Welcome to my recap of the third episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars Season 7 – The Realness of Fortune Ball!
In this episode of this special All Winners season, each our eight crowned queens have to construct a garment from scratch corresponding to a fabulous and colorful vacation destination – the sorts of trips offered as prizes on classic game shows like Wheel of Fortune.
Making a garment from scratch might be the one standard Drag Race challenge I’ve still never tried myself!
When I first started commenting on and recapping Drag Race back in 2014 I was doing it as a complete layperson. I knew plenty about singing, songwriting, acting, and public speaking – which covered a slew of typical Drag Race challenges.
When it came to the actual drag on the runway, I knew very little about make-up or fashion that I hadn’t learned from the judges. I was going off of what was pleasing to me without being able to articulate exactly why.
This is a frequent topic of discussion in Drag Race fandom, and amongst the queens themselves. Who is qualified to critique the work of these incredible artists, who are make-up artists, costume designers, and stylists all rolled up into one. The Drag Race judging panel sometimes struggles to have the right references to understand where queens are coming from, so who are we to try?!
I’m of two minds about that.
On one hand, you don’t have to be an expert in something to talk about if it resonates with you. That’s a way people gatekeep themselves from appreciating fine art, classical music, runway fashion, or any other form of high art.
On the other hand, I think Drag Race fans have consumed so much of the Drag Race industrial complex of endless franchise seasons, recap shows, podcasts, and fashion reviews that they think they’re an expert just because they’ve heard so much from the experts. There’s a Dunning-Kruger effect there, where even though fans don’t fully understand something about drag they assume they have have as much know-how as the queens themselves.
I’ve always been sensitive to that second bit, especially because I’m qualified to seriously critique a lot of elements of Drag Race OTHER THAN the drag itself.
That’s why I’ve spent the past few years trying to actually learn about drag other than by watching the show. I’ve read up on drag history and pageants. I’ve watched countless make-up tutorials. I’ve been keeping up with fashion blogs and runway shows. And, I’ve actually done my own drag make-up – which will never see the light of day on the internet! (At least, not until I’m much better at blending.)
I don’t think all of that is required to recap Drag Race. Nor do I think following runway collections and knowing how to contour doesn’t mean I’m anywhere in the same solar system of talent compared to these All Winners!
What I do think is that if you’re going to spend to time to go past consuming art to engage with it critically, you owe it to both yourself and to the artist to better understand their art form. (And, also, engaging critical doesn’t mean hating or belittling these artists! Turning in uneven work on one episode of a TV show has no bearing on how great a drag artist you are.)
Does that mean I understand how these queens built their dresses from scratch for this week’s design challenge? Hell no! Design challenges involve the peak of a drag queen’s power to create something from nothing, and I’ll cover every step of that process in detail here! Plus, at the end of the recap I’ll update my Episode 2 power rankings to show where the queens stand after another week of Legendary Legend badges. (Want to skip right to the power rankings? Go for it!)
Readers, start your engines! And, may the best drag queen… win!
Drag Race All Stars Season 7 Episode 3 – The Realness of Fortune Ball Recap
Platinum Plunger Aftermath
We begin with the queens returning to the workroom fresh from Jinkx winning the lip sync to “Rumour Has It” and blocking Shea from receiving a Legendary Legend star this week (much to Trinity’s delight).
When the queens ask Jinkx about her rationale for blocking Shea, she says, “I think Snatch Game might be one of [Shea’s] only stumbles, so if I didn’t block her now I might not get another chance.”
I think this speaks not only to Jinkx’s confidence in this competition, but to her strategy. Some of these queens are in a week-to-week race, but Jinkx is already thinking about Shea as one of her biggest competitors in the long game of making it to the final. She has to throw an impediment at her now while she can.
As all the queens agree with Jinkx’s rationale, in confessionals Monét is thrilled to be “flying under the radar” despite also having a Legendary Legend star from week one. Why is she not being mentioned by the queens?! Is it because Shea won the week one lip sync and they’re more focused on her, or because they don’t see Monét as a threat?
Either way, they might regret that later!
Shea returns to the workroom, silently slapping the plunger against one open palm as she saunters to her seat. “This is a game of chess that we’re playing,” she voiceovers from confessional, “let’s make these girls a little nervous.”
This is where the fun begins, and where Shea’s true power as a competitor shines. After silently facing down the other seven queens long enough to make things uncomfortable, Shea calmly informs them that she is happy to have “learned of the Platinum Plunger’s full potential,” and that she “didn’t know it was the gift that keeps on giving.”
