Welcome to my review and power rankings of the second episode of Canada’s Drag Race Season 3 – The Who-Knows.
It’s an award-show presentation challenge whose title is a pun on Canada’s Juno Awards, widely referred to as “The Junos.” They’re the Canadian Grammy Awards, and if you live outside of Canada you’ve likely never heard of most of their winners or nominees.
One of the most consistent aspects of the first two seasons of Canada’s Drag Race has been the strength of their challenges. Even when they re-use a standard Drag Race challenge format, they’ve tended to do it with better music (“Sorry Aboot It” and “Under the Big Top”) or a better script (“Screech”) than we’ve seen on other franchises. They’ve also had fun ball concepts and two emotional makeover challenges that highlighted queer Canadians and their stories.
That’s why I was excited to see the show pick up this seemingly-forgotten Awards Show challenge theme from RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 7‘s “The Despy Awards” but a little dismayed in how it turned out.
This episode wisely broke the queens into small groups so we could focus on them as individual characters. However, in her kindness in pairing queens who would work well together, Chelazon Leroux somewhat sabotaged the episode. I’m not saying I wanted more drama (and we got plenty from one pairing, in particular), but pairing queens who know each other already and queens with similar vibes meant we didn’t get to learn much about the cast as they prepped for their presentations.
Was their group work really as dull as what we saw in this episode, or did the Kimmy Couture vs. Fiercalicious drama simply suck all of the air out of the edit? It’s hard to tell.
In fact, the queens not mixing it up with one another not only made for a dull episode, but it hurt them in the awards challenge. The cast has had only one episode to get to know each other and to throw shade. The best of their barbs felt surface-level.
Votes for categories like “Frostiest Queen” felt like they were based on preconceptions, and it was no coincidence that 4-out-of-5 week one tops and bottoms won awards. A segment about them talking about who they would vote for and why felt conspicuously absent.
All of that meant that the awards felt stilted, and not nearly as shady and fun as they felt back on Season 7 in the US. Luckily, the episode was saved from obscurity by a strong, vivid “Goddesses” runway and some sensible judging, which sent home an obvious bottom queen and gave an early front-runner her first speed bump.
The most memorable moment of this episode to me was Chelazon Leroux and Bombae discussing how colonization erased the celebration of queer people in both of their indigenous cultures – a practice and a safe space they are now fighting to reclaim. It was a fascinating lesson in queer history perfectly articulated, and one that might not be so obvious to those of us who are white and/or who tend to benefit from the ongoing effects of colonization.
We’re left with 10 queens where their power in the ranking feels more closely tied to their screen time in the edit than their powers of drag. Did that shake up the rankings from my Episode One ranking? Read on to find out!
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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 2 Power Rankings
Before we get to the power rankings and the “Goddesses of the Ancient World” runway theme, let’s take a moment to puzzle over the oddly-placed nude illusion in the middle of Brooke Lyne Hytes’s otherwise lovely purple dress and cape.
(I just don’t get it. No one is showing skin there. It’s so confusing to the eye.)
1. Lady Boom Boom (was #2, pre-season #3)
On the runway, Lady Boom Boom’s Cupid look was clever but doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. She wanted to give nudity, so rather than do a nude illusion or wear a transparent robe, she simply came out nude with just a few puffs of fabric attached to suggest clouds.
I like that the clouds were not literal poofs of cotton, which might have gone past camp to just be silly. However, the grey fabric wasn’t sculpted enough, and the placement seemed less artful and more driven by covering up her naughtiest bits.
In a slimmer field, this runway might have landed her in the bottom. I’ll be curious to see how her other looks from home hold up. The stunning red carpet drag she pulled out for the challenge is a promising indication, but I can’t forget that what she originally walked in the streetwear runway was essentially just a sweatsuit. The magic happened when she constructed something in the workroom.
Lady Boom Boom strikes me as a queen who is somewhat reserved out of drag but who fully leans in to her voluptuous sex-kitten character when in drag or on stage. It also helps that she is self-aware about the pitfalls of translating herself into English for the show so she knows when to use her Frenchness for the joke. Both her award intro and her acceptance speech for “Best All-Dressed” were comfortably amusing, if not laugh-out-loud hilarious.
