It’s time… time for more fabulous drag queens!
That’s right, last night RuPaul took the to the airwaves to announce an all-new cast of nine queens for RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars Season 3, which is set to debut in January.
While the past two seasons of All Stars heavily featured queens that reached the finals, this cast doesn’t have a single Final Three competitor in its rank.
If these aren’t the most glittering of all-time drag stars, then what is the unifying theme of this season of All Stars? It could be “Ru-Grets.” In the case of over half of these queens, RuPaul could credibly claim that she has since had second thoughts about the “Sashay Away” that lead these queens to make their exits the first (or, in two cases, second) time around.
How well will these return queens fare in glamorous combat based on what we’ve seen of them in past seasons and in their brand new video packages? Keep reading for as I rank the house down to assess the chances of each of these queens to strut into the Hall of Fame alongside Chad Michaels and Alaska Thunderfuck 5000.
Recap: Shangela came in at 5th place in RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 3 after being the first queen to sashay away in Season 2. She lost a lip sync to Fantasia’s “Even Angels” to a transcendent Alexis Matteo after falling into the bottom two in the multi-look “Hair Ball” multi-look construction challenge.
Highlights Reel: Her comedy as Tina Turner in “Snatch Game” and her memorable Pimp-Ho comedy routine in “Ru Ha Ha.” Her constant bitch-face on the runway in her epic struggle against Raja’s team of “Heathers.” Heck, even Shangela’s low-lights are highlights, like her terrible week one runways in both Season 2 and Season 3.
Why didn’t she win? Shangela fell prey to being a lackluster seamstress in Hair Ball, but there were a few other prevailing themes that made her the obvious choice to eliminate in that episode. Shangela’s fashion had been hit and miss all season, as had her make-up. She was repeatedly clocked for bad blending and a prominent jaw line.
Beyond that, the judges (even guest judges!) repeatedly called into question if she really wanted to be a Drag Queen, or was just a dancer/comedian who happened to do drag.
Strengths: Shangela is one of the fiercest competitors in the history of Drag Race. It’s hard to think of anyone who fights harder than she does for every single inch of success. Shangela also has endless Nerve. Nerve for weeks, y’all. She combines that with a natural X-Factor level of Charisma and sickening amount of Talent in singing, dancing, and comedy.
All-Stars Outlook: Shangela is the most-dangerous queen in this cast. She is absolutely the queen to beat.
Shangela has always had the drive to take the crown, With seven years of steady work since her run in Season 3 she has established an incomparable depth in every aspect of performance that can possibly be challenged by Drag Race. Her weaknesses in blending and in dedication to drag are a distant memory at this point.
She’s also been referenced repeatedly by Ru herself (including a few guest appearances) plus logged a ton of stage- and camera-time in traditional media gigs. Hell, she was on X-Files!
What can possibly defeat Shangela? Possibly herself, maybe with an overconfident misstep or an inexplicable fashion choice. (Both have befallen her frequent mentor Alyssa Edwards.) Otherwise, it’s going to have to be another queen just flat out hand-crafting her own Hall of Fame narrative in a way that makes her more compelling than Shangela … and good luck with that.
Recap: BenDeLaCreme came in at 5th place in RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 6. She lost a lip sync to Kelly Clarkson’s “Stronger” against Darienne Lake during the “Glitter Ball” multi-look construction challenge. (She had also synced against Darienne earlier in the season and received a rare double shanté)
Highlights Reel: Perhaps the best “Snatch Game” performance of all time with her Dame Maggie Smith impersonation, her week 1 Golden Girls dress, her “Oh No She Betta Don’t!” rap, her talk-show hosting, and her Animal Kingdom Couture, among many others.
Why didn’t she win? BenDeLa was crafty as heck but not a traditional seamstress, which won her the first episode but might have been part of her downfall in the Glitter Ball. She rested a bit too hard on her “washed up show-girl” costume looks, as tagged in the Ball.
Yet, what probably contributed most to her dismissal was being too much of a character in front of the judges when she should have been more herself.
