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RPDR RANT: All Stars 2, Episode 2

Aedan Roberts

This season is giving us literally no time to breath- and thank god for it. It's a very delicious kind of asphyxiation. From a first episode's Reading Mini Challenge/Talent Show Maxi Challenge we're launched RIGHT into Snatch Game? Oh Mama Ru, you know how to make a very gay man happy. Also likely others (I would assume).

I would go into crazy detail, but I'm currently playing catch up due to being caught up in Dragon Con preparations and then the event itself, so I'll make this short and sweet: this episode was pretty much two mini episodes. First was Adore Delano: Gone Girl. The second was Alaska Thunderfuck: A Mae West Extravaganza Featuring Björk. Both made for gripping television, but for reasons so disparate that it's hard to believe they both took place in the same hour and a half of television. We'll get into that in the breakdown. Speaking of which . . . 

IN NO PARTICULAR ORDER:

Adore Delano: You know what? While the writing was on the wall in Episode One, Adore's decision was still a bit of a blow here- but only because she's such a vital addition to this cast and her absence will be felt. In the end, however, it was clear Adore was not in the right headspace for this competition. She may have tried to attribute it to her unease at being shifted back into old power dynamics with Michelle Visage (a woman she had grown to see as an equal in their time together since Season 6) and her desire to stay true to herself conflicting, fundamentally, with the kind of flexibility needed to succeed on RPDR. But while those points may have a certain level of truth to them they were not really why she couldn't stay. Since the episode aired Miss Delano has been very candid as to the true reasons for her sudden decision to depart All Stars 2: the year they began recording Adore's father passed away and her then-boyfriend broke up with her (in the most immature way imaginable: via text message). Now, while a breakup can be something you power through (depending on how messy the break up was or how long the relationship lasted)- losing your father so young is a massive blow to anyone. And Adore is not just anyone: she's a sensitive, emotional, earnest creature. It's why we love her so much. She wears her heart on her sleeve and it's that raw honesty that makes her so beloved among many of the Drag Race community. She apparently tried to deal with it by throwing herself into her work- using her non-stop touring and then All Stars as a distraction method to cope with the feelings of loss. In other words she is young and didn't realize that this rarely works, and only proves to build up that grief until it explodes at the most inopportune time. And in this case that time was when she was unexpectedly laid bare on the Main Stage of RPDR. In the end, having read and written all this I fundamentally understand and truly respect Adore for her decision. She did her best to tough it out, but even far more hardened souls would have broken under the pressure. It doesn't make me any less of a fan. My heart goes out to her and I look forward to seeing more from this talented, extremely relatable queen.

Alaska Thunderfuck 5000: NOW, on to the more light-hearted part of the episode: the other girls. The overall quality of All Stars 2's Snatch Game was probably the highest in RPDR herstory. Only one girl completely bombed, and even then it was in a far less cringe-inducing way than what goes down in a normal season. And the highs? Yeah, that's where Alaska comes in. Alaska compeltely dominated this episode in a way we've only seen in Jinkx Monsoon, Ben De La Creme, and Bob The Drag Queen before. Her makeup was FLAWLESS. Her costume was IMPECCABLE. Her characterization was PERFECTION. It made me suddenly realize how insane it is that no one has ever thought to do Mae West for Snatch Game before. The woman was a walking, talking cartoon already! In the end, however, I am happy the person to finally step into those raunchy heels was Alaska- because no one else could have taken Mae's shtick to the far-off galaxies that Miss Thunderfuck managed to go. She was hysterical, had a perfect response to everything, played off of the other girls to hilarious success, and stayed in character the entire fucking time. Even her Mae West voice was a brilliant choice for someone whose own vocal cadence is an iconic caricature of itself. Alaska has proven to be a force of nature when it comes to Snatch Game (not just with her Mae West and Lady Bunny, but the various other characters she's played, including Laganja Estranga, in the Battle of the Seasons Tour), so her success in this episode was not unexpected, but it was still a sight to behold. Her runway was . . . okay to me. Definitely Chic (though I thought the top was strangely ill-fitting), but not really stand-out. However she also won that lip-synch fair and square and I'm thrilled she took the win, even if that meant that she got to make the wrong decision as to who to send home.

Katya: A close second in this episode is hands-down Miss Katya. Her Björk was all the insanity of Katya dialed up to 11 and given a quirky, Björk-esque twist that gave me the second biggest laughs of the night. It was simply delightful. She wasn't exactly accurate- but when has Snatch Game ever been about staying true to the person they portray? It isn't about "doing a celebrity justice," it's about taking certain aspects of their public persona and playing off of it to make for a hilariously good time. Ben Dela didn't succeed by staying true to Maggie Smith- she took the actress's Dowager from Downton Abbey and pushed it to eleven. Tatianna wasn't being the "real Britney"- she succeeded by playing up the public perception that Britney Spears is a dumb, air-headed idiot. And Katya's Björk played perfectly to the idea that Björk is from a different plane of reality. As for her runway look? Best of the night. By FAR. It was EVERYTHING and vaulted her from second place in my eyes to equally deserving of the win this week. It was only her slightly less-fantastic LSFYL that let Alaska eek out the win. Katya did everything right here, and I'm just so, SO happy she's finally embracing how truly talented and epic she really is. Self-doubt is for the birds, Katya! Keep it up!

Alyssa Edwards: I also really loved Alyssa Edward's surprisingly strong Snatch Game as Joan Crawford. Her first foray into celebrity impersonation was an outright disaster in Season 5: her Katy Perry was probably one of the worst Snatch Games since Phi Phi O'Hara and Jiggly Caliente shat all over the stage in Season 4. But here? Alyssa continues to prove that she's got a complete handle on what makes her brilliant and she unabashedly dives into it with gusto. Sure, her Joan Crawford was 7 parts Alyssa and 3 parts Mommie Dearest Quotes- but that made for a perfect recipe that resulted in some of the bigger laugh-out-loud moments of the night. She had Ru and the audience in stitches. And when it comes to Snatch Game? That's the entire point. I also loved her playful, lips-covered neon yellow latex cocktail dress with Big Bird Realness wig. Overall Alyssa rocked it, and I am actually still a little baffled how she didn't make Top 3.

