just judging photos, Alyssa Hunter might be number one this week. All her outfits were incredible, sexy, high-fashion. However, I’m still struggling to remember Alyssa. It’s beautiful clothes, but she’s barely clocking any camera time in the werk room. She slays the runway with exceptional pieces, but there’s not much in her performance. There’s plenty of time for me to be proven wrong, but I’m curious to see how she responds to acting/comedy challenges.

10. After last week’s cheerless cheer performance, DeJa Sky bounced back this week on the runway. A real seamstress, all of her gowns were really spectacular. I particularly loved the shade of red she used in her final red/white/blue bridal gown. It made hers stand out because it was less Star-Spangled than the rest. I’m still cautious after the attempted comedy debacle, but if she can prove capable in a non-design challenge, she may be one to watch.

11. I dug Daya Betty‘s American Horror Story-esque (Pepper, season two) resort wear. And her American Horror Story-eque (Gaga, season five) white robe evening wear with an exaggerated sleeve. I even liked her ’80s rock bridal dress. I think her proportions are still a bit off, and I never have a lot of faith in a queen that’s already been eliminated, so she’ll need to work twice as hard to prove herself.

12. The judges nailed Orion Story. It’s a matter of taste. I love where Orion is getting her character — I could watch a Peg Bundy-inspired queen all day — but she needs to hone that vision.

13. There’s a killer performer and fierce queen somewhere in June Jambalaya, but wow does it feel like she’s being struck with a few really poorly-timed rough days. There were problems with all three times she appeared on the runway tonight. The lip sync felt unhinged. She definitely earned this bottom placement. I just personally would rather see more from her than …

14. Maddy Morphosis. It feels like we’ve seen the most Maddy can do. I had problems with all of Maddy’s presentations. They felt off the Forever21 rack. The fact she told Ru she doesn’t get design is a big red flag. This is an art, honey! You gotta know … art? Can a straight man do drag? Maybe! I’m just not so sure about this one.

How would you rank the queens?


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