It’s time, y’all – Drag Race has circled the globe and crossed the equator to make it to my stomping grounds with RuPaul’s Drag Race Down Under Season 2, featuring 10 queens from Australia and Aotearoa New Zealand! That means it’s time for a new pre-season Power Ranking!
I won’t beat around the bush: anyone who watched Drag Race Down Under Season 1 knows it was a rough spot for the franchise. The queens were delightful (except for the unrepentant racist), but the production quality was wobbly and the elimination order was wonky. A production favorite came back only to be completely ignored and another was carried to the finale despite flatlining in the back half of the competition.
Luckily, totally awesome Kiwi queen Kita Mean brought the crown home to our shores (or, more accurately, kept it here, since due to pandemic restrictions in Australia the show was shot in Auckland while NZ was COVID-free). That helped to make up for all of the intended guest stars who were trapped in Australia as well as Ru and Michelle not getting many(/any?) Down Under jokes.
All of that is behind us now. We’re back with another season of Down Under queens starting this weekend (again, shot in NZ!). While we won’t know if this production will be a shit-show or “sweet as,” today we can dig into the cast of 10 amazing drag performers to rank their chances at walking away with a crown.
I’d insert some appropriate Kiwi slang in here, but I’ve been locked in my house for half the time I’ve lived here so I don’t know any.
Now, let’s get to ranking the queens!
My rank is not a comment on their quality as drag artists, but on how far I see them making it on Drag Race based on the trends and tropes of the show as witnessed from over 25 Ru-hosted seasons. These are all outstanding performers, but being a great drag artist doesn’t always translate to doing well on Drag Race.
I have deliberately stayed away from any spoilers about this season, so my ranking is purely off of the vibe I get from queens from their two-minute “Meet The Queens” videos and their social media.
Finally, I’ll disclaim ahead of time that, while I haven’t met any of them or seen them perform, I am obviously going to be biased toward the Kiwi queens. I’ll try not to let it affect my rankings, but let’s face it: this is as close as I’ll ever come to participating in a NZ-vs-AUS rugby rivalry.
If you want to watch RuPaul’s Drag Race Down Under Season 2 outside of Australia, New Zealand, and Canada 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 home country of a franchise you will need to use a VPN to “visit” another country to see that content.)
Readers, start your engines! And, may the best (antipodean) drag queen 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!
RuPaul’s Drag Race Down Under Season 2 Pre-Season Power Rankings
1. Kween Kong
If all I got to see of Kween Kong was her promo look, I’d be a bit concerned. She’s giving geometric cartoon princess, which is fine for a still picture but moves awkwardly.
Luckily, it’s obvious that Kween Kong is so much more than that.
Her talking about learning how to be a man through the strong feminine energy in her life is one of the most beautiful commentaries we’ve heard from a Meet The Queens. This Samoan and Tongan queen is secure in representing her Polynesian heritage in drag and she can work from that confidence to be funny and charming.
When Kween Kong said she is going to win Drag Race because she is a natural leader who invites listening and inclusivity I got chills. She feels very much a piece of my New Zealand experience, including the Māori and Samoan women from whom I learned to sing waiata.
Oh, and? She is a full-time, professional dancer. That can mean a wide range of things, but you only have to look to her social media for a few seconds to see the proof. She pulls wild dance moves on her TikTok, including a signature mid-air barrel roll into a tumble that looks like something out of Street Fighter.
I don’t think we’ve ever seen a queen quite like Kween Kong on a RuPaul-hosted season of the show before. She feels like an obvious representative of the brand. Ru is either going to immediately be fascinated by her or totally not vibe with her, which should be interesting. However, even if Ru is against her from day one, good luck with waiting for her to be the bottom in a performance challenge or beating her in a lip sync!
2. Hannah Conda
I am feeling Hannah Conda. She’s a big personality. She has an engaging story and an exaggerated face. And, she has a specific drag character – a kinda daft, somewhat ageless “fairy godmother” who delivers a slightly agéd vibe with a youthful twinkle in her eye.
