Mabuhay! Welcome to my review and power rankings of the third episode of Drag Race Philippines Season 1 – Pop Off Ate! This is a classic Drag Race Girl Groups challenge to write, record, and perform a verse on a pop track, paired with a seriously scary runway celebrating the myths of Filipino folklore.
(Based on when this episode was released, I think my Drag Race Philippines coverage will be on Thursdays and Fridays for the remainder of the season.)
Girl Group challenges are always interesting on Drag Race because they combine teamwork, quick memorization, and being able to think on your feet. A queen who brought a killer track from a producer to the talent show might not be able to produce the same results when they have to write and record a verse in a matter of hours!
As the queens discussed early in the episode, “The Universe Loves Decisiveness.” When it comes to a songwriting challenge where you have just eight bars to express yourself, you can’t hedge your bets with a lot of filler words that don’t tell a story. You have to get straight to the point of who you are and what defines you.
I’m not going to do a deep dissection of songwriting in this post as I did for the RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars Season 7’s Girl Groups, since most of these verses are multilingual. However, songwriting wasn’t the only thing I know well that the queens worked on this episode… they also Power Ranked each other! They’re trying to steal my gig!
How did the queens rank themselves? (And how did that compare to where they currently rank in my Power Ranking averages so far?)
- Precious Paula Nicole (#3)
- Turing (#9)
- Eva Le Queen (#4)
- Minty Fresh (#1)
- Gigi Era (#8)
- Lady Morgana (#10)
- Marina Summers (tie) (#5)
- Xilhouete (tie) (#7)
- Viñas Deluxe (#2)
- Brigiding (#6)
Clearly there is some workroom fuckery going on on this poll, with Turing ranked high out of respect for her lip sync and Viñas ranked low out of jealousy for her win. However, the rest of the ranking feels relatively balanced compared to mine. The queens are a little warmer on Gigi Era and Lady Morgana due to their good nature and hard work, and cooler to Brigiding.
It’s interesting how the entire group immediately shifted to saying Brigiding was the most-annoying as soon as they were rid of their previous pick, Corazon. There’s definitely a bit of group-think going on there, where queens are expected to go along with the pack and not cause any ripples.
That left the top pick, Precious Paula Nicole, and the bottom queen, Brigiding, to select their pop star groups, which wound up as follows:
- Team Precious AKA “Pink P*ssy Energy” – Precious Paula Nicole, Vińas Deluxe, Minty Fresh, Gigi Era, Xilhouete
- Team Brigiding AKA “Flexbomb Girls”- Brigiding, Marina Summers, Turing, Lady Morgana, Eva Le Queen
For the record, my picks would’ve been Minty Fresh, Turing, Marina Summers, and Eva Le Queen… which means, based on this challenge, I might’ve had a solid shot at winning!
The team choices were followed by what must have been the most-wholesome recording session of all time with guest judge and mega-star Nadine Lustre. She was so calmly encouraging to everyone. She really got the best out of each of them in the studio.
I’ve noticed that sort of coaching and judging has been a theme of Drag Race Philippines on all three episodes so far. There doesn’t seem to be as much of a hidden agenda from the judges as we get on other franchises. They’ve been surprisingly tough on some queens, but never for a surprising reason.
If RuPaul wants to keep reaping Emmys she needs to take some notes from the one-two-three punch of this set of runway critiques going from the uplifting comments to Brigiding, to the unresolved grief of Precious Paula Nicole, to the need to be loved of Xilhouete. I continue to be so impressed with Jiggly as a judge, and Paolo crying repeatedly while trying to slice the welling tears out of her eyes with a sharpened point of a napkin was at once pure heart and pure camp.
How did this Girl Groups challenge shake up my Power Rankings from Week 2? While my top six remains the same, that half-dozen queens continue to jostle for spots in the top 3. Read on to find out and let me know in the comments if you agree!
If you want to watch Drag Race Philippines outside of the Philippines 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 Filipino 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!
Drag Race Philippines Season 1, Episode 3 – Pop Off Ate, Power Rankings
Before we get to our seriously creepy “Shake, Rattle, and Rampa” runway, let’s take a moment to appreciate Mama Pao’s runway of the week.
