Before I dig in to our final power rankings of RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars Season 3, I want to take a brief step back to discuss the cultural phenomenon that is Drag Race.
Last week RuPaul made some offensive comments about transgender women and their ability to compete on RuPaul’s Drag Race in an interview with The Guardian. This isn’t the first time Ru has been dismissive of the feelings and identities of trans queens, although it’s the first time the issue has gained enough traction that he personally apologized (via Twitter).
I am not the right voice to weigh in in the topic of trans competitors on Drag Race. To understand the community’s feelings about this issue, this BuzzFeed article has a good summary, as does this follow-up by The Guardian. The trans voices in those articles lend their own important perspectives, and if you are a fan of this show I think it is worth your time to listen to them.
In listening to transgender and genderqueer people talk about not just RuPaul but Drag Race and drag in general, I understand that some of them feel that the line-blurring and parody aspects of drag can be harmful to them – either directly, or through influencing perception of their identities. Similarly, I know queer people who dislike Drag Race for the way that it depicts (and, to a degree, commodifies) queer culture in a specific, stereotypical, and sanded-down way.
(It is important to understand that a trans person who is dressing to fit their gender identity is not in drag, regardless of their transition status. The assumption that any male-bodied person dressing as a woman is doing drag is a harmful one.)
Alternative gender expression has been important to me my entire life. Some of my earliest memories include dressing up as Wonder Woman and Jem as a little boy and being told that was fine. Maybe that’s why when I discovered the art of drag as a teenager (partially through RuPaul, but also in Priscilla, Queen of the Desert and Angel in RENT) it resonated with me so strongly. Not, not just strongly. Viscerally.
Drag can be parody, political, and expressive – often all at the same time, and it explores the often arbitrary lines our society has drawn between what it means to be male and female. That’s important to me and to my own conception and expression of gender, but I understand that it’s not for everyone.
In loving Drag Race, I acknowledge all of those problematic aspects of it. Yet, I love drag and for me – someone who doesn’t enjoy going out to bars and clubs – Drag Race is my primary means of accessing and consuming the art of drag. It’s also a highly produced reality TV show, which is not the same as actual reality.
And that’s what I have to say about that.
I turns out that next week will be the final episode of this season of All Stars – which makes this the final All Stars ranking! Which queen has the most momentum towards taking the crown? And, how will a surprising second return from the eliminated queens back as a jury of peers play out for our four finalists?
Don’t worry – All Stars 3 may be over, but my drag coverage will continue! Next week there will be 14 new queens to meet as I rank the queens of RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 10 based on their pre-season coverage. The new season debuts on March 22.
Shangela destroyed this episode from top to bottom. She was fantastic in the acting challenge, needing not a single note from Ross Matthews to direct her Southern maid-turned-rocket-scientist based on the roles of Octavia Spencer.
On the Runway, Shangela’s Cylon Basestar inflatable realness was one of the craziest looks in runway history – a total TOOT for me (and it didn’t even look too bad when it was deflated). And, love it or hate it, her heavy-suit lip sync to RuPaul’s “Freaky Money” will be talked about for a long time to come – and not just because of how Shangela was dressed.
If the Queens’ Jury is voting in the negative, Shangela has at least one vote against her from Thorgy, but that could be it. She also may not have lined up any queens who will vote in her favor aside from Ben, since she may have cancelled a potential positive vote from Morgan by booting her in this episode.
I’ll say this now: If Shangela misses her shot at the crown due to feedback from other queens, I will (blog) riot. I’m okay with her losing All Stars, but only if that’s Ru’s decision in favor of someone else – not from downright riggery.
2. Trixie Mattel
Trixie Mattel finally found her sweet spot this episode with the starring turn in the movie trailer and one of her sexiest and most simple runway looks ever as a model librarian in high-waisted hot pants.
The entire reason I do these Power Rankings (aside from being obsessed with this show) is that I think performance and momentum matters more than the track record of wins, tops, and bottoms can communicate. Last season I was sure that Sasha had a solid shot at the crown by about halfway through the run, despite her lagging behind other queens in wins.
That’s how I’m feeling about Trixie right now. It feels like she could be a winner, baby. She was in the top in two out of the last three episodes, but it’s more than that. Trixie had an extremely strong start where she could have easily been declared the winner in one of the first three weeks, completely stalled out in Snatch Game, and then came back with a strong finish. It’s clear that Ru is feeling her performance in the past few episodes.
Regardless of challenge wins, that’s a winning track record – especially without Ben still in the game. If Trixie slays in the viral one-take video challenge next week, she could easily take the crown.