“There’s no secret,” she reminds us as viewers. “I made it up.” The gift she’s referring to is the obvious tendency for the Plunger to bounce back to someone who previously did the plungeing. However, with a wink to Trinity to let her in on the charade (somewhat less convincingly than Shea), Shea gets the other queens thinking that there is a secret twist to receiving the Platinum Plunger that might give you an advantage later in the game.
“You absolutely did what you were supposed to do,” she says sanguinely to Jinkx.
Some of the queens are more rattled than others – especially given that they’re from seasons with a wide variety of special twists and turns. Jaida, especially, seems to be lost deep in her own confusion… but, she reminds us, that’s her natural state. Look over there!
“A new day in the workroom!” & Mini-Challenge
The queens don’t get much of a chance to chat the next day before the RuMail siren interrupts them.
Ru’s message is plainly all about Wheel of Fortune. The queens feign confusion, which is understandable since they just had their signature game show challenge with Snatch Game, but they also all packed a “Vanna White Realness” look. There’s some acting (huh!) going on here.
RuPaul enters the workroom wearing a plaid three-piece suit with no shirt underneath and introduces the queens to a twin mini-challenge that’s a deconstructed game of Wheel of Fortune.
First, the queens play “hung man” – the letter-guessing part of Wheel. The category is “Before & After,” meaning a play on words that merges two names or phrases on their common ending/beginning, and the answer (as Jinkx figures out) is “Vanna White Party.”
This leads to the reveal of the weekly maxi-challenge – The Realness of Fortune Ball. In the custom of most Drag Race ball challenges, the queens will wear a pair of looks they brought from home – Vanna White Realness (“classic gameshow hostess glamour”) and Before & After (“think: Diana Ross Matthews”). Then, they’re make their own “Realness of Fortune Eleganza” look themed on a colorful destination getaway.
To select their color theme, the queens spin to win on a massive Fortune-sized wheel packed with colorful destinations and a few potential cash prizes. (What is with Ru’s obsession with spinning wheels? I guess it’s a game show thing. For me, it’s Plinko. I’d do unspeakable things to play an actual game of Plinko.)
Things start without complication. Jinkx lands on “The Lavender Fields of Province, France.” Shea gets “The White Cliffs of Dover, England” (“Why’s it gotta be white?” she asks). Monét snags “The Emerald Isle, Ireland.” Jaida spins for “Black Sand Beach, Big Island, Hawaii.”
Raja lands on “The Golden Pagoda, Yangon, Myanmar,” and if I’m another queen on this cast I am terrified of Raja having gold as her color after seeing her entrance look.
Yvie manages to rack up $1500 before hitting the “BANKRUPT” slot, which forfeits her turns and brings Viv up to spin. This comes with its own ironic comedy, because Viv was never eligible to win any kind of prize on Drag Race UK due to BBC rules around sponsorship. This is her first chance to win as little as $.69! She, too, pulls in $1500 worth of spins before landing on “The Great Blue Hole, Belize.” That means she gets to keep her money – her first ever Drag Race prize!
That leaves Yvie to mop “The Pink City, Jaipur, India” and Trinity to wrap things up with “The Red Square, Moscow, Russia.”
(The episode included a disclaimer at the beginning that the location was selected prior to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. I’m surprised they didn’t simply voice-over another “red” location. It wouldn’t be the first time.)
The Realness of Fortune Eleganza design challenge
The difference between this ball challenge and a typical Drag Race design challenge is that none of the queens receive unconventional materials or random plastic knickknacks. Everyone’s package is more or less the same, aside from the colors. There are different kinds of fabrics, different textures, and some gaudy beads and sequins, but everyone is starting on much more equal footing than in a typical design challenge.
(That isn’t just about making sure no one gets a harder assignment. Sometimes that unequal footing can elevate one crafty queen above her competitors. So far, this season is all about a level playing field.)
While Viv starts pinning together “a classic silhouette” and Monét starts sketching, Trinity is already sewing ruffles. Monét and Trinity never had a design challenge on All Stars Season 4, but Trinity slayed them twice on Season 9. I think Shea, Jaida, & Raja tend to get so much attention as seamstresses and designers that people overlook how deadly Trinity is at both conceptualizing a look and cranking it out on a sewing machine.
(As opposed to Monét, who confesses, “The last thing I made was the sponge dress!”)