Right now this queen is coming across as the total package. But… this runway wasn’t god-tier and we’ve yet to see her perform. If she clears both of those hurdles next episode in the lip sync challenge, it feels like she may be unstoppable.
2. Kimmy Couture (was #6, pre-season #5)
Kimmy Couture (Instagram / TikTok / Twitter) was on the struggle-bus all episode long only to completely turn it out in the challenge and on the runway. If all she needs to perform at her best is some pressure, then this competition might turn her into a diamond.
Kimmy Couture’s runway dominance shows the power of thoughtful styling and presentation of a garment.
This could’ve been rendered as a basic bra-and-panty by another queen, but Kimmy made it worthy of a goddess. The stylized sun headpiece is gorgeous, and it literally points right at her face. Her diaphanous cape appeared to be shiny on the back but matte on the interior, so it wouldn’t pull too much focus from her costume. Her bonus crotch-sun with tassels continued the theme of her headpiece to unify her look, but it also distracted from the somewhat awkward deep cut of her bikini bottom.
Plus, she walked the hell out of it.
I don’t think Kimmy had the best goddess look of the night, but she was certainly the best of the top queens. So far she is coming off as a “body queen.” I’m curious to see her present slightly more-clothed glamour in a future challenge, especially after she nailed the “starlet on the red carpet” look of the main challenge.
I feel like Kimmy’s edit on this episode is a common one: the confident and fierce fashion queen who never lacks for a snappy comeback can’t summon any comedy when she has to plan ahead. It’s hard to say what changed between the workroom and the stage. Was her good performance there all along and the edit only gave us the negative moments, or did Kimmy finally connect with her material between the make-up mirror and the stage?
Either way, the end result was a confident and amusing presentation from Kimmy, if not a memorable one. Winning a challenge but still showing room for growth is the right place to be early in a season of Drag Race. She couldn’t have played this episode any better, but I fear for her narrative getting too locked-in to a frenemies rivalry with Fiercalicious.
3. Bombae (was #3, pre-season #9)
Bombae (Instagram / TikTok / Twitter) stayed present in the edit this episode despite not being in the top or bottom. It feels like she has everything it takes for a deep run – the charisma, the talent, and the “revenge for her drag mother” storyline. Now we just need the judges to notice her.
For a second week in a row, Bombae utterly devoured the runway. Also, she shut me up about complaining that her Meet The Queens look was in blue facepaint by presenting another full face of fantastical color early on in the season!
This look as the god Shikhandi in the garb of a traditional Kathakali dancer perfectly treads a line between fashion and regional costume. I don’t have the knowledge to say if the ruffled yellow sleeve cuffs or the fullness of the skirt are traditional elements or if they’ve been dragged up, but every aspect of this pops.
I especially enjoyed that the skirt could have seemed like an awkward length if it was a consistent hemline that ran straight across, but it actually was asymmetrical with a sort of “smile” of a curve up both sides. Also, from a distance her massive round headpiece reads as the “head” of the look, which is a clever bit of pageantry.
(I would’ve preferred sharper lines in the make-up. I can find some images of Kathakali dancers whose looks are not as smudged as Bombae’s is here. This is something to keep an eye out for in the coming weeks, as I was also concerned that her make-up wasn’t buffed out enough in my pre-season ranking.)
In the challenge, Bombae took the potentially awkward three-person team-up with Lady Boom Boom and Kaos and seemed to make it work by sheer force of will. While I give credit to both Lady Boom Boom and Kaos for delivering their lines, I think a lot of the credit for the cohesion is down to Bombae as their centerpiece. She also looked lovely in standard glamour, which is a good box to tick if she’s going to be turning out more fantastical runways like this one.
Bombae has proven she is one to watch in this competition, but now she needs to score a win. If her performance abilities are as explosive as her runways, she could quickly cement herself as a queen to beat.
