Bonjour bonjour bonjour, mes chers lecteurs! Welcome to my review and power rankings of the seventh episode of Drag Race France Season 1 – “Sororité,” a Drag Race France makeover challenge all about sisterhood.
Makeover challenges have fallen out of being Drag Race mainstays over the past few years. While you might be tempted to blame that on the pandemic, it actually started earlier than that – possibly because of spoilers. With the show’s popularity growing every year, it gets harder and harder to pull in random strangers for a makeover challenge just like it gets more challenging to have an in-studio audience for a challenge.
Drag Race France skirts the issue by relying on close friends as make-over partners, and this elite group of top four queens rises to the occasion. You really get the sense that they were energized by working with their best friends, because each of them delivered on the runway.
Did they deliver so well that the only choice was to forgo awarding a win in favor of a lip sync tournament? I’m not sure. It seemed clear there was a top two and a bottom two in this runway presentation. The problem was that Lolita Banana was in the top two, and La Grande Dame was in the bottom two.
Of course, the show knew there was a one-in-two shot of Lolita winding up in the top for the challenge. Despite the judges beating up on her the past few weeks, she has proven to be a competitive queen and her distinct mug meant she’d have a natural advantage in a makeover challenge. You can’t fabricate a lip sync tournament out of nowhere, because all of the queens need to be prepared on all three of the songs – which means the queens likely had some inkling of this twist even before Nicky Doll announced it on the runway.
Even if there was a clear top two and the twist was telegraphed, it didn’t feel unfair. This is an indisputably strong top four and it made sense to ask them all to prove themselves one more time rather than simply relying on the challenge to determine a lip sync and a final three.
What felt unfair was dismissing a stronger lip sync performer in the final elimination. Alas, that’s the theme of the past week of Drag Race! There’s only so much you can do in the edit to make a losing queen seem like she slayed the performance. While lip sync tournaments make for exciting episodes, the secret truth is they almost always take some amount of past performance into account – even in a blow-out.
We’re left with one of the most evenly-matched top trios in Drag Race herstory – but who is most-likely to take home the crown? I have one final power ranking for you, and it’s not the same as last week’s Episode 6 power rankings. Do you agree on my predicted winner? Let me know in the comments below.
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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 7: Sororité makeover challenge Power Rankings
This episode’s runway had no prompt beyond presenting a pair of matching makeover looks to show “Un air de famille.” Before we get to those family resemblance looks, let’s observe. Nicky Doll’s look for the week:
I love this color story, but it has an air of “design challenge” to it – especially the fussy hip pleating and the awkward length.
1. La Grande Dame – 1 win (2.71 avg. rank – was #3, 1, 1, 3, 6, 4, Pre-Season #2)
La Grande Dame (Instagram / TikTok / Twitter / YouTube) was unable to snag a second win this week due to the lip sync tournament twist. While having the most wins no longer matters on Drag Race (especially not on international seasons!), it does raise the question of if La Grande Dame has made enough of a mark on this competition to be called France’s first drag superstar.
La Grande Dame’s runway presentation with her friend was emblematic of her entire run on the show – fashion forward, and showing the power of her brilliant smile to melt away any fashion-model-stiffness in her runway presentation.
The problem – both with her challenge presentation and her run as a whole – is that this “smile cures stiffness” story is too much of what La Grande Dame has shown us this season. Her penchant for overthinking prompts and hyper-focusing on her concepts have been more memorable than her slightly-suspicious Snatch Game win.
Please don’t take any of that as me discrediting La Grande Dame and her art. She is a stunning Drag Queen! Her level of craft and perfection is so awesome that I am literally in awe of her every time she is in drag. However, her performance on the show is not as memorable as she is herself.
On any other queen on any other franchise I’d say this might firmly place La Grande Dame out of contention for the crown. On Drag Race France I’m not so sure.
La Grande Dame is one of the most popular young drag artists in France. She’s a real life fashion model. And, she happens to be the house daughter of judge Kiddy Smile! That’s absolutely the brand of queen who feels right to reign supreme over the debut of the French version of the show, in the same way The Vivienne and Envy Peru felt like predestined winners of their inaugural franchise installments.
Would it have been narratively satisfying to simply watch La Grande Dame stomp everyone else to dust all season as Envy Peru did on Drag Race Holland? We’ll never know, because Soa and Paloma made sure that wouldn’t be possible much as Divina de Campo and Baga Chipz did for The Vivienne on Drag Race UK.
And Viv still won.
Now that we come to the finale, giving La Grande Dame an “underdog” win against two queens with stronger track records could feel very satisfying. In fact, if the show wasn’t planning on doing that, they could’ve rightfully allowed Lolita Banana to prevail in her lip sync against La Grande Dame. That would’ve given us a shocking pre-finale boot and simplified the finale!
With La Grande Dame still in the competition, I think she automatically becomes the front-runner for the crown from a production standpoint, even if her narrative and performance don’t support that outcome. To have any hope of knock her out of a (potentially pre-determined) ruling spot, either or both of Soa and Paloma will need to unquestionably crush the final challenge.
2. Soa de Muse – 2 wins, 2 lip syncs (2.71 avg. rank – was #2, 2, 3, 6, 3, 1, Pre-Season #3)
Soa de Muse (Facebook / Instagram / TikTok) continued her hot streak with a stunning runway presentation along with her best friend. It was full of carefully-considered details in both design and movement. Last week I said that Soa de Muse already feels like a graduate of Drag Race and this episode drove that point home. That would make for a very satisfying winner.
