05 February 2018
Hello, hello, hello kitty girls! Welcome to season three of RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars. I may have missed the first episode of the season, but we’re off to a roaring start and I just couldn’t keep my mouth shut so, for now and the rest of the season, I’ll be taking you through all the triumphs and disastahs our all stars have to offer.
After last week’s elimination of Morgan McMichaels (RIP, but also #TeamChiChi forever), Ben dela Creme is simply devastated that she had to make such a tough choice and crush one of these girls’ dreams. As if anyone cares. Look, I understand that this is probably difficult. These queens know each other in real life and understand that the choices they make on the show impact both their careers and the careers of the people they eliminate. However, rightfully, no one is buying Dela’s sob story. You don’t get to cry about winning the challenge and the lip sync! You just don’t! No one is going to feel bad for you and if you didn’t want to eliminate people you shouldn’t have won the lip sync. Or better yet, you shouldn’t have come to play All Stars at all. You knew the rules, girl. I came into this season without strong feelings about Dela, mostly under the impression that her schtick got a little old quickly and she lacked range, and I have to say that even with her dominant performance thusfar, that feeling as only solidified. Constantly walking around wide eyed and excited like she’s in the Wizard of Oz and not on a reality show is so boring and I firmly believe that her triumph in this week’s maxi challenge was somewhat facilitated by production, but we will get there.
Ru tells the girls that this week they will each be impersonating a VH1 diva that has been assigned to them in a lip sync extravaganza honoring Mama Ru herself. Gather around for the cast list, ladies:
Trixie Mattel as Dolly Parton
Thorgy Thor as Stevie Nicks
Milk as Celine Dion
Ben dela Creme as Julie Andrews
Bebe Zahara Benet as Diana Ross
Kennedy Davenport as Janet Jackson
Chi Chi Devayne as Patti Labelle
Shangela as Mariah Carey
Aja as Amy Winehouse.
Gag! Each of them will lip sync in the style of their diva to an iconic Ru song, and put together a runway based on their mistakes of the past. They must recreate a look from a challenge that they failed at in their previous season, which I love as a premise because it allows for a direct comparison to show how each queen has improved not only in technical proficiency in creating these looks, but also in their creativity, as they are allowed to do something completely different as long as it still fits the original category from their season.
Thorgy immediately gets to work on her conspiracy theories, believing that the judges intentionally screwed her but giving her the role with the least to work with. If you listen closely, you can hear the ghost of Bob the Drag Queen laughing at her. Here’s the thing: Thorgy might have a point. Some of these roles are much easier to pull off than others. However, I have two major points about this: One is that this is RuPaul’s drag race. It’s not Survivor or Big Brother where you can get to the end and win despite being an underdog all season. If Ru does not want you to win, even if you make it to the final 3, you will not win. So if production is screwing you over, it probably means you aren’t going to win anyway so while I understand that that’s frustrating for Thorgy and Thorgy fans, I don’t think she was long for this competition anyway and to have her advance would only be to delay the inevitable for one or two more weeks. Of course it’s not fair, but it doesn’t strike me as something that majorly alters the competition. The other thing is that Thorgy intentionally sabotaged the campiest, most “yas queen” features of Stevie Nicks. Specifically, Thorgy understands Stevie so deeply that she refuses to play up any of her witchy qualities, helpfully pointing out that Stevie Nicks is not in fact a witch, so she’s not going to work with that aspect, completely limiting how over the top she’s able to go with the character.
The frustration from the Thorgy of it all is reflected by Todrick Hall in the choreography rehearsal, which is plagued with its own problems. Shangela’s diva-dom I’m sure was overblown for editing, but her spot-on in-character Mariah behavior certainly couldn’t have been easy for a choreographer to work with, no matter how fun it was for TV. Kennedy is having trouble learning her choreo, while Thorgy whines and moans that she needs to be given more things to do and that life isn’t fair.
Mirror talk this week as everyone gets ready centers on the queens’ impressions of each other on their original seasons. Now that Morgan is gone, everyone is very sweet towards one another and has kind words about seeing each other’s potential. I’m going to put forward what might or might not be an unpopular opinion, which is that drag race is better when it’s a little bit RuPaul’s Best Friend Race. All Stars 2 is one of the most legendary seasons of all time because it was about the talent. Drama was created organically and we got some incredible moments of tension (Katya’s deadpan “party” after Alaska’s meltdown will always be a top 5 moment in Drag Race herstory for me), but the queens did genuinely support each other – outside of the Phi Phi of it all – because they respected that they were all incredibly talented. Real competition borne out of everyone being there to win is much better TV than everyone hating Alexis Michelle for being annoying, so I like that these All Stars are not particularly going at each other quite yet, though I’m sure we’ll get there. Be shady ladies, just don’t get personal!
