The second episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race is packed with 14 queens, three B-52s, two cheer squads, and a weirdly out-of-place Lisa Kudrow.
It’s all a little much.
The editors are being a gaggle of tricky bitches this episode, keeping most of the stars of episode one in the background while foregrounding a new set of queens.
That makes for a big juggle in the rankings, and a bit of a mystery about who the next weak link will be after this week’s bottom two.
If you want to read more each week, please leave a comment and share on social media, okurrrrr? It’s the only way I can know anyone is out there listening, henny.
1. Shea Couleé
Average: 3; was 6.
I was living for Shea Couleé this week.
She might not be the most reasonable pick for the queen to snatch the crowd, but there is no question she’s exiting this episode in the best shape of all the queens.
Shea was unquestionably the star of Nina’s cheer team for me. I noticed her serving face and cheerleader realness every time she was on screen. She was so much more memorable than Nina and Cynthia that I halfway convinced myself she was a team captain. She had the best of all the tumbling passes and nailed her stunts.
Shea also broke out of the background to be a voice of reason in the work room and in confessionals. Not even a bitchy voice of reason, which is what I might have expected based on her commentary last week!
Her runway was marvelous. She layered a swirly, part-nude, white body suit with a plastic cut-out cone bra bikini to create awesome texture. It was a slight sci-fi spin on White Party, and her Barbarella wig was a perfect (and absolutely intentional) touch.
I tagged her last week for combining a lot of disparate things, but this didn’t clash at all. Instead, it totally pulled your eyes all across her body. That goes towards resolving some of my first week doubts about her looks being basic or pieced together.
This performance showed me that Shea isn’t all about high concept or comedy. The only thing Shea Couleé is all about is “slay.” That’s going to take her far in this competition.
Average 4; was 7.
Well, Valentina’s mysterious X-Factor from last week certainly held up this week!
She was unquestionably the star of the cheer competition, not only in gamely churning out one-handed cartwheels and flying stunts but in serving high school cheer squad realness. Then, she wowed the judges on the runway with her perfectly-detailed white wedding look. (Except for the shoes, as Michelle would (and did) remind us.)
Also, for what it’s worth, she’s one of the most handsome boys in the history of the work room. And, her interrupting in Untucked somehow comes off as charming and coquettish compared to the other girls (maybe because she interrupts to give compliments or to give others the floor).
Yet, I’m still soft on Valentina. I can’t quite put my finger on why, except to point out that she interpreted “White Party” as “White Wedding.” If she hadn’t completely nailed the look of a blushing bride she probably would have been read for the choice.
When it comes down to it, she basically won the week for having the good taste (and resources) to wear a stunning wedding dress. Yes, the head styling and veil was gorgeous, but I would have preferred that dressing up something other than a wedding gown and her Cheshire grin.
I think Valentina is an A-student who just cannot help but be a little bit extra. That gets you far in cheering and being a perfect bride crashing someone else’s White Party, and I doubt she’ll be felled by delusion like similarly self-motivated queens like Max or Thorgy before her.
If anything, she might turn out to be more of a Courtney Act, who also managed to score an A on just about every assignment. The question is, can a squeaky clean perfection queen really go all the way on the deeply weird Drag Race? Let’s not forget that Courtney had a nearly irrepressible whacky streak that we saw from the first episode to the last. We saw a little of that from Valetina in this episode, but how much more whacky is she packing?
3. Nina Bo’nina Brown
Average: 2; was 1.
Despite being a team leader, Nina completely faded into the background this week.
It’s hard to know if that’s more to do with her edit or her performance. She had little to say to her team, barely turned up in confessional, and wasn’t too noticeable in the cheer competition.
Her runway was fine. It was a generically amazonian take on White Party – nothing memorable, but nothing too tacky, either. Nina still did some creative painting with a drawn-on tiara, but it wasn’t anything like the over-the-top mouse or peach from last week.
Backstage in Untucked the girls pegged her as the owner of an inner saboteur, but we didn’t get that plotline at all in the episode.
