Welcome to my review and power rankings of the second episode of Drag Race France Season 1 – “Queen Pour Cent”
It was fascinating to watch this episode back-to-back with this week’s “Santa’s School For Girls” episode of All Stars Season 7. On one hand, you have a cast of all-winners and a professional film director turning out a serviceable comedy scene. On the other, you have the second episode of a new franchise directed by a French comedian turning out a farce that was… dare I say… funnier than the All-Winners challenge?!
It could be that the language barrier of my remedial French means I was reacting more to the silliness of the French queens than their delivery. However, I think it was more the case that their scene was structured for broad comedy and inexperienced actors. It didn’t have as much plot and rarely had more than three queens on stage at the same time. The entire concept was to anchor it with a pair of droll characters and then rotate through a number of ridiculous, stereotypical third wheels to their comedy tricycle.
It was a fun exercise to watch, both in rehearsal and in the final edit. And, speaking of things this franchise is already improving upon, I believe it is the first version of Drag Race to feature Drag Kings(!!!) for its rock bank mini-challenge (which was otherwise inconsequential).
On the runway, Dites-le avec des fleurs (“say it with flowers”), I think there was a noticeable gap between queens with artsy-craftsy presentations versus those with more-elevated fashion looks. I’m not current on my French drag and queer culture, so I can’t present any well-formed theories on that.
However, my guess would be that a lot of cabaret drag is effectively burlesque drag – with an emphasis on dancing, strip-teasing, and humor. It’s clear that a queen like La Grande Dame is coming from a different fashion perspective than cerebral players like Paloma and Elips. Neither are bad, but they have different origins.
One surprise this episode delivered was that Lolita Banana may be the queen to tip-toe between both sides of that performer vs. fashion divide. Her runway garment and presentation was memorable and she is one of the full-time showgirls in this cast alongside La Briochée and La Big Bertha.
I will be curious to see if this runway gap tightens or widens as the season wears on, and how that might effect who sticks around. Based on this episode, runway counts for a lot! It placed one fine queen in the bottom and saved one of the worst queens from the lip sync.
Want to watch Drag Race France? You can sign up for WowPresentsPlus to see this and the many other worldwide Drag Race franchises for $4.99 a month or $50 a year. (Note that if you’re in the US you will need to use a VPN to “visit” another country to see the US Franchise.)
With my general impressions of the episode out of the way, let’s get to my Drag Race France Episode 2 Power Rankings! There’s quite the shake-up from my week one power rankings – especially considering 3 of my Top 4 got tough critiques in this episode!
Lecteurs, start your engines. Et, que la meilleure Drag Queen gagne!
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!
Drag Race France Season 1 – Episode 2 Power Rankings
This episode shook things up by placing three of last week’s Top 4 in the bottom!
Or… did it? For queens to tumble in the rankings others need to rise. Did enough queens take advantage of the stumbles of early front-runners to climb the rankings?
Before we get to the queens, let’s admire a beautiful runway look from Nicky Doll!
1. Paloma (was #2, Pre-Season #1)
I cannot emphasize enough how many of Paloma’s biggest laughs were not in her script. That’s not because I’ve got my own secret copy of the script, but because it was obvious that so much of what made her performance funny was the delivery. Paloma invented an inherently hilarious character out of whole cloth and maintained her for the entire length of a scene.
I wasn’t as big of a fan of her runway presentation, but I’ll say this: Paloma found the perfect sweet spot of a reference that could be translated to drag and which all of the judges would understand. That’s a skill unto itself.
I’m sure there’s something Paloma isn’t great at doing, but whatever that is it’s not evident yet. I doubt she will have any problem with next week’s design challenge.
2. Lolita Banana (was #5, Pre-Season #5)
I don’t think it was fair of the judges to award Paloma over Lolita purely because Lolita played slightly more to type in her character and on the runway, while Paloma went out of her wheelhouse. I think Lolita matched Paloma in acting and defeated her on the runway. Yet, I see the Story Producing power in withholding an easy win from a queen early on to see what they do as a result.