Meanwhile, Raja is going HIGH CONCEPT on her look, building a giant round-the-neck frill on her mannequin before she even tackles a base garment. She confesses, “When I’m creating, typically I’m at home. There’s a taxiderm peacock. I usually have a goblet of cold white wine in my hand. And a kaftan. And I luxuriate in the process.” She expresses some hesitance and even a bit of disgust about the high pressure of the workroom, but the fact that she’s already executing a vision while other queens are sketching speaks to her practical side.
From there we flash to the Jinkx Monsoon Struggle Bus. Jinkx famously lip synced for one of her two design challenges, and like Monét it seems that she hasn’t sewn much since then. She can’t even get her gauzy purple fabric to run through the Singer sewing machine. After the bobbin flies off repeatedly (“Mama doesn’t sew,” she confesses), she vows to simply drape and braid her way to an outfit.
Despite her sewing difficulties, Jinkx feels like she “really lucked out” when it came to blocking Shea. “At least I blocked one of the sewers,” she exclaims to Jaida, and then in confessional points out, “if I had four blocks, there’s four people I could’ve blocked.”
Shea isn’t just blocked from a win – she’s also feeling blocked creatively. She is still sketching while other queens are measuring their fabrics. Shea knows her Vanna White look is white, and she knows she’s already done bridal on the show on All Stars. How can she stay away from both when she has white as her challenge color?! After tossing away what looks like over a half-dozen sketches, she decides to go with the path of least resistance and do bridal, again.
I wonder if she would’ve made this same decision if she wasn’t blocked. It almost feels like Shea has decided to do something safe since she can’t snag a Legendary Legend star so the blocking energy of whoever wins the week can focus on Jinkx or Monét.
It’s not a bad strategy. There are a fixed amount of wins and stars available. If you can win but not get a star and you don’t think you’re likely to get blocked, why be a tall poppy and risk being mowed down the next week when you’re eligible again?
Ru visits for a walkaround. He tries to rattle Jinkx the braiding queen (“I’m gonna end up just dipping myself in honey and rolling around in the fabric and hoping for the best”), asks Monét why she wasn’t blocked (“that’s for you and me to talk about at a Tic-Tac lunch after the show”), wonders if Jaida’s complex pattern will come together (she is unshakeable), and flirts with Yvie (he suggests she “not tuck” in her mesh bodysuit).
Trinity already has a finished dress while the other queens are still sewing their first seams. And, it’s… really impressive, even just on a mannequin. That leaves her free to pay Jinkx a visit in “Glue Town, USA” to whip her purple goddess frock into better shape. (Later in Untucked we learn Trinity helped every queen with their looks.)
This is an interesting strategy from Trinity, she of the one block and zero stars. Why not endear yourself to everyone in the room? Would another queen really hold back on a potential future block because someone helped them… when really there’s no negative to doing poorly in any given challenge? It can’t hurt to plant some seeds.
The next day Trinity visits Monét to give her some help (which we see in Untucked), but also to ensure their alliance is still in effect. Except… Monét wants more people in the alliance.
This is a tricky thing in a cast of eight queens. Are you really going to assemble four queens as a finals faction, which makes the other four queens a defacto team trying to defeat you?
It seems like an alliance of three queens would be the maximum advisable amount, but after failing to recruit Jinkx (“It’s so tempting…”), Monét dispatches Trinity to work on Shea (who feels like the alliance would benefit Monét too much), which also draws the attention of Jaida (“I feel bamboozled… but I’m not trying to get into no back corner drag gang”)!
That means everyone is aware of it now except for Raja, Yvie, and Viv! Or, in Trinity’s own words, “A secret alliance ain’t secret if everybody knows about it, sweetie.”
Runway: The Realness of Fortune Ball
It’s time for the ball runway, with judges RuPaul, Michelle Visage (looking particularly beautiful), style superstar Carson Kressley, and actor Kirby Howell-Baptiste, a Brit recognizable for shows like Killing Eve and Why Women Kill. As with the other guest judges we’ve met so far, she appears to be a Drag Race superfan, and we love to see it.
Ru’s look is lovely, if a bit standard for her. It’s a one-shoulder dress made up entirely of appliqué pink flowers over a subtle nude illusion, with a slit placed high up on one thigh. She looks flawless, especially with a massive halo of tousled wavy hair as wide as her shoulders, but it’s nothing we haven’t seen from mother before.
