Welcome to my review and power rankings of the first episode of Canada’s Drag Race Season 3 – “Sidewalk to Catwalk”!
Canada’s Drag Race often feels a little more real than the American edition. It could be the editing style. It might also be that Canada’s queens come from a smaller pool of performers and have fewer expectations of fame and fortune from being on the show.
This debut of Season 3 kept this feeling of realness, but it also compressed a lot of action into one hour. We had entrances, a runway mini-challenge, the ritual “first de-dragging,” a full-on design challenge, mirror chats, a final runway and judges critiques, and miniature Untucked segment back in the workroom.
While this isn’t radically different than the tight schedule of debut episodes from RuPaul’s Drag Race Seasons 3-5, here it felt rushed. It’s not unusual for the safe queens in a debut to get very little camera time, but it felt as though we didn’t even get to know two of the queens in the top three!
Adding to that lack of balance, it felt like two of the safe queens were dominant narrators despite not being featured outside of confessional, and one of the bottom queens wound up the star of the episode despite having the least to offer.
That made this episode feel unsatisfying, even if this cast of queens are all distinct characters with memorable personalities. I’m not sure I’ve ever committed everyone in a cast to memory so quickly! It’s a group of artists heavy with talent and, past a handful of struggling queens, light on obvious weak spots.
What does that mean for the eleven surviving queens’ chances for winning the crown? Below I break down my reaction to their initial challenge performance and re-rank them from my Canada’s Drag Race Season 3 Pre-Season Power Rankings from earlier this week.
If you want to watch Canada’s Drag Race Season 3 outside of Canada and the UK you can sign up for WowPresentsPlus to watch the many worldwide Drag Race franchises for $4.99 a month or $50 a year. I don’t get any kind of cut off of that – I just want you to watch Drag Race! (Note that if you’re in the US you will need to use a VPN to “visit” another country to see the US Franchise.)
Readers, start your engines! And, may the best Queen (of the North) win!
Reminders: I consistently refer to Drag Race artists with their drag names and with she/her pronouns even when they are not in drag, which is the convention of the show. Some performers may have different personal pronouns. Drag is inherently brave, political, and artistic, and all drag is valid. It’s also hard to do. I’m commenting on drag artistry in how it comes across on this specific television program, but the reason I’m commenting at all is because I celebrate all drag!
Canada’s Drag Race Season 3 Episode 1 Power Rankings
While the general shape of my pre-season rankings wasn’t too shaken up by this week, there were certainly a few dramatic rises and declines – especially considering that one of my pre-season Top 4 was eliminated!
Before we dig into that, first let’s enjoy host Brooke Lynn Hyte’s looking absolutely unplucked in her runway look.
1. Jada Shada Hudson (was pre-season 1)
Jada Shada Hudson (Facebook / Instagram / Twitter / YouTube) did not disappoint in this first episode. If my one concern for her was that she might not have packed the top-end of her Instagram fashion for this competition, consider that box now thoroughly checked off.
Jada’s streetwear look was gorg-e-ous. The mini-dress with a mega belt and a long, flowing duster jacket had the perfect proportions to flatter Jada’s shape, a dramatic flair, and delicious pattern-on-pattern clashing. For me, it was the best look alongside of Bombae’s
Her design challenge runway dress was a similar shape, but she showed that she understands the power of accessorizing to dress it up to read as a completely different look.
Was that design challenge runway perfect? No. It was obvious there were a few unfinished edges, and Brad pointed out some inexpert construction. It’s possible we could’ve seen Gisèle Lullaby or Bombae in this final Top 3 spot for the episode. But the top spot wasn’t only about fashion – it was about presence and impact. There’s no doubt in my mind that Jada won in both of those categories.
What I didn’t know about Jada Shada Hudson from my pre-season investigation is how widely-known she would be to the other queens in the cast. It was clear that most of the cast was aware of her, and the Toronto queens had an amount of reverence for her.
It’s hard to win a season of Drag Race when you are that queen. It puts a target on your back even if you are the friendliest queen in the cast, because people are waiting to see how you might fail.
I don’t get the season any of those failures are going to be very major. And, even if they are, Jada will not be sent home in her first lip sync, you can know that for sure.