I think the true beauty of this flower petal dress came when it was in motion under the colored lights. The stark black on white with random leaves looked a little peculiar standing still under a bright spotlight at center-stage.
1. Viñas Deluxe (was 1, 4, Pre-Season #5)
Holy fucking sweet Lorde, Viñas Deluxe’s voice.
I was speechless – speechless! – after Viñas’s verse. I had to pause the show because I was cackling like mad with tears in my eyes.
Where did that voice come from?! How in the world could she have been nervous about recording knowing she can sing like that? We’ve seen many Drag Race vocalists who have figured out how to negotiate the transition between their mixed- and head-voice well to sing in a feminine fashion, but not as many true belters like Vińas appears to be here.
Viñas Deluxe presented a “Manananggal” on the runway – a “self-segmenting woman.” Effectively she is an apparition who sawed herself in half! The illusion was SO GOOD. Even looking directly at it in the picture above I cannot quite fathom how she managed the illusion of having her torso so far to the side of her actual legs!
Also, this is a terrific example of faithfully rendering a folklore creature and keeping it glam. There are scary elements of Viñas’s look, including her make-up. However, she’s got on chic pants, a silver pump, a poof of curly hair, exaggerated doll-like blush around her scary eyes, and jeweled entrails. Viñas didn’t lose sight of being in a drag competition for one second.
At this point, Viñas has locked herself in as a front-runner, even if the other queens don’t rate her as competition. Beyond her obvious talents, there is something magnetically watchable about her on the runway. Now it’s time to see if she has a weak point. I don’t think that will be choreography next week, but I’m curious to see how she does when we come to the more-cerebral solo challenges like branding.
2. Marina Summers (was 5, 6, Pre-Season #6)
Marina Summers (Instagram | TikTok | YouTube) delivered a verse that matched the energy and expertise of her Talent Show, plus delivered her most-heightened look yet on the runway. I think she is in this for the long haul.
Marina Summers’ verse in the Flexbomb Girls was really fun. It’s hard to come through on a recording sounding flirty, but she managed it. She also easily managed all of the dancing. I get the sense that nothing related to a live performance is going to trip up Marina.
In the folklore runway, Marina Summers was queen of the “Syokoy” – the mermen! (This word is just one vowel sound away from the word for “gay,” which created some amusing puns from both the judges and Marina herself.)
This look was very striking. I was so excited to see Marina step out of her typical color blocking style into something more high fashion, which is a weird thing to say about a horror runway but here we are. The detailing on the body of this suit is exquisite, and I am obsessed the lacy quality of the cape. That is how you do an unlined translucent cape! I will never again accept any substitutes.
I wish that the hip peplums of her suit were slightly wider or slanted more upward, not because she needed the illusion for her shape but because I just wasn’t that excited about the pants.
Seeing Marina in such a well-thought-out runway alleviates a large portion of my concerns about her ability to compete at the highest level of this crowd of contestants. As with Viñas, now my curiosity turns to wondering about Marina’s relative weaknesses. As a professional marketer, I can’t imagine a branding challenge is going to trip her up. But, will she be able to do as well on an acting challenge, where being an A-Student doesn’t matter as much as finding the right alchemy? It should be interesting!
3. Eva Le Queen (was 4, 2, Pre-Season #1)
Eva Le Queen (Instagram | TikTok) overcame her insecurities to deliver a decent verse and had fun amping up her cartoon villainy on the runway. This was a great episode for her to show vulnerability without actually showing weakness.
I was surprised to see that such a polished professional like Eva Le Queen has been bullied by her peers for not being the best at singing and dancing. It sounds as though the Philippines drag scene can be somewhat cutthroat, and that at the highest level queens are all expected to be explosive live performers.
It made me identify with even more with Eva Le Queen I already did! I was always told my singing was horrible and that I should keep my mouth shut when I was younger. It took years of training not only to improve it but to improve my confidence to the point where now I will sing unapologetically – and I don’t give a fuck about anyone’s opinions on it.
Eva’s reserved, villainous persona makes even more sense to me now. Branding herself in a way that is more mature, haughty, and reserved is a way to insulate herself from having to compete with the kind of queens who would put her down. Based on her character so far, I wouldn’t expect Eva to burst out with a major singing-and-dancing serve at a show, and that’s the point.
