Welcome to my review and power rankings of the eighth episode of Canada’s Drag Race Season 3 – the Masquerade Ball, a classic Drag Race ball episode requiring three runway looks, including one constructed in the workroom.
I often comment that Canada’s Drag Race feels like old-school RuPaul’s Drag Race from the era of it airing on Logo TV. You could ask, “Is that a read?” about it feeling low budget compared to the current flagship franchise. For me, it’s more about the show having a certain scrappy, DIY energy.
Also, sometimes it’s unforgivingly difficult.
When I think about Drag Race at its hardest, I always flash back to RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 3 as the most-difficult season of all time, where the queens looked like they were on the verge of a nervous breakdown when Ru announced the “Money Ball” hot on the heels of the “Hair Ball.”
I imagine that’s what the five remaining queens of Canada’s Drag Race must have felt when they heard the final hurdle before the finale was the Masquerade Ball – a third design challenge in just eight competitive episodes. That’s not only difficult, but also surprising, since it means this season left out not one but two staple challenges of Canada that would be welcomed by several of these queens: an acting challenge and their phenomenally heartfelt makeover challenge, which have been the highlights of the past two seasons.
Sending the queens back to their sewing machines and glue guns for a third time yielded interesting results. Our two seamstresses backslid while two of the remaining trio of Glue Gun Girls stepped up their games in a major way.
Maybe the seamstresses had design fatigue at this point. Or, maybe Masquerade Ball is just a difficult category to design – as were both of the ball categories paired with it! We wound up with a shakey set of constructed looks, a surprising winner, a shocking entrant in the bottom two, and one of the biggest lip sync bops of the season.
Next week is the finale of Canada’s Drag Race! Did any queen manage to jostle her way into a new spot compared to last week’s rankings? And, who do I think is most-likely to take the crown? Read on to find out!
If you want to watch Canada’s Drag Race Season 3 outside of Canada and the UK 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 US you will need to use a VPN to “visit” another country to see the US Franchise.)
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 8 – Masquerade Ball Power Rankings
Before I devour the 15 ball looks of this episode, let’s take a moment to savor Brooke Lynn Hytes in classic Marilyn Monroe drag – which she achieved without destroying Marilyn’s original dress. Imagine that!
1. Miss Fiercalicious – 2 wins, 1 lip sync (avg. rank 3.88 – was #1, 2, 3, 7, 9, 4, 4, pre-season #2)
Miss Fiercalicious (Facebook / Instagram / TikTok / Twitter) snagged a coveted design challenge win, maintaining her front-runner status with the hugest amount of momentum heading into next week’s final Rumix songwriting challenge. Can this villain-turned-sweetheart take home the crown?
Miss Fiercalicious lucked into having one of her strongest outfits of the season lead off the ball with her stunning and reverent satin Mathu Andersen tribute. I gasped out loud as soon as I caught the resemblance.
Mathu is a visionary artist, photographer, director, and longtime hair and makeup artist to RuPaul. As amazing as RuPaul’s recent Emmy-winning looks have been, nothing will ever compare to her era of hair and make-up by Mathu. For me, Season 7 and All Stars 2 represent the peak of Ru’s beauty.
This tribute is especially poignant to see on Drag Race, because Mathu had a sudden falling out with RuPaul at the top of Season 9 just as the show broke through to wider visibility and acclaim and hasn’t been publicly seen or heard from since. It’s unclear if he’s enjoying a private existence, if he is convalescing, or if he has passed away – and his close drag queen friends like Willam have been careful to neither confirm nor deny any of those potential situations. I hope that he is as well as possible and that he is at peace.
Back to Miss F. Her Mathu look was utterly divine. The pink curls, the ruffled shirt, the subtly peaked shoulders, the pants plus a long tuxedo train acting as a skirt, the exposed corset behind. This look was a SHOOT for me. I got instant euphoria from seeing it and every detail continued to delight me.