Ginger Minj: Minj did alright. Her Tammie Faye was fun and silly, but in a stand-out season like this she was sadly just middle of the road. The competition was FIERCE, so her otherwise competent performance was easily overshadowed by the bigger personalities on stage. As for her runway? I didn't really like it. She looked lovely, but it didn't fit the way latex should (in my opinion). It seemed too loose and honestly kind of ill-fitted, and the cut of the mermaid bottom shortened her even more than she already is (she ended up looking two feet tall). Kudos to her for yet another use of a corset (which ultimately saved the look), but overall it just wasn't all that impressive, memorable or well executed. There isn't much more to say here, which is wonderful since I need to move on to the next episode, so I'll take the opportunity to keep it simple.

Detox: I actually find it hilarious that, so soon after Acid Betty's disastrous attempt at Nancy Grace, Detox would be found attempting to make the same celebrity funny. I mean Miss Icunt couldn't have known that at the same time All Stars was filming the editors were staring slack-jawed in abject horror at the train-wreck that was yet another Grace impersonator, but it does make you and I, the Hindsight Viewers, wish we could jump back in time and save Detox from making a mistake. Nancy Grace may seem like the exact kind of horrible, over-the-top personality that would be ripe for lampooning, but it takes a certain kind of comedic sensibility to do so and neither Acid or Detox had that specific talent. The only thing I can say positively here is that Detox didn't bomb nearly as hard or painfully as Betty- so in the grande scheme of things that can be seen as a kind of win? Either way it wasn't surprising to see her in the bottom- and luckily she was wearing the second-best look of the night (next to Katya's) which I think is what ultimately saved her from even being an option for the Top 2 to eliminate.

Phi Phi O'Hara: Phi Phi's Caputo was fun. I honestly think she put in a perfectly serviceable performance with a few truly funny moments. Was it the best of the night? Not really. And her makeup, while obviously going for something, was a bit of a mess all night. In the end neither her Snatch Game or Runway look were bad enough to get her any lower than middle of the pack- which I'm sure was just fine for Miss O'Hara. Her original, Season 4 Snatch Game was mind-numbingly awful, so being one of the better performances on All Stars 2 is a genuine credit to her evolution as a performer. I wish she had gone a little more out there for her Latex Fantasy but the Rubber Duckies were a fun touch that saved an otherwise Derrick Barry Basic Bitch costume. As for the editing to make it seem like Phi Phi was back to her old scheming ways at the beginning of the episode? Apparently both Alyssa and Roxxxy approached Phi Phi for her opinion so lets not go all cray here. She probably should have been like "I know how this will likely be edited so NNNNOOOOPE!" but such is life. I hardly hold it against her for accurately pointing out that Alyssa was just playing Alyssa On Speed (though I disagree emphatically that this was a bad thing) or that Roxxxy's Vargera was a bit of a dud (it wasn't her fault that Roxxxy chose to replace it with an even worse choice). As least her critiques were accurate.

Tatianna: The only part of this episode that was disappointing was Tatianna's elimination. It was something I fundamentally disagreed with and it reeked of Rolaskatox Bias hidden behind the justification of "the judges critiques." Look- it is definitely true that Tatianna deserved her place in the Bottom 2 this week. With such a strong showing from everyone her Ariana Grande was left behind and her runway look wasn't exactly inspired. HOWEVER: A: she was the most convincing in terms of looks up there (she really did capture Ariana Grande. She looked exactly like her and that was impressive), B: she DID manage to make a couple fun quips that elicited smiles/laughter from me/the audience/Ru, and C: her runway wasn't nearly as bad as I feel the judges were making it out to be. It was basic, sure, but it wasn't any worse than Roxxxy's (only Roxxxy's hair saved it). If you were to average that all together and weigh it against Roxxxy's slightly better Runway but SIGNIFICANTLY worse Snatch Game it is CLEAR, in my opinion, that Tatianna easily fared better than Roxxxy this week and should have been safe. And Alaska's choice to spare her Sister In Season while claiming that wasn't the reason felt a little mealy-mouthed for my taste. Ah well. I'm just hoping that this Ru-venge thing is the opportunity for her to come back into the competition. We'll see!

Roxxxy Andrews: whether or not it was Phi Phi's words that convinced her to scrap Sophia Vargera at the last minute (I'm more on the side of those who simply think she was insecure about it from the get-go and was looking for an excuse to attempt something else) her ultimate decision to impersonate the FAR more intelligent and funny Alaska was a disaster so perfect you could taste the TV Ratings. Roxxxy bombed this Snatch Game so hard it called into question just how much of her relatively passable performance in Season 5 was intentional or a lucky accident. It was just embarrassing. The only embarrassing performance of the night, really- which made it that much more painful. And you could tell she knew it. Again, I'm not the biggest Roxxxy fan but my heart went out to her every time she said something and then bowed her head in obvious shame. I'm assuming she borrowed Detox's "It's A New Day" sunglasses in order to hide the tear stains from the sorrow she felt for giving such an insultingly bad performance right in front of the friend she was attempting to impersonate. And her runway? It was just not that good. It was too covered, too basic and boring. It was impeccably tailored and fit her as well as I assume Ginger Minj wished hers could have, but it was kind of a big ol' "blah" for me. Except that epic hair. That hair was amazing. However twelve wigs combined to form one big Rat Queen Wig should not have saved her- and ultimately her Snatch Game was so depressingly bad that I truly believe -beyond being the most deserving to go- having Alaska eliminate a girl for so poorly impersonating her would have been the best kind of poetic justice. Sadly, however, that isn't how it played out. In the end ALL of these girls are rock stars (well, except maybe Coco), so Roxxxy's continued presence isn't really a massive injustice. I just would have much rather seen more from Tatianna- who would have stood to gain far more from the exposure.

Next episode will be up soon as well and then I'll be caught up! See you then my fellows Drag-onites!