All of that could’ve gone either way in the edit. This easily could’ve been a “crash and burn” story from a queen lacking confidence. Luckily, Eva found a way to make this Girl Group performance work. It wasn’t amazing. She was behind at several points in the choreography. The other queens on Eva’s team are shady for not helping her fix the rhythm towards the end of her verse at “define you.” Things were going decently until there, and then the final two lines just crumbled in its wake.
Yet, on the whole it was a solid effort that didn’t stick out as being much better or worse than the others until those final lines.
Eva Le Queen brought a combination “impaktita” and “aswang” to the runway – a “rich spirit auntie” and a shapeshifter. The challenge for Eva Le Queen is that she’s already a rich spirit auntie! However, she took it up a notch with draped satin wings that moved and flexed, plus a massive bouffant of Dracula-slash-Mr-Burns hair.
I enjoyed this look. I had qualms with the cut of the ankle boot (though I liked the style of the boot) and I wanted some kind of shape or contour in the middle of her torso, but I think Eva fulfilled the brief of giving us folklore and keeping it fashion.
Eva Le Queen conquered one of her biggest fears in this challenge, and I think she remains one of our front-running queens of the season. However, with next week being another choreography challenge we might be seeing an early lip sync from her.
Even if she survives that, there is a longer-term risk: the rest of this top group of queens are young performers who are known for their dancing. If Eva Le Queen makes it to the finale, is she going to look like the odd one out in the inevitable final lip sync performance?
4. Minty Fresh (was 2, 1, Pre-Season #3)
Minty Fresh (Instagram | Twitter | YouTube) finally showed a brief hint of weakness with a somewhat low-energy verse. Was this a fluke, or are we going to see her checking out when she isn’t fully excited by a challenge, given her feelings that drag shouldn’t be hard work?
I caught on to Minty Fresh’s lackluster performance before the judges breathed a word about it, but I assumed they’d still eat her up just like they did her oddball fashion last week.
To my surprise, in this case, they agreed with me!
I expected Minty Fresh to be hitting the choreography super-hard after seeing what she was capable of in the talent show. Her performance was mild and even a little sleepy. I think part of that was down to her verse. Despite being our bona fide pop starlet, Minty Fresh’s verse was a bit vapid. How many times in a row can you say your name and how cool and pretty you are? Mild lyrics invite mild choreography.
The larger theme here is Minty Fresh’s work ethic. We’ve already heard her say many times that she doesn’t think drag ought to feel like work. Yet, Drag Race is extremely hard work. Was this miss on the Girl Group challenge a fluke, or does it represent Minty putting in the minimum of effort to get by when she isn’t feeling enthusiastic about a challenge?
On the runway, Minty Fresh was a “Abularyo “- effectively, a witch doctor. At first I was underwhelmed by this look, but the more I looked at it the more excited it made me. The giant weaves in the fabric, the bones nestled in the hair, the facial transformation – it was extremely cool, glamorous horror. Every time she moved or turned I saw more detail within the fabric that made me appreciate it has high fashion even while she looked scary.
We’re on episode three and Minty Fresh has already received her “don’t rely on your beauty” comment from the judges. What happens next is up to her. She clearly has the talent to push past that and crush the majority of these queens. However, with so many hungry competitors surrounding her, Minty needs to go hard every single week. If this drowsy approach to a challenge emerges again, it might lead directly to a lip sync.
5. Brigiding (was 6, 5, Pre-Season #4)
Brigiding (Facebook | Instagram | TikTok | Twitter | YouTube) started this episode as the queen the rest of the cast liked the least due to a lack of a brand. I think they are reacting to the fact that Brigiding presents herself as a “Drag Race queen” in the American model more than she has shown an authentic local or national identity.
Brigiding really pulled her verse out of the fire in the recording session, thanks to sensitive coaching from Nadine Lustre. It’s so hard to make everything work in a verse when you have a lot of syncopated syllables crammed into every line, but I didn’t hear a single missed beat in the final version. And, there is no question Brigiding is an electric live performer. When it comes to the “drag” style of club dancing, she might be the best in the cast.
