Mabuhay! Welcome to my review and power rankings of the fourth episode of Drag Race Philippines Season 1 – “OPM Divas: The Rusical.” This is a lip sync Rusical where each queen needs to impersonate an iconic Philippines pop star by lip syncing to nursery rhymes performed in their signature style.
OPM refers to “Original Pilipino Music” – a particular style of Filipino post-1970s pop songs heavy on soulful balladry. This is one of those times where no amount of YouTube research can adequately prepare me to fairly judge the results of a Drag Race challenge from an international edition of the show.
I tried my best to find comparable looks and performances from all of the OPM Divas to better appreciate the impersonations, but some of these Divas have been around for decades – long enough that we could have a whole Rusical dedicated solo to them the way we have had for Cher and Madonna on the US franchise.
Even this mini-challenge was completely new to me! It was a game of “Ten-Twenty Talon Becky,” a reverse-limbo street game of hopping, leaping, and eventually cartwheeling over a Chinese garter. (A “Chinese garter,” is simply a rubberized elastic band you can use for stretching and/or jumping rope.) I couldn’t imagine how the queens were going to make it over the belt once it got up to eyeball-level – and that’s where the cartwheels came in! If you get even a toe over the rubbery line, your momentum and its elasticity takes care of the rest.
The mini-challenges this season have showed off how good-natured and downright silly this cast can be, which is easily obscured by how seriously they all take their runway assignments. I cannot think of another season of any franchise where an entire cast of queens have been so gamely foolish for physical challenge like the pole-climbing and the Chinese garter.
The willingness to be awkward on camera feels unique to the Philippines cast, but it also helps that the mini-challenges are rooted in their culture and their sense of childhood play. Compare that to the typical US mini-challenges, which tend to be either games that Ru (a man in her 60s) finds personally entertaining or full of sexual innuendo (if not both).
This episode also showed that the Philippines franchise is not above outright riggory to create drama in critiques.
As I understand it, every queen had advance knowledge of two Divas they might impersonate, but they didn’t have a say in the final choice or in the style of song and how it would be choreographed. Many Filipino Divas are known for being Celine-Dion-adjacent balladeers, which gave some queens less to work with than others.
Minty Fresh, in particular, felt stuck with a performance that could only accentuate the “Wake Up, Pearl!” narrative that she’s been saddled with. Similarly, Lady Morgana landed the most world-famous of all the Divas, but that Diva is such a chameleon that Morgana couldn’t possibly capture her within 45 seconds of impersonation.
Finally, there were some queens who were protected from critiques to yield the elimination the show wanted tonight, which might not have been 100% warranted based on the episode but which made sense in the arc of the season.
Did all that riggory that wreak major havoc on my Power Rankings compared to Episode Three? Read on to find out!
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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 4 – OPM Divas: The Rusical, Power Rankings
Before we dive deeply into the queens’ impersonations and “Pearl of the Orient Seas” runways, let’s take a moment to enjoy Mama Pao in a slightly more-subtle look than her past three, though it’s just as gorgeous. This smokey grey ballgown looks like it is made of air. Paolo really might walk away from this season as the host with the best runway package of all time!
1. Viñas Deluxe – 1 Win (was 1, 1, 4, Pre-Season #5)
Viñas Deluxe’s look did not have the best detailing of all the runways, but it had the most visual impact. I loved how the neck and epaulettes had structure in how the pearls were wired together without them being affixed to fabric or any other solid element. The draped pearls on the bodice and skirt were less remarkable, but they provided enough coverage that the look still read as “PEARL” and not just a white corset and panty.
(Actually, I think the sides of the corset looked better than the front! They had more-interesting detailing.)
Honestly, the giant floof of trailing skirt was gorgeous, but it was a little too much un-pearled real estate for me. That was especially true from the back, where Viñas’s hair covered the entire rear of her corset! The saving grace was that Viñas Deluxe’s headpiece and shoulders were big enough that you could still see some pearling.
As for Vińas impersonation of Zsa Zsa Padilla, I definitely got a feel for why she is known by the cast as one of their major impersonators. The amount of facial work she was doing to sell herself as Padilla was hilarious. Even if it felt like she was unnecessarily aging the character, it never felt cruel – she just plays her as older. That’s the brand of exaggeration I would expect from a successful impersonation that’s relying on more than just make-up to sell itself.