And, SURPRISE!, we have the actual Vanna White to stand in her own tiny “COVID bubble” platform off to the side of the stage to announce all of the queens and their looks!
In an odd twist, several queens have problems with the pair of looks they brought from home despite turning out serviceable constructed looks. Get ready for a rough one, readers.
For me, Jinkx went 0-for-3 on her looks tonight.
Jinkx’s Vanna White Realness was so close, but it feels off due to a sheer, gauzy, batwing cape connected to long trailing wrist cuffs that match her sequined dress.
The base black dress isn’t a bad Vanna illusion – it hits the floor at the perfect spot and it has a sheer modesty panel from the bust up to the neck. But, the cape… how are you going to turn letters in the cape?!
I’m not denying Vanna White might have work a cape once or twice, but it looks a little too unwieldy to be a classic Vanna look. Once Jinkx whips the cape off for her walk back up the runway it’s a more fitting impersonation. Also, her simple, glamorous make-up and combed back blonde hair is perfect for evening-wear.
Jinkx’s “Before & After” is “What ever happened to baby Jane Fonda?”
This isn’t a stunning, over-the-top look, but it is total camp directly aimed into Ru’s wheelhouse.
Whatever Happened to Baby Jane is a 1962 black comedy staring Bette Davis and Joan Crawford that is considered a camp classic. We’ve seen it referenced many times on Drag Race, including in Alaska and Alyssa’s “Movie Shequels” skit in All Stars Season 2. And, the Jane Fonda reference is not to her as the exercise queen of the 80s (which is how many folks around my age know her), but of her as the title character from the sci-fi camp classic Barbarella.
I wasn’t a fan of the look beyond its campiness. It interprets Fonda’s Barbarella costume in the style of Bette Davis in Baby Jane. Despite the exaggerated shapes and massive wig, it felt more Halloween costume than drag to me. It was too… cottony and matte. I think it needed contrast in the white-on-white look, or some glittering or stoning on the blue or black bits. Also, the gun looks like a bland off-the-shelf Nerf gun spray-painted matte gold, but Barbarella’s guns were cool wood-and-chrome affairs with curvy organic shapes.
I don’t think the look would’ve stood up to much scrutiny, so it’s lucky Jinkx pulled it out on a week where she wasn’t in contention for a win.
Jinkx’s purple Realness of Fortune Eleganza design challenge look would’ve landed her in the bottom against the rest of this group on a standard season, but it’s still better than the typical worst-of-the-worst in a standard season design challenge.
This Grecian goddess drag is very on-theme for her Season 5 promo look. Some of the braiding and draping on the front look good, and the gauzy sleeves with appliqués are a surprisingly deft bit of construction. There’s something odd about the back of the dress. It’s as if the dress has no real back other than the draping. It’s not only weird as a design, but it messes with her shape and proportions.
Also, maintaining the powdery Baby Jane make-up really washes her out – it’s a pity she couldn’t change back to her Vanna White hair and makeup.
While none of Shea’s looks were bad, she also went 0-for-3 on hitting the categories for me tonight.
I can see now why Shea was leaning away from doing a wedding dress for her design challenge. Her Vanna White Realness look isn’t just white – it also reads as wedding dress.
The subtle, almost-flat neckline feels more princess-y than elegant evening-wear, as do the somewhat fussy hip panniers (more visible from the rear) and the waistline bow. It’s lovely and well-tailored, but Vanna white it ain’t.
Shea’s “Before & After” look is “Gold Tooth Fairy.”
This look isn’t really anything. Shea is in a too-short yellow dress, some cute golden fairy wings, and long gloves covered in gold watches and rings for some reason. There’s nothing particularly “gold tooth” about it other than one she’s wearing in her mouth, and there’s nothing especially “tooth fairy” about it aside from the wings and the joke of wielding a bejewled wrench.
She wasn’t selling me fantasy creature at all, and she’s not golden enough either. Something like GotMik’s “pockets” runway flasher combined with Charity Cases’s jewel-encrusted look from UK Season 3 would’ve sold it better than the watch-covered gloves.
Shea’s white Realness of Fortune Eleganza design challenge look was a plain columnar wedding dress. It’s fine, and it has that little peak of bra cups Shea loves to incorporate into looks, but it certainly didn’t look like the work of one of the better seamstresses in Drag Race herstory. There’s really nothing else to say about it aside from the structured mess of the knotted veil.
(I wish she had gone for something more like Viv’s entrance look – wide-legged pants and a halter top.)