Can Lolita keep an even keel and notch another win in a challenge where she has to stretch herself more? If so, then I think she cements herself as a front-runner in the competition.
3. Soa de Muse (was #1, Pre-Season #3)
Soa de Muse’s problem this week was that she relied too much on being herself in a challenge and a runway where she was meant to portray something else. Drag Race has never been a show solely about the strength of your personal brand. You also have to be a chameleon.
Soa’s acting wasn’t bad, but it was very much her. Whether that’s down to her submitting to typecasting or to her not inventing a character, it’s hard to say. Similarly, her punk runway felt like a punk runway she already had that she popped a half-finished flower headpiece on top of. It wasn’t bad, but against a strong collection of looks from other queens it was clearly near the bottom.
Was this early stumble enough of a wake-up call to Soa de Muse that she needs to continue sweating the details in every week of the competition? I hope so, because I think she’s a powerful performer and her drag excites me! However, there are worse fates than losing Drag Race because you were too good at being yourself.
4. La Big Bertha (was #3, Pre-Season #4)
La Big Bertha (Instagram / TikTok / Twitter) delivered a hilarious acting performance, but her runway was so high-concept that it felt as though it was fighting against the runway theme. Was that a fluke, or signs of more struggles to come?
Note: Bertha did not produce a photo shoot with her actual runway look. Instead, she referenced her “funeral for a summer body” concept with a swimsuit.
I think it is important that we saw La Big Bertha come to the acting challenge with a specific approach, receive notes to refine that approach, and then deliver that refinement. Sometimes the ability to show growth within Drag Race‘s challenges on the way to the final outcome is more important than simply acing them.
I’m getting the sense that a lot of La Big Bertha’s drag is about emotion, surprise, and body positivity. That means a lot of laughing and crying, a lot of reveals, and a lot of runway themes that might boil down to showing off her confidence in her curves.
Honestly, on talent alone it feels like she should be able to make it to the finale. The question is if that emotion, surprise, and positivity can be honed to hit the mark for eight more challenges and runways.
5. Elips (was #6, Pre-Season #10)
Elips (Instagram / TikTok) took a potentially thankless acting role of a silent mime, made it pop, and then delivered another strikingly bold runway. Despite my reservations about her reservedness, we might have a real contender on our hands.
Part of what came through about Elips in this episode is that she can be cerebral without being shy. I think she was the best in the rock band mini-challenge, if we’re judging by front-person spirit and not laughs. I had to rewind repeatedly to take in her lithe, aggressive rendition of a lady rocker. I did not expect that at all!
Similarly, to make a mime work in an otherwise non-silent acting challenge you have to sell it hard. There can’t be a single ounce of embarrassment or self-consciousness, because it will be laid bare in the stark white face and crisp motions of mimery. While Elips might not be ready to graduate from Mime College, she gave it an effort that spoke just as loudly as the queens with lines.
And this runway… gorgeous! We’ve seen many queens try to build a bodice out of flowers, and it’s something that often looks crafty rather than fashion. Elips not only made it work, but gave it an appealing shape and added something editorial and surprising with her blue skin tone.
This is the kind of cerebral fashion that plays well on Drag Race. However, this big thinking will need to be rewarded with a win for Elips to continue her rise. I’ll be very interested to see how she does in a design challenge next week.
6. La Grande Dame (was #4, Pre-Season #2)
La Grande Dame (Instagram / TikTok / Twitter / YouTube) showed a fatal flaw this week, as her youth and her confidence combined for a massive blind spot in the challenge that was impossible for her to overcome.
I don’t think the problem was that La Grande Dame wasn’t listening to Nicky Doll and Marianne James. I think the problem was she heard them but was certain that she needed to make only minor tweaks to her original concept despite hearing the same comment repeatedly.