Everything about Jada Shada Hudson’s appearance in this episode only emphasized her big finalist energy for me.
2. Lady Boom Boom (was pre-season 3)
I have to admit, I was a little concerned when Lady Boom Boom’s streetwear runway was more or less a Juicy Couture jumpsuit! I am not against using off-the-rack styles on Drag Race, but that is an iconically recognizable (and somewhat outdated) style to emulate even if she constructed it from scratch.
Her design challenge runway more than made up for that somewhat basic pick.
Not every seamstress is a designer. We’ve seen this maxim proved many times over on Drag Race. Being able to assemble a pattern into a garment in a day doesn’t mean the design you whipped out in under an hour was any good.
Lady Boom Boom went above and beyond with her design challenge runway look to show she is both a seamstress and a designer. Her garment was not only completely finished, but high fashion. Going from concept sketch to construction to execution on those massive shoulders in a day is no small feat.
I loved how the shoulder spikes were not just massive epaulettes, but actually connected further down her arm at the elbow. The jeweled black necklace was a terrific choice to break up the texture of the top of the outfit, as was the scalloped pink apron to make sure the shape of her hips and waist wasn’t lost in all the black. Both details were so perfectly thought through – tiny touches another queen might ignore. The only thing that stuck out to me was the exposed white line of the zipper on the back of the hood.
I was a little puzzled at her super-pale, almost silvery make-up on the runway, but we’ll chalk that up to making a bold choice to sell her “goth” aesthetic and reserve further judgement on her mug until next week.
Of course, we’ve seen queens arrive to a week one design challenge knockout only to quickly fade into the background. Bosom buddies Morgan McMichaels and Mayhem Miller both come to mind (as does Lashauwn Beyond, who didn’t win her challenge but was just as memorable as Sharon Needles).
The question is if Lady Boom Boom can be just as memorable in performance and personality-driven challenges. Next week’s stand-up challenge will be the first step of that test, and if she aces it we’ll truly have a contender on our hands.
3. Bombae (was pre-season 9)
Bombae (Instagram / TikTok / Twitter) is the queen who made the hugest impact in the episode compared to her “Meet the Queens.” She had me worried that she might not have the polish to compete with the other queens in my pre-season ranking, but she quickly shut me up about that in this episode.
Her puffer jacket gown reveal to an all sportswear lingerie look was nothing short of brilliant. I was utterly horrified she had to cut up the gorgeous puffer gown for the maxi-challenge, but if the results of this episode are any indication I don’t think she will have much trouble remaking it if she wants to.
Her design challenge runway might have been the best of the week, edged out only by the level of surprise that the top three queens brought to their looks. I loved the lace-up front dress with massive arms and a skirt that seemed to be levitating in mid-air in the middle of a being blown up a la Marilyn Monroe in 7 Year Itch.
Bombae also got a lot of plot development this week with the surprise of seeing her mother in the cast only for her to be the first to be sent home. That feels like a story producer’s dream to leverage as we see Bombae continue her journey this season.
This was a stellar week for Bombae. She has the polish, the fashion, and the personality to go all the way to the finals. I don’t think some unbuffed edges to her make-up is going to change any of that. The question is if she is as an explosive performer as she is a fashion queen and a personality.
4. Miss Fiercalicious (was pre-season 2)
Miss Fiercalicious (Facebook / Instagram / TikTok / Twitter) served all of the face and confidence I expected, but she will need to work on her charisma after this episode painted her as half-vapid, half-villain.
I know this is a gap between me and many other Drag Race fans. Many old-skool fans want to see the bitchiness of Seasons 2-5 return, where bullying and cat-fights dominated the edit. And, some newer-school fans raised in a world of social media clapbacks want to see that level of sass embodied in a queen.
Neither of those groups are wrong for feeling that way. However, as a fan who entered through the mostly-wholesome Season 6, the draw of Drag Race for me has always been celebrating artistry. I’m usually uninterested in queens who are shit-stirrers unless they’re in the right and they are coming for ignorant cast-mates.