I think Fiercalicious perfectly captured the idea of “Masc for Mascara” by presenting such a gender-bending look, and it was a beautiful tribute to the man behind the flagship face of this franchise.
Miss Fiercalicious also conquered the Incog-She-To prompt with her all-gold Josephine Baker look.
I think presenting this look all on its own for a runway might not have been as successful, but being able to reveal into it, and leaning into Baker’s role as a member of the French Resistance in WWII as part of the theme made it not only successful, but powerful.
What luck for Miss Fiercalicious to have both of her tribute looks line up together for the ball challenge!
Also, I don’t know how to fully articulate this, but Miss F wasn’t wearing either tribute look as a costume. She harnessed the same power she has to be such a deliciously despicable reality TV villain to bring a real sense of reverence as she embodied both of these icons.
Now we come to Miss Fiercalicious’s constructed look. In some ball challenges, a simple velvet dress would be tagged as “too basic.” Here, Miss F had narrative on her side. This dress was a victory over design challenges after a pair of prior lackluster looks. It also was perfectly streamlined and carefully detailed compared to a pair of more over-the-top masquerade looks with rougher edges.
Did it read as “Masquerade Ball” as much as Giséle or Jada? Meh. Was it the best-constructed look with the most-thoughtfully-considered finishing? Hell yes.
Miss Fiercalicious will go down as one of the most-successful queens of all time at controlling her own narrative on the show. We’ve heard about the idea of contestants on this show “producing themselves” to try to achieve a certain narrative, and how that often fails since it comes off as especially fake on TV. I think Miss F went meta on this season and produced her villainous arc in a way that was obviously put-on but still was eaten up by the cameras editors. In the process, she also subtly produced a story about being an ingénue who is a lot smarter and more sensitive than she lets on.
Does all of that mean that Miss Fiercalicious is about to become Canada’s Next Drag Superstar?! If we are measuring by narrative momentum and story arc, I feel the answer is a definite “yes.” Miss F notched her wins and high placements at just the right moment in the season, and she’s heading into Rumix songwriting challenge having just proven herself to be a powerful singer last week.
The only thing that gives me pause in making a 100% prediction in favor of Miss F is her overall season power ranking. Her average rank is actually lower than Giséle’s and Jada’s.
Now, these ranks are my subjective attempt at divining the narrative momentum of the queens, and for Miss F that was certainly affected by her early villainous edit and her struggle with the early design challenges. However, as much as Canada’s Drag Race can be cut-throat in judging queens only in the moment in lip syncs throughout the season, they also tend to award cumulative performance in their finales. That means my average Power Ranking might be more relevant than ever when it comes to this final four.
If that’s the case next week, I think Giséle and Jada still stand a chance against the surging Miss F. But, as with the entire season, I think the ending of Miss Fiercalicious’s story will largely be in her own hands to produce.
2. Gisèle Lullaby – 2 wins, 1 lip sync (avg. rank 3.13 – was #2, 1, 1, 1, 4, 7, 7, pre-season #7)
Gisèle Lullaby (Facebook / Instagram / TikTok / Twitter) showed off her design vision as well as her penchant for distraction in this design challenge, sliding safely into the finale. She feels like Miss F’s biggest competition for the crown, but is this avowed non-singer headed straight for disaster with a songwriting challenge standing between her and the crown?
Gisèle Lullaby’s “Masc for Mascara” look wasn’t the most over-the-top, but I immediately caught the story of it because it played with two influences I know well! If there was one viewer in the entire world this look was crafted for, that viewer is me!
Gisèle merged Madonna’s gender-bending Jean Paul Gaultier executive corset look from the “Express Yourself” video and the Blonde Ambition tour with a Popeye-inspired queer sailor. In case you weren’t aware, Popeye repeatedly spoke about himself as being non-binary or genderqueer in several classic strips!
To me, Gisèle’s look was the perfect merger of a woman who famously wielded masculine strength at the height of her femininity and an icon of masculinity who was never afraid to express the duality of his gender.
I think it was incredibly clever to present this concept mostly made up of the male-identified aspects of both of their looks, but adding the more-overtly feminine corset element in the middle.
