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It's the start of another season of RuPaul's Drag Race! Can you believe it's eleven already? Seems like only yesterday we were introduced to legends like Nina Flowers, Raven, Raja, and Merle Ginsberg.
This time, fifteen talented heifers will vie for the crown, the glory, and one hundred thousand dohllass, while serving drama, throwing shade, turning lewks, cutting up and kiki-ing.
As is traditional, each queen takes center stage as she enters the Werk Room for the first time, giving us a moment to soak up her lewk and judge her choice of catchphrase. But right off the bat, we are gagged to hear the familiar echoing tones of "Miss Vanjie," repeated like a curse, signaling the return of Season 10 breakout star and sensational meme queen, Miss Vanessa Vanjie Mateo. Vanjie enters, looking great it hot tomato red and a sheen of gold glitter, and proceeds to entertain herself, and us, for several minutes before posting up behind a screen in the corner to observe the other Queens' arrivals incognito.
And arrive they do! Let's do a lightning read of the competitors
- A'Keria Chanel Davenport - pageant interview realness, bare legs, flat hair.
- Ariel Versace - second-rate "winter princess" costume character hoop skirt.
- Brooke Lynn Hytes - Canadian Mountie Glam: how now brown hat?
- Honey Davenport - lumpy honey bee dress looked cheap and unflattering.
- Kahanna Montrese - skirt belt with witch hats (thanks Monet X Change for that read). Lotion up, girl!
- Mercedes Iman Diamond - dripping in jewels, worn over a basic as hell 4-way stretch dress.
- Nina West - Act II costume for an unwritten Broadway musical.
- Plastique Tiara - budget Miss Vietnam; hair and makeup 100% flawless.
- Ra'Jah O'Hara - clever use of newsprint, stupid use of earring that won't stay on.
- Scarlet Envy - a corset, gloves, stoned tights, and a dangling p%&&y jewel is not a lewk; she can do better.
- Shuga Cain - Batman villain eleganza.
- Silky Nutmeg Ganache - rolling in with her rolls out; eat this cookie, baby!
- Soju - shapeless martial arts costume; nunchuk demo was fierce tho.
- Yvie Oddly - preceded by RC car attached to cheap turkey boa trim; odd- in a not good way.
Of course, halfway through the entrances Miss Vanjie bursts from concealment, where she had been lurking surreptitially. The Queens trade (mostly) good-natured reads, though Ariel seems genuinely offended that Soju has qualified to compete with the likes of herself. Everyone has a moment to say something cute, but only Miss Vanjie's foghorn voice, and Silky ganache's attitude check (F%*k you, bitch!) are memorable.
The Mini Challenge
At the "Ooh, Girl" siren, Mr. Ru arrives in a loud paisley suit to welcome the Queens. he informs them that now 126 Queens have made their names on the show and that they are part of the family. The Mini Challenge will be a family portrait photshoot, with some of the most popular and successful Drag Race alumni queens, shot by legendary Hollywood imagemaker Albert Sanchez.
The Queens are charged with art directing themselves and their alumna in a busy set decorated in Early Whorehouse and hung with family portraits. Almost everyone manages to turn out a decent photo. Vanjie, paired with Farrah Moan, turns her partner away from the camera, while Mercedes struggles to find direction for Delta Work. In the end, Silky Ganache is named winner for a nice-ish two shot of herself with the gorgeous and underrated Mariah Paris Balenciaga.
The Maxi Challenge
Season 11 brings the throwback feels with a design challenge for the first runway. The Queens must create a look that represents their own Drag aesthetic from trunks containing the leavings of past Drag Race contestants. As winner of the mini Challenge, Silky gets to assign the trunks to the Racers, after choosing Peppermint for herself.
The assignments are made, in a relatively shade-free manner, apart from Silky ignoring Queens' requests for certain trunks. No real curveballs were thrown, but weird bald Yvie would definitely have been a more comfortable fit with Sharon or Sasha in my opinion.
The usual hijinks ensue in the Werk Room - some Queens can't sew. Seriously, after all these years and all the instances of non-sewing Queen getting read and/or chopped, people still rock up to this competition without basic sewing skills. Soju seems to be struggling the most, and shady camerman zooms in on the unlovely construction of her garment. Tensions run high and Silky's Werk Room attitude check meets with silence and stares.
While the Queens are getting made up for the Main Stage, a scruffy, wide-eyed production assistant steps in to adjust a microphone. Whether because she is preternaurally observant, or she's hep to the shennanigans to be expected at Drag Race, Silky almost immediately identifies "BJ" as special guest Miley Cyrus. It's not long before Silky has La Cyrus on her back, bellowing something about wrecking balls while careening through the crowd of Queens. Eye rolls and commentary suggest that competitors are not best pleased with Silky's showboating, but no one seems to know what to do about it except to hope that it will burn out.
