This week on Drag Race, the queens were faced with an all-syncing, all-dancing tribute to The Kardashians and a faux fur runway.
These pre-choreographed lip sync challenges rarely give any queens a chance to shine, but this week’s was a bit different since almost all of the girls got to impersonate a current celebrity.
Or, at least, I hear they are celebrities. Other than being vaguely aware that one of them is married to Kanye West and that another was a Drag Race judge, I really don’t have the slightest idea of who any of the Kardashians are.
Meanwhile, faux fur was a fail, with most queens looking rather slapdash in their attempt to mix and match fabric and fake animal skins.
Did anyone come out of this week looking good? Three queens rose from last week’s standings, although one was really more about sinking less than her competitors than rising.
1. Shea Couleé
Average: 2; was 6, 1, 3, 1
I didn’t feel that Shea dominated the lip sync maxi challenge quite as much as the judges felt she did. Maybe that’s just because I have no idea who Blac Chyna is.
(Please, don’t explain it to me.)
Still, Shea was the obvious queen to come out on top this week thanks to Alexis’s worst-runway ever (more on that in a moment) and Shea’s imaginative neon mini-dress. It was so ugly it was couture!
We’ve now seen three performance-oriented challenges where Shea’s mastery was off the charts – her level of enthusiasm, memorization, and choreography is can’t even be compared to all of the other girls. What remains to be seen is how she fares when she is creating content all on her own. We saw a jokier take on that in her Hometown look in week one, and she had one of the weakest Gaga looks.
The first hurdle will be next week – Snatch Game! If Shea can survive that with a Safe ranking or better, I think there is little that could derail her from a trip to the finale.
2. Trinity Taylor
Average: 5; was 11, 6, 2, 3
Trinity rises a spot on the back of a performance that was just more noticeable than the other four girls vying for the number two spot in Shea’s wake.
I thought Trinity’s inspired bout of madcap Paris Hilton impersonation was the best thing about this week’s challenge, even if she wasn’t as featured as Shea or Nina. Her typical cross-eyed wackiness fits Hilton to a tee, and she somehow made her limbs seem even longer and ganglier than normal.
Her leather and feathers runway proves there is no simple box of fashion you can cram her into. It might have been a little “too much of everything,” but it wasn’t awful and her personality shined through all the animal carcass.
This was a solid bounce back from Trinity’s stumble last week captaining the morning show. Between her lip sync slaughter of Charlie and this all-around strong performance, I think she’s settling in to the number two spot.
Average 3; was 7, 2, 1, 2
Valentina was extra safe this week, with a wallpaper performance across from Farrah’s crash and burn and an unremarkable glittery runway look.
There really wasn’t a way for Valentina to shine as one of the back-up Kardashian sisters, which was probably for the best. Slightly easing off of her “You’re perfect, you’re beautiful” front-runner status probably isn’t a bad thing, as it means girls won’t be gunning for her as hard.
Still, with a simple snake-skin dress with gorgeous hair, Valentina maintained her impeccable runway sense. Also, there’s a lot to be said for how unphased she was by Farrah’s major fail during their performance together.
I’m starting to wonder if we’ll ever see Valentina lip sync prior to the final four.
5. Nina Bo’nina Brown
Average: 4; was 1, 3, 7, 5
Nina Bo’nina Brown delivered an excellent performance this week – maybe the best one of the episode!
Her maxi-challenge lip sync was rock solid and may have been the only one of all five Kardashian siblings that felt like a fully-realized character. And her slick fur-lined jacket and short coif on the runway was one of the most conventionally stylish of all the looks.
Despite that, her inner saboteur threw a spanner in the works: she never quite got over missing out on being Blac Chyna. Nina couldn’t quite bury that hatchet even as she was slaying her own performance.
Being a terrifically enlightened human being, RuPaul simply won’t allow this sort of self-doubt and self-sabotage into her trio of final contestants. It’s easier for her to miss that a queen is a straight-up bitch, like Phi Phi in Season 4, but she’s ultra attuned to queens who won’t let themselves succeed. While Ru is terribly interested in curing such maladies, she’s not going to promote them.
We’ve now seen Coco Montrese, Trinity K. Bonet, Kennedy Davenport, and Chi Chi Devayne all saddled with this similar “underachieving southern black queen could be a winner if she was sure of herself” storyline leading them to burn out in the top half of the competition (even while northern queens Bob and Naomi slayed the house down). Each year, it feels like we get a little closer to shattering this mold.
Can Nina break through and hold off Sasha, Peppermint, and the others below? I’m not sure. She’s crazy-talented and easy to root for, but her streak of doubt and spite runs deeper than Kennedy and Chi Chi, two of the strongest queens in the history of the show.
5. Sasha Velour
Average: 6; was 3, 8, 8, 4
After getting noticed last week for her zany hijinks with Shea, Sasha was back to the middle ground this week in both the challenge and runway.
Her Lindsay Lohan lip sync was on point but didn’t really capture the character. Maybe that’s because the wheezing lyrics mostly her her coughing up a lung – which she performed gamely! However, it didn’t read as Lohan the way Hilton and Spears did for their respective divas.
On the runway, Sasha’s Russian outfit read more as Halloween costume than couture. It was well-executed, but there wasn’t anything especially fashionable about it. That rendered her super-safe among a few syncers who blew it and major runway failures.