Maybe I’m feeling Hannah because we have a lot in common. Hannah was raised Catholic and grew up in a bar, which is very familiar territory to me. Also, she is a nerd who does high-end cosplay in drag, including a recent performance as Scarlet Witch!
Am I just responding to her familiarity in ranking her so high? I don’t think so.
I believe one of the best pre-season predictors of Drag Race success is someone who can sit in the interview chair and make their Meet The Queens sound like an entirely unprompted conversation. It’s the mark of a drag veteran (in Hannah’s case, 12yrs) who is walking into the show with an existing camera awareness and the ability to command attention.
Also, Hannah doesn’t ever need to say “I sing, I act, I dance” for me to believe she probably does all of those things. And, her Instagram is packed with varied make-up looks that still have a distinct stamp to them.
I think we have a serious contender on our hands. And, Ru does tend to like a younger queen who can play with the glamorous old Hollywood tropes that comprise all of Ru’s own in-jokes. I think Hannah’s main risk is in her drag being too unfussy and plain for the show.
(To this I will add: Hannah Conda has perpetuated some racist tropes in the past, which were called out at the same time as the racist history of Scarlet Adams was in the lead-up to Season 1. Hannah began to take action to apologize for and redress this behavior at the time in March 2021, almost a year before she applied to be on the show.
It is not up to me or to any other single person (including RuPaul) to forgive Hanna or approve of her reparations. On this, let’s take cues from BIPOC community members on how they perceive Hannah and her restorative actions rather than (if you are white/Pākehā, as I am) leaping to praise or reject them and her. If she is still doing racist, appropriative things in her performances, that’s bad and we should shine a light on it. However, let’s also leave room for people to proactively grow and make reparations when confronted with the cruelty of their own behavior.)
3. Spankie Jackzon
Spankie Jackzon (Facebook | Instagram | TikTok | YouTube) is from Palmerston North, New Zealand. It is wild to me that there’s even a drag scene in Palmy North, let alone one that can produce a Drag Race queen! I’ve got to get my ass up there.
Spankie Jackzon captured my attention from the very first second of her Meet The Queens video. She has zero problems with filling time alone with a camera, and you can already tell she is going to be one of the major confessional queens of the season. (This makes sense, as she was the winner of Anita Wiglet & Kita Mean’s House of Drag, a Drag Race -esque NZ TV show.)
I tend to take note when queens break the fourth wall by talking directly to production. I’m sure a lot of them do that purely out of being new to TV, but not all of them wind up with that as part of their edit. I think it hints at a subtle favoritism from the show right off the bat to leave those moments in without playing shady music cues over top of them to denote a queen’s inexperience.
Spankie has been doing drag for over 20yrs and I think it shows in her make-up beat. This is a sophisticated, specific face of make-up that isn’t just following a current beauty trend. She knows her features and what she wants to do with them.
I was surprised to hear a modern Drag Race contestant say they are serving “pure womana fish … fresh tilapia.” These “real woman” and “fish” metaphors have rightfully fallen out of favor in recent years for having a misogynist and transphobic bent to them. To be clear, I’m not accusing Spankie of either thing! I was simply taken aback. It could be a sign of her doing smaller-town drag (in a small country!) where the trends of inclusive language haven’t trickled into every conversation.
Or, maybe she just says whatever she says and doesn’t worry about how other people take it. That would be very Kiwi of her.
Spankie’s Meet The Queens look is nothing remarkable – a slightly fancied-up bodysuit. The thing that sticks out to me is that it took me a moment to realize that. There’s enough happening with the high neck and the draping over her bosom that it looks much more complicated than it actually is. It also flatters her body. This is the difference between “just wearing a bodysuit” and wearing a complete look that happens to be a bodysuit.
I think Spankie is the kind of personality that Ru finds absolutely delightful. As a drag veteran of over 20yrs at the still-tender age of 37, she exists in the uncanny valley of “drag queens of a certain age” that don’t tend to be celebrated on the US and UK versions of the show anymore. Will Ru soften up on his thirst for youth to appreciate Spankie?
