Welcome to my review and power rankings of the sixth episode of Canada’s Drag Race Season 3 – Cosmetic Queens, a combination make-up and branding challenge.
Every season of Drag Race comes with some form of branding challenge, but it’s rare that queens are given a make-up maxi-challenge outside of making over someone else. While they have to dress themselves up for different roles in Rusicals and Snatch Game, I feel like there’s an unspoken rule that a queen’s beat is a queen’s beat. Outside of critiques aimed at improvement, the show isn’t looking to change that.
This challenge wasn’t looking to change how the queens do their make-up, but it came with some restrictions. Each queen chose a palette of six signature colors to craft a product, an accompanying face of make-up for a marketing photo, and a 20-second commercial to sell the product.
This is more relevant than ever with make-up products from drag queens turning into big business around the world. In America, Season 8’s Kim Chi recently expanded her make-up line into CVS stores around the country! Even for queens who aren’t going to start their own business, the ability to quickly assemble a pitch for a potential brand collab is an essential skill for all Drag Race graduates.
That yielded a wide range of results from the queens. Some of them were more focused on comedy than sales, while others were obsessed with creating a personal story. The queens who did the best in the challenge were uniformly the ones who didn’t do anything all that different with their make-up, but who also didn’t forget to sell the make-up.
(Also, I have to point out that co-host Traci Melchor had a sudden breakthrough in this episode! Typically, Traci sounds very scripted, to the point of being stilted. This week but she was an outstanding director who helped queens realize their vision. She gave so many good tips about how to position themselves, how to work the camera, and how to deliver lines. Her status as a veteran TV presenter really shone through. And, she was genuinely emotional during the runway segment. Let’s not forget: hosts and presenters are people, too! I think it’s exciting to see Traci level up in her Drag Race skills just as watching Brooke’s looseness as a host this season has been a real joy.)
The challenge gave us an unsurprising elimination, even if it was a queen who wasn’t at the bottom of my ranks last week, plus one meteoric rise of a queen gunning for a spot in the finals. Do we actually have our final three locked in? Perhaps…
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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 6 – Cosmetic Queens: Power Rankings
We’re at the halfway point in the season and it feels like the final three is beginning to solidify without Lady Boom Boom occupying the frontrunner position. But, what does that mean for our remaining pair of winless queens?
Before I answer that question and get to the painted runway theme, let’s take a moment to appreciate Brooke Lynn Hytes looking absolutely stunning in a pink-on-pink version of Jessica Rabbit’s iconic va-va-voom dress. Stunning.
1. Gisèle Lullaby – 2 wins (avg. rank 3.5 – was #1, 1, 4, 7, 7, pre-season #7)
Gisèle Lullaby (Facebook / Instagram / TikTok / Twitter) delivered a manic commercial but a stellar marketing photo and runway. While she was low in this episode, it doesn’t feel like that hurts her longer-term prospects – especially with a Rusical next week!
Gisèle Lullaby’s runway was incredibly camp. We’ve seen a lot of queens do Picasso or cubism over the years, but none of them have made it as three-dimensional as Gisèle did here. She wisely kept things weird and “club kid” so this would still feel at home on the Drag Race runway.
I just love the dimensionality of it – the roundness of the torso, the blockiness of the leg, the way the face is a halved disc. It’s all so pleasing! Plus, the colors have a painterly, watercolor aspect to them.
The whole thing is remarkable.
There is no doubt in my mind that Giséle served the best face photo of the entire cast. She looks stunningly gorgeous and she is selling her eyes in specific. It might be the best she has looked in the entire competition.
The only mark against Giśele this week is that she was so focused on cramming jokes into her commercial that she didn’t feature the product enough. We sometimes see queens have this inability to edit again and again on challenges, but it hasn’t been a persistent problem for Giséle thus far. Even if it is her natural inclination to cram a lot of material into a short timeframe, I think she’ll take the note into consideration in the future.
With Lady Boom Boom gone and Jada struggling to find her place in the competition, it really feels as though Giséle is now on an unstoppable march to the finale. Even if she winds up in a lip sync, I’m not sure anyone in the cast could defeat her save for Kimmy.
2. Miss Fiercalicious – 1 win, 1 lip sync (avg. rank 4.83 – was #3, 7, 9, 4, 4, pre-season #2)
Miss Fiercalicious (Facebook / Instagram / TikTok / Twitter) scored her first win for a thorough trouncing of the rest of the cast in both her commercial and her runway. If she can keep delivering at this level she may have crafted a rare “villain-to-hero” character arc for herself that takes her straight to the crown!