Brigiding presented a “Dalikamata” on the runway – a clairvoyant goddess! I guess her entire body is meant to be covered with bleeding eyes, but Brigiding’s nude bodysuit was a little too plain to be clothing and not smooth enough to be flesh.
I always flash back to Shea Coulée’s nude Nubian goddess look when I think of a nude illusion suit done right. Don’t bother matching your skin tone perfectly, just make sure it’s contoured to look like a body – and don’t skimp on the stones, either! Based on a cursory image search of this particular myth, it seems like there was a lot of room to do something much more glamorous and detailed with it!
My immediate reaction when I saw this runway was that that Brigiding handed Viñas Deluxe or Turing the win, despite being neck and neck with their verses and performances as the best of the 10 queens. That turned out to be true, but I was genuinely touched that Paolo gave Brigiding her own version of “Kandy, wait!” to bring her back to the stage to talk about how she successfully rose from the bottom to the top this week.
I find it so interesting that the rest of this cast zoned in on the same critique of Brigiding that I had in the preseason, which is that she can come off as a generic global Drag Race contestant on a season with a very specific national identity. Will she be able to find a more authentic approach to the competition now that she has had a moment to access her full potential and be praised for it? If not, I think Brigiding will outlast a few more queens and then hit a wall when she comes up against the more fully-realized artists in this bunch.
6. Precious Paula Nicole (was 3, 3, Pre-Season #2)
Precious Paula Nicole (Facebook | Instagram | Linktree | TikTok | Twitter | YouTube) was squarely in the middle of the pack in this episode, with an unremarkable verse and a plain runway focused more on horrific performance than glamorous presentation.
I have a hard time remembering anything from Precious Paula Nicole’s verse. Even while I was watching it, nothing stuck out. Her voice was a bit talky and growly. She had decent rhythm. I can’t say much more than that.
Paula’s runway was the first of three to focus on “tiyanak,” or “baby vampire.” She gave birth to a trio of tiny vampires! This was full of fun gags, like a bloody birth and actual crawling horror dolls, but the look itself wasn’t all that exciting. Maybe if this had been the only tiyank look it would’ve stood out for her gags, but she had the misfortune to be on the same team with two other baby vampires.
Precious Paula Nicole has set a high standard for herself so far in the competition, and while this week wasn’t bad by any measure it showed that she can misstep. I think she is still strong contender for the crown, but in such a fierce line-up of artists we’re going to reach a point where minor missteps are what leads to sashaying away.
7. Turing (was 10, 7, Pre-Season #7)
Turing (Facebook | Instagram | Linktree | TikTok | Twitter | YouTube) bounced back from two low weeks with a powerful verse, stellar choreography, and a runway where the details and the presentation formed a whole greater than the sum of the parts.
COME THROUGHHHHHH TURING!
Turing’s Girl Group’s performance was perfect. I don’t know if I’ve ever been this excited to see a queen dance on the show whose name is not Laganja Estranja.
Turing’s vocal performance was legit. I occasionally go on a little bit of an acoustic Spanish hip hop tear, and this really took me there. It didn’t feel amateur at all. And the curly dark hair with the blue eyeshadow? YES. Turing absolutely dominated this challenge.
On the runway, Turing was a “Tiktik” – a bird carrying a warning. I loved the sparse netting across her body with one magnificently detailed wing, and she performed the hell out of it. Yet, I don’t know if this resolves all of my questions about her eye for detail. Where is the glamour aspect of this look? And, couldn’t she have done it in heels?
I don’t dispute Turing’s win one bit. She was obviously the best in the challenge and she may have had the most-captivating of all the runway presentations. However, I’m still not convinced this makes her a strong contender for the crown. We still haven’t seen a runway look from her that will survive once we’re at the Top Six and every queen is either a top or a bottom.
More and more, I am getting the sense that Turing is an incredibly talented dancer who is also a drag artist, rather than an amazing all-around drag queen who happens to dance well. This was the perfect challenge to show that off, and next week will be too. After that, her runways might immediately doom her to the bottom two.
8. Lady Morgana (was 8, 11, Pre-Season #8)
I was so impressed with Lady Morgana’s verse! Somehow she kept her sweet, playful nature intact but still managed to sound fierce. I love that she is dedicated to bringing her local identity and language to the international stage. It’s incredibly authentic, and there’s never a moment of it being forced or clumsy. She is an amazing representative of her culture.