Viñas continues to feel like the most well-rounded queen in this cast and also one of the most-charismatic. My one concern is that she may have already worn out the welcome for “showgirl” looks between this one and her fresh flowers construction from two episodes ago. She might start to hear some pushback if she presents the same silhouette again. Even if she did, Viñas’s attention to detail on the runway is so much higher than most of the other queens! She still feels like the queen to beat.
2. Precious Paula Nicole – 1 Win (was 6, 3, 3, Pre-Season #2)
Precious Paula Nicole (Facebook | Instagram | Linktree | TikTok | Twitter | YouTube) showed she has nerves of steel by pulling out a silly impersonation in front of the superstar she was impersonating! Adding her powerful impersonation to the most dragged out drag of all the runways made her an obvious winner.
I am always excited by a runway where there are many carefully-considered details, and this look from Precious Paula Nicole really hit that mark for me.
What I love it is that she understood where she needed to place pearls for maximum impact. Her neckpiece is exquisite, especially the subtle hints of silver detailing. She also wisely used a high density of pearls on the top of her corset. That’s where everyone’s eyes will be, and it’s adjacent to the neckpiece so it has to look expensive!
From there, Paula Nicole graduated down to less pearling down her skirt. It works. You don’t need to be completely coated in pearls, as some of these looks have been. Also, by including strands of pearls with some larger bubbles at the bottom, she created more texture and motion than if they had been simple pearl strands.
Then, she thought through all of the finishing details with dramatic pale make-up with a dark-winged eye, a pearl head-dress, and a massive high ponytail. On a season which has featured a lot of smaller hair so far, I love the size and the messiness of this hair. Also, note the few strands of baby-hairs pulled down beneath the headpiece to frame her face.
I was surprised that Precious Paula Nicole got the win for her impersonation of Regine Velasquez. While she certainly had many aspects of it down, it felt to me like there was too much eye-crossing silliness added to what would’ve worked fine on its own as a faithful illusion.To me, it crossed the line from a good-impersonation to a sort of mean-spirited parody. She also didn’t hold the space well enough as the central figure in the finale for me – it felt like Viñas, Xilhouete, and Marina were constantly pulling attention from Paula Nicole.
However, clearly it was well-received – it was right in front of Regine! There’s clearly some nuance to Filipino-style impersonation that I’m missing. Physical impersonation aside, it was obvious that she had the best “illusion + runway” pairing out of everyone else except for Viñas. It made narrative sense to award her with the win.
After a weaker showing last episode, this episode cemented why the rest of the cast (and the judges!) seem to revere Precious Paula Nicole. There’s a playfulness that comes through in her drag even as she is presenting a serious moment or a severe look. While she is certainly capable of making a stumble, she is another all-around talent with few weaknesses.
3. Marina Summers (was 2, 5, 6, Pre-Season #6)
Marina Summers’ runway look really popped when stood up in the line-up with all the other queens. Her choice to include color rather than stay all pearl-white was the right one. It shows off her intuition for marketing.
Also, this is nude illusion done RIGHT. I can’t even tell if her semi-transparent dress has a color to it at all. Even looking closely at her shoulder and upper back, the pearls look like they are adhered directly to her skin!
While I take Paolo’s point about Marina needing to go much shorter or much longer with her hem lengths, I don’t think this look in particular got that wrong. The lowest blue sash cuts off a the right spot. If anything, maybe the hemline of the pearled part of the dress should have been asymmetrical to match the sash.
If I had to make my own nitpick of this runway look, I didn’t love the straight line of pearls down the seam on her back. For a look that has so much swirling motion built into it, that detail took me out of it a bit and reminded me of the reality of her garment.
Marina Summers lucked into impersonating one of the few more-active OPM Divas with Sarah Geronimo. While I haven’t spotted a version of Geronimo dancing with this specific kind of Latin flair, there are plenty of videos of her doing pop dance routines – including some hardcore homages to Michael Jackson. However, I felt Marina missed the mark on some of the basics of physical impersonation. Sarah Geronimo has a tall, slightly rounded face with a straight nose and downward curved eyebrows. Marina’s paint was not too different from her typical face, including her snatched-at-an-angle eyebrows. Those eyebrows accentuate her cheekbones and the angles in her face. She wasn’t giving Sarah Geronimo at all.