Miss Fiercalicious’s runway is an all-time great.
We’ve seen queens copy paintings before, and we’ve seen queens play with the illusion of figure using prosthetic limbs before, but this is rendered perfectly. It immediately evokes the painting, all of the details are considered, and there’s a real sense of “motion being captured as a still life” in Miss F’s presentation.
Miss Fiercalicious was perfect in her commercial. There were three things that separated her from the pack – two obvious, and one more subtle.
First: she advertised the fuck out of her palette. She was the one queen to really focus on the shades, how they differed from each other, and what they would allow you to do on your face.
Which leads us to the second point: her make-up was cool! Her gold-winged eye with a hazy pink outline was not a look we’ve seen a hundred times before, but it still felt on-brand for Miss F. And, it was aspirational! Like, literally, I want to pull out all of my eyeshadows and try that same look this weekend.
Finally, there is the third, less-obvious victory of her commercial: there’s no jokes! No overt jokes anyway. The minor bit of humor in Fierce’s commercial comes with her gentle mocking of herself – her ridiculous name, her exaggerated way of speaking, and her penchant for drama. That’s a difficult and subtle line to toe in a Drag Race branding challenge. Broad jokes are easier. We’ve seen many queens before Miss F. attempt this sort of winking, self-aware humor and fail miserably.
It worked for her because her character is huge and easy-to-understand. That also makes it easy to parody.
This is the version of Fiercalicious I feel like she has been promising all season but has yet to deliver both in the challenge and on the runway: bold choices with a perfectionist’s eye. It’s how she kept Kimmy on-task in their awards show presentation, yet I think Miss F has been so focused on others that this is the first time we’ve really seen her focus that on herself.
If she can maintain that focus for three more episodes, I think we have a finalist on our hands. There’s no mistake in Miss Fiercalicious’s name: when she’s focused, she is absolutely the fiercest competitor in this cast. And, that focus is entirely under her control.
3. Jada Shada Hudson – 1 win, 2 lip syncs (avg. rank 3.5 – was #4, 6, 2, 5, 1, pre-season #1)
Jada Shada Hudson (Facebook / Instagram / Twitter / YouTube) delivered what seemed to me to be an uneven commercial, but the judges loved her photo and her runway – which was one of her most-developed looks in the season. Can she bounce back into contention for the finale?
There are going to be folks out there who discredit Jada Shada Hudson’s runway presentation. I’ve already seen them on social media.
I would say they are missing the forest for the trees.
Yes, there are some rough details in this look. Yes, the full-body sash of shiny black faces is at a slightly peculiar scale. However, this is a fully realized concept that works from head to toe, flatters Jada’s shape, and sends a strong message about colorism and the beauty of blackness.
Jada didn’t need to explain it or put a bunch of words on her dress. The message was evident because of who Jada is and how she walked the look on the runway. Traci felt the impact immediately – before Jada had even full turned around!
To me, that is true success on the Drag Race runway. As queens get savvier and spend more money on an ever-widening circle of professional designers, having a killer look isn’t enough if it doesn’t marry to your character, your shape, and your identity.
For a queen like Jada with a very specific character, shape, and identity – and who has been struggling with the details of her runways – this could not have come at a better moment in her run on the show.
Also, take a moment to appreciate Jada’s make-up in the tight shots. The black wing outline on her eye has to be half a centimeter thick! It’s like she drew a massive eye shape around her actual eye. The top of it reads like a second eyebrow beneath her typical high blocked brows. It’s so huge and specific – I love it! It might be my favorite make-up look she’s done all season. Her Instagram version isn’t nearly as big as what she wore on the show.
Similar to her runway, Jada’s commercial was visually rough around the edges but the whole was greater than the sum of its parts.
Some of the shots and angles she chose were slightly awkward. Yet, on a script level, she nailed it. As a queen who has scored many a brand deal already in her career, Jada knows how to sell a product and she knows how to get the Instagrammable photo.
Tonight’s version of Jada Shada Hudson is the queen who I placed at the top of my Pre-Season Power Rankings: an unapologetically black business professional who would be your first call to partner with your brand. Yes, okay, she’s also the “turn up queen.” Honestly, I couldn’t care less about that. Give me more of this mature, powerful, thoughtful Jada. She doesn’t have to deliver a message about social change on the runway every time, but I want to see her bring this level of power and focus even to her fun and flirty looks.
If we get three more weeks of this version of Jada, there is NO ONE in this cast who can knock her out of the final three.
