Kia ora and welcome to my review and power rankings for the third episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race Down Under Season 2 – A Bottomless Brunch.
This is a paired comedy challenge meant to simulate hosting a drag brunch. Clearly it was a case of false advertising, as there was nary a breakfast or lunch in sight, but plenty of bottoms!
In my pre-season ranking, I mentioned that Hanna Conda had perpetuated racist tropes in the past, including some performances appropriating cultures in insensitive ways. That came to light in this episode in a workroom conversation, which confirmed my understanding that Hannah had already begun to take action to grow and make reparations before been cast on the show.
I’ve seen a lot of fans calling Hannah “the racist one” and comparing her to Scarlet Adams from Season 1, and I want to speak to that for a moment.
No one can remove the harm they’ve done through their racist actions, whether they are overt and intentional or passive and the result of unconscious bias. However, they can take action to reduce and remove those behaviors, and they can apply themselves to being educated about other cultures without asking Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) to do all of the emotional labor on their behalf.
I understand that fellow white/Pākehā fans who are strident in their labelling of Hannah as “the racist one” feel they are doing their part to confront bigotry. However, in this instance I think you and I both need to consider stepping back from our label-makers to observe Hannah’s behaviors and to listen to how her community is receiving her (both in general, and in specific when it comes to Kween Kong on this episode).
Even if you have done years of anti-racism work yourself, if you are white/Pākehā it’s not for you to accept or decline Hannah’s apologies or approve or reject her reparative behaviors. And, if you haven’t done any anti-racism work, Hannah’s LinkTree offers several good starting points from an Australian perspective.
Just as I’m telling you not to accept or decline Hannah’s apologies, it’s not down to me to say she has done “enough” on her anti-racist journey to be crowned as a representative of the Drag Race franchise.
I think it’s important that we’re all aware that this is a part of her history. For some BIPOC fans and community members, that history might be too hurtful to allow them to appreciate Hannah’s art. We need to leave space for them to have that feeling and to take cues from it, just as we should make space and take cues from BIPOC folks who are welcoming her anti-racist education.
Kween Kong raises a good point here – that in Samoan, there is no word for “sorry.” True apologies come in the form of actions, not words.
Finally, having now lived in New Zealand for half a decade, I can tell you that racism presents itself differently in Australia and New Zealand than in North America. I have seen overt, vile, casual racism in NZ that I’m familiar with from the states. I’ve also seen insidious, baked-in cultural bias stemming from a much-more-recent history of white colonialism in NZ.
No racism is “better” or “worse” than any other racism, but trying to apply an American understanding of racist actions or reparations to an Australian or Kiwi isn’t always going to be effective. That’s especially true with issues related to Indigenous and Aboriginal peoples. In learning about NZ’s Treaty of Waitangi and the modern Waitangi Tribunal, I realized I had no framework as an American to apply to the issue. I had to listen carefully to expand my own understanding of race and racism.
I think if I can boil all of that down to one statement – both for Hannah and for us as fans – it is “listen and learn.” We should all be quick to confront bigotry when we spot it and to hold people accountable for it. The process of disassembling that bigotry and changing behaviors and thoughts in the longer term is something much more complex – and much harder to label.
We all need room to be able to grow and improve as kinder, more-accepting human beings, but we can’t make people accept us if they’ve been harmed by our past behavior.
Last week, Hannah Conda sat atop my Episode Two rankings. Has she maintained her top spot despite another week without a win? And, has Kween Kong bounced back in the standings after a strong showing in this episode? Read on to find out – and let me know if you agree (or disagree) in the comments below.
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Readers, start your engines… and may the best Down Under 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, Episode 3: A Bottomless Brunch Power Rankings
Before we get to the re-used “Red For Filth” runway, let’s take a moment to appreciate RuPaul in glittering gold and a high, high slit.
1. Spankie Jackzon – 2 wins, 1 lip sync (was 2, 6, Pre-Season #3)
Spankie Jackzon (Facebook | Instagram | TikTok | YouTube) seems to have the secret X-Factor that defines most Drag Race champions: Ru thinks she is hilarious. With a second win in a row plus her most-developed runway look yet, Spankie has jumped out into the lead.