Plus, Trixie benefits from the Queens’ Jury regardless of if they vote for a winner or to give a queen the boot. I don’t think anyone would vote against her (save for maybe Morgan), and she’s definitely got a positive vote locked in from Thorgy Thor (and maybe also from Milk).
Considering that it seems impossible Trixie would miss a final cut by the jury, don’t be too surprised if she walks away with the crown next week. Plus, a Shangela and Trixie finish would probably be the most exciting post-Ben option.
3. Bebe Zahara Benet
After a season full of strong and safe performances, Bebe finally stumbles in this penultimate episode.
While her jewel-encrusted red runway was beautiful, her performance as The Queen was a complete flatline. Her only saving grace is that she failed quietly. She wasn’t as out-of-character as Kennedy or as misdirected as Morgan.
However, Bebe’s rare miss here was more than a single challenge loss. It served to emphasize the more conservative and boring aspects of her performance across the entire season, which the other queens merrily took the opportunity to point out in the workroom.
Bebe could be in danger of a boot from the Queens’ Jury if only because some of them might default to “no one should win twice” as the safe position. (Plus, she will absolutely be Aja’s vote to boot.) I’m not sure if anyone would vote in her favor, aside from perhaps Chi Chi.
Can Bebe win if she survives a cut by the jury? I think it’s entirely possible against every one of these other queens. She’s a safe choice for RuPaul if she’s fretting at all about awarding a queen who will seem inadequate in the shadow of BenDeLaCreme, because Bebe is already a winner. You can’t really dispute her Hall of Fame qualities.
4. Kennedy Davenport
Kennedy is in the opposite position from Trixie right now – she had an initially strong track record, but she has zero momentum after (somewhat unfair) negative feedback in four straight challenges. A lack of late-game momentum is same problem that felled Kennedy in Season 7. Well, that and Ru’s unexplicable fascination with Pearl.
Kennedy’s movie trailer performance was a little too madcap. She interpreted “jazz” with too much of a modern bent that was more “jazz hands” than anything slick or cool. Judge Chris Colfer nailed it when he pointed out that for all her smiles, Emma Stone tends to portray a serious inner life on her face. Kennedy’s performance was silly and charming, but it was all outer life.
On the runway, Kennedy was glistening. There are few Drag Race contestants that do this high caliber pageant drag better than she does. When she glams up, Kennedy goes straight to “eleganza.” It’s easy to understand why she slays pagaent competitions.
Kennedy speech in the workroom about being people’s “second thought” really struck a chord. Even as one of the strongest competitors in the history of the show, she has been generally ignored by fans. The drag fandom made a meme out of her “crystallized” monologue, but it was Trixie and Katya who got their own show.
Hell, Adam Rippon quoted Kennedy’s iconic runway to get ready for the Olympic games. Plus, this season Kennedy had by-far the best one-line meme (or: “Me Me”) with “Fuck my drag, right?”
(I am totally not making fun of Kennedy for thinking “meme” was pronounced “Me Me,” because I am the king of not knowing how to pronounce anything since I learn words mostly by reading them rather than hearing them.)
Despite that, fans just haven’t warmed to Kennedy the same way as other queens. There’s certainly something about drag’s inherent racism baked in there.
Kennedy is in serious danger from the Queens’ Jury because she has the objectively worst track record of the remaining queens. In a vote for who to boot, that makes it easy and inoffensive for queens to apologetically pick Kennedy. In a vote for the win, it will be hard to convince an undecided queen to cast a ballot in her favor, though I could see either Morgan or Chi Chi breaking for Kennedy.
If Kennedy somehow survives a jury vote, I think the only queen she has a shot at beating in a final pairing is Trixie. In that faceoff, I could see Ru deciding not to opt for a second ostensibly comedy-based queen and that Kennedy is more representative of all of drag (including the funny parts).
