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RPDR RANT: Season 8, Episode 1

Aedan Roberts

Oh my. Yes. All the yes. THAT'S WHAT I'M TALKING ABOUT! This season is already off to an intense, delightful start. I was so nervous that this cast wouldn't live up to the hype but so far you can rest assured: if things keep going at this rate we're going to have one of the strongest seasons in RPDR Herstory. While not everyone managed to slay the first runway Maxi Challenge (more on that in the Contestant Breakdown) I had a blast with every single girl and their work-room interactions.

To make things easier to understand I'm going to start with what the challenges were:

Mini-Challenge: A PHOTOSHOOT! YESSSSSSSSS. And we're back to letting the girls' personalities shine with a silly photoshoot.

While it was a noble effort to shake things up, Season 7's crazy Runway Mini Challenge was far too much for the time constraints of an hour-long episode. The segment not only gave zero opportunity for the girls to showcase their personalities, it actively took away time from the work-room clips (which only exacerbated the issue). I think Ru and Co. saw this and learned from it, because not only did they go back to a photoshoot challenge, they created a truly EPIC one as well! Being given the challenge of standing out while being placed along-side the winners of all previous seasons (sans Bianca, who was replaced by a clown that had a passing resemblance to Cathy Bates) is one of the most wonderful Photoshoot Challenges Ru and Co. has ever conceived of. It was BRILLIANT. It also has the added benefit of being the perfect image to immediately celebrate whoever wins Season 8: just use the photo taken here with the winning queen!

Maxi-Challenge: Continuing with the celebration of RPDR's 100th Episode and 100th Queen (which I wish had been someone other than Derrick Barry, but whatever) Ru had each queen working with a different challenge from previous seasons (Glitter Ball, Hair Extravaganza, Gone With The Window, etc).

Now, without further ado: THE BREAKDOWN! In no particular order:

ACID BETTY: Acid did great this episode. She was that perfect level of bitchy, fun, and her looks were fantastic. She moved with an air of confidence that speaks to how seasoned she really is, and while you could see the Mean Girl bubbling directly under the surface she seemed to be attempting to keep things on the mild side. Her reaction to seeing her NYC sisters was hilarious and I'm looking forward to seeing more from this queen.

HOWEVER: she's a Look Queen. She knows how to pose, how to create avante-garde, high fashion outfits and paint herself to filth. But judging from the Live Premier the girl isn't much of a performer, so it remains to be seen if she can keep up the level of quality she showed here when the challenges move into acting/performance. We may have another Phoenix on our hands, albeit an even more visually exciting one. My prediction is if you put this lady up against someone like Chi Chi or Laila in a LSFYL she'd fare about as well as Miss Fame. I look forward to (hopefully) having her prove me wrong.

BOB THE DRAG QUEEN: Bob continues to cement herself as one of my personal favorites this season and is off to a strong, though not the strongest, start. Her Photoshoot was adorable and had all the past winners laughing at her silly antics. She's loud, she's talkative, she's wacky and seems to be treating this competition with the exact right serious-to-playful ratio. Add to this her and Thorgy's ability to feed off each other and Bob is bringing a lot of color and joy to the proceedings that seemed absent from Season 7.

When it comes to her runway- I was actually pleasantly surprised by it. Bob is as much a Look Queen as Acid is a Dance Queen- which is to say not so much. And while she always looks wonderful, she doesn't often shoot for hyper-feminine or delicate. I feel like she'd rather concentrate on making you smile than making you gag on her Eleganza. So when she walks onto the runway in this extremely well-constructed day-dress, with a classical up-do and girlish, pretty makeup I was extremely happy. In fact I would argue she had more right to a top spot than Derrick did (more on that when I get to Derrick)- if only because her look was one of the most refined out of the group. It also helps that while those curtains really were an eyesore, the colors looked AMAZING against her skin-tone. In the end, though, I do agree that it wasn't as over-the-top amazing as Acid or Kim's looks so I'm satisfied with how things shook out (especially since it gave Bob and Thorgy more opportunity to go nuts in the Untucked - which was SO MUCH FUN. These girls are going to make this season of Untucked the best one ever.)

CHI CHI DEVAYNE: Chi Chi is growing on me. After a FANTASTIC performance at the Live Premier I was already getting pumped for this lovely girl with attitude and a mouth almost as busted as Jiggly's. She's got great Dick-Pig Talking Head segments, a happy-go-lucky personality and a drive to make it that gets endearing very quickly. I can't wait to see more from her. And while she's still not on my Top List I am going to have a blast watching her for however long she's on the show. And trust me when I say that if she ever falls into the Bottom 2 you are in for a treat (if you don't believe me, see the link above). Her runway look was okay (it's not the best thing to be almost upstaged by your disco-ball prop) and her time in the photoshoot was great, but I do agree that she was merely safe this week.