Gisèle’s Incog-She-To look was good drag, even if her reveal was slightly awkward
There were several ways to go with this prompt, and one of them was certainly to reveal from something commonplace to a full-realized drag look beneath. I don’t know if this structured, rose-petal blouse and tulle skirt was a strong enough look to stand up to a singular runway category, but it worked in the context of being a reveal during a three-look ball. The ombré on the skirt was particularly effective.
Gisèle’s Masquerade Ball runway was a thrilling look with unexpected feats of construction. Of the five design challenge looks, for me this was the only one that completely fulfilled the brief.
Sadly, some of its impact was undone by one detail: the uneven and jagged hem of the bottom of her skirt.
It seems obvious that Gisèle would never knowingly overlook a major detail like that one. To me, that emphasizes the reality of the time constraints of a Drag Race design challenge. Hemming a skirt might have taken her less than half hour to set up and execute, and she simply didn’t have the time – she needed it to complete the structuring of the rest of the garment, which was more important for impact on the runway!
If Miss Fiercalicious feels like the queen with the most momentum heading into the finale, Gisèle Lullaby feels like the contestant with the strongest track record. Despite her lip sync last week, she’s a queen who has showed very little weakness in challenges or on the runway. Canada’s Drag Race tends to reward a queen who has shown strength throughout the season, and in this quartet of finalists I believe that is Giséle.
But… and it’s a major “but”… this Drag Race finale comes with its customer “Rumix” challenge, which means songwriting, singing, and dancing. We learned last episode that singing is Gisèle Lullaby’s drag kryptonite – she becomes uncharacteristically self-conscious when asked to sing, and lip syncing to her own singing distracted her from her choreography (usually an area of strength).
If Giséle was just was sent to the bottom in a field of six queens for her singing a week ago, can she possibly snatch the crown in a field of four queens with another singing challenge next week? Perhaps her French-Canadian wit can show through in the lyrics to save her where her singing cannot.
3. Jada Shada Hudson – 1 win, 2 lip syncs (avg. rank 3.50 – was #4, 3, 4, 6, 2, 5, 1, pre-season #1)
Jada Shada Hudson (Facebook / Instagram / Twitter / YouTube) managed to redeem her previous design challenge disaster, but even high praise on two of her three looks couldn’t make her out to be a strong contender for the crown after a season full of stumbles. She would be a safe pick to win the season, but probably the least-exciting – not what I expected from our Turn Up queen in my pre-season rankings!
I was not quite as impressed with Jada Shada Hudon’s “Masc for Mascara” look as the judges were
She wore a suit that did not fit terrifically with glittery pinstripes and pumps. It didn’t feel very gender-bending to me just because it included glitter and some make-up. The fit was poor enough that I was expecting a reveal the entire time.
I wanted a more overt performance of gender-play, whether that be over-the-top masculinity or more of a pop of femininity intermingled with it. I think the way to do that in this look was to eliminate the shirt and tie. If Jada has a slightly exposed corset beneath, or was even bare-chested, that would’ve taken this look to another level for me.
I think Brad said all that needed to be said about this “Incog-She-To” look: Jada went from “Drag Queen to slightly more reflective Drag Queen.
Both halves of the look had an “obvious reveal cloak” quality to them. While being less reflective is certainly more incognito than a silver glitter look, the problem was that Jada didn’t go for enough low-key realness in her pre-reveal. It was still glamorous! If she was in plainer clothes to start, the reveal would’ve better fit the brief.
Jada Shada Hudson had two victories in one with this design challenge look! She created a dress that was snug to her body with a pleasing minor trumpet quality to its skirt. And, she found a way to go BIG with massive brocade arms and a giant asymmetrical sash to give the look some masquerade ball drama.
I’ll confess, more often than not I hate the addition of a massive solid-color asymmetrical sash on a look. It tends to have a “LOOK OVER THERE!” quality to it that doesn’t do anything for the shape or proportions of its wearer, but makes me suspect there was a problem with the bodice of the garment.
