Bonjour bonjour bonjour, mes chers lecteurs! Welcome to my review and power rankings of the sixth episode of Drag Race France Season 1 – Un Parfum de Drag, which revisits one of the all-time classic Drag Race branding challenges from Season 5.
(Now that All Stars Season 7 has concluded, Drag Race France will have the Saturday spot for its final three weeks to give me time to watch Drag Race Down Under! I’ll be back with my first Down Under post tomorrow, plus a special wrap-up for All Stars.)
Drag Race has many standard challenge formats that are guaranteed to show up in each season. This consistency allows queens to play a meta-game of expectations within the competition, where they are biding their time (or wracked with terror) about an upcoming Ball challenge or Snatch Game.
The remaining five queens were right to point this out at the top of the episode. They’d already been through a ball, acting, singing, and Snatch Game – all core Drag Race Challenges.
The one guaranteed challenge even on non-English season they had yet to face was personal branding, but it’s the challenge that takes the most varied forms.We’ve seen queens do everything from peddling their own autobiographies, to inventing their own flagship merch, to our recent All-Winners cast making up a TikTok dance.
Drag Race France decided to reference perhaps the best-remembered of all of the dozens of Drag Race branding challenges, Season 5‘s “Scent of a Drag Queen.” That was the challenge that spawned iconic ads for Coco Montrese’s nonsensical “Ru Animale,” Detox’s seductive “Heroine,” Roxxxy Andrews’ longstanding personal brand of “Thick & Juicy,” Alyssa Edward’s oft-referenced “Alyssa’s Secret,” Jinkx Monson’s Drag Race institution “Delusion,” and Alaska’s “Red” – which birthed her single “Your Make-Up Is Terrible” and nine years later inspired the name of her 2022 album!
Whew. Seriously, if you’ve never watched it, it’s one of the most memorable and meme-able episodes of all time.
This challenge was proof that we’ve wound up with the correct final five queens, because I can’t imagine any of the eliminated contestants creating such solid work when left to their own devices. All five artists succeeded at making commercials that were proficient and altogether ridiculous.
Even amongst their successes, the challenge showed the clear divide between the queens who understand the power of their brands versus the ones who are simply game to make a silly spoof.
That resulted in one of the most emotionally powerful lip syncs across all of the many Drag Race franchises over the past 14 years. This is ART, y’all. Both queens explored what it means to have regrets and to strip yourself not just of your clothes but down to your very soul. They showed us how you effectively de-drag in a lip sync without it being a sign of desperation. They showed us how ti interact with the other queen in a lip sync with consent and collaboration.
Wow. Nicky cried off an eyelash! If you love Raven and Jujubee doing “Dancing On My Own,” this is a must-watch.
Oh, and there were puppets!
If you want to watch Drag Race France you can sign up for WowPresentsPlus to watch the many 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.)
Now it’s time to rank our four remaining queens, analyze their commercials, and applaud their runways! Who is currently on the top of our well-matched Top 3? It’s not the same as last week’s Episode 5 power rankings…
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 6: Un Parfum de Drag Power Rankings
This episode’s runway was a broad “haute couture” prompt, which gave each queen room to be inventive and double-down on their own preferred styles. But, first, let’s enjoy Nicky Doll’s combination of black latex and yellow silk!
1. Paloma – 2 wins, 1 lip sync (1.67 avg. rank – was #3, 2, 1, 1, 2, Pre-Season #1)
Paloma (Instagram / Twitter) is back in force on this episode. We’ve seen many queens say that a lip sync lit a fire under them, but it seems to be true for Paloma. She was an inexhaustible font of concepts and comedy, as she was on the first few episodes.
Paloma found the perfect inspiration for a haute couture runway by bringing an Erté fashion illustration to life. In some ways, art deco era fashion illustrations of Erté (AKA Romain de Tirtoff) are a part of the birth of modern French fashion.
Paloma perfectly realized Erté’s illustration style, with its impossibly small waists, exaggerated eyes, and over-the-top accessories that enlarged the silhouette. This wisely exempted her from any critiques of her runway not looking “haute couture enough” to the judges – it would be impossible for them to critique a literal execution of Erté!
Similarly, Paloma’s ad was exactly the thing this branding challenge was looking for. She succinctly mocked herself by making herself the saleswoman for a fragrance to help people feel as successful as they are in their own minds.
Some might say this is a too-literal re-make of Jinkx’s delusion, right down to reclining on a chaise lounge while delivering it. Yet, even if it was a homage to Jinkx, Paloma made it feel distinct and specific to her own drag character and storyline on the show.
I’ve said it ever since the pre-season – Paloma screams to me that she is a Drag Race champion. Much like Lady Camden on Season 14, Paloma is not just a “professional,” and she hasn’t only “cracked the code” of the show. She is someone whose natural affinity for drag perfectly aligns with the kind of superstar RuPaul created this show to mint.
I think it would be foolish to miss the chance to make her France’s first representative in the All-Winners club.
2. Soa de Muse – 2 wins, 2 lip syncs (2.83 avg. rank – was #2, 3, 6, 3, 1, Pre-Season #3)
Soa de Muse (Facebook / Instagram / TikTok) has fully broken through the glass ceiling of everything that was holding her back at the beginning of the season with an elevated runway and a wise commercial that stuck to her brand while allowing her to play out of type.
Soa de Muse nailed the haute couture vibe with a dark and incredibly-detailed runway look. Haute Couture doesn’t just mean “runway fashion” – it implies custom-fitted designs that are deliriously hand-embellished.
