Welcome to my first recap of RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars Season 7 – All Winners!
Wow, that’s a mouthful!
I’ve been recapping and commenting on Drag Race both here and on Reddit since Season 6 in 2014. It’s amazing how much the conversation around Drag Race (and drag, in general) has changed in that relatively short period of time.
When I first started talking about drag online there was an emphasis on “female illusion.” Drag queens who presented a more believable (or, “unclockable”) presentation of exaggerated femininity tended to be more revered. That included their hair and make-up as well as their body.
A term that was often used at that time was “fishy” or “fish,” in the context of “she is the fishiest queen in the cast” or “she is serving pure fish.”
(That term has rightfully been called out for its misogynist roots. Yes, even gay men dressed as women can be misogynists. You can find me using the term in older posts, but it’s not something I would say today.)
(Similarly, “unclockable” tends to be associated with trans people “passing” as their gender and isn’t a term we need to use for drag artists – nor should folks outside of the trans community be using it to talk about trans folk.)
Linked to that emphasis on femininity, Drag Race had a perverse stance of devaluing or even barring woman contestants, whether they were cis or trans. The perspective that RuPaul espoused at the time was that having breasts or a more-traditionally feminine face or figure provided too much of an advantage compared to male-bodied contestants who ostensibly had to work to create that illusion.
That’s not the conversation we’ve having around Drag Race anymore.
The change has come from boundary-shattering Drag Race contestants; from other shows like Dragula and We’re Here; and from the Drag Race fandom itself. We have now seen trans women compete and win across multiple Drag Race franchises, as well as the first cis woman compete on Drag Race UK. Dozens of queens have come out as trans, non-binary, and/or gender-fluid, some on camera during the run of their seasons. And, the fandom and the judges are no longer demanding breasts and padding as a baseline requirement for “good drag.”
That doesn’t mean Drag Race is now a perfect platform. It still relies on the performance of womanhood, which has inherent problems. While to some queens that equates to a celebration of womanhood, for others it remains an exaggeration or caricature. Drag Race still has trouble appreciating drag artists who aren’t presenting glamorous feminine drag. It still has a homogenizing effect on drag around the world, to which it has now added an element of colonization with its vast set of international franchises. And, RuPaul and Michelle Visage still come from a set of pop culture and style references primarily rooted in the 60s, 70s, 80s, and 90s – before many of today’s drag artists were born!
Despite all of those detractions, the juggernaut of Drag Race is still elevating the work of dozens of queer artists around the world every year. I watch because I revere them and their talents. I love that the show has transformed into a celebration of their artistry rather than a catty, drama-filled reality show.
Of course, drag artists still come with some catty, drama-filled moments. That’s part of the proud herstory of drag! The show just isn’t as obsessed with manufacturing them anymore.
If Drag Race has increasingly become more celebration than competition, All Stars is it’s biggest annual bash. That makes this first-ever All Stars “All Winners” series a “Platinum Jubilee” of drag (or a “Quarter Quell,” depending on your perspective).
This new season features a decade’s worth of winners: eight artists who were originally crowned from 2011 through 2020.
That’s not every winner, nor is it every fan favorite winner, and some folks are grouchy about the heavy-hitting queens who abstained or were passed over. Yet, it’s a stellar cast of artists at the height of their craft, and it becomes evident very early in this episode why only eight of them are competing.
(The missing winners are Chad Michaels, Bianca del Rio, Violet Chachki, Bob the Drag Queen, Alaska Thunderfuck, Sasha Velour, Trixie Mattel, and Aquaria. Note that James FKA Tyra no longer performs in drag and Sharon Needles has been accused of some racist and predatory behavior that will probably keep her away from the brand for some time. Meanwhile, Lawrence Chaney, Kita Mean, Kylie Sonique, Symone, & Krystal Versacé were all either newly-crowned or not-yet-crowned when this was shot. Plus, reportedly, queens Ru did not personally crown are not yet eligible for this franchise, which knocks out English-speaking international winners like Angele Anang, Priyanka, Envy Peru.)
With all of that out of the way, it’s time to recap Drag Race All Stars Season 7, Episode 1 – “Legends”!
Whether you are a Drag Race veteran or you’ve never seen the show, I’ll cover every step of the episode in detail. In this premiere, the queens have to write a verse for a brand new Ru song, and I dare you to find another recapper who is a songwriter who has written more than 400 songs!
Racers, start your engines! And, may the best drag queen… win!
(A final note: The general convention in talking about Drag Race is to refer to all contestants uniformly with “she/her” pronouns both in and out of drag while they are on the show, even if they personally identify using “he/him” or “they/them” pronouns. Sometimes this convention is broken to refer to RuPaul as “he/him” when he is in male drag. If a specific performer has expressed discomfort with “she/her” pronouns of course I’ll respect that and make a note of it below!)