 

 

RPDR RANT: All Stars 2, Episode 1

Aedan Roberts

Girls! GIRLS! FUCK. Yes. Words. No words.

There was a LOT of built up expectation going into the possibility of an All Stars 2. There are many reasons for this: the growing number of Alum that fans have been clambering to see again, the lack of any legit news for a long time concerning the possibility of an All Stars 2, and the relative disaster that was All Stars 1. It was that last one that seemed to make the idea of All Stars 2 ever coming to fruition a slim hope, at least for a while.

Let's face it: All Stars 1 was a mess. An occasionally fun, sometimes memorable mess, but the result of that season was a bad taste in everyone's mouth (the fans hated it and Ru wasn't fond of the negative feedback). Most of the fan hate derived from the "twist" of pairing the girls off to be judged in teams of two. It wasn't a terribly fun twist and made a show whose judging was already seen to be tailored to fit a narrative (and less about merit) into an infuriating case of certain queens being eliminated before their time because their team-mate couldn't carry their weight (or the opposite where girls who should have gone home earlier were being carried by far better queens). It was also a painfully short season due to the nature of eliminating two queens every episode (save the last). It's even more frustrating because most of the Alum returning were fan favorites and insanely talented queens who deserved another shot, so the fact that the season seems to be willfully forgotten by the majority of the fanbase is a sad disservice to them.

So yeah, for a while the idea of another All Stars was a fever dream. But here we are!!!! Bigger! Longer! With twists as deliciously fun as the team idea was awful.

I could go into a long screed about all the things this season premier got amazingly right, but I'd rather get into the breakdown. Let's just leave it here: I thought Season 8's premier was the strongest in RPDR herstory, but this one managed to blow it out of the water. Ru seemed to want to fly into this guns blazing- from the Library mini-challenge to the fantastic (and sometimes not fantastic) talent show maxi-challenge Ru and the producers showed us what is possible when the audience is already familiar with the players, the players are familiar with the players, and as such there is no need to take things slow. 

Without further ado: the breakdown! In no particular order:

Adore Delano: oh dear, sweet, wonderful Adore. I LOVED her promo look, and honestly I'm still rooting for her. Here's the thing, though: I kind of agree with Adore's assessment during the "untucked" portion of the episode. I don't really think she belongs there. However it's not for the reasons I believe she implied. Adore is an amazing performer. She oozes effortless charisma and comes off intensely sweet, funny (in a bit of a stoner kind of way), and a little naive (which makes her even more endearing). She's also found an aesthetic that suits her and her brand. She may think that this aesthetic is the reason she shouldn't have returned to compete, but I have a different theory: Adore, more than any other RPDR alum, does not have anything to prove. She's easily one of the most successful girls to come out of this show. Her albums are genuinely good pop music (that top the charts), her videos are better compared to Miley Cyrus, Rhianna and other contemporary pop starlets in terms of quality and production value, and she's one of the more universally beloved queens already. She literally doesn't need this crown. She's kind of already won. Why bother dealing with Visage's (well intentioned, in some ways legit, but also lacking in understanding) critiques? I believe Adore came to have fun, be with her friends, and get a bit more exposure. But the fun part is the most important aspect for Miss Delano, in my opinion. And watching her soul get crushed by Visage's overtly, unnecessarily harsh critique of her performance made me want to reach through the screen, hug her and whisper to her "girl, you are fantastic- you keep doing you and to hell with Visage." I also didn't feel she deserved to be in the bottom with Phi Phi and Coco. She wasn't the best performance of the night, but she was FAR from bottom three. In the end I'm glad she's still there and I hope she picks herself up, pulls her shoulders back and marches forth into the next challenge with confidence- but ultimately if she chose to take this opportunity to re-assess her attendance and bow out I wouldn't hold it against her in the least. I would miss her presence, though.

Alaska Thunderfuck 5000: From the second she walked into the work room with that billowing black Scarlet Ohara Fell Into A Dumpster Realness look Alaska proved, again and again, why she is (along with Katya) on almost everyone's personal choice for Top 3 going into All Stars 2. She still has that unique, wonderful, magnetic personality, intelligent wit, and alien movement- but this time further equipped with a stronger range of drag aesthetics and vastly improved makeup skills. Also collagen nestled in her upper lip (apparently a disturbing trend with these girls - looking at you Adore). Her reads were a lot of fun (though I did prefer Katya's), her performance was magical, and her confessionals were everything. Alaska is on fire and she easily earns her place in my own personal Top 3.

Alyssa Edwards: Miss Edwards has really upped her game so far (in my opinion, obviously). She's always been one of the best dancers/performers this show has ever had, and any scene is inherently enhanced with her ridiculous expressions and Alyssa-isms- but unlike last time a lot of her brilliance seems more intentional. It is undeniable that Miss Edwards was at her best in Season 5 when she was just being her, off the cuff, unintentionally hilarious. However the second she attempted to act or be purposefully funny she would fall flat on her face. Now, though? She's walked into All Stars 2 knowing EXACTLY what makes her so special and she's milking it from sun up until sundown. And I'm LIVING FOR IT. Alyssa is officially my Dark Horse for this season and I wouldn't be surprised to see this Walking Distillation of Gay Camp manage to wind up in the Top 3 alongside (hopefully) Katya and Alaska.

Detox: When Detox first arrived in the workroom of Season 5 I was instantly intrigued. She was polished, hyper-confident, strangely alien (due to her considerable silicon "enhancements") with flawless makeup skills and unique, mostly-impeccable fashion sense. She seemed to have it all. Sadly, however, as the season progressed and Miss Icunt started to let the competition get the better of her (she was getting increasingly frustrated with being overshadowed by queens she didn't yet understand *cough - Jinkx - cough* and getting ever more symbiotic with Season 5's late-blooming Super Villain Roxxxy Andrews) my opinion of her soured considerably. So much so that I was sadly thrilled when Jinkx mopped the floor with her in the Top 4 LSFYL and sent her packing. After the show, however, Detox has managed to re-assert her status as a uniquely talented queen and has also shown a much sweeter side we only saw small snippets of during her time on the show. And now that she's back I couldn't be happier for her presence. She's simply marvelous. Her reads were fun in the Mini-Challenge and her performance in the Maxi-Challenge did an excellent job showcasing what Miss Detox is uniquely qualified to bring to the table. It wasn't the best performance of the night, but it was solid and makes me excited for her return.