On the runway, the queens serve their second chances realness and some do better than others. Milk looks like she’s going to be in the background of a community theatre production of the Drowsy Chaperone. Aja’s upgrade is INCREDIBLE. It demonstrates everything she’s done since last season to upgrade every single aspect of her drag. It’s couture, it’s polished, it still hangs on to the creativity, but the makeup and the presentation are perfect. Honestly Chi Chi’s neon look is not really better than her last one, it’s not well-tailored and it’s not super original, but it was not bad enough to drag her down to the bottom 3 after what I thought was an incredible Patti Labelle performance. Something tells me the judges are not feeling Chi Chi this season and I’m not happy about it. Trixie’s Ugliest Dress Ever is a much better effort than her previous attempt, which was far too understated and not actually that ugly. This pink bow-covered abomination definitely serves the theme much better and seals Trixie’s altogether very solid week. Though a little clunky, Kennedy’s reveal, transforming her from fire to ice, a recreation of her hilarious misfire on the Death Becomes Her runway, was pure fire… and ice. It was perfect and again was a demonstration of the elevation of her drag, particularly her dedication to putting more effort into every single look. Thorgy’s look left pretty much everything to be desired. The eyebrows look like they’re made of construction paper, the dress is cheap and ill-fitting, and the hat looks like it was thrown to her by the DJ at a bar mitzvah as a freebie. It’s no good, mama. Call me a hater, but Ben’s look was not better. Sure, it fit the theme more because this time she was literally dripping in jewels, but the look itself was not an upgrade. It’s the exact same silhouette! Bebe looks simple yet regal. I love the story that in season 1 she was the secretary and now she owns the company. The white eyeshadow really becomes her and she serves anything like the queen she is. And then there was Shangela. The most jaw-dropping transformation anyone could ask for. Repenting for her tragically thrown together Christmas look way back in season 3, she turns her bubble skirt into a GIANT BUBBLE that she pushes down the runway. I’m speechless. This shows that Shangela has learned so much since her last two stints and is ready to put everything into her drag, and that she has ideas to elevate drag to new heights.
The Tops: Shangela absolutely nails it at Mariah Carey, prompting my biggest LOLs of the night as she skirts around actually singing until the very end where she pulls out a big riff and takes a well-deserved bow. A+ material. Ben dela Creme knocks it out of the park, but as I alluded to earlier, I think she owes the producers an assist here. Not to sound like Thorgy, but just thinking about “Call Me Mother” in the style of Julie Andrews brings a smile to my face, so while Ben did perform the heck out of it, I think anyone who competently executed this would have been safe. That said, these two fairly rightfully end up in the top and will lip sync for their legacy and to eliminate one of the bottom queens. Bebe is of course regal as Diana and takes the third spot in the top three, and Trixie predictably kills it as one of her idols Dolly Parton. Aja’s Amy Winehouse is nothing to write home about but her runway is enough to convince me that her performance last week wasn’t a fluke and this girl came to play. Chi Chi SERVES her Patti Labelle, and the only thing the judges were able to clock her for was her runway look, which doesn’t explain how in the world she was in the bottom three over say, a certain dairy product. Which brings us to…
The Bottoms: Milk did not even deserve to be safe, yet she has a full on tantrum about not being in the top? Girl, bye. Your Celine Dion look was unidentifiable, the runway look was not there, and much like I told Ben about winning the challenge, there’s no crying over being safe either! This girl is doing nothing for her brand, and given that she came into this season fighting an uphill battle as an underdog, I don’t see this attitude carrying her for or doing wonders for her career outside of this competition. Speaking of attitude, lackluster source material or not (even though Stevie Nicks IS a gay icon!), Thorgy did not bring it with her diva impersonation. It was less of a concert experience and more of a scene from Hair. Thorgy whines her way all the way to the bottom to alongside Kennedy Davenport, queen of my heart, whose Janet look was unclockable and the fact that the judges didn’t like it either shows a bias against Kennedy or a fundamental lack of knowledge about Janet Jackson, but she did miss the lyrics and for that there’s no excuse. Yes the choreography was difficult and she pulled it off, but you can’t lose your words in a lip sync, just ask Valentina.
Backstage, amidst Milk’s meltdown (Milkdown?), Thorgy is pleading for her life and tells Shangela that she is open to alliances. Drag Race historians can correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe this is the first official use of the A-word on All Stars. I’m not surprised Thorgy is the one to drop it – I attended one of her shows two years ago during the airing of Big Brother season 18, and she shouted from the stage to ask who in the crowd was keeping up with BB. Superfans coming through! Unfortunately, the queens know that sending home Kennedy would be indefensible over Thorgy, and while alliances may be something the queens should be thinking about, an alliance with Thorgy, who is likely never going to be in the top two and is therefore not in a position to keep them safe, is pretty useless. Ultimately, Shangela murders the damn lip sync and sends Kennedy home, and I would be shocked if Ben reveals that she wouldn’t have done the same.
Overall, I’m hyped on this season and happy with the eliminations so far – at least out of the bottom two each week the right person has gone home – and am excited to see how these queens continue to step it up, and to figure out what this Handmaid’s Tale shit is about! I’ll be here to recap it every step, stomp, and twirl of the way.