Drag Race All Stars Season 7 Episode 1 “Legends” – Recap
At the beginning of every season of Drag Race, the contestants enter one by one into the “workroom” (AKA “Werkroom”). Each of them typically delivers a pithy catchphrase upon their entrance. These queens have all entered once or twice before, so many of their catchphrases are nods to their previous runs on the show.
Shea Couleé (Season 9 3rd Place, All Stars 5 Winner) was the first queen into the Workroom as the most-recently crowned winner in the cast. “I didn’t know I needed an introduction,” she announces to an empty room.
Shea’s monochromatic orange catsuit with a matching bolero jacket is dreamy. It combinines a harness-like structure that accentuates the illusion of her shape with slightly transparent panels that show some skin tone from beneath.
It’s so much better than a nude illusion, which is hard to maintain with such big panels. She has great proportions in it, the rich orange doesn’t blow out her skin color, and it lets her wear a small, slicked-back wig.
Shea also looks absolutely stunning in her confessional look – like she’s got a full-time Instagram filter over her face. While the show does sometimes grant queens some digital assistance with their beauty, I think this is all down to Shea’s real life makeup artistry.
Jaida Essence Hall (Season 12 Winner) is the most-recent main season winner on this cast, and she walks in on a question: “Hey, bitches, she’s… back?”
Jaida is in a red and silver bejeweled catsuit with a matching all-glittered motorcycle jacket. It’s a super-cool look, but it could’ve used a pop of solid contrast both under the jacket and in the red wig to break things up. A little blonde or white curl in the front of the wig would’ve given things much more dimension!
Still, she looks great.
Both Jaida and Shea mention their shared midwestern history of performing in each other’s home bars before Drag Race. I’m always amazed to discover how queens were connected prior to Drag Race. It always seems to me like Chicago is such a major hub for drag that it has strong connections with many surrounding cities in a way that a more insular community like NYC might not.
Yvie Oddly (Season 11 Winner) is the next entrance, saying, “Don’t mind me – I just evened the odds.”
While I don’t love her look, I have to admit it’s extremely Yvie.
To me, the purple and yellow bodysuit with a full-length cape is giving me Luchador. Yvie’s got legs for says and this shows them off, but there’s nothing special about her one-piece swimsuit and her boots are a slightly awkward height.
Also, as Jaida points out, the wig is floppy. It worked fine for her entrance pose, but afterwards it starts drooping in every direction. It needed a stronger hold!
What sticks out more than any quibbles I might have with her outfit is that Yvie is more charismatic than ever – especially in her very handsome confessional look. Yeah, she’s still “Queen of the Queerdos,” but being the odd one out is no longer something she is defensive about. It shines through in how she speaks about herself and the crunchiness of her drag. She’s not making any apologies about letting her freak flag fly this time around.
This initial trio of winners mention that they represent the recent “melanin dynasty” of black Drag Race winners (which continued with Symone in 2021) and their pride and sisterhood in establishing that reign. I’ve heard Shea and Jaida talk about this before, but less so Yvie, so it’s fun to see them discussing it together.
Trinity The Tuck (Season 9 3rd Place, All Stars 4 Co-Winner) is the next queen to enter, with the line, “Body, body, and more body. The Holy Trinity has arrived.”
She looks… confusing.
Her purple open bodice reveals a little too much of a breastplate, making it look extra-fake. She’s wearing a 1/4 mask over one eye, for some reason, and it graduates up to a feather duster. Her voluminous black feather skirt doesn’t go with anything else in the look aside from said duster, and she has a neon green mini-harness and green armbands on (probably to call back to her prior entrance looks). Also, her hair is too dark and gets swallowed by everything on the garment.
It’s a rare miss for her, but not a completely unexpected one. On Season 9 Trinity could occasionally over-detail an outfit into tackiness, although it seemed she was cured of that affliction on All Stars.
Monét X Change (Season 10 6th Place, All Stars 4 Co-Winner) is the next queen, announcing, “You know what they say – Monét changes everything!” while misfiring one of a pair of money guns.
(Ladies, please stay away from the props that shoot things. they don’t have a great track record on this show!)
Prop malfunction aside. Monét looks amazing. She has really mastered casual drag over her past few years of on-camera hosting. I love these ultra-short booty jorts with the pockets hanging out and a long-sleeved flannel top that wouldn’t look out of place in the real world on a warm Spring day. But, she takes the look over the top to drag with fabulous matching flannel thigh-high boots that are wrapped with a single piece of fabric right down to the heels.
Maybe Monét didn’t need as much tissue-esque fluffery on the shoulders of her top, which interfere with the silhouette of her beautiful asymmetrical puffs of hair.
