It’s the debut of the tenth season of RuPaul’s Drag Race, and these fourteen queens are seriously tens across the board!
There hasn’t been a debut that has felt so chock full of big personalities and relatively devoid of filler queens since Season 6.
Past the stellar cast, this debut episode tips RuPaul’s strategy of treating season ten like a “greatest hits” of the past nine seasons. That not only shows in the return of the popular “Drag On a Dime” construction challenge, but also in bringing back a slew of queens to act as a featured audience for the runway mini-challenge.
We’ve seen Ru bring back past queens on the show before, but to see so many of them (including lower-placing finishers) in the audience for this bombshell regular season debut on VH1 was really heart-warming. They’re all amazing artist, and they deserve the boost that comes with the show’s newfound higher profile after RuPaul’s pair of Emmy wins.
But, enough about RuPaul’s Best Friends Race – how was the battle to be America’s Next Drag Superstar? We saw a slew of shake-ups compared to last week’s Pre-Season Power Rankings – including one huge fall and three major rises!
All right, readers – start your engines. And may the best woman … win!
1. Mayhem Miller
Mayhem Miller proves she came to slay with a commanding first episode performance. She pulls so far out in front of the pack that nearly all of the other queens have a lot of catching up to do.
Mayhem’s entrance look was pure pageant glam – a floor-length red velvet dress. It read a lot like a typical Kennedy Davenport runway, especially with a perfect halo of dark wavy hair. The make-up was a touch heavy for camera, especially the blush, which was also a feature of Mayhems’ Meet The Queens look.
Entrance Look: TOOT
In the mini-challenge of strutting in front of the past queens, Mayhem didn’t just serve slinky pageant realness. She vogued, duck-walked, and even cartwheeled in her gown! It was definitely among the most memorable performances.
Yet, what really separated her from the pack (both of current queens and past comparisons) was her statement-making Drag On A Dime runway.
We’ve seen constructed vinyl and trashbag looks before, but Mayhem’s scandalously sexy vest of latex gloves read as haute couture and incredibly sexy. Here the heavy blush really works in her favor as deep checkbones, and the combination of a glossy lip and a heavy black eye made Mayhem look look a total sex bomb.
Few other queens in the cast came close to this memorable performance, and of them none have the narrative momentum of being someone who has applied for the show year after year (which is not a plotline we’ve had from a potential front-running for a while now). That puts Mayhem squarely in the pole position of this race as the #1 queen tipped to make it to the finals.
2. Miz Cracker
Miz Cracker lived up to her unpredictable promise from Meet The Queens with an Episode 1 performance that was partly annoying, partly hilarious, and partly carefully controlled camp.
Cracker’s entrance gown was a slicky blue dragon fantasy. This slinky, scaly dress really popped and was perfect for her blonde Jewish-American Princess persona.
However, her wig line was a bit suspicious. Cracker is such a brown-haired, brown-eyed boy that she has to work extra hard for blonde wigs to look real and not just like a bad bleach job.
Entrance Look: TOOT
Cracker was one of the few queens to bring a real high-fashion look to the runway in this Drag On a Dime challenge. She was serving some Wicker Widow Realness with her deconstructed shower curtains and broad-brimmed hats. The high-collared vest look of her top is a weird cheat, since it would be hard to carry off without a flat chest, but it yielded a beautifully constructed silhouette.
Similarly, her grayish make-up make her look less sad and more like a cadaver, but combined with her acting on the runway it totally worked to sell the tragedy of her character.
In short: context was everything. Plus, Ru and the gang were totally living for her deadpan raunchy humor!
There’s no denying that Cracker came out of this episode as a major star, but she was also tagged with the spectre of her copying off of the prettier, skinner, more wild Aquaria.
Narratively, I can’t help but wonder if Miz Cracker is being built up her just to use her later downfall to boost Aquaria. Cracker is one of the most unique and hilarious queens in this cast, but it doesn’t feel like this is her year to win Drag Race after two other brainy New York Queens. She’s going to have to deliver a near-flawless performance to make it to the finals.