4. Faúx Fúr
Faúx Fúr immediately captured my attention because she has a specific character. Is she as loud, brash, and full of shouty non-sequiturs out of drag? Who cares! She has a force of personality that makes her stand out in her Meet the Queens, and that’s something that might tickle Ru’s inscrutable fancy.
She is a moderately-experienced queen in the cast, with seven years of drag under her wig. I also think she paints a distinct face, including a recent trend in her Instagram looks of domed ombré eyebrows. Her photos show that she possesses the important quality of being able to go from “showgirl” to high glam.
I think Faúx Fúr has the charisma and uniqueness to make a mark on this show, and I hope she has the nerve and talent to back it up. However, we’ve seen the ongoing trend of RuPaul not being in on the joke with first- and second-generation immigrant Asian queens, who don’t always have Ru’s depth of reference to campy culture from the 60s through the 90s.
For Faúx to click, Ru will need to be charmed by her quirky loudness rather than just finding it to be random shouting. And, even if she does, I’m feeling a heart-breaking pre-finale elimination as the highest potential rank for this queen.
5. Pomara Fifth
Pomara has a charming, easy-going vibe that feels very familiar to me from living in New Zealand. She’s not a “I’m here to snatch the crown, hunty[tongue-pop]” sort of queen. She’s here to have fun doing drag she’s been doing for the past eight years because she likes to do that drag.
That’s not a knock on her competitiveness. She just doesn’t speak ONLY IN DRAG RACE LINGO (and, at one point, mocks that). That’s notable, because we’re at the point where even experienced queens who have been doing drag for 8-10 years have the potential to be entirely influenced primarily by Drag Race.
I like Pomara’s make-up. At first it seemed like minimal feminine beauty make-up on her Meet The Queens, but I think that’s because she’s in monochromatic pink – which somewhat undersells her lips and eyebrows. Up close you can see she is wearing A LOT OF MAKE-UP, with some truly divine contouring and blending. I’m obsessed.
That’s what we want to see here – a queen whose face reads from a distance and who is obviously in high drag when you get up close. This is a lot more evident on her Instagram, where she typically renders darker brows and lips.
I also love that she says she is “good at a lot of things, great at nothing.” Being a drag generalist can take you a lot farther on this show than being “THE” queen of any one thing. When you claim a certain skill as your #1 calling card, the show has extra incentive to either embarrass you while doing it or hand you an obvious win at it before promptly sending you packing.
Finally, Pomara’s commentary on the reality of needing to spend more to make clothes for a bigger body is delightfully frank. That’s something we need more of on Drag Race, and leave it to a larger Down Under queen to go there within 120 seconds.
I think this sort of unfussy self-confidence is something Ru and Michelle tend to find attractive in a queen. The question is more whether Pomara has what it takes to survive the Drag Race challenges. I think she has an inherently like-able quality that will get her through at least the first week or two before things get scary. After that, she’s going to have to pull out some major performance chops against these other killer queens.
6. Minnie Cooper
I find Minnie Cooper to be absolutely charming. She won’t let you forget that she has decades of drag experience, but that’s not all she’s about, either. She has stories for days and she’s not afraid to make fun of herself. There’s the real steel of a veteran stage performer beneath her twinkly veneer.
Minnie’s Instagram shows off a variety of stage looks that trend toward the glamorous side. I’m sure she already had enough fodder in her drag closet to coast through the many runway themes of the season.
My question is more about her make-up. She absolutely does not show her age in her standard glistening face and pink lip, but I worry that her make-up might be a bit too “standard cabaret” for the evolved expectations of present-day Drag Race – especially a tendency towards a heavy black-winged eye that won’t read as well on-camera as it does on stage.
I am absolutely certain that if Michelle (who is only 3yrs older than Minnie!) gives Minnie a make-up note that she will easily be able to implement it. The question is if she’ll be given those notes, or simply dismissed before being given the chance to adapt.