Which brings me to Miss Fiercalicious. She came in expecting to be THE TikTok queen of the season and couldn’t fathom that Chelazon Leroux has more of a following. She expected to be THE body-girl of the season, only to be matched by Kimmy Couture. And, she thought she might be able to pivot to a “little girl lost” act for help with her remedial sewing, only most of the other queens wisely left her to her own devices.
I absolutely think that Fiercalicious should have been in the lip sync on this episode. She barely used any elements of her street-wear (which was true to life, but only okay) and constructed a barely-adequate garment. There was little risk of her losing to either of the other queens, and it would’ve sent her an even sharper wake-up call than her trip to the bottom. Yet, her problem isn’t only lack of preparation for
I stand by what I said in my pre-season ranking:
Miss Fiercalicious is a queen who is going to be playing this game hard. I think her naked ambition is going to catch a few of these other queens off guard. And, honestly? Being the dramatic queen who stands out from the pack is a good way to ensure you make it to the top half of the competition on plot alone.
To get from that point to the finale, we’re going to have to see her full package of skills on full display.
It still feels like Miss Fiercalicious has future storyline on her side, but there might be a limit to how many second chances the judges are willing to grant her for not filling the brief. She’ll need to show some kind of growth in both talents and maturity if she is going to make it from the halfway point down to the finale four. She might have the skills for a deep run, but after this episode the bigger question is if anyone will root for her if she reaches the finale.
5. Vivian Vanderpuss (was pre-season 6)
Vivian Vanderpuss (Facebook / Instagram / TikTok / Twitter) seemed like she would be more of a self-obsessed perfectionist based on her “Meet the Queens,” but I got a major early Trixie Mattel “character queen sweetheart who is a big goof” vibe from her this episode.
Based on her pre-season looks and social media, I was expecting a much icier, bitchier energy from Vivian Vanderpuss that emphasized her “older blonde divorcée” character. Instead, we got a batty old lady who wore her own couch (complete with plastic cover) and interpreted the “streetwear” prompt as walking a set of invisible dogs.
If those were the only facets Vivian brought to the episode, I’d have her ranked lower. Her constructed runway was a perfect strategic pivot to show that she isn’t only about comedy, and that her character can persist even in more fashionable trappings.
I think her couchy entrance look was higher fashion than her Streetwear overalls jumpsuit. I liked the watermelon color story more than I liked the execution of the garment. It could have benefited from hip cutouts or another pop of pink somewhere at the bottom to unify the entire look.
I was more impressed with her runway look. It was a pretty, flattering, fashionable dress. Lining a glittering black fabric with a pop of lime green is brilliant, as is styling the skirt with just enough of a flair to show that off.
(I don’t think the lime green was actually from her Streetwear look, which was more olive-colored. So, I have to question to what extent Vivian filled the brief.)
This is exactly the thing I was hoping to see from her based on my pre-season ranking – the ability to inhabit her character across a range of fashions. I think it solidifies her grip on the middle of the ranking. We’ll need to see some specific development – both of her character and of the person behind it – if she is going to turn into a queen who can make it to the final episodes.
Of everyone in the cast, I might be the most curious to see what she has in store for us.
6. Kimmy Couture (was pre-season 5)
Kimmy Couture (Instagram / TikTok / Twitter) had a lot of big talk in this episode, and she clearly has big plot as the drag daughter of last season’s winner. But, it wasn’t her time to shine just yet.
Kimmy was one of the queens whose streetwear felt the most like something someone would wear in real life. The high-hemmed, high-waisted vegan leather pants topped with a knotted waistband and a half-corset feels ripped from an R&B music video. Maybe she didn’t sell us high fantasy like Bombae, but that wasn’t actually the challenge.
I was less impressed with her design challenge bodysuit. To me, it looked like she simply ornamented a corset, and it didn’t seem like she used very much of her streetwear look to do it. I won’t deny that the detail at the waist and shoulders helped to take this up a notch, but at the same time the nude stocking legs and plain pumps took it back down.
Kimmy Couture didn’t break out of the pack in this episode, but I don’t think she needed to. It’s clear her storyline is yet to come, and that won’t only be as Icesis’s daughter, but also as a prickly personality not afraid to clap back at the likes of Miss Fiercalicious.