CYNTHIA LEE FONTAINE: Miss Fontaine Blank was a fire-cracker this Premier. She's sweet, funny, kooky, and adorable. Cynthia was one of the girls I was least inspired by in the Meet The Queen's segments, but I'll be damned if I don't love her to death now. I just want to watch her lip-synch to "I'm Gonna Sit at the Welcome Table" in her very best Frumpy 40-Year-Old-Drag. Do I see her going far in the competition? Against the crazy amount of talent we have this season, not really. But I'm going to have a blast with her nevertheless. She also seems to be a genuinely kind, encouraging person to her fellow contestants, and that is a wonderful thing to see.

As for her performance? Her time in the Photoshoot was delightful, though not the best, and her look was acceptable (though the second she walked out I turned to Jon and said "Didn't Jinkx get read to filth for literally slapping candy on a corset?") either way I agree with her safety and can't wait to see where she goes next.

DAX EXCLAMATION POINT: Dax was correctly assessed this episode, judging exclusively from what we were shown. She is polished, professional, fun, and talented- but the girl was given about as much screen-time as Laila's platform flats. Which is frustrating. Was this because she didn't give anything to the editors that they could have used? Is she too nice, diplomatic and civil to make into interesting TV? Regardless, the only real time she was given was in the Untucked (which she came off well in).

All of this is a long way of saying I really only had her Photoshoot and Runway to judge her by, and honestly neither were the best or worst. She looked strong, confident and lovely in the Photoshoot but didn't completely own it the way Thorgy, Robbie, Derrick, or Kim Chi did. Her runway look was flattering, vibrant-in-a-good-way, well put together and cute as fuck (especially her bubble-gum hair)- but it wasn't especially creative either. Hopefully she'll stand out more later, but for now I'm just happy she's moving on in the competition.

DERRICK BARRY: I'm going to start this with what I like about Derrick: she's polished. She's completely unabashed about her lack of range and embraces it. She's beautiful. But so far I'm just not seeing it. Is it the fact that she seems to be trying to pull off Willam's Pomposity With A Sense Of Humor, but without the sense of humor? Perhaps. Is it the fact that she pulled a low-rent Courtney and came out for the main challenge in a fucking bikini with missile-toe taped to her crotch? Maybe. Am I sounding crazy-biased for absolutely no reason? Probably. Regardless, there's just something about Derrick that just doesn't do it for me.

HOWEVER: She rocked the Photoshoot (again, as Britney and not Derrick), and while I don't agree that her Runway was Top 3 material it certainly wasn't bottom 3 either. It was just "meh." I'm going to try to get a more positive attitude about her since I'm fairly certain she's pre-determined to make it to at least the Snatch Game, but as of right now Derrick Barry is just not my thing.

KIM CHI: This girl right here. THIS GIRL! THIS GIIIIIRRRRRL! Kim Chi is everything people wanted from Miss Fame and more: an Instagram Queen whose more than just a beautiful face and fantastic style. Her confessionals were by far my favorite that episode (her "Donut come for me" and her "Hi I'm Kim Chi and I came here to DESTROY EVERYONE- with my makeup!" had the entire bar in stitches.) This girl oozes Charisma, Uniqueness, Nerve, and DEFINITELY Talent, easily making my list for Top 3. She SLAYED both challenges and made it look effortless. She also comes off as genuinely sweet, but with an intelligence that lets her serve shade with the best of them (she did especially well with that in Untucked). I could go on gushing about this girl but I'm just going to leave it here: her Fabulously Cowardly Lion look EASILY deserved the win this week and I'm just so happy she's living up to the hype.

LAILA MCQUEEN: Miss McQueen. Poor, poor Miss McQueen. I feel like she's being given the Inexperienced Girl With No Confidence edit. And while there may be some truth to it I doubt it's as bad as the editing is making it out to be. Be that as it may I'm actually totally with Robbie on boots issue. I may be not as strongly opposed to them, but it did end up making her introduction outfit look less professional than the other queens.I I mean this is RPDR Season 8. That first walk into the work room may not be where you want to waste your very best Drag, but you really do need to turn it out. And flats are just not turning it out. I did enjoy the obvious nod to Beetlejuice (a pop reference she apparently has a thing for), but really wished it had been accompanied by a sexy black heel or something. And the photoshoot was a complete disaster for her. Worst picture of the night.

It just didn't seem to be her episode. I see the potential there, though! ESPECIALLY having seen her Premier Runway Looks and watching her live. And to be perfectly honest? I actually really liked her Post Apocaloptic Look. Sure, it wasn't all that "Apocaloptic," but it was well constructed, interesting, and a very cohesive look. Complaining that there wasn't much going on below the waist felt like quite the hypocritical, galling criticism after sticking Miss Bikini Britney in the top for gluing some rhinestones and mistletoe to a red bikini. I mean come on: that jacket was fantastic. And she made it! That should have been impressive enough to save her from the bottom, and this is coming from someone who does'nt even place her all that high on my favorites list!

All this being said I'm happy she survived the lipsynch. She started pretty slow but eventually went properly crazy and managed to stick around for another week, hopefully to bring her A-Game.