For that reason, I would’ve likely exchanged Marina Summers and Eva Le Queen in the Top 3 for the episode (and, I’d prefer to have Eva higher in the Power Ranking).
However, the fact that Marina Summers prevailed in the episode speaks highly to her ability to sell herself to the judges. I love the amount of intelligence and intent she brings to her drag. I think the one risk for her is in instances like this one, where she relies on her own brand to override some of what the challenge is looking for. That worked for her in a field this wide and because she had a character she could sell through dance. As the field narrows and the challenge performances require more nuance (as with acting and Snatch Game), she’ll need to hit the mark more exactly.
4. Eva Le Queen (was 3, 4, 2, Pre-Season #1)
Eva Le Queen (Instagram | TikTok) got the kindest mini-critique of the three safe girls, and successfully played a youthful character in the Divas challenge. It doesn’t feel like she’s in trouble just yet.
Upon review, I’m surprised to say that Eva Le Queen had my favorite runway!
Ultimately, I think high-volume, high-drama looks tended to distract from their pearl detailing, which becomes just another single element instead of the focus of the look. Eva Le Queen presented a streamlined catsuit-as-pantsuit look absolutely encrusted in pearls. Because it was so streamlined, the pearls had maximum impact with nothing to distract from them. Plus, it was ultra-chic and incredibly different than what everyone else presented.
I have no notes!
I also thought Eva had an interesting impersonation. I couldn’t find an original performance of Jolina Magdangal from as early in her career as this performance seemed to reference. Jolina has been a star since childhood – effectively, she’s like a Britney Spears who graduated from Mouseketeer to serious pop star. We know that Eva isn’t much of a dancer, which made her grinning impression of Jolina from her teeny-bopper phase seem like a solid achievement. This could’ve easily been set up for Eva to fail, but she rose to the challenge to play an effervescent, youthful characters.
It feels like Eva Le Queen has a few more weeks of relative safety amongst this cast, but right now Xilhouete is creeping up alongside her in the “reserved and detailed-oriented older queen” lane. We need to see a breakout performance and a win from Eva sometime soon if she wants to cement herself in the top group of queens to keep up with Viñas and Paula Nicole, and to hold off Marina and Xilhouete.
5. Xilhouete – 1 Lip Sync (was 9, 7, 9, Pre-Season #9)
There are aspects of Xilhouete’s runway look that worked very well for me. I loved the corset itself. The pearling was so incredibly dense, and she had a great shape in it! I liked the beaded fringe from the corset, which I think made sense to be somewhat thin and not a full skirt of pearls. The boots were also pearled enough – I don’t think every single inch of them needed to be covered (especially since that would make them very heavy, and one was already coming unzipped).
However, there are aspects I didn’t understand.
I didn’t get the single, sparse, “g-string” in the rear over her padding and tights. The judges seemed entertained by it, but I thought it looked awkward – like it was just a seam on the garment. Also, with her padding and tights so dense there, the illusion of her having actual butt cheeks was totally lost.
I also don’t understand why Xilhouete would choose to have her nipples out for this look with no chest contouring. Given how low the corset was, this left her looking significantly under-dressed for me. I think if she had a pair of pasties on it would’ve completed the illusion. I am never opposed to drag artists showing off unpadded bodies or flat chests! But, you can’t leave us feeling like something is missing from your look.
In sum, I think it was one of the weakest looks on the runway, alongside Brigiding (and Lady Morgana being off-theme, even if she was lovely). If we were only looking at the runway, we might be talking about Xilhouete being in the bottom two.
The challenge made a massive difference for her. Truly, I think Xilhouete actually won on impersonation this week. From the first few performances I pulled up, Pilita Corrales strikes me as a “sexy cougar” sort of pop star character in the vein of Eartha Kitt. Xilhouete nailed that vibe with plenty of comedy and the absurdity of Corrales constantly leaning backward to hit her notes. She also nailed her cheekbones and middle-aged-lady chopped up hair. It was the perfect blend of exactitude and goofiness required by a great drag impersonation without ever punching down.
Also, her dress was gorgeous. I think this might actually be the best garment Xilhouete has worn on the runway so far!