Monét X Change
Monét had one mild success tonight, going 1-for-3 on her runways for me.
Monét almost totally missed the mark on Vanna White Realness. She’s in a sort of pearl-colored slutty wedding dress, with a slit that goes all the way up past the top of her thigh on one side. It looks cute from the front, but when she turns to the side it’s like her entire thigh and butt are awkwardly hanging out of the dress sideways! The slit needed to be a few inches lower or to continue into nude illusion higher on her torso.
Her blonde hair is definitely serving in the “realness” category, because it’s flat as heck and it’s messing with her proportions. That all said, her face is gorgeous and so very soft, even with a lot of blush on it.
Monét’s “Before & After” look is “Bob the Drag Queen Elizabeth II.”
Monét is wearing a frumpy, ill-fitting, poorly-detailed version of a Queen Elizabeth dress rendered in neon, per Bob’s neon runway. Critically, she didn’t capture the shocking asymmetry of Bob’s splash of pink head paint with the few anemic drips on her forehead. The cut of the jacket is a hint of Queen Elizabeth, as is the little purse, but that’s it. The white fingerless gloves are hideous and don’t go with anything.
I think the better approach here might’ve been to render the Queen Elizabeth look in more detail – complete with wig – with a standard Bob make-up look, and then to whip off the wig to reveal the full-on neon head splatter. I know these queens had limited time to switch looks and this was the middle one, which means Monét couldn’t necessarily do Bob’s iconic current eye make-up, but it just wasn’t very Elizabeth or Bob – especially for the one time she would be referencing her Sibling Rivalry co-star.
Monet’s green Realness of Fortune Eleganza design challenge look is cute! It’s a pair of billowing high-waisted emerald harem pants that are open on the sides with a green glitter halter top and poofy separate sleeves. The top is nothing to write home about, but the pants are a clever bit of construction that make Monét figure look great. Topping it off with a warm orange afro of curls is perfect – Monét always looks good in warm hair colors.
Jaida Essence Hall
Jaida went 3-for-3 and left little question about her winning the week.
Jaida Essence Hall is giving us Vanna White Realness down. Even with a slightly low straight-across bustline, a V cutout for cleavage, and higher slit than Vanna might wear, it’s still recognizable as an archetypal Vanna style she has worn dozens if not hundreds of times on the show.
Jaida wisely has amped up the volume of her blonde hair, but otherwise is in low-key beauty make-up. The subtle highlighting on her chest illusion is perfection.
“Vanna White is probably the first white lady that has ever been in my household,” she voiceovers. “We watched her every single day, so I know exactly how to serve her like nobody else’s business.” The familiarity is on proud display in her impersonation. Jaida mimes the modern “ting, ting, ting” of Vanna “turning” the digital letters on the board (as opposed to the physical effort she used to put into unveiling them, back in the day). She also has Vanna’s manner of raising her chin when she laughs down pat (which is maybe due to the angles the cameras have on her while she’s at the board).
Jaida’s “Before & After” look is “Bag Lady In Red.”
She nailed it. This is like a vision from Season 13’s “Bag Ball” design challenge – a slinky, deconstructed red dress made up entirely of monochromatic satchels, purses, and backpacks. The slits in the dress are zippered, and the middle panel is a reinforced quilted fabric you might find on a heavy-duty handbag.
HOW DID SHE GET THEM ALL THAT EXACT COLOR?
Also, the fanny pack wrapped around her tight black curls as a partial turban is a genius take on one of her previous best looks, her “Ball Ball” soap bubbles look. Plus, she brought comedy in the form of pulling snacks out of her various bags.
Jaida’s smarts were on full display on this one.
Jaida’s black Realness of Fortune Eleganza design challenge look is flawless. It’s a tight, form-fitting, little black dress constructed from diagonal slashes of panels of different textured blacks and neutrals. It is stylish as heck.
Did she need the big, stuffed drag shoulders, which both she and Angeria have popularized over the past few seasons? Not necessarily, but they amp up the size of the look on her slim figure and they did give lava/flames, which was part of her destination.
Raja’s looks were 2-for-3 for me, but the 1 miss was a big miss … and that seemed to be the case for the judges, too.
Forget Vanna White Realness, Raja is Vanna White. Even if I didn’t know the category of this episode, her look is immediately identifiable as late-80s Vanna drag, from the feathered hair, to the high slash of blush, to the one-shoulder purple gown and black pumps.