Katya: This bitch. THIS. BITCH! UGH! I sometimes go back and forth over whether she is a genius, completely insane, or both (I'm thinking both- which is the best choice of the three). Regardless: Katya, even more than Alaska, is my personal choice to win All Stars 2. And from what we see in this episode she seems to have returned equipped with the necessary tools to do so. She has a new, easy-going (in her own manic kind of way) attitude when it comes to the competition and that newly acquired confidence is doing her all manner of justice. It's allowing her brilliance to shine backstage and in front of the judges. Her walk-in-look was a smart, leveled-up version of her first Season 7 offering, her reads were EASILY the best in my opinion and should have won (they were insanely smart, hilarious, and possibly the darkest/most biting of all the queens- Roxxxy and Ginger's especially) and her performance was one of the stronger ones (a highlight of which was her backwards Exorcist-style Bridge Walk). Overall I just have this to say: GO KATYAAAAA! SLAAAAAAAY!

Phi Phi O'Hara: The very first, the original, the inception of the RPDR Top 3 Villainess: Miss Phi Phi is BACK! And this time it's personal. Seriously- this is very, VERY personal for her. Her reputation was so tarnished from her terrible behavior on Season 4 that it has taken her YEARS to begin to reinvigorate her career. However she's already done a great job laying the foundation for what will hopefully be a successful Rudemption arc in All Stars 2. She's been doing interviews that highlight how she's grown as a person and performer, she's re-embraced her original love of Cosplay Drag, and her 365 Days Of Drag on Instagram have been consistently amazing. And while I don't see her taking the crown (or even making it to Top 3) - especially after her sadly disastrous first Maxi-Challenge a-cappella snafoo - I do hope she sticks around long enough for us to see that Phi Phi cannot, and should not, be defined by a single bad period in her otherwise wonderful career.

Roxxxy Andrews: On the stiletto heels of Miss Phi Phi, Roxxxy showed up on Season 5 with a fairly strong start- yet by the end of her season proved to be practically worse than Miss O'Hara. Whereas Phi Phi's actions seemed to come from a place of immaturity and lack of self-awareness, Roxxxy's treatment of Jinkx was cold, calculated, and EXTREMELY off-putting. All the makeup skills in the world (of which she has considerable amounts) and impeccable outfits (which she also has an abundance of) couldn't save her from the wrath of the RPDR fanbase- and I was right there with them. However I am also one of those people who can't stay mad at anyone whose name is not "Trump" or "Pence" so her inclusion here makes a lot of sense and I'm rooting for her to prove she's more than an empty-headed, extremely pretty monster. So far? She's sort of doing it. She's still as polished as ever (all of her looks this episode- especially her walk-in look- were breath-taking) and she certainly deserved the win this week (for both her stellar burlesque number and fun LSFYLegacy), but she also seemed to fall right back into her head-games when she was asked to decide which of the three girls she would choose to send home. I don't know about you, but I couldn't help but notice the distinct smirk of someone enjoying power over the other girls a little too much. I can't blame her, but if I were her I would have avoided this perception at all costs. She has more than just money and a crown on the line here. She also needs her Rudemption practically more than Phi Phi. In the end Roxxxy surprised me. I don't really want her making it to Top 3, but I would love to see her prove to us that she's grown since Season 5.

Ginger Minj: Ginger is undeniably talented. She's undeniably clever. She's undeniably funny (when she isn't pushing too far into the realm of "bitch"). However she's also just . . . lacking something here. I don't know what it is. I mean she's definitely upped her game (no matter how much she likes to joke about how corsets gave Violet Chachki the win in Season 7 their inclusion in her repertoire really has helped her considerably), her reads were witty/some of the better ones, and her performance in the Maxi-Challenge was strong. But honestly? I just don't care. Not when she's in a room with the likes of Katya, Alaska, Detox, Alyssa and Adore- whose talents are just as intense but whose personalities shine far brighter. She's just kind of a non-entity for me here, and that bothers me. Because she shouldn't be. In any case I'm glad Ginger was included in the cast but I'm just not really in this with her. 

Tatianna: I hopped on the RPDR bandwagon a little after Season 1 finished airing (I binge-watched it almost immediately after the finale), so I was there for Tati's first foray into RPDR. And honestly? Much to the chagrin of a couple of my friends (love you Ian Thomas) I was always kind of a fan of Tatianna. Sure fellow Season 2 girl Raven had a lot of valid criticisms when it came to Tati's then-aesthetic, but there was something extremely charismatic and refreshing about Tati's personality that appealed to me (a "something" that pissed my friends off as much as they appealed to me, but whatever, lol). In the end I think her problems were more due to the fact that she simply wasn't ready for RPDR when she was first on than anything else. And in the years since then she seems to have undergone an amazing metamorphosis. Her return to the show was both unexpected and extremely exciting. As the only girl pre-Season 4 in the cast Tati has a lot to prove: however she seems to have arrived with the newly-acquired skills to do so. Her makeup game is lightyears better, she's learned to dress properly (in her words "stop shopping at Wet Seal"), and her performance chops have gone through the roof. I'm very much with Ru when it comes to Tati being in this week's Top 2. Her Spoken Word was hilarious, unexpected, and wonderful. My boyfriend's seething hatred for it aside it was fairly universally beloved at the viewing party I originally watched the episode at. Tatianna is back with a vengeance, people, and I can't wait to see what else she has for us.