The Finale Match-Ups
Whether our Queens’ Jury cuts the final four down by one queen or two, here’s how I see the final match-ups shaking out. Basically, everyone benefits from either Shangela or Bebe getting cut by the Jury, whether they are making a positive vote or a negative one.
|Bebe||x||Bebe Wins||Evenly Matched||Evenly Matched|
|Kennedy||Kennedy Loses||x||Kennedy Loses||Evenly Matched|
|Shangela||Evenly Matched||Shangela Wins||x||Shangela Wins|
|Trixie||Evenly Matched||Evenly Matched||Trixie Loses||x|
The Queens’ Jury
Here’s the shorthand version of how I guess each queen will vote:
|Queen||Booted by||Vote to Boot||Vote to Win|
|Morgan||Ben & Shangela||Anyone!||Shangela or Kennedy|
|Milk||Kennedy||Kennedy (but maybe Bebe?)||Trixie|
|Chi Chi Devayne||Ben & Shangela||Kennedy or Trixie||Anyone (but maybe Kennedy?)|
|Aja||Bebe||Bebe||Shangela or Trixie|
|BenDeLaCreme||Herself!||Bebe or Kennedy||Shangela|
Or, visualized another way:
Keep reading for the full rationale on my prediction for each queen.
Morgan remains a wildcard amongst these ten queens.
In a vote for who to boot, I could see Morgan going for anyone.
Morgan was annoyed by Bebe’s flat Queen performance this episode, and I think she’s the kind of revolutionary who wouldn’t want to see a past winner get another shot. Kennedy’s low track record might have made her the queen Morgan wanted to go home this week.
Morgan goes way back with Shangela, but Shangela did just kick her off the show. And, Morgan is okay with Trixie now, but she’s still in the confessional pointing out that she’s acting grand. I could see Morgan voting to cut her to remind her of her place.
In a vote for a winner, I can only see Morgan voting for Shangela or Kennedy. Shangela because of her track record and their friendship. Kennedy, because she represents a pure, performance-based version of drag that I suspect Morgan really respects.
Thorgy is the most clear-cut vote of all the returning queens.
In a vote for a boot, Thorgy will pick Shangela. Thorgy didn’t get a satisfying resolution to her boot last episode and she is exactly the sort of messy queen who will vote out the girl who gave her the cut.
In a vote for a winner, Thorgy will absolutely pick Trixie. We’ve seen multiple moments of Thorgy showing fashion clown solidarity with Trixie this season. It’s an obvious choice.
A week ago I would have said Milk’s votes would be obvious, but now I’m not so sure.
In a vote for a boot last week, Milk would have picked Kennedy. Yet, after their conversations during Milk’s brief return, I’m not sure Milk is feeling all that bitter towards Kennedy. She could also go for Bebe, who she doesn’t seem too impressed by. However, I’d be shocked to see her come for Shangela.
In a vote for a winner, Milk will pick Trixie. Like Thorgy, Milk seems to have an affinity for Trixie, another queen who placed slightly lower on her season but went on to major stardom. I think Trixie is Milk’s conception of who ought to win.
Chi Chi DeVayne
Chi Chi is just as mysterious as Morgan, but for a different reason. Chi Chi is the ultimate kind queen, and I feel like it will be important to her to play fair – maybe more important than any other alliance she has.
Bebe is royalty and has performed consistently the entire time – something Chi Chi will have mad respect for. I could see a winning vote for her, but not a boot.
Kennedy is Chi Chi’s good judy, and she just gets Kennedy’s drag. But, if Chi Chi wants to play fair, Kennedy has the weakest track record. I could see a boot vote or a win vote for Kennedy, depending on which the queens are asked to provide.
Shangela is a professional, she killed every challenge that Chi Chi witnessed first hand, she took care of Chi Chi in the Bitchelor performance. It’s really hard to imagine Chi Chi giving her the boot.
Could Chi Chi be the the sole vote against Trixie, as a queen who has not benefited from the WOW viral video train? Perhaps, but she could just as easily show mad respect to Trixie’s hustle with a winning vote.
Aja’s votes seem pretty plain to me.
In a vote for a boot, Aja picks Bebe. Obviously Aja is still harboring some resentment against Bebe after her ouster. Beyond that, I can see Aja wanting to crown some new blood.
In a vote for a winner, Aja will pick Shangela or Trixie. I don’t think she’ll go for Kennedy’s weaker track record, especially when she outdanced Kennedy repeatedly, and she’s not going to vote in favor of Bebe.
Ben has made it abundantly clear that she doesn’t like playing jury or executioner to her peers, so I expect she will vote as plainly as possible.
In a vote for a boot, Ben will pick Kennedy or Bebe. Ben is always congenial and won’t want to vote against anyone, but I think at this point she can either admit that Kennedy has the weakest record or say that Bebe doesn’t need another crown.
In a vote for a winner, I think it would be crazy if Ben doesn’t pick Shangela. It’s obvious that game respects game when it comes to Ben and Shangela. I cannot see Ben disrespecting Shangela by not voting for her, even if she is kind of feeling Bebe or Trixie based on their performances.