Even if this isn’t a specific Vanna look, it combines such a specific set of period references that it evokes Vanna, which is the perfect way to approach a realness category.
Raja’s “Before & After” look is “Olivia Newton John Watters.”
It’s nothing. She’s in all-black “Sandy from Grease” cosplay, which is a stretch gabric top and some tight black pleather pants. Allegedly it includes a pencil-thin John Watters mustache, but she placed it so close to her top lip that it’s nearly-invisible on camera.
I would recklessly speculate that she was planning on doing Divine’s stamped drag mug, but realized she couldn’t reset it fast enough for her next look and so went with the low-key mustache-only transformation. I’m surprised she didn’t throw a patterned blazer over this or do Watter’s signature slicked-down hair to evoke more of him in the look.
It’s a dang shame, because it might be the one thing that (spoilers!) kept her out of the top two.
Raja’s gold Realness of Fortune Eleganza design challenge look is an all-time stunner. The skirt is a simple robe-like wrap, but the giant frilled, pleated, ruffled gold bodice, sleeves, and collar that frames her head and torso is awe-inspiring. And, of course, the styling is impeccable. Indeed, it is a SHOOT.
Yvie Oddly went 2-for-3 if we’re judging strictly by hitting the theme, but she didn’t give a bad look tonight. If she had nailed theme squarely with her first look she might have been handed a surprise win.
Yvie seems to have her syndicated wires crossed, because she is giving a solid I Dream of Jeannie look rather than Vanna White Realness. It’s actually a very lovely look that takes advantage of Yvie’s height and plays with proportions with its above-the-knees hemline, floor-length feathered-rimmed train, and massive block of orange hair.
It’s just… not game show hostess realness in the slightest.
Yvie’s “Before & After” look is “Cardi B(ea) Arthur.”
Yvie may have swept this middle runway theme. While Jaida offered a straight-up glamorous mix of her Before and her After, Yvie played it as a more literal pair of mashed-up character illusions each packed with humor. And, if you get close-up on this look, the construction is right. This might be the best thing she has delivered so far this season!
Yvie’s pink Realness of Fortune Eleganza design challenge look is the sort of fashion moment I expect from Shea. It’s a deconstructed caped catsuit slash caftan. Despite her fabric being the most precious color of coral pink, there’s something edgy and fun about the look thanks to its chewed-up edges. That takes a lot of talent in styling and presentation, and it’s exactly why Yvie is a threat even in the challenges where she’s not favored.
The Vivienne went a very soft 3-for-3 tonight. Ru liked her looks a lot more than I did.
For Vanna White Realness, Viv is wearing a somewhat-matronly look, with a peach-colored velvet wrap dress and bouncy blond curls with a dark root. Ironically, this demure look is closer to things Vanna actually wore on the show than what Jaida or Raja wore, but it doesn’t evoke Vanna
I also think Viv went a little too modern on the makeup with the pop of blue eyeshadow on the inner corner of the eye buffed out to a sunset red and hombre eyebrows. If she went with more-standard 80s beauty she might’ve read more Vanna… but, she does have to transform her face two more times for the Ball!
Viv’s “Before & After” look is “Princess Diana Ross.”
It’s… fine. The only thing particularly giving me Diana Ross about it is the hair, and the only thing particularly giving me Princess Diana are her mannerisms. (Yes, I know it’s a reference to her engagement suit. It doesn’t meant it’s giving me Di.)
Still, it’s very “drag,” and in a weak runway category I’d probably put her in the top half.
For her blue Realness of Fortune Eleganza design challenge look, Viv delivered a subtle mermaid dress. I think this is a time when she is at a disadvantage as a UK queen, because this on-the-nose glamour could have easily won the day on a UK season, but in the US design challenges are often looking for a shock over a textbook garment. (Although… come to think of it, that is exactly how she lost to Divina on her design challenge.(
That said, take a close look at the careful ruching on the top of the dress. It’s gorgeous, and somewhat boggling she achieved something so flawless in a day.
Trinity The Tuck
Trinity always brings her A-game in design and makeover challenges, so it’s no surprise she goes 3-for-3 here if you can look past some busy detailing.
For Vanna White Realness, Trinity is wearing almost an exact duplicate of Jaida’s dress!
If we’re splitting hairs, Trinity’s version has more overt sequins, more of a V-cut up to the shoulders, and a nude illusion modesty panel over her cleavage. But make no mistake – this is the same dress in concept. The difference is that Jaida went for realness in her make-up, but Trinity went more drag. She has bigger lips, more blush, and more contour. She also has the less-modern eyeshadow look I was hoping for from Viv!