Real talk? I don’t think RuPaul is ever going to crown a queen over the age of 40 on a regular season of Drag Race. Ru doesn’t want anyone who gives the appearance of being a peer. Bianca was as close as we’ll ever see to that. She is on a never-ending hunt for someone who feels effortlessly current because that keeps the franchise relevant, which in turn keeps her youthful.
However, of the older queens we’ve seen on the show (and I say this as an old one, myself), I don’t know that we’ve seen one quite like Minnie Cooper: a full-on glamourpuss showgirl who still finds the devil in the details of her drag. I think we’ll see some fun stuff from her, and I think she could last past the midway point if the judges (and, Michelle, especially) take a liking to her. She might even be enough of an all-arounder to march straight to the finale.
7. Yuri Guaii
Yuri Guaii (Facebook | Instagram | Tiktok | Twitter) is from Tamaki Makaurau (the Māori name for Auckland), New Zealand. She’s a self-proclaimed “drag misfit” whose name is an accented pun on “you’re a guy.” (And, it turns out I’m already following her on Instagram! Go me being a local drag detective.)
The first thing that jumps out about Yuri is she has Trixie Mattel cheeks circa 2016.
Trixie didn’t invent the hard brown contour line, but she certainly is the queen who has made that her brand over the past decade. Part of what makes that work for Trixie is that she started out as a living doll, and has evolved to a sort of Picasso of drag where her make-up is more about shapes than presenting a feminine ideal.
I’m not sure the hard contour works as well for Yuri in her promo look. Combined with green eyebrows and a bright pink mouth she’s giving me reptilian realness. However, in scanning her Instagram the look is surprisingly versatile. It works better when she does bold, dark, graphic brows. Her brows give her face and anchor. Together with her contour, they form a frame for the highlighted portion of her face that is punctuated but her lips.
If you scroll back farther on her Instagram, you can find evidence of a buffed out glamour face that’s more in the style made famous by Raven. I think it’s curious that Yuri Guaii went from being influenced by Raven, the queen of the so-called “beige face,” to the hard geometry of a Trixie-adjacent look. I’ll be curious to see if she reverts to the more standard glam make-up for some challenges and how Ru (and, especially, Michelle) react to that.
Yuri is the single queen in this bunch to sell herself as a seamstress. However, the promo edits her saying “sewing would probably be my strongest suit” over showing the puckered back of her costume. That feels like shade, to me… and, possibly, foreshadowing.
While Yuri doesn’t have any problems speaking to the camera, ultimately there’s not a lot to her Meet The Queens. I worry that she doesn’t have the potential pathos that Ru is looking for. Even her story of a religious upbringing and homeschooling ends with her monologuing about how happy she is. Like it or not, Drag Race doesn’t always go for effusively bubbly queens the first time around (see, again: Trixie) if they can’t also show some unshakeable nerve (see: Jaida).
I really enjoy Yuri, but I think she is going to have to quickly show personal depth and make-up versatility to survive more than a week or two in this crowd.
8. Beverly Kills
You are doubtlessly going to read some Drag Race fans say things like, “Beverly Kills seems like more of a Dragula queen” or “Beverly Kills is too rock’n’roll for Drag Race.”
Those fans would be wrong.
Sometimes people like to pretend that Ru doesn’t live for queens that trend more towards a sort of punk aesthetic, but that’s just not the case. Look at her love for our recent pair of DIY queens from Denver, Willow Pill and Yvie Oddly! Plus, consider queens who incorporate elements of punk, rock, or genderfvck into their aesthetic like GotMik, Sasha Velour, Adore Delano, and even Alaska.
It’s more accurate to say that just being a little bit “punk” isn’t enough for Ru, who came up in the 1980s queer punk scene and survived to tell the tale. Being punk rock can’t just be window-dressing. It’s got to be who you are. And, you can be punk as fuck, but you’ve also got to be a little bit glam, too.
Beverly Kills has the glam bit down, but is she a punk in a way that Ru will appreciate? In her Meet The Queens interview, she describes herself more as a multi-threat theatre kid.
