This week brings back an interesting conundrum I last faced in my Season 8 and All Stars 2 recaps, but never this early in the season: What happens when the judging completely diverges from my take on the performances?
And, for bonus points: what happens when despicable personalities get rewarded by the show?
I came to Drag Race in Season 6, which you could accuse of being the beginning of “RuPaul’s Best Friends’ Race.” Sure, Gia had her shady moments and Darienne had it in for BenDelaCreme, but it was mostly a sweet season about being great at drag – and I loved it. There was no villain and everyone pretty much got exactly as far as they deserved to get.
That became my model for Drag Race – that it was a total meritocracy and that it had evolved past the nastiness I glimpsed when going back to prior seasons. Even if her fashion was aces, how could I love Raja when she was a mean girl who labeled other people “Boogers”? Even if their fashion was stellar, why would I root for RoLaskaToxxx if their sole reason for being became bullying Jinkx?
We haven’t really seen a serious villain since then, but it’s not a coincidence that the two seasons I quit ranking before the finale were the two that really turned my concept of drag meritocracy on its ear. I couldn’t understand the departure of Acid Betty and the lack of rewards for Thorgy in Season 8, and I was puzzled by the EZ-Pass given to Alaska (and, sometimes, Detox) in All Stars.
A broken meritocracy and the return of villainy have converged here on Season 10. This is the third week in a row the judging hasn’t even commented on an obvious challenge winner in order to serve a heavy-handed narrative. We have Monique Heart being criminally ignored and the early emergence of an “always a bridesmaid” story for Miz Cracker. Meanwhile, the judges fawn over any decent look from Aquaria, and Eureka gets a comeback narrative while she comes off as the nastiest queen we’ve had since original-flavor Roxxxy.
I love drag and I love this show, but I can’t get excited about parroting misguided rankings based on the judges’ feedback and the edit. From this point out, I’m going to simply write this up as “Krisis’s Drag Race,” and boost the queens I am personally living for – which so far has not included Aquaria.
Start your engines, readers. And may the best woman … win!
1. Miz Cracker
Miz Cracker continues a near-flawless run on the show with a series of high-concept outfits (even if one of the concepts is a boot). While other top queens come and go, she seems to have locked down a spot in the top group every week. I don’t think she should have notched a win this week, but it continued her dominance of the race.
Alaskan Winter Realness: Boot. I found this to be a conceptual mish-mash. Why do the dashboard hula girl constructed entirely of hair? Perhaps it would come off as too much of a costume to do it straight up, but this was still a costume and it… was made of hair. It didn’t scream “beach-ready” or “post-apocalyptic” to me, and those were the two potential boxes to tick this week.
Miami Summer Realness: Toot! Cracker asks the right question here: “Why’s it gotta be white?” This rose-colored Tusken Raider was a low-key look but also one of the best constructions out of this runway group. It told me a winterized Mad Max story and I was loving it.
Martian Eleganza Extravaganza: Toot. I don’t know that this silver space bathing suit made it all the way to “eleganza,” but it was a cute, flattering look on Cracker that was elevated by the helmet and the jet pack.
2. Kameron Michaels
Kameron Michaels shows once again that she is willing and able to do the most when it comes to her runway fashions, delivering three a trio of well-executed, detail-oriented looks in this ball. Who knew the muscle queen would also be a fashion assassin?!
This was a nice redemption for Kameron after the judges were so down on her last week, especially because she managed to deliver a character with her third runway. She’s quiet to the point of invisibility in the workroom, but at this point I am starting to look forward to seeing her on the runway every week in the same way I did for Detox or Acid Betty.
Alaskan Winter Realness: A mild Toot for me. This was a pretty basic white bikini dressed up with a lovely full-length gauzy jacket. The tiny hat nearly kills it – it throws off the proportions of the whole thing! I think big hair on its own or an even bigger sun hat probably would have sold it better. Still, of all the bathing suit looks, this is probably the most elevated to “eleganza” levels thanks to the cape.
Miami Summer Realness: Toot. There was an over-detailed fussiness to this glamorous snow king look, but it was still a total event. Would it have been better with more pretty, feminine makeup that didn’t look as beard-like? Sure, but maybe not quite as memorable.
Martian Eleganza Extravaganza: Toot! This is one of Kameron’s best looks yet! The total symmetry of this outfit with plenty of geometric shapes sells “futuristic” more than a slew of silver, and it has a lot of perfect little details, like the shattered sunglasses and the tails. That she made this on her own in the workroom totally redeems her weird week one dime store fashion, and her presentation of it was funnier than her entire Fibstr performance.
3. Mayhem Miller
Mayhem Miller quietly bounced back from her trip to the bottom two with two of the best runway looks of the night. It’s actually surprising that the judges didn’t single her out over Cracker or Aquaria for commentary!