Jada’s sash is not an exception to my rule, but even if I was destined to despite it I believe it could’ve been executed more cleanly. I feel like the flower portion should have been placed higher on her shoulder and rotated slightly away from her face. And, it needed one more point of being affixed on Jada’s body to creat more of a zig zag instead of a sag.
What I love about the look are the brocade arms. I am obsessed with that rich gold-on-black fabric, how she attached it at the shoulders, and the way it ends in an oversize cuff just past her elbows. Could she have snuck it in elsewhere on this look? Probably not without clashing with the sash, but it would’ve made a terrific wide belt or hood.
Jada is a strong singer, so she has a good chance of sliding past Gisèle next week to be the queen in real competition with Miss F for the crown. But, would the show really crown a queen with no true stand-out moments in the season, save for a lip sync challenge? I think if Jada has anything on her side, it’s the power of her brand which is all about charisma and uniqueness. Even when she has been unimpressive in the challenges this season, she has always remained a memorable, lovable character.
Can Jada win on the C and U of Charisma, Uniqueness, Nerve, & Talent without a major display of the N and the T?
4. Kimmy Couture – 1 win, 2 lip syncs (avg. rank 4.50 – was #5, 5, 7, 4, 3, 2, 6, pre-season #5)
Kimmy Couture (Instagram / TikTok / Twitter) just barely made it to the last spot in the finale. She is a compelling character who is always fierce without ever seeming cruel or delusional, but I’d rate her chances at winning the Canada’s Drag Race crown just slightly north of 0.
The judges were complementary of Kimmy Couture’s “Masc for Mascara” look. I thought it did the job of being fashionable while playing with the lines of gender, though a lot of that heavy lifting was down to the handsome job Kimmy did with her hair and make-up.
If I could add or change anything about this look, I just wish it had the gold of the belt in one more place – perhaps the top of the boots, or the hemline on the cape. (I think it might have been overwhelming if it was the entire lining of cape. Part of the magic of the look is that it is blue-on-blue-on-blue.)
I appreciated that Brooke Lynn Hytes acknowledged that presenting masculine drag and wearing facial hair could be dysphoric for Kimmy as a trans woman.
Too often Drag Race asks its contestants to play with the rules of gender or present their bodies in a certain way without considering the relationships they have with their gender and their bodies.
Drag does not equal consent. Usually that phrase is invoked to remind people not to touch a drag artist without being invited. Yet, in the context of the show I think it can also mean that applying to Drag Race doesn’t mean the queens necessarily consent to every way in which they’ll be asked to present themselves on the runway.
Kudos to Kimmy for finding a way to make this prompt work for her, and kudos to Brooke for acknowledging how uncomfortable that might’ve been.
Kimmy had the right sort of high-concept idea for her “Incog-She-To” look, but didn’t quite fulfill the brief in execution.
The idea of going incognito on social networks when you are a vibrant club kid behind the scenes is a brilliant interpretation of the prompt. The gay community isn’t always accepting of people of color, femmes, drag artists, or trans women – and Kimmy is all of those things.
I think the disconnect occurred when Kimmy simply popped out from behind a screen to dance down the runway. It was a “reveal” but it didn’t feel like a transformation, or that Kimmy herself had been incognito.
Kimmy was almost there. Imagine if she had actually climbed through her profile picture to emerge on the other side as this club creature! Or, maybe she could have worn a grey face mask to have her actual face in the picture portrayed on her fabric screen and then tossed it away afterward. What if she was in an entirely grayscale look and then tore it off to reveal this rainbow-colored look!
Drag is hard, the prep time for Drag Race is short, and hindsight is 20/20. I don’t critique Kimmy for not thinking of any of these potential executions. Instead. I’m just frustrated on her behalf that her concept came so close to working but stumbled on one step of execution.