Miley sits with the Gurls for a kiki and a whole passel of affirming messages. Never give up! Always be yourself!
For the most part, RuPaul serves two categories of runway looks
- It's so gorgeous, how does she do it! and,
- It's so awful, why does she do it!
The voluminous sparkling puff sleeved gown she has chosen this week falls squarely into the latter category. Her makeup is pretty but unremarkable and the golden curly wig, somehow at once matronly and costume-y. Thus arrayed, Mother introduces us to family judges Michelle Visage, Ross Matthews, and Carson Kressley, as well as Guest Judge Miley.
And so it begins! Category is: Take materials that typify a well-known Queen and create a look that typifies your own style.Good friggin' luck! Since we really have no idea whether the looks accurately communicate the Queens' personal aesthetiic, the only things to look for are overall quality of the garment and success of the look at both showing the source DNA and the Queen's taste level.
The Queens! There are so many! Let's revisit the lightning read format.
- Plastique Tiara (Sasha Velour) - exact dupe of her entrance look, but with a rose theme; uninspired.
- Brook Lynn Hytes (Detox) - nails the body con, acid green, and 80's references. Looks like Detox's less edgy sister.
- Honey Davenport (Ben Dela Creme) - basic and not shapely; pageant hair not right for the look; pretty makeup.
- Ariel Versace (Laganja Estranja) - a leotard with trims and an unimpressive removable skirt; well constructed but basic af; can she do any other hair silhouettes?
- Yvie Oddly (Alaska) - poorly constructed, shapeless, and clearly not sewn; color, head glitter, and makeup work well together; overall: messy.
- A'Keria C Davenport (Bebe Zahara Benet) - captures regal quality and over-the-top draginess of BZB; Drag Pageant Superhero.
- Scarlet Envy (Violet Chachki) - a decent looking garment, but not terribly stylish or reminiscent of Violet; makeup much improved over entrance look.
- Soju (Kim Chi) - Hanbok silhouette and messy not sewn construction make a perfect storm of awful; evokes Kim Chi successfully, but not flattering or stylish; wearing FLATS!.
- Ra'Jah O'Hara (Kennedy Davenport) - looks like holiday trimmings stuck on glittery active wear basics; 70s references are strong but puzzling; good hair piece integration.
- Mercedes Iman Diamond (Bianca Del Rio) - neatly constructed using a BDR evocative print; leotard and boots look has aged out of acceptability; face is beat.
- Shuga Cain (Sharon Needles) - maybe a bit evocative of post-win Sharon; a decently constructed garment, but basic in style; ankle strap shoes for extra ugly.
- Vanessa Vanjie Mateo (Valentina) - the flower crown and flamenco red are very french vanilla fantasy; studiously avoids previous mistake of not showing shape.
- Silky Nutmeg Ganache (Peppermint) - beautiful color; adequate construction does not bear up to close examination; odd dusty puple lip color distracts.
- Nina West (Thorgy Thor) - does not relate to TT in any way I can see, other than Nina's energetic performance; a sadly ugly garment.
- Kahanna Montrese (Katya) - dead behind the eyes; trims on ready made garments; not stylish or evocative, sloppy details.
Whew, that was a lot! What did you think?
Here's what the judges thought: Ariel, Yvie, Ra'Jah, Silky, Shiga, Scarlett, and Honey are safe, retiring with visible relief from the stage.
Plastique, Brooke Lynn, A'Keria, Soju, Mercedes, Vanjie, Nina, and Kahanna remain to face the judges' critiques. Many things are said but all is overshadowed by Soju's revelation that she is suffering with a cyst that has ruptured, inconveniently. Her candour has the feel of an excuse, but it also gives her a bit of time to interact with the judges - but will it be enough?
Brooke Lynn wins. Soju and Kahanna must lip sync for their lives.
The Lip Sync
The song is Best of Both Worlds by Miley Cyrus. Soju is severely limited in her movement by both the bulk of her costume and fear that the shoddy construction will give way with too much exertion. Kahanna, while in no way constrained, gives a less than electrifying performance. After having pointed up her dancing prowess, she fails to deliver anything more interesting than a near disastrous back flip and some half-hearted bucking. Maybe it was the song choice...?
RuPaul asks Kahanna to chantay, and Soju must sashay away.
Want to know what ha' happened backstage with the other Queens during deliberations? Check out Untucked.