Spankie Jackzon served some vintage glamour on the runway this week, and I think seeing her change things up from her ass-out trend so far on the season helped to solidify her win. Yes, the visible white crinoline(???) was a distraction, but I’m willing to look past that because I love how the mid-length in the front transforms into a train. I think that’s a fair excuse for an exposed structure garment… although the runway version looks much more exposed than in the staged shot.
In fact, the staged shot includes several improvements over the runway. She looks more cinched in her Instagram photo, her fascinator is more vertical, and I prefer the wrist-length gloves to the elbow-length gloves on the runway.
In the brunch challenge, Spankie was completely in control. It felt like we were watching a seasoned TV presenter at work. She knew her jokes, she found her camera, and she repeatedly saved the set from going askew by keeping Yuri on-rhythm through a few minor bobbles.
Spankie now has two wins and Ru’s approval – and you don’t need much more than that to secure the crown in a brief, 8-episode season! It feels as though she has cleared the qualification rounds for earning the crown. Now she just has to stay clear of another lip sync for four more challenges. I don’t think she’ll have any problem with that if it’s all on the strength of her performance, but I worry for her if one of those challenges is a ball or a makeover. As we saw this episode, in a field this small even a safe performance might send you to the bottom.
2. Molly Poppinz – 1 win (was 4, 2, Pre-Season #9)
Molly Poppinz (Facebook | Instagram | TikTok | Twitter) continues to charm in challenges and on the runway, and unlike Hannah Conda she already has a win under her belt. Ru seems to really have an eye out for her and once again was living for her simple-but-stupid fashion sense.
Is Molly Poppinz look really just a set of red lingerie with garters and a huge boa affixed to it?
Is it also incredibly flattering to her shape, perfectly color-matched, and a silhouette we’ve never seen before on Drag Race.
This seems to be Molly Poppinz special power. So far all of her runway looks have expressed a distinct playfulness that doesn’t feel like it is copied from or influenced by another Drag Race queen. Yes, even her somewhat low-budget praying mantis last week. We’ve seen many queens do deconstructed gowns, to the point that it has become a bit of a cliché. We’ve also seen many “shrug becomes a train” runways, which is pretty minor-league as reveals go.
This idea is something different altogether. Molly used the massive loop of her ruffled boa as a shrug and then dropped it to trail behind her as a train. Not only was it a train, but the structure of it outllined what could be the frame wide skirt or a flowing robe, which expanded the silhouette of Molly’s look. There are so many ways this idea could go wrong, but her boa had just enough structure and was attached at just the right place that it read perfectly on the runway.
Even if Molly didn’t score a high placement for her roast, it was proficient and did nothing to dim Ru’s delight with her. If she has anything to worry about, it’s going to be detaching herself from Hannah Conda! They had similar looks in week one and Molly won out, but Hannah has slightly overshadowed Molly doing similar things both last week in the acting challenge and this week at brunch.
If Molly keeps up her unique eye for runway looks and stay away from being locked into a “twin competitors” story with Hanna, she really could wind up our winner. The worst thing that could happen to her at this point is to be compared to another queen, because in Ru’s eyes Molly’s perspective is her strongest quality.
3. Hannah Conda (was 1, 1, Pre-Season #2)
Hannah Conda (Cameo | Instagram) continues to perform with nary a flaw, but with three episodes of strong performances without a win she’s moving into an “always the bridesmaid” narrative – which can really put pressure on a queen as weeks press on.
A red vinyl take on a Joan Collins pencil skirt with added ruffles isn’t exactly groundbreaking, but it was flattering to Hannah’s figure. Once again, she hit the runway in a look where every inch of detail has been carefully considered. On a franchise that had a reputation for being slightly rough around the edges last season, Hannah’s eye for perfection helps her stand out even from this generally more-polished pack of queens.
(Also, it’s not lost on me that the black-lined bodice of her outfit with the nude illusion slightly suggests a reversed black widow spider and is reminiscent of Spider-Woman’s classic comics costume.)
Hannah’s brunch performance was fine. She clearly isn’t threatened by public speaking or riffing on stage, but it wasn’t as uproariously funny as Kween Kong or Spankie. I think part of that might have been down to graciously sharing the spotlight with Molly, so I’m very curious to see how over-the-top Hannah will be on the Snatch Game panel next week.