NAOMI SMALLS: Naomi kind of faded a bit into the wallpaper this episode, at least compared to other louder, more in-your-face queens. However what I saw of her I enjoyed. Again, she is a bit mesmerizing to look at when she struts around, poses and otherwise looks the part of a New York Supermodel. No offense to the (admittedly quite lovely) Naysha Lopez, but it's awfully hard to take you seriously when you call yourself "The Beauty" around someone like Naomi Smalls. Was her Runway look all that good? Nope. The Boat was sailing her and not the other way around, so to speak. And her outfit beneath it was simple and, from what I've been able to garner, something she brought with her (though in her defense I think her challenge had more to do with decorating the boat than making an outfit- especially if you think back to Season 4's queens).

Her photoshoot was among the best- though that's entirely expected from someone who claims to have studied fashion models for years. In the end she was another queen who was properly placed and I'm happy to see what she gives us next week. Also (on a side note): it was extremely refreshing to see someone act so adult in the face of one of the other queens being forced to throw her under the bus. She gets it- Laila was probably even less happy to give it than Naomi was to receive it. And instead of turning into a contrived drama point she let it go. Go Naomi!

ROBBIE TURNER: Oh dear. Oh Miss Robbie. That Runway outfit. You looked about as unhappy and dissatisfied wearing it as I did watching you walk in it. Boy was that a misfire. It even kind of gave me hints of Magnolia Crawford Cowbell (though not that bad, don't worry). It was certainly the second-worst look of the night and while I'm rooting for her and want her to succeed in the competition . . . she deserved to be bottom 2 more than Laila this week. I sort of get the reasoning Ru had with giving her a pass for having such a great Photoshoot, but I really don't think the sum of those parts added to a whole that was better than Laila's unfortunate sum. Regardless I'm thrilled to see that she survived to Shade another day (and boy are they giving her a bitch edit. At least so far it's all been a little funny, but who knows how long that will go before it gets tiring). Robbie was one of my favorites going into this season and its heartbreaking to see her falter so massively on the first challenge. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that she will be able to turn it around next week, but this has dampened my enthusiasm for this wonderful camp queen.

THORGY THOR: As someone who really loved Red Velvet Cake when I was still able to eat Red Velvet Cake, Thorgy looked FUCKING DELICIOUS this week. Was her runway all that inspiring? Naw. I can see why it's simplicity made her safe but not much else. However she still looked AMAZING in it. And again, the joy that radiates from this wonderful queen jumps out and warms your soul. I loved every moment she was on screen and cannot wait to see more. She's fun, smart, hysterical, and seems to get along fairly well with everyone she meets (so far). Her photoshoot was also a gem and brought a smile to many of the past winners as she mugged for the camera. When it comes to Untucked, her little lipsynch thing with Miss Fontaine Blank was a brilliant highlight. I can't praise this girl enough and she is easily in my Top 3.

NAYSHA LOPEZ: Last we have Naysha. Poor, poor Naysha. The self-professed Beauty. Honestly she seemed like a great girl. I really can't say anything overtly terrible about ANY of this season's queens, and Naysha is no exception. There don't seem to be any Serena ChaCha's who are just ASKING to be kicked off, if you get my drift. However one girl has to be cut, and it fell to Naysha, unfortunately. I will say this about her: she was by far the prettiest contestant to be kicked off first in the herstory of Drag Race. It's too bad her outfit was just so goddamn AWFUL. The very second she said "this is the first dress I've ever made" I knew the writing was on the wall. Ru is completely right: It's season-fucking-8! Eight! EIGHT! And you've auditioned FOUR TIMES! That implies you've seen the show, right? If you have it should be obvious at this point that sewing is a skill that you should probably pick up before entering those big metal doors. You don't even have to be a pro- just learn one or two silhouettes and hot-glue the rest. It served Ben Dela, it can work for you! It's inexcusable to come in not knowing how to make clothes, and it will be the thing that gets you in the end.

However I have nothing but sympathy for this seemingly sweet and hard-working queen. And to be perfectly honest her Untucked farewell was probably the most heartbreaking ever. It was real. It was raw. It made me want to reach into the screen and give her a big hug and tell her everything was going to be okay. There was a point where a woman opened the work-room doors for Naysha and the look of empathy she gave as she closed the doors behind Miss Lopez was exactly what any person with a soul is feeling when you watch it. If anything can make me like you it's that kind of unfiltered humanity, and Naysha managed to give it in spades in 30 seconds. So here's to you, Miss Naysha "The Beauty" Lopez. If you are ever showing in town I'll try to make it and toss you a twenty. Why? Because you're worth it!

One last note about Untucked: while it still PISSES ME OFF that they are airing Untucked the day after it's parent episode, they seem to be doing their best to improve on the fantastic format from last year. It seems they decided that while they still don't want to create an entire "Interior Illusion Lounge" they also don't want it shot in what appears to be the backstage of a high school musical either. I love the middle ground they seem to have reached this year and I'm totally excited to see more.

THAT'S ALL FOLKS! Tune in next week for another ridiculously long, rambling, insane rant! Feel free to comment below or pester me on Facebook. LURVE!

PS: My Current Top 3: Bob The Drag Queen, Kim Chi, and Thorgy Thor.