I was so hoping we wouldn’t see yet another savvy black southerner pegged with this plotline but here we are. Yet, as I look down this list of other girls, I really don’t see anyone who I think can knock her off. If this quiet performance was the worst work her saboteur is capable of, she’s going to be fine.
Average 3; was 2.
There’s a plus and a minus for Peppermint this week.
On the plus side: she’s an undeniable charmer.
She’s already become a gif-able confessional favorite and her workroom tale about high school bullying surprisingly turned into a feel good story. She had limited exposure on the cheer squad, but still managed to be memorable.
On the minus side: she’s already repeating looks!
Her White Party look turned out to be a washed out carbon copy of both her entrance look and her Bowie look. Another belted kimono-esque robe! At least Bianca’s repeated looks offered a flattering silhouette.
Plus, this week’s robe dress was festooned with a bunch of tacky jewelry and confusing makeup – exactly the thing Gaga warned her about last week!
So, Peppermint has two streaks – one of charm, the other of copies in need of editing. I think they cancel each other out for the moment, leaving us with her positive attitude and gameness for challenges.
We’ll see which of the two streaks she keeps up next week.
Average 4; was 4.
The editors slightly pumped the brakes on Eureka this week, which let her recede back to charming from the slightly overbearing one-girl Greek Chorus of week one.
We got a lot of smaller moments of personality with her this week. She wasn’t too pleased with Cynthia’s return, she lost her shit over the brief visit from Lisa Kudrow, and she read Kimora for not being into the detailing of her costume.
Eureka’s White Party look was just “alright.” She delivered an androgynous take on “Like a Virgin” with a frilly white bustier and see-through pair of linen pants. I wasn’t a fan of the heaviness of her off-the-shoulder mink, but otherwise have no specific complaints
Between that and her able performance in the cheer competition, it was surprising to not see her in the top group – as all of the girls opined back stage.
Unfortunately, her most significant line of the episode may have been narrating the pop of her knee in the cheer competition. Props to Eureka for going all-out as the biggest girl on the cheer squad, but without a further callback to her injury in the rest of the episode I have to think the editors were presenting us with a Checkov’s gun that’s going to go off later in the competition.
Will Eureka survive the future knee-gate? And, how long can that gun possibly take to go off considering the physicality of just getting into and out of drag, let alone the performances?
6. Trinity Taylor
Average: 8; was 11
Trinity showed the most progress of all the girls this week. She might have catapulted herself from an also-ran to a contender.
While she had some hesitations about the cheer competition, Trinity came through when it counted the most – in performing it.
She was one of the handful of most memorable queens from the first moment we see her in the cheer gear. She and Valentina carry her team, she nails all of her flying stunts. Even more importantly, she read as a cheerleader – a young woman who showed up on the field to be so enthusiastic that other people would feel her enthusiasm, too.
That was a little bit of a surprise from a pageant queen who I expected to be more on the reserved side. Her runway reinforced that there is more to Trinity Taylor than pageantry. Her Gaga-esque white vinyl space vixen was one of the more carefully detailed looks of the night and she strutted it perfectly.
The best part of Trinity’s first week was her poise and control as The Countess, and we saw a lot more of that this week. Even if she was just channeling Gaga again, it showed an ability to make a conscious choice about taste and how she presents herself. That was also evident in her cheer character.
Trinity just might turn out to claim the title of “most self-aware pageant queen.” If she does, she could wind up being a fierce contender for the finals.
7. Alexis Michelle
Average: 6; was 5.
Alexis Michelle had the misfortune this week to come off as big talker with little to show for it.
Much time was spent on her switching roles on the cheer squad and coaching Jaymes. Sure, some of it was in service to Jaymes’s departure, but it felt like it was also teeing up something memorable from Alexis.
However, there was nothing there aside from a cute introductory cheer. That makes me a little nervous. However, as a Broadway queen Alexis isn’t going to be felled by acting or singing, and they’re surely in the mix for one of the next two episodes.
Her White Party look was a let down after a trio of strong looks last week. The white highlighted makeup with a violet lip didn’t gel with the shock of white hair, though I did love the massive Valkyrie wings of earrings on either side of her head combined with the faux-hawk of hair.