4. Miss Fiercalicious (was #4, pre-season #2)
From what we saw in the edit, Miss F. was right to be worried about Kimmy’s uneven preparation. Even if it was Fiercalicious’s nagging that spurred Kimmy into action, it was behavior unbecoming of a winner of Drag Race – or, even a contestant. I don’t think this show has to be RuPaul’s Best Friends Race, and I don’t mind contentious or catty queens, but mercilessly bullying your scene partner into a good performance isn’t a good look.
Her runway wasn’t a good look either, but it was fine look. Every “Goddess” theme is gonna have that one queen who does a Grecian-style dress, even if it doesn’t represent Oshun all that well aside from the mirrors. The little gold spokes emerging from behind her were clever but needed to go bigger. Her mirrored wig was beautiful, but it seemed like it was tipped too far forward so it was hard to see its full detail.
I don’t want to believe that all there is to Miss Fiercalicious is being a mean queen without an eye for details who relies on her ingenue smile and slim body to get her through life’s challenges. I’m hoping we get to see another dimension to her, and fast. If she wants the crown, at some point she’ll need to show some positive qualities other than being thin and pretty.
5. Jada Shada Hudson (was #1, pre-season #1)
Jada Shada Hudson (Facebook / Instagram / Twitter / YouTube) stumbled in the challenge, but it’s hard to know how much of that was her own doing and how much was being rattled by Miss Moço’s even larger stumbles. However, the stumbles on the runway were all her own.
No one on the judging panel had the heart to say it, so I guess I will: this runway as the African Goddess Miss Mami Wata was fugly.
It wasn’t rotten on the conceptual level. I like the red-tipped gold snakeskin. That might be all I liked. The two vertical fangs coming up from the bust are swallowing her face, and we’re loosing the dramatic shape they create because she also has a gold ringed necklace on. It all fades together. She needed to lose the necklace, and possibly also angle the fangs slightly outward.
Her hair needed to be much bigger on top to work with the giant proportions of the bust-fangs. Also, the arm cuffs are awkward and limp, the side-frills of the skirt are a few inches too low to be giving hip illusion, and the skirt should hit the floor.
It took effort to conceptualize and construct this look, and me not liking the details of it doesn’t take anything away from that. However, it shows that Jada’s fashion sense isn’t infallible. And, as it turns out, neither is her confidence in performing.
I’d be willing to write this off as an outlier, but an unsteady performance paired with an unflattering runway gives the impression that Jada might have more weak spots than she initially let on. Plus, she missed an easy bonus shot at showing her personality with a flubbed acceptance speech for “Busiest Beaver” that lacked a punchline while wearing a hideous unfitted pantsuit.
Everything about her in the challenge was borderline cringe.
Let’s not forget, Jada Shada Hudson didn’t actually win last week – just received positive notes! We’re going to need to see her snag a win in one of the next few weeks to make sure her trajectory doesn’t continue to decline.
6. Kaos (was #9, pre-season #8)
Kaos (Facebook / Instagram / TikTok / Twitter) is a reserved queen who could’ve easily choked in a public speaking challenge, but she glided through without a hiccup. That’s a good sign for her staying power this season, even if we’re still getting many signs of her lack of confidence.
Between this runway, last week’s design challenge, and her entrance-look owl, it’s clear that Kaos has a thing both for maximalism and for spikes. Her look as “Marzanna, Goddess of Winter” might be a bit overwhelming on a standard fashion prompt, but for “Goddess” I think she can get away with it.
The problem is that there’s so much white that it’s merging into itself. The spray of tendrils from her headpiece megre into her chestpiece, which fades into the long gloves. The butt-cape makes it had to see where her skirt ends, and her cool textured boots end after the skirt begins.
I feel like this look needed two fewer elements, or one element in a different color. But, again, of all themes I think “Goddess” is one where you can get away with being intentionally over-the-top.
Kaos began her group work in the workroom by saying she isn’t a host or a comedy person and she felt nervous. While I’m all for being up front with your team about your weak points, this was another instance of Kaos’s immediate tendency for self-doubt that makes me certain she isn’t going to be a finalist this season. Yet, her actual presentation was flawless, and her succinct acceptance speech for “Nicest Caribooty” had just enough of a tinge of humor.