While Soa has the figure for severe look like La Grande Dame might wear or a gauzy look like La Big Bertha spoofed, we’ve seen her critiqued for both of those sorts of look in the Ball challenge. They aren’t Soa, so they feel like a costume. She was wise to go in another direction here, focusing on impeccable make-up and intricate hair (on loan from La Grande Dame). I think this is the version of Soa the judges have been waiting to see again ever since week one.
Soa’s commercial was brilliant. I think it was the best of the bunch, but that she couldn’t be handed a second consecutive win for story reasons. In it, Soa transformed from meek office punching bag to baddass girlboss with a spritz from a bottle named for one of her taglines. This wisely reinforced her own brand of being confident and in control, but did it by projecting power rather than just volume – something she struggled with early in the competition.
After the past three weeks it feels as though Soa has fully come into her powers as a drag artist as a direct result of stumbles early in the season. She’ll always have her “yo yo yo” personal brand of being bold and spontaneous. However, she has clearly discovered the strength in both subtlety and elevation.
Soa de Muse already feels like a graduate of Drag Race… and, if her growth and strength carries through the next two weeks, I could easily see her as a winner.
3. La Grande Dame – 1 win (3 avg. rank – was #1, 1, 3, 6, 4, Pre-Season #2)
La Grande Dame has been wearing literal haute couture all season, so it’s no surprise she had yet more of it to bring to bear on this runway theme. Yet, she has become the victim of her own high-fashion success. At the point we’ve seen her in multiple intricate outfits (especially her ball looks), she has left herself nowhere to go when it comes to elevating them even further.
Also, she has a tendency to wear them all as a fashion model more than a drag queen. I want to see some high drag from La Grande Dame that isn’t just about being a sample size.
La Grande Dame’s commercial was funny, but in avoiding overthinking she might have over-simplified.
She invented a grubby mechanic character who would use the same perfume for everything from going out to cleaning a motorcycle. Her gruff, butch character was far funnier than the other ads, but her joke was more one-note. And, that joke didn’t play on anything about La Grande Dame save for her low voice.
While a transformation from butch mechanic to high femme queen after a spritz of fragran might’ve been a bit too on-the-nose, I still think there were other places to take this ad. Yet, it was clearly funnier and more-focused than the ads from the queens in the bottom two.
Barring an unforeseen disaster I expect the judges to give La Grande Dame the makeover challenge next week to even up the odds heading into the finale. However, looking at the season as a whole it feels as though both Paloma and Soa de Muse have had the time to improve on their minor weaknesses while La Grande Dame is still learning about hers.
I don’t think there is anything La Grande Dame can do next week to convince me she is a deserving winner – she’s too young, to unsure, and too in-her-head. However, the judges may have already made up their minds to the contrary.
4. Lolita Banana (3.67 avg. rank – was #5, 4, 2, 2, 5, Pre-Season #5)
Lolita Banana played with the literal aspect of “high fashion” this week as a stilt-walking dress form. While the stilts were certainly a standout, I think shrugging the responsibility to deliver “haute couture” for the gag of a deconstructed look was the wrong move. When it comes to punning up your runway presentation, I feel like you can deconstruct one aspect of a prompt but not the whole thing.
Even if Lolita was in a flowing couture gown, the gag of her presenting it on stilts would likely have not enough to put La Grand Dame in the bottom two based on the judge’s reception to her commercial.
In reality, Lolita’s perfume commercial may have been the most-effective of everyone but Soa’s. It had a clear concept and story to it. However, Lolita leaned too far into using every element provided in her maxi-challenge box of supplies, and in doing so completely lost the Lolita of her perfume. She could’ve tied things up neatly in a bow if she had appeared as a narrator confessing to her past smelliness or a showgirl fairy godmother dispensing the perfume.
Alas, her ad was already so packed with scenes that there was no room for her own personality.
Lolita’s story as an immigrant struggling both in life and in the competition continued this week. It continues to resonate with me.
When the perfume challenge was announced, the other four queens immediately made a reference to an old commercial, which Lolita misses entirely. This is something I will always struggle with in New Zealand. I have literally never seen a minute of television here, so the only way I learn references is by osmosis when I spend time with other Kiwis. And, because we aren’t culturally Kiwi and we don’t watch television, our daughter isn’t learning those local references either.
I refer to this as “an immigrant’s line of sight.” Even as we try to immerse ourselves in our new culture, we are focused on the things that are obvious and useful to us. Lifelong residents will have gathered plenty of pop culture and advertising influences via a lifetime of media exposure, even if they don’t pay much attention to them.
It’s already clear that Lolita will be heading home next week. No matter how badly any of the top three botch a make-over, the show will engineer a way to place Lolita in the bottom and to have the other queen defeat her in a lip sync. I’d put a solid wager on Soa being in the bottom with her as the most-reliable lip sync assassin of the remaining three.
However, I can’t help but wonder how things might have turned out if she was awarded an early win in Acting or the Ball, when she richly deserved them. This final episode would feel more thrilling with Lolita as a credible contender for the crown.
Eliminated: La Big Bertha – 2 lip syncs (4.4 avg. rank – was #4, 5, 5, 4, 3, Pre-Season #4)
La Big Bertha (Instagram / TikTok / Twitter) gave us a consistent and heartfelt season of Drag Race, but she never managed to crack the code of what the judges were seeking when compared to the elite top three of this season.
I wish the judges had found more joy in La Big Bertha’s work throughout the season so we could see more of the feisty version of her that we got in the first week.
To me, La Big Bertha is a true artist. She is made to conceive of high-concept acts that will play out on huge stages or occupy entire programs. Condensing that down to 20-second challenge features and single runway walks wasn’t always possible or satisfying.
Even when she didn’t meet the mark, her wit and compassion shone through in every moment.