Coco Montrese: I'm going to make this one short: when All Stars 2 announced Coco as one of the returning girls my expression could be summed up in one word: puzzled. I was never a fan of Coco. I openly admit she is a fantastic, seasoned performer- but her drama-fabricating, melodramatic, mind-numbing backstage antics on Season 5 is the reason I have such a hard time re-watching it. And I was never impressed with anything but her lipsynchs. This time, however, Coco can't be saved by her biggest strength (since the format has switched from a Bottom 2 LSFYLife to a Top 2 LSFYLegacy) so I immediately made the prediction that she was going to be the first one out. I'm not proud, persé, that I was right. I'm just happy I don't really have to deal with the inevitable drama that Coco's continued presence would have wrought.

END NOTE: yes, this was extremely delayed. You can thank Dragon Con for that. I'll try to have the second episode rant up ASAP, and then the third not long behind. HUGGLES!

 

RPDR RANT: SEASON 8 finale!

Aedan Roberts

I know. I KNOW! It's been MONTHS since the Finale premiered. At first I was so spent (due to overwhelming satisfaction at the results) that I simply wanted to take a week or two to bask in the afterglow of my happiness. It has become, after all, possibly my favorite season of RPDR. Then life got super busy and it became harder and harder to bring myself to get all the assets together to do this review justice.

HOWEVER: We are a DAY AWAY from RuPaul's Drag Race All Stars 2 premiering! So I decided to do this quick recap to not only finally top off the AMAZING Season 8 Finale, but to also get revved up for what is hopefully going to be a killer new All Stars.

So here we go!

The Finale was much like every one that came before it. Each queen struts her stuff in order of their elimination, some small superficial interviews are conducted, the Top 3 (in what I hope is a permanent fixture of future Finales) each perform a final lipsynch to a song tailor-made for them, another slightly more in-depth interview happens after each performance, and then Ru picks the winner. It sounds kind of bland when written in such a truncated way- but trust me: no one can out flash a Drag Queen. And no queen does flashy like Mama Ru. Everyone came out looking fairly good (some more than others, but we'll get to that in a moment) and each of the Top 3 proved yet again why they deserved their spot. And in the end the right girl won. The house down *tongue pop.*

Now, in the storied tradition of my Rants I will be breaking down the queens from best to worst in terms of looks (in my incredibly subjective opinion, of course). I exclude the Top 3 because they have multiple costume changes each and will be judged on their own at the end. 

So without further ado, in VERY particular order:

1. The Number 1 Spot is going to break the mold here a bit: the girl who won the night didn't even compete this season. And that winner is obviously Violet Chachki. That dress. That makeup. THAT CROWN. I have never been so blown away by a look in all of RPDR herstory and I doubt we will see anything that manages to top it for years. It was bombastic, regal, stunning, conceptual, couture, impeccably made and every other girl, including Mama Ru, look like trash next to her. For a somewhat controversial winner Violet Chachki proved, right then and there, that her win was not a fluke or a result of Ginger Minge's bad behavior- it was because the girl, and the people she employs to dress her, are FUCKING BRILLIANT and she deserved the crown that was growing right out of her skull like the most fabulous brain tumor ever. 

2. Acid Betty: Acid Betty, in my humble opinion, was eliminated too soon. Yes, she was a bit of a bitch initially, but upon re-watching the season she was actually far less harsh than my initial impressions led me to believe. And her look that night had me regretting (more than I already did) her early elimination. This girl is one of the most unique, visually engaging artists to ever grace the RPDR stage. All props to Kim Chi and her equally stunning looks/makeup, but Acid's work was easily on par, and often surpassed Kim's efforts. And tonight proved that. Her Crystalized Lobster Realness was something out of a science fiction movie and I was LIVING FOR IT.

3. Dax Exclamation Point: Her dress was perfection, her padding was well done, her makeup was gorgeous and her hair/fascinator was Ororo Monroe Goes To The Oscars. Dax may not have been able to give her best during her brief stay in the competition, but her appearance here shows that there is so much more to this talented, sweet Cosplay Goddess. Out of all the queens this season, with the possible exception of her fellow-eliminated Laila McQueen, Dax seemed to get the short end of the editing stick. However if that's the motivation it took for Miss Point to come out in one of the loveliest looks of the night then there is at least that silver lining to Miss Storm's shining cloud.

CHICHI.jpg

4. Chi Chi Devayne: while I do very much believe Naomi Smalls deserved her place in the Top 3, I also firmly hold that Chi Chi deserved it just as much (if possibly slightly more) and would have made a more well-rounded Top 3.  And can you IMAGINE how AMAZING her finale lipsynch performance would have been?! I actually get a little resentful thinking about it. However it is what it is and so I'll just have to live with giving Miss Devayne high marks for her impeccable, self-made Vampire Goddess Realness look. Everything was stunning, from her Blond Supreme Goddess hair to her black lipstick, to her brilliantly tailored leather (pleather?) dress. Girl had it going on. Miss Devayne stole my heart all season and I can't WAIT to see more from her.

5. Derrick Barry: I was not a fan of this girl during Season 8. She annoyed the fuck out of me and I still do believe she was there FAR longer than her efforts had merited. But she has also grown significantly since the season ended and she really does seem to be able to take a joke/criticism much better now. She's still not my favorite queen, but she's growing on me. As for her look during the finale? She rocked it. Hit it out of the park. Her mug was flawless (and showed legit growth from her efforts on the show- EYEBROWS!) the dress was sparkly, Britney-inspired and yet still very much Derrick Barry. Props where it's due: Derrick looked amazing and deserves kudos for it.

6. Laila McQueen: Laila did Laila. And she did it well. While it wasn't my favorite look of the night it was far from the worst. And I really do LOVE her makeup skills. Her look was also one of the first I've seen where a wig as violently purple as hers didn't look cheap and off-the-rack. It had body, shape, and a thickness to it that most vibrantly colored wigs tend to lack. I also LIVED for that corset. Upon close inspection it's a work of art. Laila is a quirky, fun, hysterical queen. She drowned while on the show, but since then has really come into her own.

7. Thorgy Thor: The only girl of the night who didn't wear a dress- Thorgy's Acid Lady Predator wasn't my favorite look (the padding was odd) but it was fun, playful, unexpected and she seemed to be back to her happy, exuberant self in it. Thorgy may not have had the best attitude by the end her time there (which I totally sympathize with- girl shouldn't have gone home that episode) but she has managed to gain a life-long fan in me. THORGY FOR PREZNIT!