7. Gisèle Lullaby (was pre-season 7)
Gisèle Lullaby (Facebook / Instagram / TikTok / Twitter) was one of the biggest surprises for me this episode! I had her pegged as a less-focused queen with a scattered attention span, but she efficiently slipped through this challenge without a hiccup.
I wasn’t in love with her iridescent green streetwear look, especially with a black boot. It had enough well-considered details to save it from disaster, including the shimmering net crop top and the lovely faded rainbow mane of hair. But, it didn’t feel quite real life streetwear, nor did it feel quite high fashion.
Similarly, her design challenge runway look wasn’t amazing, but there were enough wise choices in it that it clearly filled the brief. The inflexibility of her metallic fabric meant that the bodice of her dress came off a bit stiff and crinkly. However, the netted arms with standalone cuffs and the pink trim elevated it from being a clownish shift dress.
I think the bigger story for Giséle is her charm and confidence. She was one of the best narrators in the interview chair. She was self-effacing in commenting on her choices, but she never seemed unsure as she made them. She walked them both with confidence.
Neither of Giséle Lullabye’s looks resolved my concerns about her maximalist fashion tastes, which might earn her some ire from the judges as the weeks press on. For the moment, she maintains my initial impression that she’s a strong queen who is good at most of what Drag Race has to offer, but who will need to show variety and growth to crack the top half of the competition.
8. Irma Gerd (was pre-season 10)
Irma Gerd (Facebook / Instagram / TikTok / Twitch / Twitter) is still giving me “flying under the radar” realness. I’m no longer worried about a confidence gap with her. This is a quirky performer who is ready for her TV spotlight. Now we get to sit back and see what talents she will bring to the race.
I think her Streetwear look was a solid hit, even if it wasn’t high fashion. It feels very 90s Gwen Stefani with the slightly over-large plaid pants and razored red crop top vibrating against a short yellow jacket. I was puzzled by the nude-colored tights on her midriff, which weren’t quite giving nude illusion. I guess if she was corseted or cinched but it wouldn’t really go with the look, so she had to cover it up somehow. Yet, it’s those little details that will be nipping at her heels as the field narrows.
I think Irma Gerd’s Design Challenge runway was more successful. Her tartan dress was shapeless in an intentional way. The swish of the top layer at her waist and the black vinyl trim took it to a fashionable place, as did the red accents and the editorial neon yellow highlighter make-up look.
Dare I say this was one of the most-effective looks when it comes to fulfilling the brief of the design challenge? All of Irma Gerd’s choices show some true smarts and strategy.
Dare I also say she was one of the queens I enjoyed the most this episode? Her quirkiness didn’t have a “look at me look at me look at me” quality to it. She is who she is, right down to the booger jokes. (Honestly, her snotty entrance look was terrific, I just hated the straight purple hair.)
This only serves to continue to fuel my “secret assassin” suspected plotline for Irma Gerd. She’s from a geographically isolated bit of Canada, so she has no reputation with the rest of the cast. She comes off youthful, but at 32 she’s not a kid. Her aesthetic effortlessly transformed from nerd to 90s rocker chick to high fashion. And, she doesn’t strike me as someone who is going to be easily rattled by a brain-based songwriting or branding challenge.
I think we might have a stealth contender on our hands.
9. Kaos (was pre-season 8)
In the history of all of the many English-language Drag Race franchises, we have never once brought a queen to the regular season finale who straight-up did not have confidence in herself.
That’s not to say queens haven’t grown in confidence over a season. Kameron Michaels didn’t start out unconfident in Season 10 so much as she didn’t understand how to take up the amount of space that her talent warranted. Pearl in Season 7 was a brand new Drag queen and simply didn’t have much drag experience (or many outfits) to work with. Still, it was Pearl’s constant defiance in the face of being told she might not be good enough that defined her run.
I mention this because Kaos was on the brink of a win tonight, and even when being told to her face that her fashion construction was a remarkable feat she still didn’t seem ready to believe it.