Maybe it’s possible there’s time for this lack of confidence to get turned around.
I still have a lot of questions about Kaos’s nerve and her ability to edit, but she impressed me by handling this public speaking challenge with nary a stumble. If she keeps her uncertainty locked up in the workroom and always delivers on the runway, my concerns will prove to be unfounded.
7. Gisèle Lullaby (was #7, pre-season #7)
I really thought Giséle would be in the top group this week after a decent awards presentation plus what was – to me – the best of all of the runways.
This runway has everything. There are several elements that other queens used, like framing of the face, a single-shade color palette in different textures, and a half-cape. It’s just that Giséle did it better than all of them while maintaining her proportions and giving a slightly-scary monstrous mug with horns and pointy ears.
We’ve seen so many queens try to do “nature girl” and festoon themselves with craft store flowers. Giśele understood that less was more, and did it with a pair of branches and some subtle appliqués on her arms and legs. The detail on her corset and bustier is gorgeous and I love her cloven hoof high heels.
Every little glimpse of Giséle we get in the workroom or interview makes her out to be an effortlessly magnetic personality. But, are the judges seeing that? Were her few unsteady moments in the awards presentation down to being too high energy, or because of nerves?
And, the ultimate question: is it the end of the world to be invisible in the first two episodes of a 12-queen season?
I was going to say “no,” but then I checked the data. Of all 14 US seasons plus the two seasons of Canada, the only winners to be safe for both the first two episodes before snatching the crown were Bebe, Jinkx Monsoon, and Aquaria. (Bebe won her third episode, Jinkx was high for the next two, and Aquaria was safe again before winning the ball but she was not invisible in the edit).
That means we can’t count Giséle out just yet, but it wouldn’t hurt to see a top placement for her next episode to separate herself from the fodder. Ultimately, a winner needs to have the charisma to merit early attention.
8. Chelazon Leroux (was #11, pre-season #12)
Chelazon Leroux (Facebook / Instagram / TikTok / Twitter) owned this episode from top to bottom, but she received an ominous warning from Brooke that might be out of her power to improve. That either means we’re headed for a break-through or a break-down next episode, but now we know she has the talent it takes to make a deep run into this season.
If we’re being honest, this uncomplicated look as First Nations deity Sky Woman was one of my favorites. The dress was simply but pretty, the black eye make-up with gold accents being mirrored on her hands was striking, and the wig is a perfect size and proportion. I think something as simple belt or corselet plus a necklace could’ve taken this to the over-the-top place Brooke was asking for it to go.
Not all drag has to be expensive or exquisite, but on Drag Race it should be carefully-considered.
Can Chelazon Leroux consistently achieve that level of drag based on what she has in her suitcases? It’s hard to say, although she looked stunning in the awards show challenge! One of the great unfairnesses of Drag Race is that you often have no way to remedy the critiques you’re receiving if they’re about your fashion or accessories. Not everyone is a Trinity The Tuck who can make a new dress in minutes (which Mo Heart also famously did several times on Season 10) or a Jaremi Carey (fka Phi Phi) who can make complex cosplay accessories out of soda bottles.
If I have some concerns about Chelazon’s fashions, I have none about her presence and nerve. We’ve seen many social media queens sputter and fail on Drag Race because they’re used to having 100% of the camera time and editing together their wittiest moments. Not Chelazon. This queen doesn’t need to produce herself, because her dry wit jumps out every time she opens her mouth. Even when Giséle slightly swallowed a few lines and stepped on pauses, Chelazon kept making it work. That’s the sign of an unshakeable queen.
I Chelazon Leroux was well-suited to a challenge like this one – effectively, a comedy + confidence challenge. Can she do well enough in the impending gauntlet of more show-y performance challenges to stay out of the bottom? I hope so, because I am very much looking forward to her Snatch Game.