Ultimately her silhouette came off as a bit frumpy and mannish. Maybe she needs to cinch and pad more to avoid a potato-sack look on her fuller frame?
There’s no denying Alexis’s charm offensive whenever the group assembles for a chat, although the ladies rightly pegged her as being the most intense or serious of the gang in Untucked. I have a feeling some viewers will begin to see her as a villain, but I still see a charming and sometimes uncertain theatre kid beneath the wig.
8. Sasha Velour
Average: 5; was 3.
Sasha flirted with being in the bottom two this week, and could have been in trouble if not for Kimora’s lack of commitment to Sparkle Motion.
Sasha’s White Party look completely escaped my notice after a pair of watches. Even staring right at it I’m not really sure how I feel about it.
She’s definitely serving some Helen Mirren realness with her make-up and short white hair, but her outfit was a boot for me. She wore an elderly-looking blazer and slightly mermaid-ish dress with too-big elbow-length white gloves pulled over the dress.
Between her confusing silhouette, the length of her skirt and the fact that her look was more silver than white, her look was completely stripped of impact. I would have had her
Sasha comes off kind and level-headed in her interviews, but not meek. I’d say that I doubt she’s going to fade into the background, but that’s just what she did in the team challenge.
Part of that might be how much of a chameleon she is. Just as her fierce painted-face Gaga was unrecognizable compared to her Boy George-ish hometown look, it was hard to find her massive blonde wig in the cheer squad and she was a stranger with her blonde wig on the runaway.
However, on re-watch it feels like she’s always a millisecond off from the rest of the team’s choreography.
So: transformations? Check. Cheerfulness: Check. Fashion? Question mark. Performance? Question mark. Week three is going to be an important proving ground for this queen.
9. Cynthia Lee Fontaine
Average: 8; was 8.
I thought I was so ready for some more Cucu in my life this year after Cynthia’s run ran cut short last season but I might have been wrong.
Cynthia showed off the same flat, first-round of the pageant fashion this week as she displayed last year. Her big reveal entrance look was straight-up bad. It wasn’t a Gaga look or a hometown look or really anything except for a purple bathing suit with some terrible chest shading.
While her Meet The Queen video has her feeling a little bit more of her fantasy, tonight’s runway was both too much and unimpressive. It was a tight-fitting gown so bejeweled that it seemed to be sagging a bit, a la Darienne’s Glitter Ball look. Vertical stripes around the skirt added to the perceived heaviness, and Vegas feathered plume was droopy.
Yet, it was also the most lovely Cynthia has ever looked in makeup, serving straight up Audrey Hepburn.
If she has an chance against this pretty fashionable set of queens, it might be in the challenges.
All we saw from Cynthia last year was a strong lip sync and flat acting but she was in the upper-middle of the pack in this episode. She managed to translate her rubber-faced wackiness as a cheerleader, and her stunt as a sort of flying human see-saw was one of the best ones.
We know from experience that team acting is going to be one of the next two weeks. If Cynthia can make it through that (or enough other queens just flunk) then we might get to see her Cucu shred through some other challenges.
Let’s hope so, because she isn’t going to win on the strength of her suitcase.
10. Charlie Hides
Average 11; was 12.
Charlie Hides came off well this week.
She was cheerful and cooperative in the cheer team preparations, hit her marks in the choreography, and gamely tried both tumbling and a flying stunt despite having some legitimate concerns that her agèd body might not be in the physical shape for it.
She also showed off a strong level of taste in a total about-face from her trio cartoonish outfits last week.
Truly, I think she had the most high-class, refined White Party look – perhaps even the best of the night. Her clean-lined white dress just brushed the floor, she had on just enough jewelry, and her bouffant and fur-lined hood screamed 50s dress-up party – and I’m talking about the decade, not the age.
Charlie still feels like she’s a background player in this story. I have no doubt Charlie is also a seasoned performer, and I believe in Season 6 or earlier she might have stood out more, but I’m starting to doubt she has the charisma to break out in this crowd. There’s also a nerve factor there – she’s already doubting how much the judges will buy into her as an older queen, and that doubt is going to come through in her performances if she doesn’t get it in check.