Of course, if you have Trinity and Monet in a room, the topic of their twin crowning is going to come up. Fans love to imagine fictional animosity between them, but they seem to have a healthy relationship that goes beyond being colleagues to actual friendship. But, that doesn’t mean that they don’t both want their own individual reign – thus their return to the show.
The next queen in is the first huge shock, because her crown is more than half a decade older than Monét’s: it’s Jinkx Monsoon (Season 5 Winner)!
She says, “Line?!”
Jinkx is wearing something she probably would’ve worn on Season 5: black lingerie with a diaphanous flowery robe with massive draping sleeves.
Some folks might be underwhelmed, but I think it’s good strategy. In the words of Jasmine Kennedy, “this is just the entrance look.” There’s no reason Jinkx should come out of the gates flaunting her decade-long glow-up (which proves especially true given the impending twist). This is also a good signal about just how horny her drag is – something that didn’t really come through in her “bullied underdog” edit on Season 5.
Raja (Season 3 Winner) announces herself with, “Did somebody call for an EYE-CON?”
She looks every inch the part. She’s giving accurate biblical angel vibes with the circular asymmetrical golden bursts affixed all over her dress, including one framing her face.
And her face is beat. She looks flawless.
I think we’re so used to seeing Raja in somewhat casual make-up looks on Fashion Photo Ruview that it’s surprising to see her in full-on, HD-ready drag. It’s stunning. I could not stop staring at her.
Finally, we get The Vivienne (UK Season 1 Winner) – saved for last because of the gag of an international queen walking into the US Workroom.
She says, “Don’t you love a long, hard, stiff… competition?”
Viv is playing things somewhat casual with a pair of black wide-legged pants that go down to the floor, a grey bodice with black sequins and disconnected long sleeves, and her hair done in Malificent-esque twin horns. It’s low key, but it works, even if the gray fabric looks a little rumpled here and there. Her figure looks stunning, as does her beat.
She didn’t need to walk in wearing some stuffy, frilly frippery to make her impact on the competition, which would only emphasize her outsider status compared to these queens who are totally secure in their powers.
But, wait… is there a ninth queen in the race? A final competitor enters the Workroom wearing a glittering black-and-white bodysuit with wide-brimmed hat pulled down to their chin. What winner are we missing?
It turns out, we’re aren’t missing a winner – it’s Raven (Season 2 Runner-Up, All Stars 1 Runner-Up). She’s usually on set anyway, as she has been Ru’s Emmy-winning make-up artist since Season 9.
She enters on one of the show’s newest taglines, “Losing is the new winning,” itself a reference to the fact that queens like Raven don’t need a crown to be breakout drag stars around the globe.
Raven’s appearance here is an interesting bit of Drag Race errata for a few different reasons.
First, while Season 2 winner James (FKA Tyra) hasn’t exactly abdicated his crown, he has made it clear that he no longer wishes to be associated with the Drag Race brand. That makes Raven a sort of Season 2 first alternate representative by default.
(James no longer uses their original drag name or “she/her” pronouns.)
Also, Raven is one of a small handful of queens who Ru and the franchise treat as royalty even though they haven’t won. Alaska used to get this level of reverence before her All Stars Season 2 win, and it’s not uncommon to see Drag Race repeat offenders like Manila Luzon, Alexis Mateo, Latrice Royale, Detox, Shangela, and Ben de la Creme (plus newbies Brooke Lynn Hytes and GotMik) receive similar honorary “hall of fame” treatment even without a crown of their own. That’s down to a blend of factors including longevity, dominance on the show, success off of the show, and just how much RuPaul lives for them.
It would certainly make things interesting to allow one of these “almost winners” to return as a wild card on All Winners, but Ru quickly enters (in a gorgeous water-color-stained white suit) to confirm that Raven’s presence is merely a gag.
I think that’s for the best. Even the fiercest non-winner has not shared in the sisterhood of what it means to be America’s Next Drag Superstar, and that would change the dynamic of the show. There’s a certain ease between these champions that is obvious even in their initial interactions. No one is particularly threatened or threatening – they’re all just having a kiki. Adding in a wildcard probably wouldn’t be worth what was lost in the process.
The All-Winners Twist
After ejecting Raven from the workroom, RuPaul makes the surprising announcement that no one is going home this season in the race to win $200,000 and the title of “Queen of Queens.”
That is different than the typical All Star rules, where Ru does not personally eliminate anyone. He leaves the decision to the winner of that week’s Lip Sync For Your Legacy (LSFYLegacy) in a high-drama, high-camp selection of a lipstick tube bearing the name of the eliminated queen.