Lady Morgana’s “Sarimanok” mythical bird was spectacular. It came as no surprise to me that she would deliver on a folklore-inspired runway. The sparkling, gruesomely veined skin on her “exposed” arms showed off how you can do a nude bodysuit look but keep it glam. And, I love the scattering of feathers across the dress, which were just dense enough.
After three episodes, I think it’s fair to say that I generally just like the choices she makes on the runway.
Also: THE FUCKING GLITTER PAPER EYEBROWS! I lived. Usually I do NOT like paper eyelashes and eyebrows, because they fight with glamorous drag make-up, but if you’re going to do them, do them to this level of scale and glitz.
While I don’t think Lady Morgana will be our season winner, I admire that she continues showing new strengths in every challenge. She reminds me a lot of Srimala from Drag Race Thailand, in that she is effortlessly charming but eventually the specificity of her drag won’t be enough to crack into the top grouping of queens.
9. Xilhouete (was 7, 9, Pre-Season #9)
Xilhouete (Facebook | Instagram | TikTok | Twitter | Website) struggled with choreography this episode and failed to take advantage of a runway theme that seemed custom-crafted for her. Yet, in seeing her switch up her looks and lip sync for her life, I think I finally understood the power of this reserved queen.
Xilhouete wore pink and orange in the girl group! And then revealed to a short pink bob! And it was GORGEOUS! She was giving me the iciness of Emma Frost but in pink. I was so surprised I almost didn’t hear her singing. Or, should I say, her talking very carefully in rhythm.
I completely agree with the judges take on Xilhouete’s runway. This theme could have been specifically crafted to give her a win, and she went sideways with it. While the look she presented was certainly glamorous, this wasn’t the moment to change up her signature look. Wearing dark lipstick wasn’t enough. I find it hilarious that for her horrific runway Xilhouete wore a flat brown wig instead of a flat black wig.
I didn’t really understand the shape of her look. If she was going to do a nude-dripping-with-blood effect, why not do it with a bodysuit rather than something with so many ruffles? Or, just ditch the nude look. If this same dress had been black with all of the same details it would’ve been twice as effective.
That all said, I feel like I’ve finally found a way to connect with Xilhouete and her drag this episode. Her story about her absent mother and trying to find a way to hold a maternal space for everyone was resonant. Also, in seeing her in a variety of looks and colors, I question if she really ought to stick with her “dark lady” branding. Xilhouete’s face was gorgeous against lighter colors and with shorter hair, and I felt like she lit up in the lip sync.
It’s clear to me that Xilhouete is talented at drag, but I think she has built an artificial box around who she is and what she is capable of. You don’t win Drag Race while trapped in a box. With a choreography challenge next week and a group of young, hungry queens circling the spots in the finale, I just don’t know what Xilhouete can do to prove that she is the Philippines next drag superstar.
Eliminated: Gigi Era (was 9, 8, Pre-Season #10)
Gigi Era (Instagram) was doomed as soon she crawled out on stage as a literal take on a tiyanak. You can’t come out on the Drag Race stage as an adult vampire baby in a diaper without any glam elements, no matter how strongly it is associated with national folklore. This wouldn’t have been glamorous enough even for Dragula, a show that celebrates filth and horror.
Giga Era’s incredibly literal take on this runway theme showed off the exact quality that is both her greatest strength and her biggest weakness: she is a queen who gets the job done in a straight-forward way.
When it comes to singing and dancing, that means she’s going to deliver just the right amount of stunts exactly on the beat. But, when it comes to a folkore runway, it means she will lose sight of doing drag to give you a literal baby vampire crawling down the runway.
I’m sure that Gigi Era is going to watch her three-episode run on this show with an amount of disappointment. She came so far – both artistically and in traveling home from Australia to Philippines – and didn’t get to show as much as I’m sure she wanted to show.
However, I don’t think Gigi had a disappointing run. She came to Drag Race and delivered exactly who she is and what she is capable of in a way that she probably does in every single live show she has put on for over a decade. There’s no shame in being selected for Drag Race and realizing your version of drag isn’t what they’re looking for on the runway, especially when you show that you’re such a capable performer at every opportunity.