As much as there is to be said for momentum, consistency is also important. If even on an safe week Sasha is easily in the top half of the cast, that leaves her in position to slay as soon as one of the best girls makes a stumble.
Here lies Eureka, with a stellar average of 5. It was certainly not her time to go in terms of talent, but this show just isn’t made for a queen on crutches. Luckily, that added up to her receiving an open invitation to return for Season 10 – where she will be a major favorite to win.
That makes me wonder – how would the show accommodate a queen with a more permanent disability, rather than a temporary injury?
Average 4; was 2, 3, 5, 6
If I was ranking queens on the power of their challenge performances alone, Peppermint would have returned to the top three this week.
Her Britney Spears was sheer early-00s fire – she had the Britney moves down as well as Derrick did last season, and she was a professional Britney impersonator! It’s pretty impressive for a black woman with a curvy body shape to totally sell the tiny, blonde Britney, and Peppermint nailed it.
However, yet again, Peppermint’s fashion sense is failing her. After last week’s barely-there skirt disaster, this week’s performance wasn’t much better – a muppety pink jacket over another suspicious pink dress.
This is almost more frustrating than the inner-saboteur storyline – a queen who slays at everything but runway. I’ve got my fingers crossed that Peppermint is just saving all of her truly stunning looks for later, but as the field narrows eventually that’s going to see her flirting with the bottom two.
Average 9; was 9, 11, 10, 10
Aja was barely noticeable in the lip sync challenge and she was in yet another weird and unflattering triangle bikini look on the runway.
I’ve now ru-watched the Kardashian musical three times (pity me) and still can’t remember anything in specific about Aja. That could be down to the gawky character she drew. She does a decent job of it, but would have probably been better swapping with Cynthia for Kim K, where she could have stood out more.
On the runway her styling was strong, but the actual garment she wore was a failure nearly identical to her Princess Disastah look from two weeks ago. Part of what doesn’t work about this look are the lines – the diagonals of the bikini chained to the bottom shortens her torso, and the high-waisted underwear doesn’t help any. Burdened by her powder puff coat, her body was completely swallowed up by the look.
There might be no denying Aja’s star power, but there’s just not that much that’s memorable about Aja past her fiery personality. I think this queen needed another year or two to defend her position as the hottest thing in Brooklyn before appearing on the show.
8. Alexis Michelle
Average: 7; was 5, 7, 6, 8
This week was a sad confluence of highs and lows for Alexis that average out to a slight drop in the rings.
She won the mini-challenge partially on the strength of her fantastic make-up game, and then cast her lip sync musical with acuity and was an utterly perfect caricature of a “momager.”
Alexis also presented one of the most basic runway looks in Drag Race history. It made me think of Mystique Summers Madison, who was blasted way back in Season 2 for her mall wear. Not only that that neatly defuse the tidy win this challenge would have delivered to her, but when Aleix realized her error she lashed out irrationally at the rest of the cast in Untucked. She wouldn’t even let poor, sad Farrah Moan leave to practice her lip sync song!
Maybe it’s the contrast of not having a real villain on the show since Season 5, but just a little burst of this kind of behavior seems to really sandbag a queen these days – not just in the competition, but with potential future fans. Alexis needs to clean up her act and watch her own details if she’s going to survive more than three more weeks of the competition.
9. Cynthia Lee Fontaine
Average: 9; was 8, 9, 9, 9
I adore this cuckoo Cucu, but this week seemed to prove she’s a novel middle-of-the-pack queen more than a future Drag Race Hall of Famer.
Cynthia showed a peculiar weakness for lip syncing this week as she starred as Kim Kardashian. Having a famous cucu in common should have made this a major win for Cynthia, but instead of serving up slinkiness she played Kim K like a mouthy clown.
On the runway this week as she turned out another plain, long dress – this one looking like a velour Snuggie. It eventually revealed itself as a two-in-one look, but even post-reveal it still looked like a fake velvet blanket. She also kept up her penchant for dark, masculinizing make-up looks when we know she can turn out a beautiful Audrey Hepburn style face.
It will be a delight to see Cynthia compete in Snatch Game, and I doubt she’ll be in the bottom two. With a singing challenge sure to turn up not long after that, she may have a few weeks of life left in her.
10. Farrah Moan
Average 11; was 10, 12, 12, 10
Farrah was just awful this week.
There’s really not a lot to her performance to defend. She could not figure out her choreography, which is literally playing patty cake, and her syncing was on the vague side.
Her runway outfit was blah – a glittery dress reminiscent of her entrance look with a green shag coat. I will give to Farrah that the coat was tailored correctly for her tiny frame – it didn’t swallow her up at all and emphasized her long legs. Yet, this look is nothing the write home about.
Worse than either of those offenses, Farrah was a dull lip sync artist. If that was her fighting for her life, I don’t think we’l be living with her much longer.
On top of that, there was more whinging and crying out of Farrah this week in the episode and on Untucked. I just cannot with this little queen, y’all.
Farrah’s a very sweet, very pretty queen, but past seasons have taught us that pretty girls need to have a lot of other talents – think of Courtney and Violet – and even then they get accused of “resting on pretty” nearly every week. Farrah’s only means of survival at this point is to stay out of the Bottom Two, as there is no one in the cast she can possibly knock off based on last night’s performance. She’s not that pretty.