8. Robbie Turner: I love me some Robbie. That aside: this look was kind of "meh." The dress was certainly pretty, but it looked more like a Day Dress some southern belle would wear to a spring brunch than something you'd wear to wow a crowd at a Drag Race finale. Couple that with that kind of plastic, somewhat thirsty wig (of a questionable color and harsh hairline) and less-than-stellar makeup and I was a little underwhelmed. Which, again, is not to say she didn't look good. It's just not her best. And I demand your best, Miss Turner! Because you ARE one of the best!

9. Cynthia Lee Fontaine (Blank): I see where she was going with it, but Miss Congeniality's look was like everything else she wore before and after: an obvious concept bogged down by lazy construction and questionable decisions. The top's low v-line shouldn't have had the nude fabric covering her cleavage, the butt-window shouldn't have had that seam in it that covered the crack (and thus negated the entire purpose of a butt window) and her hair was lop-sided, bent, and improperly placed on her head. Just . . . not a successful look to me. Luckily Fontaine-Blank has never been about look: her personality was still as vibrant and wonderful as ever.

10. Naysha Lopez: The only look of the night I outright hated. It was sloppy, boring, and lacked any sort of glamour beyond the red. She's a sweet girl and her mug is always on POINT- but she reminds me a lot of Vivienne Pinay: a girl who thinks she's far prettier/fishier than she actually is, with a personality that rivals milk. At least on the show. After the show Naysha, like almost every other girl this show has had as a contestant, has proven herself to be intelligent, kind, fun and talented. But even in this finale it wasn't on display. Weakest look of the night, by far.

As for the top 3? I rate then as follows:

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1. Bob The Drag Queen and Kim Chi: Both these girls GAVE. IT. during the finale. In all three of their looks. Bob showed the most range and really proved to everyone that she can do it all: glamour, chic, fashion forward, and Banjee Girl realness. Kim's looks were overall slightly more polished and were all absolutely STUNNING, but were also all similar in silhouette and aesthetic. In the end, from what I could tell, it came down to their performances that broke the tie. 

2. Naomi Smalls: the only reason she isn't tied with Bob and Kim is her first look of the night. That green latex dress was the wrong color for her, the hair was too obvious, and it simply didn't look quite right. Her final look of the night and performance look were both stunners, but she was sadly bogged down by that one look.

When it comes to performances:

1. Bob the Drag Queen: GIRL HIT IT OUT OF THE PARK. I still go back, to this day, and ru-watch that performance because it is DAMN fun. She turned it into an entire broadway production. Her lipsynch was flawless, her incorporating other queens a brilliant touch, her dancing was the most impressive of the night, and she looked like she was LIVING for it- something that proved extremely infectious. The second that performance finished it was beyond clear to me she had snatched that crown.

2. Naomi Smalls: girl can move. She can pose. She can stomp that runway/stage in a way that only Raja before her had ever managed to do. And she managed to look like an Old Hollywood Movie Star doing it. ALL props to Naomi- it was a fun performance.

3. Kim Chi: the song was catchy. Her dress was wonderful and I really enjoyed her nod to her Korean heritage. But girl: no shoes? NOT EVEN FLATS? And what's worse: you don't even offer any dance moves that justify the decision to forgo heels?! That was the end, in my eyes, to Miss Chi's chances. It was cute, quirky, and fun but she mostly just stood there doing Handography while her backup dancers put in all the effort. I get it, Kim Chi can't really move well, but it's called PRACTICE GIRL. You had months to prepare for that moment. Taking some dancing classes in heels would have really done you justice.

So that's my assessment of the night, more or less. One of the better Live Finale's ever (especially if you also go and watch the Top 3's Real Reaction video that Logotv released showing how Bob really reacted to her win). See you all for ALL STARS 2!

PS: Quick final shout-out to Ru for having my favorite Ru-union looks she's ever worn.

RPDR RANT: Season 8 Episode 9

Aedan Roberts

The last episode before the Finale is always bitter sweet and anxiety-inducing for me. It's nearly the end, which means that I'll be stuck waiting however long (months most likely) until my next fix of RPDR. However it's also not QUITE the end and anything can happen here. Anyone could go- ESPECIALLY this season. Each of the four remaining queens are ALL girls I'm rooting for on some level (though I would be lying if I said I wasn't rooting for some more than others). And, honestly, that's a rarity on RPDR. There is somewhat of a tradition for Ru and Co. to keep a villain around- someone who let the competition get to them, let their bitch flag fly, and ultimately soured their chances at the crown (Ginger, Roxxxy, Phi Phi O'Hara, etc.). But not so with Season 8. And, much like Season 6 (sans Darienne Lake), the energy you get from four girls who all seem to really appreciate each other is a welcome change of pace from the bitter mess that was Season 7's Top 4. But enough of that, lets get into it:

The Maxi Challenge: The penultimate episode is always the dreaded Music Video Challenge.  Ru has the girls film various segments that have the possibility of ending up in a music video for her latest single (usually the song that has been accompanying the runway presentations of that season.) For Season 8 it is "The Realness" (I like the tune, honestly. Maybe not as much as Season 6's "Sissy That Walk" but it's still a lot of fun). The girls' first task is to lie on their back and have sheets of neon fabric billow around them like wings while they lipsynch and attempt to keep their legs up. The second task is to have them dance in avante garde outfits. The third task is to lipsynch in front of a mirror as if they are berating themselves over their current life choices. There is usually a scene where Ru will have a spoken-word acting moment with each of the queens, but this season skips it (and the iconic- though honestly tired- Tic Tac Talk) in lieu of a child-photograph-laden runway interrogation.

The Runway: Like the Music Video Challenge, the Runway is the same for the Top 4 (or what used to be the Top 3) every year: Your Best Drag. However I think this would be far more accurate if the challenge had been "Your Best Leftover Scraps" because there is a long, storied history of nearly every girl's looks being overshadowed by something they wore previously in the season. Lasting this long is a taxing experience- not just on the queens but on their wardrobes. No matter how prepared a queen comes, no matter how many extra costumes they bring "just in case," this competition has a way of magically forcing the queens to use all their best work long before the final episode airs.