9. Vivian Vanderpuss (was #5, pre-season 6)
Vivian Vanderpuss (Facebook / Instagram / TikTok / Twitter) was confident in the challenge, but she’s giving more goofy cat lady than she is glamorous drag queen. She needs to reveal another level of herself as a performer to break out of the bottom of the pack – and staying lashed to fellow weirdo Irma Gerd isn’t going to get her there.
Vivian Vanderpuss’s runway as Freya was fine, but it was giving me cosplay. Well-made cosplay with excellent proportions! She looked great. There’s just something about black-and-gold that makes it veer in the costume direction rather than fashion unless the gold is very carefully deployed. Even Madonna’s exquisite black-and-gold Super Bowl look had that costume element to it despite being impeccably styled. Both Vivian and Madonna give me slight “Power Rangers villain” vibes in their black and gold.
What matters more is that Vivian looks terrific and youthful. My early worry was that she’d be wearing her character in every runway, and that’s clearly not the case. No one is going to win Drag Race on cat lady jokes alone, and looks like Vivian’s plastic couch entrance look and this well-proportioned goddess look give me hope that she’s going to catch the judges’ attention soon enough.
The scary thing for Vivian Vanderpuss right now is that nothing about her track record recommends her if she hits a stumbling block. As with Gisèle, she is in a race to secure a top placement ASAP.
10. Irma Gerd (was #8, pre-season #10)
Irma Gerd (Facebook / Instagram / TikTok / Twitch / Twitter) should have had this challenge in the bag, but her nerves got the better of her. Between that and Brooke Lynn’s open hostility to a perfectly-fun runway, it feels like all of Irma’s quirky momentum from episode one has been exhausted.
First of all, let’s acknowledge the horrible pun of the Twitch-streaming gamer girl doing the goddess Eris, AKA Discord.
[Please hold for applause.]
Next… I’m not sure what else Brooke Lynn was looking for from this look. Yes, the boots were tragic, but this look was awesome. I can’t think of a time we’ve seen big 3D tendrils of hair quite like this, and I loved the multi-color silk frock. Eris is usually depicted in plain black or deep purple, but I though the psychedelic swirl of colors here sold the idea of anti-harmony without making things ugly.
Alas, even if Brooke was in love with the runway, Irma’s awards presentation was going to land her in the bottom. She had such verve and momentum in her introduction, but once she began stumbling over the nominee introductions she couldn’t seem to find her way out of it.
(Also, I have a seething hatred for her eyelashes in the challenge look. Did she only put them on the far side of each lid? The lack of balance looked wonky.)
The maxim “you’re only as good as your worst rehearsal” often holds true on Drag Race. Queens with limited stage experience, or who often stumble through hosting but are bolstered by home crowds, tend to tank quickly on the show. I don’t know if Irma is an experienced host or not, but this certainly wasn’t the work of a confident pro. It’s a scary highwire act to be trying things for the first time during the run of the show,
I don’t think this bottom placement is an insurmountable deficit for Irma. In fact, I wouldn’t be shocked to see her bounce back with a high placement next week. However, comedy is definitely one of her must-win challenge themes, and she just missed one of 2-3 prime chances to score positive notes for that to secure a spot in the final three.
Eliminated: Miss Moço (was #10, pre-season #11)
Miss Moço (Facebook / Instagram / Twitter / YouTube) [pronounced “moh-su”] is a queen who is happiest when she’s onstage, but I don’t think her personality shines through her drag character boldly enough to work on Drag Race.
We’ve seen quieter queens do well on this show many times over. Last season Pythia wasn’t ever the loudest queen with the biggest personality. However, a sense of Pythia’s identity showed through even in her subtler moments. Plus, even as a slightly reserved queen she showed up in a major way for performances.
I never got that sense of power and consistency from Miss Moço. After two episodes with her at the forefront of the edit, I’m still not really sure who she is.
That’s a shame, because she’s clearly a talented and kind queen with a lot to offer as a performer. She also looked the best of everyone in the challenge in a shimmering silver look! I hope this early placement isn’t a negative mark for her bookings and that the experience helped her decide what she wants to hone to a finer point in her drag.