Strengths: Ben excels in the Talent category as an experienced theatre writer, actor, and director as well as a burlesque performer. She is quick-witted and self-deprecating. She is ultra-crafty, both with a glue gun and with make-up effects. And, finally, of all the queens who have put on an affected, older-lady persona, hers has been the most well-rounded and “terminally delightful.”
All-Stars Outlook: Let’s get this out of the way early: Ben is my favorite queen of all time and four years later I still think she was robbed in Season 6.*
Does that past wrong make for a major right here in crowning BenDeLaCreme as part of the Drag Race Hall of Fame?
I’m not so sure. Ben herself has expressed some hesitance about coming back to the show, and reportedly turned down a shot at All Stars 2. While she has the chops for a win, any amount of self-doubt is going to be a major chink in her armor against these other queens. Plus, she’s going to get blown out of the water in lip syncs by this cast unless she brings her full-on burlesque talents to every one.
Ben will find success here if she came back to the race with something to prove to the judges. If she’s back with more personality and more boundary-pushing looks, then she becomes an instant front-runner as one of the few queens in this cast who seemed poised to win her original season.
* To elaborate: Darienne Lake is terrific and slayed Ben in her final Lip Sync, but the sync should have been Darienne against Courtney Act, who I also love but who could have credibly defeated the unstoppable lip-syncing of Ms. Lake. Then, the Top 4 episode would have been so much fiercer with Ben in the mix. Courtney’s telegraphed loss in the finale would have been easier to rationalize with a Bottom 2 in her record. Plus, with Ben’s record she could have credibly unseated Courtney or Adore to give Bianca a more serious challenge in the finals.
3. Chi Chi DeVayne
Recap: Chi Chi DeVayne came in at 4th place in RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 8. She was dismissed (for seemingly no reason) after the Final 4 lip sync to “The Realness” by RuPaul after a video shoot for the song.
Highlights Reel: Amazing dancing during her win on “Bitch Perfect” and in her lip syncs, but also her purr-fect Eartha Kitt “Snatch Game” followed by runway craftiness during “Night of 1,000 Madonnas” to avoid being in the dreaded kimono cult.
Why didn’t she win? It’s hard to say. Chi Chi had the story momentum to head into the finals as an underdog queen in a way that would have filled out Season 8’s final 3 better than the gorgeous Naomi Smalls, and she slayed the challenge on her final episode.
While you could chalk her dismissal up to a defeatist attitude or some very dumpy dollar store looks, those were both challenges Chi Chi had already surmounted to get to the Top 4.
Ultimately, it’s more likely that it her uneven track record just didn’t make her seem like credible-enough competition to Bob and Kim Chi, and Naomi Smalls was seriously surging at that point.
Strengths: Chi Chi is an incredibly well-rounded performer. She not only has off-the-charts dance, lip sync, and acrobatics skills, but she also boasts strong singing and impersonation chops. There’s not really any specific area of performance where she is weak. She’s also a crafty queen who can make something out of nothing.
All-Stars Outlook: Personally, I feel like Chi Chi has the narrative most perfectly-crafted for All-Stars and the talent to back it up. I’d be straight up terrified to see her walk into the Work Room if I was one of the other queens.
That’s because being minted an “All-Star” feels like a natural extension of Chi Chi’s original rise from underdog to frontrunner. Everyone loved her! Her only weakness was a lack of resources! She was eliminated for no reason! That feels a very close to them”Already a Winner” narrative of the other current Hall-of-Famers, Chad and Alaska. Compare that to the other queens here, who were all eliminated with good reason (however spurious it may have seemed at the time).
Combine the steamroller narrative with the relaxed confidence she exuded in her video package, and I’m extremely excited to see more of Chi Chi this season!
4. Trixie Mattel
Recap: Trixie came in at 6th place in RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 7 after originally placing 11th and returning in the “Conjoined Queens” challenge. She lost a lip sync of Robin S.’s “Show Me Love” against Ginger Minj, who had been her partner in the “Prancing Queens” partnered dance challenge.