NOW: On with the show! In no particular order:

Bob The Drag Queen: Miss The Drag Queen has been and continues to be my personal pick for the crown. I genuinely believe that Bob is the most well-rounded of the girls left on the show, not to mention the best Show Headliner Ru could hope for. She's had as good a track record as Kim Chi, a more varied runway than Bianca Del Rio (a previous Comedy Queen winner), and her greatest strengths are those I truly believe fit best with America's Next Drag Superstar. She's a skilled orator, a politically active advocate, a motherly figure who encourages and helps her fellow queen, and extremely media savvy to boot (if you haven't yet check out her youtube channel and especially her series "Bobbin' Around" please do so. Hysterical.) And while I would pay to see any of these girls live- I would probably pay the most (and be the most motivated to get there) to see a Bob show. The reasoning is simple: she is a performance powerhouse. She can dance, she's got brilliant MC and comedy chops, and her lipsynch skills are some of the best the show has seen. A Bob show is an engaging, fun, exciting experience and would be a massive draw for Ru-related events.

Sure her makeup isn't as avant-garde as Kim Chi's or as flawless as Naomi's, and her costuming isn't on par with the works of art that Miss Chi has consistently sent down the runway- but they haven't been bad either. Some of them have been downright gorgeous in their own distinct way (her episode 1, 2, 5, 7 and Book Ball outfits especially). If Miss Bob's looks had been truly disastrous it would definitely make me question my support, but they simply haven't.

As for this episode? Bob had some trouble with the first part of the Maxi-Challenge (though not nearly as much as Kim Chi), she nailed the second part (proving once again that her lipsynch and performance skills are off the charts. Girl made the deathdrop cool again!), and her Mirror scene was fun (especially with her I Just Fisted A Coal/Gold-mine Hands). Overall she did as well or better than any of her other competitors. There honestly isn't that much for me to say here. One of the advantages the production has with a challenge like this is that they can pick and choose whatever cuts they want in order to form whatever level of quality it takes to justify their decisions- so it's not like we're truly seeing how good these girls did here. On top of that were weren't even given a Final Reel during critiques like they usually do- so their final performances are a mystery (at the time this episode originally aired. I assume we will be able to see once the Music Video airs). 

We can talk about her runway, however. In the proud tradition of Raja and Violet, Miss Bob's final runway was the visual equivalent of a "wa waaaaaaaa" sound effect. I personally enjoyed it, and understood her reasoning for wearing it- but it was ultimately a little too simple and boring for a final runway look. Her padding was great, her makeup was okay, and her hair wasn't a hot mess- but that's the best I could say for it. Like I said before, though: the final runway is usually a letdown, so the relatively disappointing showing by Miss The Drag Queen doesn't change whether I think she deserves to win (obviously). What it means, however, is that she really needs to bust out some AMAZING shit for the Reunion. If Bob can show up in her best looks of the entire competition then I truly believe she has it in the bag. I hope she understands this and has been spending the last year preparing for just that.

I'm rooting for you, Bob! Don't fuck it up!

Kim Chi: Kim Chi has done about as well in this competition as one could hope, and easily deserves her place in the Top 3. From the very beginning she has been a stand-out on the runway, giving us breathtaking look after breathtaking look that showcased the brilliant flexibility of her makeup skills and fashion. Once you drop the desire to create a convincing female illusion the world of Drag Makeup tends to become limited only by your imagination- and that is something Miss Chi clearly has in spades. Everything from her very first cat-inspired Wig Realness Look to her Picasso On Acid Neon Runway was well thought out and impeccably executed. Miss Chi has, in my opinion, shown herself to be among the greatest Visual Queens RPDR has ever seen.

She has also been playing the game about as well as Bob: she knew exactly when to reveal the interesting parts of her life, had endearing (and often hysterical) confessionals, and was able to come up with a catchphrase that, while not reaching the levels of "Purse First," will still manage to be one of the most remembered lines of the season: "Donut Come For Me". Even her weaknesses couldn't keep her down (no matter how many times they caused her to literally fall to the ground). It takes an exceptionally intelligent queen to spin her greatest weaknesses into endearing quirks, and Kim Chi did just that when it comes to her lack of performance skills and inability to walk in heels. I've said it before and I'll say it again: Kim Chi is the yin to Bob The Drag Queen's Yang- both equally strong, talented, intelligent competitors with complimentary strengths and weaknesses.

But those weaknesses do exist, and they are weaknesses I truly believe are less conducive to the crown of RPDR. When people have asked me to elaborate on this my answer can be summed up like this: everything Kim does best (which is flawless and considerable) can be found on her various social media and digital outlets (Instagram, Facebook, Twitter etc.). I wouldn't necessarily feel the need to go out of my way to see her live because everything she does well can be appreciated just as easily from the comfort of my tablet or smartphone. I feel like the Crown is best served by a girl who can be a good host (as I mentioned above) and this is exactly where Kim Chi shows herself to be the most lacking (at least in comparison to Miss Bob). This isn't to say, however, that she isn't an eloquent girl. She proved that she can give emotional, well thought-out, powerful speeches in this episode (hers, even more than Bob's, got me teary eyed). And honestly if the crown indeed goes to Kim Chi I am ENTIRELY confident that she would do the title justice. She's simply too amazing not to. It's just my humble opinion that, between these two wonderful girls, Bob deserves it just a tiny bit more.

Anyways, let's get into her performance in this episode: she was (predictably) the worst when it came to the first section, managing to give us one last Kim Chi Wipeout as she fell off the black box she was lying on. The second part, however, was a perfect example of Kim Chi realizing her strengths and weaknesses and downplaying the latter while emphasizing the former. Her outfit was STUNNING (even more stunning than her final runway look, to be honest) and it had lovely wing-like shoulders that she was able to interact with. Using these she stayed stationary and let her upper-body and costume do the talking, and it worked out extremely well.  The final section was not amazing, but she still looked FANTASTIC while standing there awkwardly talking into a full-length mirror.