Mayhem has been so long-hyped for this competition and there are many kinds of challenges I think we all want to see her perform in. I hope she got her groove back from this week, even if she didn’t earn any critiques for it.
Alaskan Winter Realness: A mild Boot for me. This wasn’t a bad look, but there was something about the detailing of it that was just off. It was too much black between the hair, the cape, and the shoes – they all just mush together. Also, I kept noticing the uneven way her bra sticks out from the bust. Blonde hair or a non-black cape could have make this an easy Toot.
Miami Summer Realness: TOOT! This may have been the best look of the entire night. It was an event. Every choice in the look was a right one, from the white makeup accents, to the massive bouffant of hair, to the plunging neckline of the dress. I loved that it was a big dress with a collar and an under-layer that still had shape and pulled in at the waist.
Martian Eleganza Extravaganza: TOOT! On rewatch, this was by far my favorite of the Martian looks. It totally sold the otherworldly fantasy for me, the construction was meticulous, plus it seemed like it might keep the red dust out of Mayhem’s face.
4. Blair St. Claire
Blair St. Claire bests many of the other girls despite turning in a rather pedestrian trio of runways this week, which breaks up her streak of powerful performances on the show thus far. While her Martian look was among the best-constructed patterns in the ball, there’s a certain lack of drama to Blair that she needs to overcome in order to stand out.
Alaskan Winter Realness: Toot. It was just an off-the-rack retro bathing suit, but it was cute. It shows that Blair understands her gamine drag body – her legs look great with a hint of hip padding, and the best way to sell her almost gawky boy torso is to show what a woman would show – the long lines of her slender sides.
Miami Summer Realness: Boot. It was a jacket. Like… there’s nothing else to say. It was just a jacket.
Martian Eleganza Extravaganza: Toot. Sure, it’s a pretty basic Mad Men era dress pattern, but Blair made it work in shiny vinyl and took us to that “Judy Jetson but high fashion” retro place that so many queens claim they are headed to yet so few actually reach.
5. Asia O’Hara
Asia O’Hara delivered one of the worst challenge performances in Drag Race history and probably would have lip synced for her life if she hadn’t been defended by every single one of the other girls on the stage.
That Asia survived this experience attests to how much good will she has generated with both Ru and her fellow queens. We’ve seen other queens get this brand of wake-up call and still stumble, but Asia is different. This failure wasn’t the result of self-defeating tendencies, but of altruistic ones. I highly doubt she’s going to let focusing on the other girls distract her again, which is why she didn’t zoom straight to the bottom of the rankings.
Alaskan Winter Realness: BOOT! Asia had a good base with a perfectly colored nude swimsuit… and that’s it. A few colored pom pom balls are not a concept. Even if she had attached something gauzy at the neckline of this suit to billow diaphanously around her body it would have been an improvement.
Miami Summer Realness: A mild toot for me. I found the neon colors of this suit to be overwhelming, but it was neat-looking and the matching jacket was wild. Altogether it fits into a sort of “ugly but cool” category.
Martian Eleganza Extravaganza: Boot. This was the beginning of a strong concept, with the vinyl exaggerated tuxedo tails jacket over a weird, quilted outfit. I love that Asia’s vision of Mars was more fantastical and colorful – she had the beginning of a look out of a Dr. Seuss book! However, there just wasn’t enough of it finished to give her any credit.
6. Monique Heart
Monique Heart feels like she has been killing the competition so far, though if we were to trust the judges she’d probably be at the bottom of this ranking. Despite showing nary a weakness up to this point, this week of pure looks was likely her worst one so far thanks to a few tacky choices.
Alaskan Winter Realness: Boot. There was a certain fussiness to this watermelon swimsuit that makes me wince every time I see it. I’m not sure if it’s the deep cut of the crotch, the over-large and barely-contained bosoms, or the weird backless construction, but there’s something about it that’s simply not flattering.
Miami Summer Realness: Boot. This look is like a cautionary tale about Cracker’s similar-but-delightful pink take on a cold time in Miami. Monique piles on too many same-colored layers. They create a muddle out of her silhouette and make her look hard to distinguish.
Martian Eleganza Extravaganza: Toot. There were some problems with this outfit, but the concept of a glamorous Martian ball look that tucks into an atmospheric suit was too damned clever to argue over the detailing of it. Monique took me there.
7. The Vixen
In a way, The Vixen is getting an edit similar to Monique where she’s not really getting any kind of substantive feedback. Even with her week two win she didn’t get any commentary, which makes this four weeks now without any kind of actionable critique.
That’s criminal, because Vixen is a strong queen who could only improve with criticism. If the show is setting her up as a sacrificial lamb who gets a boot the first time she missteps I hope she riots on the way out.