3. Asia O’Hara
Asia O’Hara redeemed her awful Meet The Queens wig in a major way in this opening episode, turning out two strong looks and a few distinct moments of loveably personality.
It wasn’t a breakout performance like Mayhem’s, but it showed off her strengths in a positive light.
Asia’s white leather entrance look was straight-up Mary J. Blige and utterly unclockable. She was the one of the fourteen queens who looked unmistakably like a woman, from her shape to her make-up to her body carriage. If you’re going to go casual for an entrance look, this is how you do it.
Entrance Look: TOOT!
On the runway, Asia went hard at the Party City qualities of this Drag On a Dime challenge. Even if we’ve seen these quinceanera dresses before, I think it was a smart move on Asia’s part to build one. Not many of the other queens were going for camp and delivering it strongly. For Asia to go there as a pageant queen feels like a risk, and it’s one that turned out well for her even if she was safe.
(Also, how damned gorgeous was her face on the runway?!)
It feels like ‘Asia vs. Mayhem / Cracker vs. Aquaria” might be the pair of big power struggles of the season, with the winners facing off in the finals. The pair Asia and Mayhem are such veterans and so well-matched. Asia’s edge might be that she has an unbothered, can-do attitude that’s not handicapped with years of Drag Race rejection like Mayhem.
4. Yuhua Hamasaki
Yuhua is rude, crude, and beautiful – an instant standout from the crowd in this episode full of killer queens.
Her entrance look was a Kimono-She-Betta-Do, looking stylish and slinky without feeling like a costume in the least. She also looked a lot like Bianca Del Rio – to the point that you could be forgiven for mistaking one for the other.
Entrance Look: Toot
After the mini-challenge, Yuhua delivers one of the cringiest moments in the history of Drag Race while the queens strip down to their boy looks as she unironically and persistently tells the four black queens that they all look the same. It’s not a good look for Yuhua, even if it’s more likely she couldn’t remember the three M names (Monet, Monique, Mayhem) rather than not being able t tell the girls apart from each other.
Bianca always played at the edge of racism, but she was personally respectful before and after she made her racist jokes. Yuhua comes off with a displeasing “say anything” brashness that isn’t the sign of comedy, but of a lack of a filter. It’s less comedian, and more sociopath.
Despite endless fretting over her runway look in the work room (and Monet calling her “a seamstress, not a designer”), Yuhua somehow manages a brilliant garment made entirely of Caution tape. Her flowing dress that actual has shape and moves.
Michelle can try to play the “seen it before” card in her critique, but the fact of the matter is that when we see plastic looks they tend to other be formless or rigidly structured. To make a plastic look that was effortlessly flowing was a remarkable achievement.
Yuhua seems to have both the personality and the fashion to make a deep run on Drag Race, and the show hasn’t exactly been spoiled for Asian representation the past few seasons save for Kim Chi. However, I worry about Yuhua left to her own devices in a humor or marketing challenge, where she might go too blue with her humor for Ru.
5. Monique Heart
Monique slayed this episode from bottom to top.
I tend to dislike pants suits and separates for entrance looks, so the fact that Monique slays while doing both is remarkable. Her gold fringe suit is gorgeous and inventive, both showing off her toned figure and giving a constantly swaying silhouette like leaves in the wind. I can’t decide if blonde hair was maybe a little much for her gold suit, but anything brunette would have been hideous .
Entrance Look: TOOT!
Then, on the Runway, Monique delivers one of the most simple and memorable found-materials construction looks in the show’s history. She constructs an entire look from playing cards, using floppy-brimmed hats to structure her skirt, making a firm card-covered corset, and designing a fantastic asymmetric backsplash behind her head of red plastic hair. Also, it’s looking like she might have the best straight-up fishy make-up skills of this entire cast.
Altogether, she is serving Queen of Hearts realness that only could have been improved if she had shouted “Off with her head!” If it wasn’t for the utter slayage of the top three queens tonight, Monique would have been in the running for a challenge win.