Now, let it be known, I too identify as a multi-threat theatre kid. While I’m not comparing her (or me) to Dusty Ray Bottoms (who I adore), I do think that Dusty’s particular “rocker who is actually a perfectionist theatre nerd” vibe rarely clicks with Ru in the long run (see also: Jan, Tina, Rosé).
Also, I can already tell you that Michelle is not going to like her hard, high, dark contour, which gives the illusion of stubble.
Yet… there’s something specific and possessed about Beverly Kills. She has one of the most varied Instagrams in this cast, and many of the shots are of her performing on a variety of huge stages. For as many times as she presents Dragula-esque horror, she also shows off full-on glamour.
It’s hard to predict where Beverly will land on this season. I could see RuPaul ruthlessly cutting her on the first episode, but I could also see her being well-rounded enough to easily survive the first few eliminations until the field tightens. And, I have a small inkling that she could be unique enough to be the kind of youthful can-do queen that Ru loves to crown … if she can survive long enough to prove it.
9. Molly Pippinz
Molly Poppinz (Facebook | Instagram | TikTok | Twitter) is currently base din Newcastle, Australia, but she used to be big in Canada before returning to Australia to work her way up in the drag scene.
Molly Pippinz is friendly, bubbly, charming, and clearly rooted in an unflagging work ethic. Yet, in her Meet The Queens she struck me as the kind of queen this show loves to beat down – and that’s was before she admitted that she can’t sew!
There’s something about the way that Molly paints that looks much older than she is, both in Meet The Queens and on Instagram. It’s a gorgeous paint, but compare that to Hannah Conda, who clearly is playing old but doesn’t have anything about her mug that particularly ages her.
There’s nothing wrong with it, but I wonder about the significance of the decision – because, Molly’s drag character doesn’t feel like she is supposed to be older.
I have similar questions about her galactic purple swimsuit in Meet The Queens. It’s cute, but it’s a dance costume. What is she trying to say with it – as the promo look that will be memorialized on show flyers for the next decade?
It could be that Molly has obvious answers to my questions that will be revealed early on in the season. However, as a pre-season prognosticator, I worry that these reflect a certain lack of intention to her drag. I’m not criticizing that, but that sort of mercurial quality is something thing that Drag Race – and, specifically, Ru and Michelle – will tear to shreds.
I think Molly will be up to the challenges of Drag Race, but to survive an early cut she’s going to have to show the steeliness that allowed her to move to the farthest point around the world from her existing drag scene to start all over again. If she can, I could see her as a mid-season elimination.
10. Aubrey Haive
Aubrey Haive (Cameo | Facebook | Instagram | TikTok / Twitter) is based in Melbourne, Australia, but she is originally from Timaru, New Zealand. She’s a queen borne out of COVID lockdowns with a name that is an accented pun on “I’ll behave.”
Aubrey projects much older than her 25 years. There is something about her calm, straight-forward way of speaking that doesn’t give me 20-something Kiwi. Maybe that’s down to her theatre degree and experience as a performer. She isn’t giving me “starstruck young queen on a TV set for the first time.”
The first thing I picked up from her “Meet The Queens” is that her drag is attractive and highly-detailed, but her make-up doesn’t feel like a unique STAMP of a face. There’s nothing about the combination of elements that make it easy for me to recognize her. That makes sense, since she has only been doing drag for a year.
There is way more to see on her social media than in her Meet The Queens – she clearly brings a bevy of pre-lockdown talents to her drag persona. She’s a singing guitar player, always a plus in my book. More importantly, her face looks much more carved out on social. That could mean she just had an off day for Meet The Queens.
Or… it could mean she changed a lot as a result of her time on the show… however short it may have been.
Ru loves an ingénue queen with a unique spark, but even a queen who is relatively fresh to drag needs a unique perspective to capture Ru’s attention (see: Aquaria, Olivia Lux). Aubrey Haive still feels slightly too unspecific to be that at the time the show was filmed. And, even if Ru does shower her with attention, I’m not sure she could knock off seven of these other experienced players to reach the finale.
I suspect Aubrey will be a charming early-to-mid elimination.