We saw how this situation should go from this past week’s All-Winners episode. Trinity and Monét both received comments to essentially flip their entire take on their characters, and each of them immediately took the note. That’s because they trusted themselves as performers, and they trusted their directors.
(To be very fair, La Grande Dame’s character wasn’t bad. It might’ve worked on a longer-format sitcom! It was simply too droll and too slow for this brief skit format.)
La Grande Dame is so young that she mostly trusts herself. That self-reliance is an incredible skill to have as a creative person, and it showed in her talent show, this week’s mini-challenge, and in the details of this week’s runway. But, the inability to take (and implement) a note spells certain doom by mid-season for most Drag Race queens. It comes across as obliviousness. She’s going to have to show growth, and fast..
I wouldn’t count her out just yet: she feels like the queen with the best shot at winning next week’s design challenge. It will take another performance challenge for us to see if she has what it takes to push past this week’s troubles.
7. Kam Hugh (was #8, Pre-Season #8)
Kam Hugh (Facebook / Instagram / TikTok / Twitter / YouTube) impressed me a lot more than she did the judges with her acting talents. I was surprised she had the range to hold the presence and deliver the reactions that she did.
Perhaps Kam’s performance wasn’t as sure-footed to a native French-speaker as it seemed to me as I slowly picked through each line, but there was something charmingly dramatic and believable about her turn as a method acting young starlet. I think she missed out on critiques not because she was so thoroughly average, but because there was a better story (both in the short- and long-term) in giving La Big Bertha a firm talking-to about her weak runway.
Kam Hugh’s solid acting relieves a few of my doubts about her over-cautious talent show performance. Might she have the performance chops to break into the top half of this race? Before we find that out, first we’ll learn if her make-up talents translate into a design challenge next week.
8. La Briochée (was #7, Pre-Season #9)
La Briochée (Instagram / TikTok / Twitter) has a delightful way of giving every moment her all, but there’s a certain lack of detail to her performances and make-up that I fear will put her in the bottom next week on a design challenge. I wish she would bring more of the specificity of her singing to her drag.
La Briochée certainly gave her all to every aspect of this episode. But, just as she stumbled around the floor and lost her wig in the rocker chic mini-challenge, her channeling of Edith Piaf in the acting challenge felt desperate and overreaching. Of course, you have to go big on the comedy punchline of a ghost appearing to audition for her own movie! However, it didn’t feel like a character to me. It just took up a lot of space and volume.
I think the runway showed where La Briochée’s true sweet spot may be – in a sort of cartoon caricature version of herself. Both this week’s Marioworld look and last week’s cabaret butterfly are perfect for club stages, but I worry she doesn’t have the level of elevated detail that will push her past the more fashion-oriented queens in this cast.
Even if La Briochée makes it through the design challenge next week, I’m unsure what win she can pick up to keep pace with the fierce competition apart from a singing challenge.
Eliminated: Lova Ladiva (was #9, Pre-Season #6)
Lova Ladiva (Facebook / Instagram / TikTok / Twitter) hit the unfortunate stumbling block that many accomplished live performing queens have hit before her on Drag Race, which is that her comedy barometer is heavily reliant on a live audience.
I think Lova Ladiva’s sparkly wood-nymph runway outfit could have been forgiven by the judges if she had found the through-line of her ditzy cry-baby turned corporate espionage villain. Instead, her cartoonish crying didn’t fit into the acerbic tone of the opening scene, and her broad physical comedy was big enough and funny enough for the stage but didn’t read well on camera.
Ultimately, Lova Ladiva is the kind of hard-working drag queen who can book steady gigs for years but who never quite finds her rhythm on Drag Race. We’ve seen this in the states from everyone from successful bar queens to Ms. Intercontinental Pageant winners. Being good at drag outside of Drag Race doesn’t always lead to being good at Drag Race.
Hopefully Lova Ladiva returns to her previous gigs with a newfound confidence and a surge of audience interest. I wish we could’ve seen more of her in her element, as this rock’n’roll mini-challenge showed off more than other of the maxi-challenges.