Ru emphasizes that, “you’re all going to leave here just how you came in – as a beloved crowned queen.” Apparently there will be no iconic lipstick selections this season!
Instead, the Top Two queens each week will receive a “Legendary Legends” badge. They will LSFYLegacy for $10,000 and for the chance to block a queen from receiving a badge the next week, even if she makes it to the top two.
This is important, because the half of the cast with the most badges will advance to a final “Lip Sync LalapaRuza Smackdown” for the crown in the finale.
(While it isn’t explicitly explained, the Top Two queen who doesn’t win the lip sync is immune from being blocked. Also, it doesn’t seem as though the winner receives any advance knowledge of the next challenge.)
There are layers upon layers of strategy in this format.
Under regular All Stars rules, there’s no real utility to winning a LSFYLegacy other than getting the $10,000. Queens usually aren’t too excited about kicking off their competitors (except for Kennedy with Milk, of course), and winning the lip sync doesn’t necessarily help their case in reaching the finale. Plus, choosing a lipstick for the wrong reasons can put a target on your back. (See: Manila.)
Now, there are major in-game benefits and detractions to winning the LSFYLegacy! The benefit is being able to block another competitor who might get in the way of you reaching the finale, but the detraction is giving that queen a great reason to block you in retaliation if she has a badge-less win the following episode.
The choice to fight for a lip sync win and of who to block will likely shift across our 11 competitive episodes, with 22 possible points on the line between the eight queens.
Early in the season, the strategy ought to be all about reduction. Everyone should want to prevent a queen from getting to a 2nd or 3rd badge.
However, once multiple queens break through to 2+ badges, the queen who is #2 in badges might no longer care about catching up with the #1. Now, her top priority will be holding off the queens who could tie or overtake her.
Similarly, the queens with the fewest badges shouldn’t waste time targeting the queen with THE MOST badges. It’s fine if she keeps winning more, because a queen at the back of the pack isn’t actually in competition with her! That queen will want to target someone who is +/- 1 badge from her to cement her position.
Reading Challenge & Naomi Campbell Runway Walk
While the queens are still processing this, RuPaul opens the library! That means each queen gets to deliver her fiercest read – a barbed, mostly-true, comedic put-down – to each other queen in the cast.
All of these queens are sharp, and with the exception of Trinity and Yvie all of their reads land solidly.
Shea’s are casual cool, Jaida’s are a bit basic, Monét is overeager and musses up her own punchline, Viv is extra-blunt, and Jinkx gets a little more airtime to stretch out – and she nabs the obvious win. Honestly, the best two moments are probably all of the queens greeting the Pit Crew’s Bruno by name and thanking him, and Raja simply calling them all “BOOGERS!”
Then, the queens are shuffled out to the runway to be surprised by a special guest – the one and only queen of the runway, Naomi Campbell!
Naomi will be judging all of their runway walks. Well, not really. What she really seems to be there to do is to telegraph the structure of this season’s judging: compliment everyone and produce a meme-worthy moment if possible. The worst critique anyone gets is to “slow down” and for Monét to “stop doing that thing with your feet.”
However, we get memorable interactions from Jaida and especially Shea, for whom Naomi helped to define their walk, their concept of fashion, and their concept of drag.
Shea is completely shook that Naomi is even there, so when Naomi has “no notes” on Shea’s spectacular runway walk it’s a major emotional moment.
“Legends” Songwriting Analysis
We don’t get to see much of the songwriting process for the queens’ verses on RuPaul’s “Legends,” and none of the recording process.
It’s clear that it has already happened by the time they rehearse their choreography, because they have their own verses playing in their ear-buds. That suggests that this rehearsal footage may actually be from the next day – it’s unlikely they got everyone recorded, mixed, and the mixes comped and ready for rehearsal in a matter of hours.
The queens are supposedly left to their own devices to choreograph their song and they elect Shea as their captain. However, there’s also some reality-show magic here. The queens aren’t shown rehearsing with dancers, but they have dancers in the final choreo both within their own verses (Trinity is carried by hers) and during the choruses. Were the queens allowed to demand dancers as needed? If so, when did they arrive and rehearse?
In the performance, the queens deliver their verses in the order of their reigns – Raja, Jinkx, Monét, Trinity, Viv, Jaida, & Shea.
How would I rank their success? Probably Yvie, Shea, Jaida, Jinkx, Raja, Monet, Trinity, Viv. As you will see below, I’m a big stickler for lyrics, so the less sense a queen’s verse made, the worse she did in my book.
Raja looks… a little awkward? She’s in a catsuit with color-blocked paneling that looks cool, but the corseting and shapewear beneath it makes it look lumpy from her waist to her rib cage. Also, seeing Raja in a blunt-cut blonde wig is disorienting after years of her almost-exclusively rocking gray and silver, as is her conventional bright red and blue makeup. She’s definitely giving Sia from the neck up.