4. Kween Kong – 1 lip sync (was 6, 8, Pre-Season #1)
Kween Kong (Cameo | Facebook | Instagram | TikTok | Twitter) bounced back from two low weeks with a performance that finally showed the full force of her personality.
I don’t think the “volcanic deity” inspiration for Keen Kong’s look came through as clearly on the runway as she might’ve liked. Maybe it’s just me, but garter belts don’t scream “Te Kā – the burnin gone” to me. I think Kween could’ve stripped out a few minor signals that this look was “lingeries” and it would’ve strengthened her overall presentation.
Still, it was a clean look, and I enjoyed her draped robe and her sculpted horns of hair.
What really stuck out about Kween Kong in this episode was how compelling she is when she can be herself on stage rather than just a character. Her brunch hosting was masterful and impossible to look away from. She was completely in control from the moment she hit the stage.
Michelle often describes this as “feeling safe” in the hands of a particular performer, and I absolutely felt safe with Kween. In fact, I was really surprised that she wasn’t awarded with a solo win for the week!
The question is whether Kween can translate the strength of her presence into challenges like Snatch Game. Drag Race cases about the power of your personal brand and your ability to be a multiple-threat performer, but it also requires you to channel that into a series of silly hurdles that have no grounding in the real world.
If Kween Kong wants to be Down Under’s Next Drag Superstar, she needs to figure out how to bring the confidence and certainty of this week’s performance into next week’s performance. If her Snatch Game is strong (even without a win), I think it’s a good sign that she can knock off either Molly or Hannah to sneak into the top three.
5. Beverly Kills – 1 lip sync (was 5, 3, Pre-Season #8)
Beverly Kills (Cameo | Instagram | TikTok | Twitter) fell into the bottom two this week and doesn’t seem to be capturing Ru’s attention at all. However, I refuse to believe she will flop in Snatch Game next week.
I was genuinely surprised that Beverly Kills went in a lingerie direction for her gothic take on a red runway. There are so many things to do with red, and so many runways where you can don a négligée… plus, négligées aren’t obvious winners on the runway.
That’s not to say there was anything bad about this runway, but all I absorbed about it were the long lace cuffs. Nothing else was memorable, and the melted candle-wax didn’t really read for me. I think a black or blonde hair might’ve helped pop out some of the details of the outfit.
Beverly wasn’t bad in her brunch set, and she landed several more jokes than Pomara. But, in a week of strong competitors, there wasn’t much room to be safe.
Beverly is a perfectionist in planning who isn’t afraid to get messy in execution, which is exactly what Snatch Game calls for. However, if she doesn’t stand out next week, there’s not much runway left for her to establish a narrative for herself before the finale.
6. Yuri Guaii – 1 win (was 7, 5, Pre-Season #7)
Yuri Guaii (Facebook | Instagram | Tiktok | Twitter) shrugged off both an eye infection and a certain shyness in public speaking to deliver a wonderfully silly winning performance paired with Spankie. But, will that be enough to succeed next week in Snatch Game?
Yuri Guaii lucked out that no one else in the field opted for a devilish theme, and she wisely went full glamour in her gothic approach rather than going with boudoir-wear.
While this devil dress had some slight shape awkwardness around the hips, there’s no doubt it was the best runway of the week for me. It was red on red on red on even more red, but all of those red details still could be… read. That’s because this look played with layers and shapes, but also textures. After three weeks of over-the-top maximalism from Yuri it felt right to reward her for this one.
(Also, I loved the detail of her suspended tail.)
Yuri wasn’t revolutionary in her Brunch set with Spankie. On rewatch, I caught a number of awkward moments and dropped cues. Yet, she successfully threaded the needle of silly and sexy in a way she couldn’t figure out in the acting challenge last week. That shows that she is taking feedback to heart, which is a difficult thing to do when you absorbed all of that feedback on the runway just 48hrs prior and are now thrust into another absurd challenge with a bunch of strangers.
I think this growth arc for Yuri could have a lot more room to blossom if not for Snatch Game coming up next week. While I’m certain Yuri put in the time to prepare for it, I fear that the combination of her reserved nature and her Kiwi humor isn’t going to entertain Ru at all. Even if she’s just “safe” and not bad, I don’t think the show will be able to resist using the opportunity to put her in the bottom.