Average 10; was 9.
Every year there is a queen that most people are here for and I find messy or unbearable. I thought this year it might be Valentina, but there’s a lot more complexity to her still to unpack. However, I can safely say I’m already done with Aja.
Aja was barely there this week, which was probably for the best – her most noticeable moment as a cheerleader was being out-of-sync with the entire rest of the cast during the rhythmic dance portion of the program.
Her White Mage realness on the runway would have been a big hit if not for her styling. . It was a sort of druidic robe with a rope belt that criss-crossed the bodice as a halter, along with matching half-cape that suggested a bolero jacket.
I know that sound’s really fucking strange, but the rough texture of the fabric and the pure whiteness of it really sold the look. It felt sophisticated yet easy to digest.
The less said of her cheap-looking Halloween wig and heavy eye make-up, the better. The hair paired with the druid look and a glittery tiara made her look like a life-sized She-Ra figure. Also, she has a habit of closing off her body when she strikes a pose by shrugging one shoulder and crossing an arm down to her hip or across her body. She needs to learn how to open up her body language to better sell her looks.
My general sense is that Aja is a must-watch queen when she’s alone on stage by herself feeding off the energy of a live audience. I’ve watched a few of her lip sync performances and they’re… nice? I think as much as she feeds off of live energy, she probably also comes off more impressive in a room filled with it.
That means she’ll probably skate through at least one Lip Sync if she winds up on the bottom, but I’m just not getting any star power from this girl whatsoever, even if I ignore the styling issues.
12. Farrah Moan
Average 11; was 10.
This pocket-size queen needs a lot more zing to survive this crowd of killers. Being adorable and a bit naive isn’t enough.
Farrah was a decent cheerleader, although it felt like she was only really memorable for her stunting (where she was shown up by Trinity).
Mostly she was serving Swiftian surprised face, which brought back the meh memory of another pint-sized queen: Jade Jolie.
I don’t actually think they are very much alike as queens, but they’re both tiny, cute, inoffensive, and very middle of the pack.
Farrah’s runway was okay-ish for the White Party, but it would have been brilliant last week as her hometown look! It was still feather-plumed Vegas look, this time a glittery one-piece bathing suit with an open skirt with thigh cutouts.
Speaking of or Vegas queens: Both Farrah and Kimora go way overboard on highlighter, and she doesn’t even have Kimora’s excuse of it not being right for her skin color.
Just like you can’t rest on “pretty” on Drag Race, being super-cute only gets you so far without nerve and some killer runways. We need to see a star turn from Farrah pronto or she is going to get buried at the bottom of this pile of ladies.
13. Kimora Blac
Average: 13; was 13.
This week Kimora revealed herself to be exactly the kind of queen she telegraphed being week one – all talk, and no drag.
She was completely forgettable as a cheerleader, barely showing up even if you were watching for her massive hair like a hawk. Behind the scenes in the work room, she seemed allergic to doing any … well, any work. She objected to stoning her own skirt and generally whined about how she prefers to pay people to do her costuming for her.
That’s a valid life choice, but this is Drag Race, henny. Embrace the materials.
I could maybe forgive Kimora’s haughtiness if it was paired with champagne tastes, but her constant tackiness might be better for the champagne of beers. While her makeup was a world improved from the silvery mess of least week, her runway was by far the weakest of all the queens.
It wasn’t just for her inability to stick to the “white” part of “White Party.” The detailing and editorial vision just weren’t there. Michelle rightly points out that if some of extra elements were also white the look would have read better, but I’m just looking for her to do something that doesn’t look ratty, tattered, and tired.
Finally, when the chips were down in the Lip Sync For Your Life – presumably where a Vegas stage queen ought to shine – Kimora was a complete flatline. It was a close call as to if she did any better than Jaymes, who at least found some whimsy in “Love Shack.”
So, this queen isn’t packing any looks or any secret dance moves. Maybe she can skate by for another week if one of the other queens has a meltdown, but she’s not long for this competition.
Goodbye, Jaymes Mansfield, accurately assessed at Power Rank 14. We hardly knew ye, but there was hardly a ye to know.