I’m puzzled that a queen who slayed this hard in the first episode and is so funny got hardly any major moments of her own. Maybe she just has her breakout an episode or two down the line. However, I’m afraid the silence both in judging and editing is painting her as canon-fodder. I’ll need to see her burst out of the pack next week to believe she has a shot at the finals.
Aquaria does exactly what she needs to do in this episode, and I think the edit she gets speaks well to her lasting deep into this season.
She is granted the final entrance, which allows for the maximum impact of her Instagram fame on the collected queens – had it been a smaller crowd, there was the risk she wouldn’t be recognized.
Her entrance look was body-ody-ody but also fashion, all red and all vinyl with a tiny belt for a halter top to emphasize her pencil-thin frame. Then, Aquaria put doubts about her stage presence to rest with a wild, energetic, messy alumna runway presentation full of spins and splits.
Entrance Look: Toot
(I would have worn her entrance look in high school in a heartbeat. In fact, I kind of did rock a pants version of this look.)
On the main stage, Aquaria’s Slutty Bo Peep look might have had some ragged edges, but it was undeniably more couture than a lot of the other girls. Like Eureka, Aquaria went for a massive silhouette, but by baring her flat boy chest she avoided the massive look shrinking her down too much.
Yet, there’s no other way to say this: Aquaria’s runway make-up was busted. It didn’t even look like a parodic level of drag, it just looked wrongly-applied – especially the too high apples of her cheeks. For a queen with this level of fame and who is making a stink about Cracker borrowing her brow look, it would behove her to get her own mug in order before she comes for anyone else’s.
Part of why I loved Violet Chachki so much in Season 7 was because she was the beautiful young queen, but also an underdog learning how to polish her personality as much as her presentation. She had no pre-Race fame to speak of, and the other queens didn’t expect her to be able to pull out success after success. Aquaria feels like she’s going to get a similar arc about her prodigal talent, but it’s just a little less charming for me to see it applied to someone who’s already mildly famous.
Will Aquaria’s sometimes-messy performance bring me around to the idea of her as a winner, or will she always come off as an even cheaper Chachki than Violet?
7. Eureka O’Hara
Eureka O’Hara acquits herself well in this first episode, coming off as a memorable and genuine personality with middle-of-the-pack looks.
Eureka’s rising phoenix entrance look was boldly colored but came off a bit flat on screen. Sometimes a matte solid color fabric just doesn’t read for the camera like it does in real life. I think if the body of her outfit was jeweled or patterned this look would have been stronger. It didn’t help that the ridiculous wingspan led Eureka to be a bit on the stiff side on the alumna runway as she pranced for the Drag Race alums.
Entrance Look: Toot
I think Eureka was on the higher side of safe for her main runway look, which was one of those moments that shows she knows how to dress her larger frame.
She went for the biggest hoop skirt ever to give the bottom hem of her dress a massive circumference, which in turn made her look impossibly petite in the center of it. She looks like a giant-sized petite queen.
Eureka’s ability to judge and translate proportions is genius, and her make-up was beautifully soft. On anyone else I might have suggested the dress come down a few more inches, but it would have ruined the illusion here.
I don’t think Eureka needed to crush the first challenge to stand out in this pack. They’ll already treating her like the elder stateswoman of the season for her prior experience. It’s going to take a while for the other queens to get out of that reverent mode to knock Eureka down a few pegs, and by then her march to the finals might already be cemented.
Her main risk is that there’s half a season’s worth of polished fashion queens ready to step into her limelight. She cannot afford a tacky week on the runway with this crowd.
8. Monet X Change
Monet X Change is ultimately going to suffer from coming two seasons after Bob The Drag Queen, to whom she bears a striking visual and vocal resemblance. Monet is more fashionable than Bob and less outrageous, but there’s no denying she has a similar sort of “polish remover” quality to her.
You do not want to be known as the less-funny, less-fashionable Bob The Drag Queen (who was a lot of the former but none of the latter) in the same season when Bob’s own drag daughter is an actual fashion designer and just as vicious.
She enters the workroom in a denim jumpsuit with a push broom and strips down to a strikingly simple “Rosie the Riveter as a pin-up” look. It’s cute, but low-key – probably the least-spectacular of all of today’s looks save for Kalorie.