4. Vivian Vanderpuss (avg. rank 4.67 – was #2, 3, 5, 9, 5, pre-season 6)
Vivian Vanderpuss (Facebook / Instagram / TikTok / Twitter) came incredibly close to a win again in this branding challenge, another theme she was surely gunning for given her particular talents. It’s starting to feel as though she has no way to break into the top three unless one of the queens above her commits a major error.
Vivian Vanderpuss slayed this runway. The sudden, subtle reveal from a plain canvas to the colorful version. The wrapped bustline. The youthful make-up with the high blush and the big blue eyeshadow. The nude pump.
Everything was in its right place. Honestly, that’s the case with Viv almost every week. She is the queen who minds the details on her runways the most-consistently out of this entire cast.
Viv’s commercial was by far the funniest of the entire batch, and that’s because it was comedic but also on-brand and sales-y.
Yes, she’s a Cat Mom. We get it. But, Viv’s commercial was not just about her Cat Mom persona. It was about her Cat Mom persona being overwhelmingly popular and someone you would take advice from. That is not only a perfect expression of Viv’s inane character, but it also makes for a great sales pitch.
“Buy my product because I am a lovable weirdo – just like you.”
Vivian is suffering the occasional fate of a high-quality Drag Race queen who is simply on the wrong season with the wrong cast. While I would not compare Vivian to Miss Cracker in any way, her run reminds me of Cracker’s run on Season 10. It was the epitome of the “always the bridesmaid” edit, where nothing she did was quite good enough to crack through on any single challenge, even though she was never bad.
(Truthfully, Viv is much more like Trixie Mattel, only a bit better at the actual game of Drag Race than Trixie was the first time around.)
I cannot even fathom how much of a mind-fuck it is to be in a competition with this much pressure where you logically know you are crushing it every single week, yet you find yourself watching the crown slip further and further out of your grasp. I think Viv has everything it takes to win the next three challenges, but I also think Giséle, Fiercalicious, and Jada do, too – and, I don’t see the show pivoting from them to Viv unless one of the top three has a spectacular flame-out.
Still, there’s nothing wrong with being the queen who just misses the final. Look at the proud line-up of everyone from Cracker to Kennedy Davenport to Jimbo to Jackie Cox. Sometimes if you were never going to win the crown in the first place, the best thing for you is to look slightly robbed. A semi-finalist run without any weak spots always ages well in the eyes of fans.
5. Kimmy Couture – 1 win, 1 lip sync (avg. rank 4.5 – was #7, 4, 3, 2, 6, pre-season #5)
Kimmy Couture (Instagram / TikTok / Twitter) showed her influencer bonafides with a cohesive commercial, but a confusing runway look took her out of the running for a win. Yet, hope springs eternal: next week is the Rusical!
Kimmy Couture’s runway was puzzling. (As it turns out, it even puzzled her. More on that in a moment.)
This look is one of her most interesting shapes, especially with the ultra-exaggerated shoulder! It finally breaks Kimmy out of her zone of Princess Leia realness. I also think the idea of being covered with paint splotches is fine. I just don’t understand why you’d render the entire thing – both outfit and body – only in green and orange splotches… and then pair it with such a weird smear of make-up. She almost looked like some kind of zombie!
Kimmy’s Instagram revealed the real story. She used vintage newsprint for her fabric and production was concerned about copyright issues so they made her paint over it!!!
First, let’s all acknowledge that is a nightmare. I would have a total meltdown in that situation.
However, let’s also look at this with clear eyes. I think there was a way to wear the same splotched garment with a cleaner look on the face and legs that wouldn’t make this so hard to look at. As it is, it almost comes off as though she is wearing camouflage! I think with bare legs and a bolder, cleaner make-up look, Kimmy could’ve sold the splotched version of the garment just as well as she did the original.
Luckily, Kimmy was safe on the strength of her phenomenal commercial. It was a smart sell of her palette imbued with just enough humor to play well on Drag Race, which never wants to take anything too seriously. Also, Kimmy looks pretty damn gorgeous in the photo. Her pink ruffled blouse has just the right level of interest and texture to it to work for an advertising photo without pulling focus from her face.
Last week I was feeling like Kimmy Couture had completely stalled in the competition. Now I see a little more life in her run, but her major limitation continues to be her runway looks. It’s a pity that this runway – her first really different look – was sabotaged so badly by production. Yet, even with the poor showing on the runway, her commercial proved she has the smarts and strategy to keep moving forward despite bombing Snatch Game. That’s a point where some lesser queens lose their drive.