Now for her runway: bitch hit it out of the park again. While I don't think it escaped the curse of her "best drag" being overshadowed by other looks worn earlier- it was easily the strongest look on stage (fun fact- supposedly her Cherry Blossom look from Episode 2 was supposed to be her "Best Drag" look but she decided to whip it out early due to her subpar performance in the Maxi Challenge). Tonight Kim Chi was giving us Donnie Darko Rabbit Collided With A Giant Black Buzzard Realness and I was living for it.

Again: do I want her to win? Not as much as Bob. But if she did win? I would totally get it. It feels very much like Season 3 in that respect. In the end I was happy with either Raja OR Manilla taking that season- and the same can be said about Bob and Kim.

Naomi Smalls: Naomi Smalls is not who I would have predicted making it to the Top 3 with Bob and Kim Chi. While I have been very much a fan of this leggy girl since she was first introduced, her initial performances seemed destined for the kind of mid-season elimination that many girls get relegated to when they can't make themselves stand out. She always did moderately well, and I always loved her runways (except for the first one), but at the same time she was never the best at the challenges and there is validity to the criticism that her looks were all strikingly similar. In fact I'm somewhat shocked that Michelle never bothered to whip out her "Stop Relying On That Body" with Finger Swazzle in response to her third or fourth Lingerie look. But then Wizard's Of Drag Happened. And I know some of this was probably edited for emphasis- but Naomi worked it the fuck OUT in that episode and remained consistently strong throughout the rest of the competition. She had a genuine "Wake Up" moment- as opposed to Season 7's Pearl whose entire "Wake Up" narrative felt forced and heavily overblown (the girl was never asleep, thank you very much).

So yeah- Naomi isn't who I would have predicted making it to Top 3. Hell, I don't even think she makes the optimal Top 3 out of the Top 4. But the girl deserves it nevertheless. She can move like a goddess, dance like a Diva, and her makeup skills/fashion sense is stronger than girls who are twice her age with five times the experience. She's also insanely sweet, having built obviously strong ties to all the Top 4 girls (and many of the eliminated queens as well). Naomi also represents a wonderful trend in our culture: a girl whose talents thrived due to a strong supporting family who love her for her. It's a heartwarming, powerful example all parents of LGBT children should aspire to- and what better way to show off this poster-child for New Age Acceptance than by giving her the Crown and the press that comes with it? It may not be as compelling a case as the ones for Bob and Kim Chi- but the argument is there and it is valid.

When it comes to the Music Video Challenge: she did second-best in the first part (her overly-long legs and lack of core strength kept her from being the best, honestly), she was MESMERIZING in the second part (her blue Kylie Minogue-inspired Outfit was just stunning), and she was in her element in the third part. As for the runway? It suffered the same "too simple godammit" issue Bob's was afflicted with, but it was also well fitted, pretty, and as polished as any of her previous pieces. That's all I can really say there.

Naomi Smalls easily exceeded even my initially lofty expectations and I'm thrilled she is Top 3. Regardless of whether she wins the crown or not (by my prediction not) she has already won by making it this far and doing so with more grace than nearly anyone else this season.

ChiChi Devayne: Awwwwwwwwww shoot. I'm going to say it right now: I was thoroughly (THOROUGHLY) disappointed that Ru didn't say "fuck it" and simply decide to keep all four queens for the Finale. For the first time in RPDR herstory I was going to be genuinely broken up regardless of which queen was sent home- and it proved very much true with ChiChi. The minute I saw her at the NYC Live Premier I had already begun to adjust my initial impressions, and by the end of the first episode I was hooked on Miss Devayne. She has been a charming, charismatic highlight of nearly every episode, and she managed to give us LSFYLs that will go down in herstory as some of the best to ever grace the mainstage. While it is true that she had the spottiest track record of all the remaining queens (she had to LSFYL twice with one other low rating on top of that) she was also easily as improved as Naomi and, quite honestly, had the best personality out of all the remaining girls.

She also would have been the queen to make the most well-rounded Top 3. If Kim Chi is Yin and Bob is Yang, then ChiChi was Yong, the dancing, bright pink third slice that creates TRUE Fabulous Balance in the universe. She also made for a wonderful Underdog. They may have beat us over the head far too frequently with the information that she came from nothing and still had nothing- but they also had a point. More than anyone in this competition ChiChi would have benefitted THE MOST from the $100,000 and publicity the Crown would bring. Unlike Bob or Kim Chi (especially Kim Chi) Miss Devayne was a relatively unknown queen coming into this. Barely any presence online, no national following whatsoever . . . when I tried to look into her before the season began I distinctly remember coming up empty-handed. Does she need the crown to advance her career? Not at all- her mere presence on the show has all but cemented her as a fan-favorite. But it would have helped nevertheless.

When it comes to her performance in the episode: she did amazing in the first section, hit a snag in the second (I honestly wasn't all that big a fan of her makeup and the dress was not conducive to dancing), but looked STUNNING in her mirror portion. As for her runway: it was good. The hair and makeup were an 11 out of 10 but the dress was kind of cheap looking and "just okay" to me. Like I said before: none of these queens seemed to do any better or worse than their fellow competitors. ChiChi's efforts in this episode were as successful as the other three girls who made it- so the track record I mentioned above is probably what ultimately proved to be the deciding factor. It's frustrating, but completely logical. I just wish Ru had used a slightly different line of reasoning.

However this is where we must say "until we meet again" to our Kajun Girl From The South. I can't WAIT to see what the future holds for Miss ChiChi- because I know it's bright. As long as she stays true to herself and keeps working her ass off she can easily become an international hit in the Drag Scene.

 

And so now we wait for the finale, holding our breath and watching as Kim Chi's established internet fanbase proceeds to skew the voting system (I jest, but mostly because I think it's true). Whose team are you on? Why? Let me know! Also as a heads up: I will be doing a RANT for the Reunion where I will be talking about each girl's looks and final impressions. Stay tuned for that one!