I was shocked to see this reaction from a queen who by her own telling is so multi-faceted in her talents! I could understand her reaction more if she was receiving unexpected praise for one of her maximalist “everything and the kitchen sink” punk Klub Kid looks, like her eccentric entrance owl. But, her design challenge runway was pure fashion. The way she engineered her plaid spikes to be crisp but also move with her body as she walked was a memorable feat of design challenge engineering that recalled Chi Chi DeVayne’s papercraft dress on Season 8.
Drag Race sometimes turns out to be “Best Friends Race,” but it very rarely is a school for building confidence. Kaos doesn’t have much time to figure out how to own her talents and achievements. Without that self-possession she’s not going to make it through the gauntlet of the season – especially against this crowd of confident queens.
I see her as a potential winner of a single lip sync, but unless she undergoes a major metamorphosis she’ll need to play a flawless game to avoid getting cut too early.
10. Miss Moço (was pre-season 11)
Miss Moço (Facebook / Instagram / Twitter / YouTube) [pronounced “moh-su”] brought a fierce walk to her color-blocked streetwear runway, but had a design challenge misfire and barely made it out of her lip sync alive.
As I predicted from the meet the queens, Miss Moço “barely-there” make-up look barely reads on the main stage. There isn’t a “minimum make-up requirement” for Drag Race, but we do want to see some form of transformation out of a queen. Even queens as talented as Courtney Act have been read for wearing only “lip gloss and mascara.”
Miss Moço didn’t garner any specific make-up feedback, yet I feel like Brooke Lynn’s comment about looking like “a dear in the headlights” was as much as a critique of Miss Moço’s confidence as it was her mug. When you don’t have BIG DRAG FEATURES under the runway lights your face can look somewhat blank and expressionless.
Once of my pre-season predictions was that we’d see Miss Moço in a lot of bodysuits with a jacket, based on her social media. I was pleased to see that wasn’t the case past her entrance look. Her delicious color-blocked streetwear was in the top half of looks for the mini-challenge! It could be that her suitcase is going to keep her out of trouble on the runways until a ball challenge arrives.
The bigger concern is her ability to hold the stage. She wasn’t selling her design challenge garment very hard, and her lip sync reached a simmer but never a full boil. Part of her “Meet The Queens” sales pitch was that she was full of tricks as a performer, but a cartwheel or two might not be enough to win a second lip sync against anyone in this cast. She will need to show a different side of her, and fast.
11. Chelazon Leroux (was pre-season 12)
The surprise for me was how effective she was as a no-bullshit counterpoint to the other queens. Not everyone who is confident in a direct-to-camera social media format is just as strident in a group setting. From her non-nonsense confession to Miss Fiercalicious that she had more TikTok followers to the way her voice cut across the workroom, Chelazon has no hesitation gathering the other queens.
The confirmation of my pre-season thoughts was that her drag is simply too low-key casual for the Drag Race stage. After the most causal entrance look in the modern era of Drag Race, a low-key streetwear look that used even more sweatpants material, and a plain black dress for her runway, Chelazon Leroux escaped the bottom three this week purely because there was better story in putting Fiercalicious there in her place to give her a scare.
Look: there’s a way to take casual elements and make them high fashion. In fact, I love the idea of a queen who plays with cutting up sweatpants, jeans, and other basic staples all season to repurpose them for the runway as a statement about rendering high drag at a low budget. I’d say Monét X Change excels in this, even as she gets continuously more rich and more famous.
I don’t know if Chelazon Leroux is going to bring to that level of styling sophistication to the runway. I hope she does.
Chelazon is packed with charisma and I’m looking forward to seeing her talents as we get into what are sure to be a couple of performance-oriented challenges. However, the first time she isn’t stellar in a challenge her runway styling is going to be her undoing. Hoping that three queens bomb the challenge worst than you every week isn’t the best strategy for becoming Canada’s Next Drag Superstar.
Eliminated: Halal Bae (was pre-season 4)
Halal Bae (Instagram / Twitter) was a shocking first elimination for me. While both of her looks were far too busy, both of them had stronger detailing than many other queens in the cast. However, the judges and producers know more than we do as the viewers. Often a queen who gets a surprising early cut turns out to have a particularly weak runway package, as later revealed by their Instagram. In Halal Bae’s case, that’s no consolation for seeing less of her on our screens.