I’m very curious to see how next week’s Rusical turns out. I strongly suspect Kimmy could wind up on the top of the challenge… but, what will she be wearing on the runway?
6. Irma Gerd – 1 lip sync (avg. rank 7.5 – was #6, 8, 7, 10, 8, pre-season #10)
Irma Gerd (Facebook / Instagram / TikTok / Twitch / Twitter) was probably never going to win a make-up challenge against these ultra-polished queens. Unfortunately, this make-up challenge came in the form of a brand commercial, and branding is one of Irma’s few must-wins of the season (almost all of which she shares with Viv). Now that she has missed out on winning public speaking, Snatch Game, and branding, does she still have a path to the finale?
Irma Gerd’s runway was a knockout. We’ve seen a lot of queens do fashion dolls and deconstructed looks, but I can’t recall a color-by-numbers look like this one – especially with it extending up into her wig! There’s something so clever and unexpected about it.
Sure, some bits of it still have a touch of craftiness to them (notably, the bustline), but the intelligence of the look and the styling forgives that.
Also, I’m not sure if it is intentional, but the colors Irma chose for the garment and the thick black lines are giving me hints of Mondrian. If that’s the case, I love it even more! Not only is it an art history nod, but the art snob joke of Mondrian’s work being “paint by numbers” is a good one.
If I could critique anything, it would be the blue shoe and its ankle-strap. I would’ve loved to see her in a more dramatic heel without the strap cutting her leg.
Otherwise? No notes.
Irma had a one-two punch of negative factors about her commercial.
First, she was so focused on the “Snot Rocket” name that it took her away from talking about the actual palette colors in such a brief ad. Second, some of the make-up issues she has been having all season – including her lashes and the too-dark lip – suddenly became a focal point for critiques.
Critiques are a good thing, and I hope that Irma (and fans) didn’t take them too hard. Irma already has a gorgeous face in drag! While it’s her call if she wants to present a sillier, more alternative look, a few minor tweaks to her eyelashes and the balance of her lips could change her entire mug. I think we saw this to be true in her Marilyn drag last episode.
I was also pleased to see how well Irma held her own in the lip sync. One of my big pre-season questions about her was if she had enough stage experience in her smaller home market to stand up to these young veterans of Canada’s big city drag scene. The lip sync answered that. While Irma wasn’t full of tricks and stunts, her dancing had rhythm and felt specific to her and her character. She used her body well. I felt like she really emphasized her curviness in how she danced, if that makes any sense.
Even if this week was just a minor stumble, the big question is if Irma Gerd has any path left from here to the crown. I’m not sure there is one. Right now the field above Irma are the four queens with wins and Vivian coming off of a streak of solid performances. If Irma wants in on the finale, she needs to knock off at least two of them in the next two weeks – with at least a high placement or a win to show for it.
I feel like a Rusical is very much in the wheelhouse of several of the other queens, so Irma will need to come out with full force next week to avoid the bottom two. While I think she’s capable of that, based on her edit so far it doesn’t feel very likely.
Eliminated: Bombae (avg. rank 4.4 – was #5, 6, 3, 3, pre-season #9)
The wall was constructed from her self-doubt and the somewhat rough edges of her make-up, which are literally her only two weak spots.
Sometimes it be that on Drag Race.
I’m not happy to see such a charismatic and talented queen felled by the exact weakness I predicted in my Pre-Season Power Ranking. Honestly, I’m mostly hoping to be wrong about those snap judgments made based on two minutes of perusing a queen’s social media.
Alas, my concerns about the unrefined edges of Bombae’s make-up turned out to be her undoing given the unusual event of an entire challenge based on doing your own make-up. That was compounded by her uncertainty over how to approach her ad based on the judges’s lukewarm reaction to her.
That’s ironic to me, considering how consistent Bombae’s runway fashion has been the entire season. It’s not as though she lacks an eye for detail. If this was only a runway competition, she would probably be in first place. She’s simply on a different spot in her make-up journey compared to some of these highly-polished, highly-buffed queens like Jada and Fiercalicious.
I suppose the silver lining is that the show treated her fairly. Unlike last week, this was anything but a shocking elimination. In the end, we can see that she was truly harmed by not meriting a critique during the first two weeks where she was a powerhouse but was called safe.
Even if Bombae didn’t make it to the finale, she proved herself to be a capable, lovable queen who is endlessly entertaining. I hope she receives her just reward in the form of increased booking fees and years of audiences eager to see what she brings to the stage.