Highlights Reel: Despite being a comedy queen, Trixie’s highlights were on the runway – especially her bearded angel and her zany conjoined twin that brought the best out of Pearl. She was also great in the “Spoof” challenge, where we first witnessed her magical team-up with Katya.
Why didn’t she win? Despite the best comeback run of any returning queen, Trixie hit a wall of four mega-talented queens on Season 7 … and Pearl, who Ru was serially unwilling to dismiss.
Past that, Trixie had a certain sad-sack quality to her performance in Season 7, where she seemed constantly on the verge of tears. It’s as if there was a sad trombone haunting most of her decisions.
Strengths: Trixie’s excels in Uniqueness, but she’s not lacking for Charisma, Nerve, or Talent, either. Her Barbie Doll make-up plus her comedic and musical talents often make it easy to overlook her killer fashion sense. She never gets the credit she deserves for slaying the runway in Season 7. As much as she loves to play up her “plastic life,” she also very rarely misreads a fashion situation. Also, after the show she has turned in some stellar lip syncs on YouTube. Plus she’s become actual-world famous since her season.
All-Stars Outlook: Trixie might not be at the top of this Power Ranking, but there’s definitely the feeling that this season is hers to lose.
Since her time on Drag Race, Trixie has become one of the most popular, recognizble, and bankable queens in the hertory of the show. She jokes in her “Meet The Queens” package that it’s the result of hitching her wagon to Katya, who was undeniably the breakout star of Season 7. Yet, Katya and Trixie are alike in that their brand of aesthetics and humor have a much wider potential audience than just fans of the art of drag, as evidenced by their massive social media following and their hilarious UNHhhh YouTube series getting picked up as The Trixie and Katya Show on ViceTV.
Trixie also has a legitimate hit country/folk EP under her belt with Two Birds, which is one of my favorite releases of 2017. As with Adore Delano’s LPs, it’s terrific music without any sort of asterisk that says “for a drag artist.”
In that respect, Trixie is already an All-Star, much like Alaska before her. Yet, does being a media All-Star immediately equate to being a Drag Race All-Star? The answer was “yes” for Alaska but “no” for Adore, and they both had much better track records on the show than Trixie did her first time around. Plus, Trixie is incredibly reliant on editing that works in her favor by catching all of her best zingers, as in her “Meet The Queens” video. It’s really easy to leave the best of Trixie on the editing room floor.
That all said, Trixie now has a breezy self-confidence to her, plus dozens of hours of more on-camera time than any other queen in the race. That counts for a lot.
Oh, and, fun fact: Trixie is the only All-Stars queen not from Season 1 who did not to perform in Snatch Game on her original season!
5. Kennedy Davenport
Why didn’t she win? Kennedy not making the final three is even more impossible to explain than Chi Chi! Despite a pervasively negative attitude, Kennedy had delivered a jaw-dropping performance all season long leading up to her being passed over (in a gorgeous dress) for the lackluster Pearl. To this day it stands out as the worst choice RuPaul has ever made heading into the finals.
Strengths: Kennedy is one of the best high energy lip sync artists in the history of Drag Race, combining terrific lips with a remarkable athleticism to her dancing. She also has a seemingly endless closet of gorgeous (and, also, outlandish) fashions, thanks to years of pageant competitions. She’s also hilarious and a terrific singer.
All-Stars Outlook: I love Kennedy and I think she deserves an uncontested spot in the Drag Race Hall of Fame over every other queen here with the possible exception of Shangela.
Then why do I have her ranked in the middle of the pack?
Kennedy was already at her peak in Season 7. Sure, she has more money now and she says she’s embraced the wackier elements of her performances. She has validation, and given her occasional bad attitude on Season 7 maybe that makes a huge difference. Yet, from her video packages she feels like the same old member of the Bitter Old Lady Brigade – and that’s not going to charm the judges or the other queens, who will definitely be gunning for her.
(Also, she seems to have embraced some of her more-hideous fashion sensibilities in her in her post-pageant career)
That all said, even if we just get same-old Season 7 Kennedy, who exactly is going to beat her? She’s good at everything as long as she’s not being a sourpuss about it. Whether the lip syncs are for “Life” or “Legacy,” it’s hard to imagine Kennedy losing anyone aside from Chi Chi – even Shangela would have a hard time defeating her.