A few weeks ago I said I wasn’t really feeling Xilhouete and so I didn’t feel like I could be fair in critiquing her in this competition. Now I understand where she is coming from. I think Xilhouete has played the nurturing mother and responsible producer for so long in her career that it manifests through her drag being dark and serious. She brands herself as a visual artist and turns out witchy looks, perhaps because she doesn’t want to feel as though she is in the same lane as the more pop-culture-attuned queens she is mentoring. Yet, there is still a talented chameleon lying beneath all of that maturity and darkness. You can be older and motherly and still be a gorgeous queen who taps into pop culture.
If Xilhouete can access that chameleon nature for the rest of the season as well as she did this week, she could be a real threat to Viñas and Paula Nicole. But – and it’s a big “but” – her runways will need to keep up with her challenge performances. For me right now, that’s the biggest remaining question mark for Xilhouete.
6. Minty Fresh – 1 Win (was 4, 2, 1, Pre-Season #3)
Minty Fresh (Instagram | Twitter | YouTube) seemed to have a one-way ticket to the Bottom Two this episode, but was thrown a lifeline by being called safe. After such a strong start, it feels like she is out of energy.
I think Minty Fresh’s runway was extremely successful. To me, this is a more-developed version of what Xilhouete presented. I enjoyed the structure and symmetry of the garment, and how each part of it had just enough pearling to read and look elegant without being festooned with pearls. The hip panels being held up by invisible string could’ve been distracting, but Minty managed it with subtlety and I think it gave a nice underwater illusion.
I did note how dark and out-of-place the shading on her wigline looked. Given how pale she painted for this runway, that was an odd choice. Maybe that was down to the relatively quick change from her OPM Divas look, which was more darkly-complected than her runway look.
The show heavily sandbagged Minty with the assignment Moira Dela Torre, but then she did herself no favors in her performance. Moira Dela Torre has a very round face that could not be more different than Minty’s, and she sings the slowest, sleepiest ballads of all the OPM Divas I listened to for this post (though I loved this upbeat cover from her!). She has also been a Philippines Idol judge, but I’m not sure how much of that has bled into how people think of her, the way it did for Paula Abdul and Katy Perry in the states.
I think Minty got some things very right in her impersonation, including the brows and the hair, but there’s only so much she could transform her face. Moira Dela Torre doesn’t have some of the same tics as these other Divas, other than closing her eyes when she sings and smiling wanly. To then add having to mime playing guitar and also the weird choice to be passed-out drunk was totally puzzling. Even if Dela Torre is known for enjoying wine and for her sleepy performance style, I think physically going to sleep is the wrong move in the impersonation.
I think Minty Fresh is now out of lifelines from the judges. That doesn’t make me happy, because I think she has massive potential and is consistently on the high end of runways. However, I cannot help but return again and again to her statement about how every drag performance must be entertaining for her or she will get bored with it. Is it any wonder she performed an unremarkable impersonation of a sleepy diva if she would never usually impersonate a Diva in her own act?
In that way, Minty Fresh reminds me of Alyssa Edwards on her original Season 5 run – a queen clearly capable of anything, but who would brighten up for her favorite challenges and then phone it in for things out of her wheelhouse. Of course, Alyssa is perhaps the most chaotic and entertaining personality in Drag Race history, so she got many passes for that behavior. Minty Fresh isn’t giving production enough entertainment or drama to excuse performing below expectations. The next time she underperforms in a challenge, I think she’ll be headed to a lip sync – because if she’s not playing the game to win, why should the judges protect her from elimination?
7. Brigiding (was 5, 6, 5, Pre-Season #4)
Brigiding (Facebook | Instagram | TikTok | Twitter | YouTube) brought a silly take to her diva and a pearly showgirl runway, but something about her simply isn’t breaking through to leave an impression on the judges.
I’m not sure we can actually call this runway look from Brigiding a “garment.” It’s mostly just large pearls draped over her unmentionable bits, and a blow-up float affixed to her back which she has lightly sparkled. There’s just no getting around the fact that the float is distracting and looks cheap, including the awkward pearled backpack straps that don’t match the rest of the pearling on her body. When you’re wearing barely anything on your body, two massive white straps really stick out!
The pool float could have been effective if she had wrapped it in fabric to maintain its shape but disguise its plastic sheen, or even spray-painted it to give more of an illusion across its transparent face.
I am obsessed with Brigiding’s hair, pear crown, and make-up, but this look really missed the mark.