There is something odd about the hair, though. Even though the chunky teasing at the top is great, overall it’s a little extra-fried and synthetic looking compared to Trinity’s usual wigs.
Trinity’s “Before & After” look is “RuPaul Charles II.”
Like Viv, Trinity doesn’t particularly nail either side of this royal mash-up, but I think she found a few more key elements to highlight than Viv did. Part of the hurdle is that we’ve seen some particularly strong RuPaul drag on the runway before, and Raja just did a maximalist heightened dandy royal look on Episode 1. Still, in terms of something imaginative, big, and draggy, Trinity fulfilled the brief.
For her red Realness of Fortune Eleganza design challenge look, Trinity delivers a jaw-dropping red fetishwear dress with massive hip cutouts and a lace-up back that shows off her entire ass beneath massive red wig.
Given the red-on-red-on-red of it all, I don’t know if she needed quite as much jewelry and a mask, but there’s no arguing that this is the most striking garment on the runway. While Jaida’s look is good for a design challenge, even if someone wore this in a regular challenge it would be impressive.
Judging, Lip Sync For Your Legacy, & The Platinum Plunger
The judges comments are mild, which seems like it will be the case for the entire season.
Carson rightfully calls out Jinkx’s Vanna for being “old Hollywood” and Michelle dug her Baby Jane Fonda. Jinkx gives credit to Trinity for helping her and says, “Watch out, because this is my one weakness, y’all.”
Michelle and Carson didn’t get Vanna from Shea, but Carson was very impressed with her bridal corset. Carson calls Monét’s Vanna “Wheel of Fortune after dark,” but everyone is positive on her emerald look. The judges (Ru included) are obsessed with Jaida from top to bottom. Everyone (Ru included) was stunned by Raja’s Vanna, but Michelle and Carson call out the lack of John Watters in her “before and after.”
Michelle didn’t get Vanna White from Yvie, but Ru blesses her Cardi B(ea) Arthur with a “that was so stupid,” which is one of the highest complements you can receive from Ru. Carson loved that she gave punk some “softness” in her pink look (I completely agree).Ru and the gang really love Viv’s constructed dress, but are more mildly complimentary on her first two looks.
Despite some teasing from Michelle, the judges loved everything Trinity presented. Ru says the hip cutouts on her dress look like they were laser cut!
Ru: How did you get the symmetry so perfect?
Trinity: Somehow… math was involved.
Trinity: I think that they have it in some educational systems.
Michelle: But in Alabama you only learned about King Charles.
Trinity [gesturing with her riding crop]: The second!
In private, the judges get slightly tougher than we’ve heard them be so far this season.
Michelle’s top two are Jaida and, surprisingly, Shea. Michelle is much more verbally positive on Shea’s Gold Tooth Fairy and wedding gown in private, as is Ru, but Carson argues against her Vanna look. Carson puts forward Raja, but Michelle shoots her down for her “99% bad Sandy, 1% John Watters” middle look.
Finally, Kirby nominates Trinity, and the judges have no notes – other than Michelle continuing to tease her about about “RuPaul Charles II.” Why not “RuPaul Charles Nelson Reilly” or “RuPaul Charles Manson”?
I really love this judging format that lets the judges nominate their favs rather than moving down the line of queens. Maybe it only works because we know these queens so well that we don’t have to work through them in a rote order to keep them straight.
Jaida and Trinity win the week, with Raja continuing to be always the bridesmaid, never the bride. That gives Trinity two wins in a row and nets her a coveted Legendary Legend badge. She and Jaida lip sync for the chance to block to Beyoncé’s “Green Light.”
Jaida owns this lip sync from the very first second and never lets up. She’s got the body rolls, the helicopter twirls of her braid, and the floorwork. It’s everything you want from a Beyoncé lip sync and she doesn’t even have to haul out too many tricks.
Trinity seems stuck in a comedic rut when it comes to lip syncing. It’s like she’s anxious about not having any tricks and is intent on giving increasingly silly performances every time. That’s puzzling, because in the past so much of the comedy of her lip syncs have been just in the actual lip sync while she delivers crisp dancing.
Could it be that she’s got so many plastic parts up in her at this point that she’s feeling insecure about her syncing? It’s hard to say, but it’s a real surprise to see her lose two weeks in a row.