As for her verse, Raja might have the most clever lyrics of the episode, even if her delivery is slightly tentative.
Raja, the goddess, supreme and deity
There is no rivalry, gods let you worship me
Iconic style, transcending he or she
Refer to my pronouns as “thou”
Drop to your knees and bow
Raja successfully plays with assonance and internal rhyming here. Notice the repeated “ah” in the first line, the denseness of “ee” vowels, and the triple-threat of “ou, ou, ou” in the final two lines. It is solid songwriting. She clearly knows what she’s doing.
It it perfect? No. Does it all make sense? No, because the second line is confounding and the “pronouns” line just isn’t right for her rhythm scheme. It could be even tighter with just a few small tweaks:
Raja, the goddess, your supreme and deity
I’m above rivalry, everyone worships me
Iconic style, transcending he or she
My pronouns are “thee” and “thou”
So drop to your knees and bow
Those lyrics tell a smoother story, plus sneak in an extra “ee” rhyme, the lack of which is why the “pronouns” line does not quite work in the actual verse.
Jinx is in an emerald green outfit bodysuit with puff sleeves that works perfectly for a “leggy cabaret star” vibe, which is exactly what she’s selling. Her corsetry and proportions work well, which makes her legs look extra long.
Jinkx is by far the most-accomplished singer and songwriter in this cast, so it’s no surprise that her lyrics track well and her vocal is on-point:
Hello, world, I’m Jinkx Monsoon
I’m here to make your stepson swoon
I’m in it to win it, I’m fierce like a cougar
Rise to the challenge, get the judges saying “Ooh, girl!”
Rub-a-dub-dub, get in my tub
Mommy’s gonna scrub down all of these subs
Yes, I’m Jinkx and I aim to please
If you don’t believe me, check my knees
I do have a few critiques.
First, the ending “oo” rhymes on the first few line are rushed in her vocal performance. I lost several of them on my initial listens. Also, it’s not clear to me if “subs” was meant to be “submissives” or “SOBs,” but it works either way.
As for the songwriting, I’m not sure she needed an extra “I’m Jinkx” in the second to last line. It was a chance to give herself another distinct title or label. It feels like with “aim to please” at the end of the line she could’ve played with something about comparing “top” or “dom” with “bottom” or “service” to make it land a little more squarely. For example, “I’ll dominate you, but I still aim to please.”
Monét X Change
I think Monét was rocking one of the best pop-star looks in an outfit that suggests “modern gladiator.” Her vocal performance was stellar and full of stunning harmony. Whether she performed it herself or she advised on how it should be programmed, it sounded great. The lack of harmony is what often makes RuGirl verses sound empty or unprofessional.
Yet, per her usual track record, Monét managed to fuck up the simple task of getting out of her own way during a song. Check out the lyrics:
Realize the triple crown is why I’m here, it’s what I’m after
Bow down, kiss the ring, call me master
Queen of serving face, slay
Seven other bitches, No C in the UNTY
Only crowned queen serving cunt-geniality
Won All Stars 4 and I’ll do it again
Give Trin the bop bop bop, for me and my fans, hey
First of all, what is the “triple crown” in this context? There ain’t nothing triple about it! Triple Crown implies horse racing, so is she saying… she’s a horse? That’s more of Alaska’s gig. Is Monét counting her Ms. Congeniality title as a crown? Is she including Bob’s crown? Why not just say “double crown” or “second crown,” either of which fits in just the same?!
Also, did we need the incredibly pedestrian “won All Stars 4” in this verse, or the hard-to-parse comment about… punching?… Trinity? The final two lines don’t make any sense. I’m not even sure how to fix them, which is a shame because the middle lines and the performance are incredible.
Trinity The Tuck
Trinity absolutely won the challenge of looking the part of a pop star. Her barely-there green dress and long blonde tresses were divine.
Also, she’s finally become wise enough to avoid attempts at pitched singing and she has mastered quick rhythmic delivery (especially compared to her stilted Season 9 verse).
But… girl… what did rhyming ever do to you to make you hate it so much?
Guess who’s back here to slay again
Under my belt, count ’em, seven wins
Ain’t nobody show up like this
Tuck it up like this, I could do it all night
This southern gal on her game, body for days
Make you say “ooh-la-la”
Herstory know me by name
This queen will reign
Set it on fi-i-ire
This is so close to working, but there are two broken rhyming patterns that make it confusing to listen to.
The “like this, like this,” needed a final “is” rhyme to complete the set, or it needed a second set in a similar rhythm to rhyme with the “ight” from “night.”