I think Brigiding’s version of Jaya also missed the mark. From what I can see, Jaya is a R&B diva with big vocals who is always selling face – sort of like a mid-career Whitney Houston. While she definitely serves some major lip-quivering in her performance, this Brigiding version felt like a manic version of Jaya on uppers. It was like Liza Minelli in a Jaya mask. Maybe this is a throwback to very early in Jaya’s career and I just can’t find a good comparison.
What’s annoying about that is Brigiding actually painted a lovely, bright face that could’ve easily matched Jaya if she had a better physical impersonation.
This is the first week where I feel completely aligned with the judges on Brigiding. It feels like she came to the competition ready to play the game of Drag Race but without anything remarkable of her own to show off.
8. Lady Morgana – 2 Lip Syncs (was 8, 8, 11, Pre-Season #8)
The danger of using a bridal look for a non-bridal runway theme is that the bridal aspect overtakes the theme itself. That was the case here for Lady Morgana. While the bodice of her gown was completed pearled, it was lost in the sea of white-on-white of a bridal look – especially with the massive tiered skirt of the dress pulling so much focus in this look.
Also, I don’t think the screaming, wailing bride was the wisest way to offset that problem – all of the motion and thrashing just took more attention away from the bodice!
The show handed Lady Morgana an impossible task with impersonating Lea Salonga, an iconic global superstar with an incomparable voice known originating Kim in Miss Siagon and providing the singing voices of Disney Princesses Jasmine and Mulan. Yes, she is the voice of “A Whole New World”! I’ve heard and seen Lea Salonga many times over, and I think Lady Morgana did a superb job of capturing her look and the sort of wide-eyed wonder in which she tends to perform. However, it was clear the judges were looking for some kind of specific character illusion from Miss Saigon or Aladdin rather than a sort of “Broadway Showcase” version of Salonga.
I think the judges were wrong here – or, at least, they would’ve reacted just as negatively to a camp rendition of Salonga that reduced her to only one of her iconic roles. There was literally no way for Lady Morgana to win this week, though she might have spared herself from the Bottom Two with a stronger runway.
Sadly, it feels like Lady Morgana’s run on the show has almost come to a close. With two lip syncs and no major standout moments in the eyes of the judges, she isn’t going to survive a third lip sync against any of the remaining queens as things stand right now. The only way for her to continue past next week is for her to hope that both Brigiding and Minty Fresh collapse at the same time, or that one of them does during a shocking fall-from-grace from a front-runner.
Eliminated: Turing – 1 Win (was 7 10, 7, Pre-Season #7)
Turing (Facebook | Instagram | Linktree | TikTok | Twitter | YouTube) is an incredibly talented queen with unending charisma, but she simply didn’t have the level of polish that Drag Race Philippines was looking for in the long run of this season. I think she deserved to survive this week based on her performance, but at the same time it felt as though it was her time to sashay away. I suspect the judges and production didn’t want to risk her crushing the other queens in acting or comedy in the coming weeks.
I am fascinated with Turing’s placement on the show. While Drag Race sometimes deliberately casts certain archetypes of queens with full knowledge that they won’t have the range for the show, that doesn’t feel like it was the case for Turing. She was cast as a potential front-runner who could cut through the knot of leggy showgirls to present a different style of drag. The fact that the judges handed her a solo win last week for “Pop Off Ate” showed that they were willing to build her into a major contender.
However, I don’t think Turing came to the show with the right approach to the runways in order to take advantage of how she was cast. I can’t explain the “why” of it. Maybe she lacks an eye for styling and detailing. Maybe she isn’t a big fan of Drag Race and didn’t know to push her runway package as hard as it needed to be pushed to stand out on the show. Or, maybe she truly is so confident in her performance abilities that she didn’t put as much focus on her runway looks.
That’s why I feel at peace with Turing’s elimination this week and her placement on the show. Even if this challenge and runway was a solid showing from her, it represented a chance to say farewell without needing to resort to major shenanigans to get her into the Bottom Two.
I don’t think Turing needs a Drag Race crown to be the kind of queen she wants to be. She is already a success as a dancer and a model, and Drag Race showed off the depth of her passion and her compassion. I hope that her run on the show will give her platform and the resources to create the passion projects she has always wanted to create.