Giséle Lullaby hit the mark when she advised Kimmy Couture that she was doing the exact thing with her Masquerade Ball outfit that got Kaos eliminated. Kimmy started the day with a brilliant idea to use ruffled tulle on the front of her outfit, and ended it with an armor of pink cardboard feathers that looked more superheroic than high-fashion.
I said last week that Kimmy Couture absolutely needed to serve ball gown eleganza in this final challenge to show she had been listening to and learning from the judge’s critiques. She tried to do that, but came up against the limitations of her sewing abilities and a lack of time on the clock. That meant she wound up with guaranteed ticket to the lip sync this episode.
Even as the winner of the lip sync, I don’t know if Kimmy is truly still in the competition. She has the earliest win out of all of the queens with her Episode 2 Awards Show domination, and despite being a standout in Week 3 she has been unsteady in several challenges since then and unimpressive on the runway. It shows in my average rank of her, which is within the Top 4 range but fully 3/4s of a point behind Fiercalicious.
We know Kimmy is a witty queen and a strong singer. Can she impress enough in the Rumix next week to make a case for taking the crown? I don’t think that will be possible. We’ve see many queens just barely make the cut for the finale and be dismissed with respect from finale contents (e.g., Roxxxy Andrews, Ellie Diamond). I get the sense that will be what’s in store for Kimmy next episode.
Eliminated: Vivian Vanderpuss – 1 win (avg. rank 4.43 – was #3, 4, 2, 3, 5, 9, 5, pre-season 6)
Vivian Vanderpuss (Facebook / Instagram / TikTok / Twitter) had the misfortune of running out of narrative in this semi-final and running up against a major lip sync bop that was squarely in Kimmy Couture’s wheelhouse. While she was clearly in the the Bottom Two in this episode, I also think it was convenient to cut her before her musical theatre powers and string of increasingly-high placements dominated this uneven crowd in the final remix challenge.
While I don’t usually comment on runway looks from eliminated queens, I do have to take exception with Brad’s read of Vivian’s first look. I understood the bagginess of her latex to be the point of the entire look! Viv was rendering a modern, fetishized version men’s clothing from throughout the ages that now read as more feminine. Since not all of that male clothing would be snatched tight to their bodies in the past, that’s not how Viv styled her latex garment.
Vinyl and latex doesn’t have to be a skin-tight homage to The Matrix every single time.
I came away from this season so incredibly impressed with Vivian Vanderpuss and her drag.
We have seen many queens arrive at Drag Race with the claim that they are portraying a specific character in drag. For some of that, that character lasts only as long as their entrance look. For others, the character is so all-encompassing that they have trouble adapting to challenges where the character wouldn’t feel at home.
Vivian is one of the all-time most-successful queens at claiming a character and sticking with that character through every challenge and runway. No matter what challenge or prompt, Vivian maintained the air of an aloof, self-obsessed cat-lady with an eye for fashion and a slight disconnect from reality. Even when she want haute couture or descended into clownery, the through-line of her drag was never once lost.
She also proved herself to be a master of the Drag Race format. Viv never really faltered the entire season. Even in this semi-finale elimination, her critique was essentially a nitpick of her runway walk and the fact that her well-constructed garment could’ve used a touch more drama.
In a way, Vivian Vanderpuss’s run on this season feels like a perfected version of Trixie Mattel’s run on Season 7. Trixie was already a lovable, high-charisma character, but she hadn’t figured out the confidence she needed to sell that week after week. (Honestly, Trixie still hadn’t figured that out entirely on All Stars, either!) Vivian brought all of that same sweetness and charisma to the competition, but she was also confident, nearly unshakeable, and really damn good at Drag Race.
There’s one more way I am hoping Vivian Vanderpuss turns out to be similar to Trixie. Trixie always says that you win Drag Race not by taking home the crown, but by succeeding in the wake of the show. I truly hope that Viv takes that message to heart and turns her whimsical cat-lady into a worldwide phenomenon with the power of the internet on her side. I’ve already followed her and sent her a tip to show my appreciation for how much joy she brought me this season – and I can’t wait to see what she does next.