I was concerned when I first saw Soa de Muse going in a slightly illustrative, tribally-influenced direction for her make-up in the workroom. It didn’t feel like something that would resonate with the judges, and similar facial markings do not make for a makeover challenge resemblance.
However, those facial markings combined with a pair of spectacular outfits and a truly inspired runway presentation to yield commanding challenge performance worthy of a third win. Soa and her partner often moved on the runway as if they were one, and they told a powerful story of connectedness and protection through their movements.
That is the perfect punctuation on the sentence of “Soa de Muse should win Drag Race France.” She came into the competition bold, loud, and full of wisecracks, but that version of Soa could not be France’s next drag superstar. She has undergone a transformation this season into a queen who is more focused, more versatile, and more powerful than she was just a few weeks ago – while being just as bold and loud.
The question that remains is whether the judges will feel that her journey is already enough of a reward, or if they will recognize Soa’s evolution with a crown.
There is no question that Soa would be a narratively satisfying winner. Despite lip syncing twice, both were early in the season and feel long-since forgotten at this point. (And, at least one of them wasn’t entirely deserved.) Add to that the fact that Soa could’ve easily won Snatch Game, the commercials challenge, and this make-over and it seems obvious that Soa was the most remarkable performer of the season. There’s no contest.
If the judges haven’t already decided in favor of La Grande Dame, Soa could be our winner – especially if she continues her unbroken streak of excellence in the final challenge.
3. Paloma – 2 wins, 1 lip sync (1.86 avg. rank – was #1, 3, 2, 1, 1, 2, Pre-Season #1)
Paloma (Instagram / Twitter) set this season ablaze with her endless supply of high concepts and comedy. On any other franchise, such a cinematically-minded queen with so many talents would seem like the obvious winner! She could do so much for the visibility of the Drag Race brand. Yet, on Drag Race France she feels more like the sort of lovable weirdo who makes for a perfect runner up – just like her American doppelgänger Alaska Thunderfuck on her first run on the show almost a decade ago.
As with every runway, Paloma’s makeover look was a fully-realized concept that drew inspiration from cinematic history. Yet, like several prior runways, it felt like her obsession with matching particular cinematic details got in the way of presenting remarkable drag.
There was nothing wrong with her pair of white-faced robbers-by-moonlight. Yet, their black velvet catsuits with pink mannequin hands wasn’t the most-impactful look she could’ve chosen for a makeover challenge. Plus, going the route of matching mime make-up feels like the easy way out of showing a family resemblance.
I’ve said from the pre-season onward that Paloma feels like the queen with “big winner energy” of this cast. That remains true in this final trio. Like La Grande Dame, she has always known who she is, but like Soa de Muse she has grown in her powers throughout the competition. It would be just as narratively satisfying to crown her as either of her competitors.
Yet, as I look across the entire season (as well as Paloma’s social media), the same strength that screams “big winner energy” to me is also her weakness: Paloma is already a fully-formed artist. And, that fully-formed artist is obviously a filmmaker who happens to be a very good drag queen.
In a way, that makes Paloma even more of a twin to Alaska than anyone could have initially surmised. As outstanding as Alaska is at the Drag Race format, there is no denying that she excels as a conceptual and visual artist when she has control every aspect of a narrative. That made her a fine runner up on Season 5, but it also made her an obvious All-Stars winner.
I would be so bold as to say that Paloma was better on this season than Alaska was on Season 5. Paloma is more confident, mature, and fully formed than either of her competitors or most of the Drag Race runners up in history without having a whiff of being a dull “professional.”
In America, that would make her the obvious winner. RuPaul would slay to have a queen with such an obvious brand, such unshakeable talent, and the vision to create her own creative product!
In France (and within the milieu of French drag), I get the sense that Paloma’s dedication to connecting all of her choices to the history of cinema works to her slight detriment. It makes her more of a niche artist.
As much as Paloma is my personal winner of Drag Race France, I think that might be a very American take on who should represent France and its drag. I would be surprised, delighted, and satisfied to see her walk away with a crown next week, but I think Paloma has already won the day with the level of exposure she gained on the show. She’ll be around for a long time to come regardless of the outcome – and that’s the best way to win Drag Race.
Eliminated: Lolita Banana (3.67 avg. rank – was #5, 4, 2, 2, 5, Pre-Season #5)
Lolita Banana (Instagram / TikTok) delivered a remarkable, perfectly-detailed makeover. Her charismatic cis male friend was a delight – the sort of person we all love to see on these challenges. His dedication to his daughter brought a tear to my eye.
In truth, Lolita should have been rewarded with a win this week in the tradition of queens who clinched their finale spot in the final moments of the season (see: Kandy Muse, Canada’s Scarlett BoBo). There is no question Lolita would bring a fire to the finale even if she was a longshot to take home the crown.
Yet, I also can’t be too sad about her being dismissed here. Even if it felt unfair in the moment, our top three have been such an obvious top three from the pre-season to this penultimate episode. As great as Lolita was, she never quite cracked that narrative.
I think Lolita Banana taught me as much about France as any of these native citizen queens, if not more. Her ability to maintain her identity and her love of her home country while competing amongst the best of her adopted home was an inspiration to me as a fellow immigrant. Lolita never gave up and always found new strength in her moments of defeat. I think she has many years of superstardom in her future, both within France and internationally.