Jaida gets the win and doesn’t waste much time in blocking Jinkx, who smugly accepts the Platinum Plunge.
It would’ve been interesting to see if Trinity had won and spared Jinkx the block to secure an alliance, but without being able to block Monét and while also working an alliance with Shea who else would she have chosen?! This is the danger of allying yourself with half the cast in an eight-queen season.
We’re three challenges into an 11-challenge season, which leaves plenty more time to snatch Legendary Legend badges. How are queens positioned heading into next week’s structured improv challenge?
#1 Trinity The Tuck, 1 Stars from 2 Wins, 1 Block (was #3, 4, 3)
Trinity followed up her masterful Snatch Game with an impressively-constructed garment and a second win. Now we’re headed into structured improv, which is yet another strong suit of hers.
The thing is: it’s all strong suits for Trinity, as long as she doesn’t have to sing live (already done!) or roast. Even with just 1 star, I think she has just as much of a target on her back as Jinkx at this point. Now the race is on to secure a second star. Can she beat Jinkx to it?
#2 Jinkx Monsoon – 1 Star from 1 Win, 1 Block (was #2, 2, 1)
Jinkx is blocked at the worst possible time – heading into another one of her most dominant challenges! With her single weak challenge out of the way, her best move is probably to win next week. Even without earning a star, she’ll prevent herself from getting blocked again heading into what could easily be another strong week for her.
Basically, Jinkx’s strategy is win and keep winning.
#3 Shea Couleé – 1 Star from 1 Win, 1 Block (was #1, 1, 2)
Last week we saw Trinity lean in to a block, working hard to still wind up in the top. This week we saw Shea lean out. She may have even purposefully taken it easy on this challenge since she wouldn’t get a star for being in the top.
Between that and her plunger gaslighting at the top of the episode, I think Shea is actually the most-strategic queen here even while Monét thinks she is playing Survivor.
Shea has shown herself to be adept in structured improv challenges in the past, so she stands a strong chance at bouncing back with another win next week. If she doesn’t, at least the blocking focus is off of her for the moment. However, if Jinkx wins next week (and, I’d expect it), the Plunger could easily come back to Shea a second time, which is why I have her ranked lower.
#4 Monét X Change, 1 Star from 1 Win (was #4, 3, 4)
Monét got her design challenge redemption by churning out an adequate disco look and she’s headed into a challenge where she’s been strong in the past. However, she is branding herself as the primary agitator when it comes to forming alliances and she is one of two queens with a star and no block. She might find there is suddenly an anti-alliance of queens willing to block her starting next week.
#5 Jaida Essence Hall, 1 Star from 1 Win (was #6, 5, 6)
Jaida picked up one of her must-win challenges this week and continues a solid streak of runway looks! It’s followed up by a second of her must-win challenge themes with structured improv.
Can Jaida pull a repeat of Trinity’s two-week-in-a-row win streak? I think there’s too much of an improv talent blockade in her way, but I also don’t think she’s likely to be blocked with the four queens above to choose from. Plus, there is still probably a branding challenge ahead that she can snag. Right now, Jaida feels like the most-viable black horse in the competition (wonk wonk).
#6 The Vivienne (was #8, 8, 7)
Viv had a strong showing this week and Ru has been showering her with complements on the runway. Now we’re headed into the second of her “absolutely must win” challenges after missing out on Snatch Game last week.
Narratively, it feels like next week is the put-up-or-shut-up moment for Viv to get points on the board with a win. I think we’re going to see a real character acting showdown between her and the top four queens in a way we didn’t get in Snatch Game.
#7 Yvie Oddly (was #7, 6, 8)
A surprise win in a design challenge was one of Yvie’s best bets to haul in some stars. Structured improv is another. Hell, pretty much every challenge is – as I keep pointing out, Yvie’s not bad at anything.
That makes her a wildcard, but her flazédah approach to runway detailing might prevent her from getting past the other queens in a close call. If there’s a punk or DIY runway category, that might be her week for a shocking upset.
#8 Raja (was #5, 7, 5)
Raja was coming off of a near-victory on Snatch Game, was a shoe-in to win this week with her signature color of GOLD, had a perfect vintage Vanna White look, and the only design challenge garment that could go toe-to-toe with Jaida and Trinity… and so she wore casual off-the-rack drag in her middle look and seemed to just give up on the makeup and detailing.
Despite having three third-place weeks in a row, I’m not getting “Queen of Queens” energy from our Auntie Raja. She is here to give us a good show, not to win the season.