Then, Trinity does the same thing with “game, days” without completing the pattern! It’s almost as if the “ooh-la-la” and “by name” lines are in the wrong order, because each of them complete the rhyme the other was setting up!
Let’s give it another try, shall we?
Guess who’s back here to slay again
Under my belt, count ’em, seven wins
Ain’t nobody show up like this
Tuck it up like this
Leave you all in bliss
This southern gal on her game
Body for days
Herstory knows me by name
Make you say “ooh-la-la”
This queen will reign
Set it on fi-i-ire
This might seem like splitting hairs, but these few small changes make a big different to the flow of the verse. I think if Trinity’s verse had better flow she would’ve had an easier time nailing her lip sync (something the judges mention in deliberations). I don’t love the use of “bliss” in my version; I’m tempted to make it work better by changing “Herstory know me by name” to “I’ll make you scream my name.”
Yvie is here to make it clear she is the stealth songwriting champion in this group.
This verse is perfect. The story tracks, the rhyming is clever, and the “na na na” singsongy melody she gives it is brilliant. Her catsuit with black pleather sleeves was a standout, and her choreography was eye-catching.
No notes. Except the wig.
Oddly, it’s Yvie
I can’t be beaten, believe me (Nope, nope)
I’m freaky like Friday, I won the crown my way
And I’ll make this next one look easy (Ooh)
Queen of the queerdos
Teaching the kids to live freely (So free)
I keep on growing past what they all know
‘Cause you can’t fit my legend on TV
Sadly, Viv completely failed in this challenge – and it’s one of the ones where she really should’ve fought for a win since she’s probably the second or third strongest singer in this cast.
Her look is too busy and her lyrics aren’t busy enough. They don’t say anything. They don’t rhyme. They feel like the sort of placeholders you write early in the songwriting process when you need to lock down the chord structure and melody. Except, Viv didn’t have to worry about chord structure and the voice-leading of the existing chords gave her the melody!
Queen of queens has always been my future
Since my life found a way, hey, yeah, yeah
Gonna show what the UK’s got
I’m ready to start my reign, my reign
What does “my life found a way” even mean?! Is she referring to her sobriety? To getting on Drag Race? To being born? To be fair, “future” is a hard word to rhyme, so she didn’t exactly set herself up for success there. Also, are we supposed to think “reign” is completely the rhyme from the “yeah yeah”? It’s been an eternity since that line, in songwriting time.
Let’s try a slight rewrite, shall we?
It has always been my future to be the queen of queens
Since before I first set foot on a stage
Gonna show what the UK’s got, whether you’re ready or not
(I’m the British Invasion), and I’m here to start my reign
Is it art mawma? No. Does it resolve a few of the problems of her original verse while adding in more internal rhyme and filling the dead air she created with useless “yeah yeahs”? Yes.
Jaida Essence Hall
I was so worried about Jaida in a songwriting challenge, because she’s not a lyricist and she can’t sing.
But, um… this is fucking spectacular. It’s catchy, it flows, it’s packed with internal rhyme, it’s witty as hell (especially the vocoder gag at the end), and she looked great.
Jaida nailed this challenge.
The legend’s back again, gonna snatch the crown
‘Bout to turn the whole world upside down
Sickening little bitch whit an itty, bitty waist
Child, I’m never afraid to put a bitch in her place
She’s a queen for the people, you’re mother-tucking right
Got the looks, the beauty, I know you’re gonna like
Spent a worldwide pandemic with seven more queens
With a stamp from mama Ru, even though I can’t sing
Aside from Shea’s absolutely hideous nude delusion catsuit, I have no notes. I almost wish she had just stuck with her entrance look!
Visuals aside, Shea might be the best lyricist in Drag Race herstory, and this verse no exception.
That’s right, save the best for last
I’m Miss Coulee, but did you gotta ask?
I’m dripped in designer, hot on fire
Struttin’ down the runway, building my empire
You better bring the energy
‘Cause slaying is my legacy
And if you ain’t scared of me (Ha, ha, ha,ha)
Miss thing, you better be (Miss thing, you better be)
(Miss thing, you better be)
Runway & Judging
Before we get to the runway, RuPaul gives a stiff performance of her gaslighting anthem and TikTok minor meme “Just What They Want.” I love that Ru is actually giving us some performances on recent seasons, but surely she’s capable of doing a little more than slowly walking in drag?
Ru’s outfit is extremely confusing, but in a mostly good way. I’m distracted by the one giant velour boob, but otherwise I do enjoy when she gives pure abstract art on an outfit.
Tonight’s runway theme is “Crowned Queen.”
First to the runway is Raja and she looks op-u-lent. She’s giving a gay dandy king fantasy that’s both a period reference and an extreme exaggeration.