That means Kennedy is probably in for a deep run until she just happens to be in the bottom by virtue of not being in the top, and even if that happens someone (Ru or another queen) will have the make the controversial decision to eliminate her.
Recap: Milk came in at 9th place in RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 6. She lost a lip sync to Salt’n’Peppa and En Vogue’s classic bop “Whatta Man” to Trinity K. Bonet in the “Oh No She Betta Don’t!” music video rap challenge.
Highlights Reel: Stunning runway looks as a bearded lady and as a spot-on male RuPaul, complete with bald cap, both of which influenced future runway themes.
Why didn’t she win? This is a crazy thing to say about Drag Race, but Milk’s take on drag was a little too controversial as of Season 6. The show wasn’t ready to go full on avant-garde genderf*ck after Jinkx’s somewhat unconventional fashion took the Season 5 crown.
That made Milk’s boundary-pushing, boyish, and even bearded runway looks a minor league scandal even though they would outright inspire runway themes of the next three seasons. Add that she was playing against a stacked deck of really fierce stage performers and the traditionally-hilarious Bianca, and there was no path to the finals for Milk.
Strengths: Milk already lives in the place where Drag Race has been headed since Season 6. Since her time on the show, she’s broken out as a legitimate high fashion model in the way Violet and Fame did from Season 7. Also, her past life as a professional figure skater doesn’t hurt in terms of dancerly skills and grace under pressure.
All-Stars Outlook: Cloudy.
Milk is really the Black Horse in this competition (wonk wonk), because we saw so little of her in her original run and her drag is so different than all of the other queens on this season. Just look at her promo photo! She is operating on a totally different plain than all of these other queens.
Milk has had four years to put some gloss on her high-fashion genderf*ck, and in the process she became BFFs with Marc Jacobs. She could have virtually anything in her bag! She’s also become utterly comfortable on a runaway and in photo shoots, plus a formidable lip sync artist.
There is a very real chance for Milk to play spoiler and knock off several unsuspecting queens before her weirdness finally catches up with her.
7. Thorgy Thor
Recap: Thorgy came in at 6th place in RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 8. She lost a lip sync of Jennifer Holliday’s “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going” from the musical Dreamgirls against Chi Chi DeVayne after being in the bottom two in the “Shady Politics” political ads challenge.
Highlights Reel: A tremendous four-week run starting with Week 2 in the “Bitch Perfect” lip sync, as the star of “RuCo’s Empire” acting challenge, in the “New Wave Queens” band performance, and finally as Michael Jackson in “Supermodel Snatch Game.”
Why didn’t she win? Thorgy’s sudden fall in Season 8 was down to bad luck more than anything else. She was stuck in second-fiddle mode to Bob all season long, but still clearly out-performing Derrick and Naomi, who both outplaced her.
Then, She wound up lip-syncing against Chi Chi on a song that seemed hand-picked for Chi Chi to win … and that was before the special effect of her beaded necklace exploding everywhere!
Strengths: Everything? Thorgy is a riotous performer with seemingly endless Talent and almost too-much Charisma. Even with the increase in avante-garde queens on the show, her Uniqueness as a sort of neon fashion clown still stands out. As for Nerve, once she graduates from her second-guessing, she’s willing to do just about anything in performance.
All-Stars Outlook: Thorgy jokes in her video package that she’s best known for being jealous of Bob the Drag Queen, but that jealousy might have also been what was responsible for her deep run in Season 8.
Having Bob (and also Acid Betty) around from her NYC/Brooklyn scene gave her early allies for the weeks when she could have been lost in the mix. Then, when the field thinned, she had her game of oneupmanship with Bob to obscure her penchant for overthinking. It’s pretty telling that the only time she truly crumbled was in a challenge where she had to be self-reliant and couldn’t directly compete with Bob.