Alaskan Winter Realness: TOOT! I was living for this all-transparent bathing suit and massive fan tail. Sure, it continues Vixen’s trend of strange plastic clothes, but it also sold me some “shielding ourselves from the hole in the ozone layer” realness. It was one of the coolest takes on being nude on the runway that we’ve ever seen.
Miami Summer Realness: Boot. This hoop skirt look was so close to working, but I think it had a few too many elements on it when what it really needed was a bit more attention to detail. The bottom of the skirt looked raggedy and sad hovering half an inch above the floor, which wasn’t aided by Vixen displaying what looked like gym socks beneath its hem line.
Martian Eleganza Extravaganza: Boot. There was nothing Martian about this little blue number, from the color to the hot-glued appliqués. It would be a mess no matter what the theme.
8. Eureka O’Hara
Eureka O’Hara comes through with some strong looks in this ball, somewhat reversing her trend of showing poor taste on the runway the last two weeks.
Unfortunately, Eureka followed up this strong performance by being a little too extra in Untucked in conversation with Vixen.While Eureka didn’t do anything particularly evil or racist, pretty much every choice Eureka made in the process was about getting more attention.
Well, Eureka got that attention she was looking for … in the form of Vixen reading her to dust. It exposed her for being a big fake who is addicted to drama. She needs to focus less on testing people and more on executing drag on the level of her Martian Eleganza.
Even then, the damage might already be done in terms of her being crowned America’s Next Drag Superstar.
Alaskan Winter Realness: Boot. I loved the diaphanous wrap, but the black/gray bathing suit wasn’t flattering with its massive gray breasts with a crease down their middles.
Miami Summer Realness: Toot. I wasn’t completely in love with this snow fairy look, but it fit Eureka so well! The proportions of the outfit made her seem as tiny as Tinkerbell. I couldn’t help but be charmed by it.
Martian Eleganza Extravaganza: TOOT! This was an amazing look, even moreso in Untucked without the corset on because you realize that the entire glittering blue dress was stable all on its own. This is the level of mastery and taste that I want to be rooting for!
I ended last week by asking if Aquaria was really just looks and nothing more. Tonight seems to answer the question pretty firmly: she’s whatever the hell she feels like doing. She delivered three well-executed looks, but they each deliberately missed the mark of their theme, trading heavily on their fashion influences to make up for their lack of fit.
While, the judges were left gagging by Aquaria looking alive for the first time in this competition, I don’t know much they’re going to continue to live for her whole “I’m telling a story” gig if she continues to flout the runway themes and be invisible in challenges.
Alaskan Winter Realness: Toot. Begrudgingly. I didn’t love this luchador concept or the fit of her bottoms, but she sold it by whipping her hair on the runway. Maybe all of her robotic head-tilting in the confessionals has just been practice for this hairography?
Miami Summer Realness: Boot. I get that this is referencing some sort of specific fashion history, but all I saw were fuzzy rainbow rabbit feet slash feather dusters. How would this be something good to wear in the winter with her legs and arms totally exposed? Aquaria just took a random runway reference and shoehorned it into the theme. It think it would have felt more at home in the Miami Summer theme.
Martian Eleganza Extravaganza: BOOT! I hated this look. HATED. There was nothing redeeming about it. Look, y’all – I am the biggest David Bowie fan you will ever meet, okay? He has influenced my life in more way than I can enumerate. So, please listen when I tell you that affixing a lightning bolt to your body does not make a Spiders From Mars reference. Not to mention that the way the angles of the boobs-bolt and the crotch-bolt never lined up drove me crazy. There wasn’t enough happening here to give any credit, and it weirdly felt like a poor echo of the luchador look.
10. Monét X Change
Monet X Change is one of the most-charming contestants in the history of the show, but it feels like her run has hit a wall. She seems to have a knack for presenting unattractive looks, and both performances we’ve seen from her have been same-y. She needs to eventually bring some well-executed glamour to the runway if she’s going to hang in until the top half of this show.
Alaskan Winter Realness: Boot. A mess. Not one good element aside from her makeup
Miami Summer Realness: A mild Toot. This is probably the most-attractive thing we’ve seen Monét wear so far, and it’s still got a sort of messy, lumpy quality to it.
Martian Eleganza Extravaganza: Boot. The shape of her garment was cool, but she picked the wrong fabric for it.
Sashay Away… Dusty Ray Bottoms
Dusty Ray Bottoms really didn’t deserve to be in the bottom two this week for one mildly weak look (swimsuit) when there was also The Vixen and Aquaria to choose from. The judges whole “I’m getting fairy” from her Mars look was utter bullshit – she was telling a story just as much as Aquaria’s fugly look was.
That said, Dusty had the overall lowest average of the remaining girls. it was clear that the judges had little further use for her in the competition against this strong lineup.