Every detail of this look is perfectly considered, even if it’s a little on-the-nose for the theme.
Next is Jinkx Monsoon, sporting another period-referencing, highly-detailed regal look with a modern twist – the ability to part the voluminous skirts to pop out a shapely leg. The look is an absolute stunner, especially the spiked golden crown.
She also went with a minimal make-up that reduces her lip size and gives her eyes a bit of a squint, which add to a the regal prissiness of this look.
Monét X Change continues her streak of getting in her own way in every element of this episode with a frumpy runway silhouette. She is wearing a spectacular hair show coif on top of a white tracksuit with shoulder puffs and caged hips.
It doesn’t work because the hip cages are mostly obscured by the track suit and they just aren’t big enough to balance her proportions. Also, the high center point of the waist of her pants shrinks her torso. Altogether, it makes her look equally thick up and down from hips to ankles. Part of that is because the cuff of the track suit cuts off high on her ankles. That shrinks her when she actually needs to give the illusion of longer legs to make the hip bustles work.
This could’ve been great. The hip cages needed to be wider. The track suit shouldn’t have a concave curve up to her belly button, but a convex dip to lengthen her torso. Then, it should’ve had cut outs below the waist to show of the cages off rather than a dip above the waist. Finally, the hem at the ankles should’ve been cut lower. Or, alternately, cut at a diagonal taper from the higher outside of the leg to the lower inside of the ankle to give more of an illusion of them coming to a point at the bottom, which would lengthen her.
Oh, well. They can’t all be winners, even though they’re all winners.
Trinity The Tuck inches down the runway in one of the most over-the-top pageant looks we’ve ever seen on American Drag Race!
It’s spectacular in scope, with a train that spreads for yards in every direction, but it’s a touch overly-fussy on the bodice. Specifically, the purple velvet ribcage has a few too many criss-crossing lines, which eliminates any kind of shaping illusion on Trinity’s torso. Also, the dark red lip without a strong liner throws off the balance the rest of her mug. It’s still a tremendous look, but it could’ve been cleaner.
Yvie Oddly‘s outfit is a nod to regional dialect, playing with the idea of “crown” and “crayon” as homophones.
This minimal melted wax look is chic – I love how it’s barely there on Yvie’s stunning body. However, the look defeats itself with exposed black straps on the top and white straps on the bottom. One thing that’s always a “no” on the Drag Race runway is exposed undergarments (unless they’re intentional).
Yvie mentioned in her opening confessional that she planned to be a mess this season, but to me there’s a difference between messy edges and missed details. Just giving those straps a solid color wrapping in the yellow or the red from the look, or making them transparent, would’ve elevated this and might’ve snagged her the much-deserved win.
The Vivienne‘s look is confusing. She says it’s meant to be giving Westwood deconstructions or Van Herpen tendrils, but it’s mostly giving me burlap sack. The sculpted crown of hair is amazing, but otherwise this is a wide miss.
In particular, the bustline is too broad to be flattering and the split in the skirt is way too high – we’re losing her waist and seeing her undergarment.
Also, I don’t understand the disconnected billowing white silk sleeves. The look would’ve been better with bare arms and some simple wrist cuffs.
Jaida Essence Hall is in a flowing gown that is giving me classical painting – something with beautiful lilies – plus a massive Marge Simpson beehive of blonde locks with a tiny crown on top.
This is a stunning look, but there’s something a little odd about the structure of the dress that makes it hard to look at. Maybe it’s the one swooshing lily acting as the bodice, maybe it’s the lighter purple underskirt peaking out from the overskirt of lilies… I dunno. It’s clearly not bad, but there’s something a little bit off about it.
Shea Couleé delivers real life haut couture with African royalty styling, and it is breathtaking.
Despite the flowing nature of this Maison Valentino robe dress, we still have a sense of her shape beneath it. Combined with the jade-stretched lobes and the massive Nefertiti crown of braids, it is nothing short of black excellence in drag.
We get a repeat of the Naomi Campbell sequence from the judges’s critiques. According to them, everyone is excellent and killed it. They mostly agreed with my takes from above, though they liked Monét’s look a lot more than I did, didn’t mention Yvie’s exposed straps in specific, and gently teased Trinity about not knowing her own lyrics in the performance (she cackles in agreement).
Lip Sync For Your Legacy & The Platinum Plunger
The lip sync song is Ella Fitzgerald’s “Old MacDonald.”
If you thought having an old jazz tune without the opportunity for tricks splits would make for an easy lip sync, oo girl, you were mistaken. This is one of the most high-precision lip syncs in the history of this show!