Entrance Look: Toot
Monet’s mini-challenge presentation is hilarious and memorable, giving her a well-earned win. Then, after a lot of hemming, hawing, and trash talking in the workroom, Monet’s scrubbing sponge dress is more dingy than brillo.
She produces a lumpy, formless silhouette, and the transition from the sponge-adorned corset to the dragging yellow skirt is abrupt. There’s no color patterning to it at all, which is a missed opportunity to do a striking, swirling pattern of green and yellow.
Plus, Monet doesn’t deliver her typically striking feminine make-up, instead going for slash of charcoal black across her eyes that plays up her masculinity.
It’s an all-around poor choice that tells me that Monet can’t be entirely trusted when she’s left up to her own devices. Bob couldn’t either, but Bob was also the most riotously funny queen in the history of the show. (Sorry ’bout it, Bianca.).
Unless Monet shows off a major talent outside of her charm offensive, she’s not going to crack the top five against this crowd.
9. Kameron Michaels
Kameron Michaels seemed so unique in her preseason appearance, but in this episode she’s total wallpaper. It’s not a great sign when the most memorable thing about you in the premiere episode is how cute you are as a boy (unless your name is Pearl, I guess).
Kameron’s entrance look was one of the weakest in Drag Race history. Her pretty floral dress was unremarkable, and dressing it up with a leather harness only added tackiness. Plus, her wig was bad – it had a cheap, pre-styled look to it, and the proportions of its volume weren’t right for her pretty paint job.
Entrance Look: BOOT!
While she had a briefly memorably moment on the alumna runway with her slow side split, most of her airtime in this episode came from the other queens gagging over her muscled body. It was hard to tell from her responses if she is self-confident, stuck up, or a little bit shy.
On the main runway, Kameron would have been in serious danger in a crowd that was just one or two queens smaller than this one. Her astroturf and fake flowers look had the same sort of “fuzzy blob” quality as Robby Turner’s Bitch Ball look from her debut episode, which was historically awful.
Luckily, the garish colors of Kameron’s outfit helped it stand out a bit, but despite being safe she was probably a lovely first alternate to our bottom two. She needed to lose the hat, which made her silhouette too straight-up-and-down, and add some explosion of frill lower on her outfit – either making the waist come out even farther or taking the dress to the ground as a astroturf mermaid.
Not every strong queen comes out of the gates in episode one with an instantly memorable performance, but winners almost alway stand out in the first episode. While I still expect good things from Kameron, my hopes for her high placement are significantly diminished.
10. Blair St. Claire
Blair St. Claire brought nothing to this episode.
Her entrance was instantly forgettable, from a aimless singing routine to a shapeless white trench coat, too much highlighter on her cheeks, and too-shiny, too-red hair.
Entrance Look: BOOT!
Part of my annoyance with her entrance is that she could have easily done so much better! In the mini-challenge, we discover that Blair has a striking cobalt blue dress beneath her jacket, which pops much more and helps her hair look less fake and wig-like. Had she come in with a va-va-voom bursting out and stripping off of her jacket and a melody that had some bigger melodic jumps, she would have landed like a bomb blast.
Then, on the runway Blair represented the one serious difference of opinion I had with the judges (and it seems a lot of the internet sides with me on this one). Her Judy Jetson Sweet Sixteen look was a muddle.
The pleated skirt didn’t transform the windshield visors enough, so they just looked like what they are rather than a garment. The bust top portion of her look swallowed up her petite frame. And, if she wants to do dark hair looks, she needs to take a different approach to her make-up, which clashed hard here.
The judges seem to be open to what this Broadway baby has to offer. I have no doubt Blair she’ll dance adequately and could slay an acting or singing challenge, but this ingénue doesn’t have the star wattage to make the finale.
11. Dusty Ray Bottoms
Dusty Ray Bottoms is low-key adorable both in and out of drag, but her unnecessarily rude critique from Michelle Visage on the runways seems to presage a brief run on the show – as does her genuine, somewhat-bashful personality.