She either needs to blow us away with an amazing Snatch Game character or I’m positive we’re going to see her in a lip sync.
7. Minnie Cooper (was 3, 4, Pre-Season #6)
Minnie Cooper (Cameo | Facebook | Instagram | TikTok | Twitter | YouTube) has all of the talents it takes to do well on Drag Race, but her lack of focus will quickly see her fall out of Ru’s favor.
There is no quicker way to plummet from Ru’s good graces than to have a killer presentation with an obvious detail you overlooked. Minnie Cooper brought by far the best garment to the runway. It’s an elegant, multi-layered dress that suits her perfectly, and it had an incredibly important historic and emotional value to it, but she lost all of that impact due to the drooping bodice.
(I do believe her when she says on Instagram that the drooping happened en route to the runway, so she didn’t know about it until it was too late. Also, even if you caught the nip slip early in the work room, are you really going to do a last-minute alteration on this gorgeous garment?!)
I loved the concept of Minnie as an oblivious, older, white loudmouth counterpart to Kween Kong in the brunch, but it didn’t come across fully in execution. Minnie could’ve done more absurd interrupting and centering of herself in the act, but it felt like the gag was dropped as soon as she entered. While it was good teamwork to give Kween Kong the opportunity to deliver so many punchlines, it made Minnie into more of a prop than a partner.
It feels to me like Minnie has a lifetimes of jokes, ideas, and tributes she wants to bring to the Drag Race stage, and she is also determined not to be put into a box or pushed into a corner. However, in execution that’s coming of as her doing too much all at once. For Ru to have confidence in crowning a queen with Minnie’s level of experience, she needs to see an old dog who can learn new tricks in addition to showing off all of her existing ones.
Eliminated: Pomara Fifth (was 8, 7, Pre-Season #5)
Pomara Fifth (Cameo | Facebook | Instagram | TikTok | Twitter) is a queen whose goofy humor I completely appreciate, but from the mini-challenge in Episode One through her elimination RuPaul never showed an interest in what she was serving.
Ru’s reaction to Pomara in this week’s mini-challenge said it all. Usually when a queen is vamping ridiculously, Ru will tease or volley with her – even if the vamping is on the annoying side. Here, we just see Ru telling Pomara to move it along. While you could argue that Pomara wasn’t taking the hint from Ru to change her approach, Ru certainly wasn’t giving her much to work with.
That was also the case last episode, when Pomara was dominant in the challenge without even being critiqued.
I know someone has to be eliminated early in the season, but I am always particularly frustrated when a queen goes “safe – safe – eliminated.” It gives her no room to step back and recalibrate her initial approach. Similarly, it can be frustrating when RuPaul is completely cold to a personable queen with her own brand of humor when a little advice would go a long way (see: Rock M. Sakura). I understand that humor is subjective and Ru can’t think everything is funny, but when she’s stonefaced to a certain queen from the start you have to wonder if the queen was cast as anything other than fodder.
Even if Ru had warmed up to Pomara on first contact and given her a well-deserved win last week, I’m not sure it could have saved her in this episode. In a challenge full of strong showings, she was one of the only queens with even a hint of weakness. She was fine on stage, but never really landed a memorable joke of her own, and she had one of the only “…[crickets]…” moment with her stalled joke about the absent Yuri Guaii. There was no choice but to put her in the bottom with Beverly Kills, unless Minnie Cooper’s nip slip was deemed a bottom-worth error. And, although Pomara is a terrific lip syncer who held her own, I think it was clear that Beverly’s performance was a little crisper – even if we leave aside all of her stunts.
Maybe that means Pomara’s fate was sealed as soon as production established the order of the challenges. Or, maybe there’s a world where she won last week and either skipped this lip sync or got the face-off with Minnie Cooper telegraphed by last episode.
We’ll never know for sure.
What I do know is that Pomara Fifth is a terrific example of what New Zealand and Australian queens are and can be capable of. She brought me joy because I actually felt in on the jokes with her, which makes me feel valid and welcome as a Kiwi.
Much love from this little old blog to Pomara Fifth. I hope I get to see her live here in Wellington!
[…] Last week, Spankie Jackzon conquered my Episode Three rankings. Has she held onto her top spot, or did someone else snatch the pole position from her? Read on to find out – and let me know if you agree (or disagree) in the comments below. […]