Shea Couleé’s performance is absolutely transcendent. It might be the best lip sync in Drag Race herstory, overtaking her previous entry for that title with “Neutron Dance.” Shea gives the lyrics an easy scatted flow, and she adds plenty of silly body moments to play up the camp qualities of Fitzgerald’s vocal performance of this nursery rhyme.
Monét did a great job, but I feel as though she was trying to force too much of her own humor into things – especially with her breathless bit and the late turn upstage. Shea embodied being a slightly daft but still totally glamorous jazz chanteuse, and that’s why she gets the win.
After a hilarious sequence of Shea pacing up and down the line-up of the bottom six queens while wielding a beglittered toilet plunger, Shea blocks Trinity.
Was this the right pick?
Do I understand why Shea made it?
Trinity is a recent competitor who has shown that she is incredible at the format of Drag Race. She has found a way to win almost every kind of challenge and she racked up constant wins on her previous All Stars season.
It’s tempting to block that right away. Also, Shea knows that she herself is also a frontrunner and might be trying to avoid starting a blocking war by picking her best friend on the cast.
However, given the relative power-levels of this group, everyone should be blocking Jinkx at every opportunity until they have Snatch Game and at least one acting challenge in their rearview!
For Shea to not block the one other queen on the cast who is the most dominant across every kind of challenge (except design) when she already has a one-badge lead on a singing challenge is a strategic misstep. I feel it might come back to bite Shea in the long run.
Where do our octet of champion stand after the first week of competition?
1. Shea Couleé – 1 win, 1 badge (was #2)
Despite Shea’s strategic misstep in blocking Trinity and her hideous performance outfit, everything else here was sheer perfection – from her entrance outfit to her stalking around while wielding the platinum plunger. By barring Jinkx from what should’ve been an easy singer/songwriter win she has asserted her dominance. That also puts a target on her back, but that’s the name of the game. She’s also hot off of the most recent Snatch Game win of this entire cast!
2. Jinkx Monsoon (was #1)
Did Jinkx miss out on a gimme of a win here? Yes. But, Ru could’ve easily handed it to her if she wanted to – especially with Jinkx presenting near-flawless verse and wearing her best runway of all time. Jinkx missed out on this win purely for story reasons… and next week is Snatch Game. She remains the queen to fear the most on this cast, even if Shea has more momentum.
3. Monét X Change – 1 win, 1 badge (was #4)
Monét came out of the gates with a strong showing… according to the judges, a least. I’d have her at the bottom of this ranking based on her verse and her runway! Still, getting a badge and escaping without having to make a block is good news for her, and it gives her a leg up over her twinner. I have her behind Jinkx because Monét is good-but not-great at Snatch Game. There’s an outside chance she could notch a second win.
4. Trinity The Tuck (was #3)
Trinity could’ve totally failed on a singer/songwriter challenge, but from the deliberations it sounded like she was almost in the Top Two! To have sailed through one of her weakest spots and now be heading into one of her strongest is as great a position as she could hope to be in at this point. She is definitely in the top half of this group when it comes to Snatch Game, with one win and one solid showing. But, even if she crushes it, she cannot take home a badge next week.
5. Jaida Essence Hall (was #6)
I was a little worried about Jaida’s ability to stand out against these mega-talents. I shouldn’t have been. That she delivered such a remarkable verse as a non-singer tells me she didn’t just show up to win a participation trophy – she plans to battle hard against her fellow winners. I’m sure she’s going to play spoiler once or twice in other challenges where we don’t expect her to dominate. That said, her original Snatch Game was unremarkable. It’ll be hard to stand out against this gang.
6. Yvie Oddly (was #8)
Yvie Oddly showed up and slayed in this episode, from her verse, to her choreography, to her “crowns / crayons” runway interpretation. It’s a lot of fun to see her being mega competitive right out of the gate. Still, she missed a win here in one of her strongest challenges, which ain’t great. I don’t get the sense she will be satisfied finishing behind these other queens week after week, and she doesn’t have to worry about getting kicked out due to Snatch Game – the only challenge she bottomed for in her original season.
7. Raja (was #5)
Raja’s verse was strong and her runway was outstanding, but it feels like she is here to do well rather than to draw blood. Also, based on this judging, runway might not count for too much this season other than breaking ties. That takes away one of Raja’s biggest advantages as a competitor. She’s not necessarily a favorite for Snatch Game in the field against three former winners, so for now she’s laying low in the rankings.
8. The Vivienne (was #7)
The Vivienne tanked one of the few challenges where she could’ve snagged an insurgent win, her lyrics were horrible, and her runway outfit was confusing. At no point in this episode did she seem like a real contender to me or to the judges. She delivered what Michelle deemed “possibly the best Snatch Game of all time” on her original season, so she needs to crush the Americans next week if she wants to build any momentum in this season.