Has Thorgy calmed down her attention-deficit enough in two years that she can just focus on her own excellence? If so, I’m not sure there’s a queen on this list that can defeat her outside of a lip sync. However, my doubts about her focus have me tagging her as possible filler rather than possible winner.
Eliminating Thorgy early isn’t exactly going to cause a firestorm of social media outrage. It even plays into her marching to a beat of a different drummer.
8. Morgan McMichaels
Recap: Morgan McMichaels came in at 9th place on RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 2. She lost a lip sync of Martha Walsh’s “Carry On” to Sahara Davenport after being in the bottom two in “Here Comes The Bride” wedding dress and photography challenge.
Highlights Reel: Her Week 1 win in the “Gone With The Window” construction challenge over several other awesome looks, and a flawless and intricate Week 4 lip sync to “Two of Hearts” against Sonique.
Why didn’t she win? Morgan’s slightly-punk, slightly-rockabilly fashion sense just didn’t translate to a stunning wedding dress in her final challenge.
There was also the sense that she would have probably destroyed had she been cast on the more traditional Season 1, but she wasn’t quite out-of-the-box enough to compete in new challenges like “Snatch Game” and against the even more transgressive Raven and Jujubee (plus the bitchy perfection of Tyra).
Strengths: Morgan is a thrilling and exact dancer and lip sync artist with a “fuck you” edge of coolness and no end of Nerve.
All-Stars Outlook: From her video packages and what I’ve seen on YouTube, there’s a sense that Morgan hasn’t really evolved since Season 2 in the same way as Season 2 queens like Raven and Tatianna had for past All Stars seasons. Even her “Meet The Queens” video presentation is pretty much identical to how she looked back in 2009, including the massive hump of hair and borderline-tacky fashion!
While some might call that consistent branding, I think it might be more like stagnation.
Look – I’m excited that Morgan is back. She is fierce enough to take out half of these queens any day of the week on Nerve alone. Yet, her claim to the Hall of Fame seems more down to her longevity than any particular talent. It’s going to be a long, uphill battle to get past six of these queens and into the Final Three.
Recap: Aja came in at 9th place in RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 9 just a few months ago (although the season was shot in 2016). She lost a lip sync of CeCe’s Peniston’s classic “Finally” to Nina Bo’nina Brown after being in the bottom two in “9021-HO,” an acting challenge.
Highlights Reel: A pair of spectacular lip syncs, both to “Finally” and in Week 2 to “Holding Out for a Hero.” Oh, and of course, her now-legendary “Linda Evangelista” rant against Valentina in Untucked.
Why didn’t she win? On Season 9, Aja’s fashion sense was stuck on saggy dominatrix cast-offs and her make-up wasn’t blended very well. Past that, she was mired in her own lack of self-confidence.
She was full of personality and willing to try anything, but there was a sense that there wasn’t any specific challenge where she’d be able to best any of the other queens.
Strengths: Aja excels in Charisma, able to generate memes from nearly every second she is on screen. She is also a stunning dancer and lip sync artist – her YouTube videos are sheer fire. Also, while this wasn’t evident on the show, she’s really upped her make-up and fashion game since her season shot back in 2016.
All-Stars Outlook: Aja has improved in almost every dimension in the past year (and in the process has become one of my favorite queens!), but nothing about her screams “Hall of Fame” just yet.
It’s not that any Season 9 queen would be an underdog if she came back so soon for this All-Stars season. You best believe if Shea, Trinity, Peppermint, or Valentina were on this list they’d be ranked close to the top spot (sorry Alexis).
Instead, it feels more like this return is less about a win and more Aja’s chance to really prove herself in a way she wasn’t ready to do in Season 9. Also, much like Milk, by being somewhat of an unknown she has the chance to play spoiler – especially in lip syncs, where she might be the only queen who could credibly knock off this seasons holy trinity of dancers in Kennedy, Chi Chi, and Shangela.
10. The Secret Queen!
I’m already in on the secret of RuPaul’s stealth 10th All-Star, and let me tell you: it’s going to be the face-crack of the decade when she shows up.
I won’t give any hints other than to say I think she has every positive quality of every one of the nine queens I’ve just ranked.