Dusty’s entrance look was deconstructed Carrie Bradshaw. It looked adorable, but I don’t think a NYC punk take on Sex In The City is in the cards for a win this year after two straight years of New York deconstruction of comedy and then of visual art. This is a fine look, but Dusty needed to read the room and go for something more dilapidated glam than glammed up casual.
Entrance Look: Toot
Then, on the runway, I loved Dusty’s carefully pleated Tin Man – but, I agree with Michelle that the detailing was a little off. The pops of red beneath the silver weren’t really working for me without another accent color to tie them together. Also, I think the cone hat was just… perfunctory? If it had been HUGER, or accompanied by cone breasts, I think it would have worked better.
Yet, this really is not a boot for me, and I think it was constructed way better than Blair’s similar look!
It seems like the judges and I aren’t too far apart on this, which makes me think Dusty was in the bottom here as a warning shot. She’s got to deliver a higher-caliber, more detail-oriented caliber of drag on this season if she wants to survive until the midway point.
12. The Vixen
As with Kameron, Vixen is more notable for being a stunningly handsome boy this week than for anything she does in drag.
And, unlike Kameron, I’m not sure she ever managed to be as pretty in drag in this episode as she is as a boy in confessionals.
Vixen’s entrance look was like a parade float of drag looks – bold, descriptive, but constructed specifically to be towed behind tractor at low speeds. Her personalized Chicago Tourism Billboard was cute, but it didn’t match at all with her fiery personality and fast-moving antics. The billboard wore her.
Entrance Look: BOOT
Unlike Kameron, who floats in the “it’s a boot but it’s a safe boot” zone, Vixen’s runway is train-wreck quality. I know I’m not the typical audience for these constructed “cage” looks that imply a shape, but Vixen’s attempt at recreating it out of pull noodles was floppy and full of exposed tape an glue.
Serena Cha Cha would love it.
Vixen is going to be a memorable competitor and I’m quite sure she has a lot of talents, but from this episode (and its Untucked) it seems like her focus is much more on being messy and rude than being the next drag superstar.
13. Kalorie Karbdashian Williams
Kalorie has the distinct misfortune of being the sole obvious filler queen in a cast where nearly everyone feels worthy of making it to the top half of the season.
It’s hard to tell if Kalorie’s small-market drag just isn’t evolved enough to compete with the other girls, or if she simply has a borderline-boring fashion sense that’s too influenced by the Kardashians. Her entrance look of a bathing suit and denim boots might work for a banjee challenge, but as a way to introduce herself to the wider world of Drag Race it was a major faux pas.
Entrance Look: BOOT
Then, on the runway, Kalorie’s knockoff money ball dress just wasn’t enough. We’ve seen so many jaw-dropping paper gowns over the years on Drag Race that it’s not a winning prospect to go for another one without a surplus of materials and talent. Just pasting dollars onto a dress and corset isn’t going to cut it. Kalorie had access to plenty of other materials, and should have alternated some other “cheap expensive” thing with the money.
(Also, when will queens learn that an exposed or uneven corset in the rear of their look is going to get read every single time?)
I was seriously impressed with Kalorie for pulling out not only a good lip sync, but a memorable one to make up for her lackluster first episode performance. What Kalorie has that most early outs on drag race do not is a winning personality. There’s something adorably compelling about her girl face, and she’s got a sassy drag character who isn’t afraid to be sexy as a big girl or make a snappy comeback to some of the bigger personalities in the group.
Ultimately, that might not get her more than an episode or two farther in this season, but I think it means she can depart with her head held high.
Sashay Away… Vanessa Vanjie Mateo
Speaking of big personalities: have we ever had a first-out queen quite as memorable as Vanessa Ms. Vanjie Mateo? She was a ball of fire on this episode!
Even if she was memorable, I can’t say I’m surprised that Vanessa was sent packing first. She had a gorgeous entrance look and a big personality, but she didn’t have a stage presence to match her ambition.
Furthermore, I just don’t buy that RuPaul has any interest in an unironic banjee queen. Ru likes a good meme queen, but not as much as she loves intelligence and self-awareness.