Kia ora and welcome to my review and power rankings for the sixth episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race Down Under Season 2 – Hometown Hunnies, where queens were challenged to create a spoof tourism ad for their hometowns.
I’m not sure I’ve ever seen another episode of Drag Race where RuPaul seemed so incredibly over it, both in the workroom and on the runway.
Maybe that comes down to how the queens took the direction to create their spoof ads. All of them understood the challenge in an incredibly literal way and were initially planning straight-forward homages to their hometowns with little bits of humor. Ru sets them straight one-by-one in the workroom, telling each one of them to go back to the drawing board with limited time before their shoot begins.
We all know Ru loves to keep the queens second-guessing themselves, but the fact that she needed to correct everyone in the cast tells me there was some form of missed communication from production to the queens. Maybe that was intentional, or maybe Ru and the production team simply assumed the “spoof” aspect of the ads was implied right up until Ru’s walk-around.
I think there’s a little bit of a cultural aspect mixed in with that. I feel like if the US franchise asked a queen to talk about her home town, she would be more likely to assume it was mean to be a silly version and script it as such.
For Australia and New Zealand, I feel like there’s a lot more pride in wanting to make your town look good – especially on an international stage. Even though almost all of them do take an initially negative view of their hometowns (Beverly, especially), at first they all seemed mor- focused on explaining their places rather than telling a story about themselves.
I don’t know if I’ve ever seen this many awkward moments in a Drag Race judges’ critique that didn’t end in RuPaul screaming about H&M. It feels like the editors could barely piece together enough comments from the three judges to fill the time. Maybe that’s down to Ru’s openly hostile reception to most of the ads (again, stemming from poor direction). Or, it could’ve been the super-basic “Swimsuit Edition” runway prompt, which feels like it was originally intended for a mini-challenge or third ball look. To their credit, all of the queens took things in a conceptual direction with their swimsuits, but the prompt definitely failed to produce a gag-worthy moment – and, it gave the judges very little to discuss.
That leaves us with a fairly obvious Final Four, as predicted in last week’s “Bosom Buddies” Power Rankings (and the week before that in Snatch Game, and the week before that in Drag Brunch). The real question is who will graduate to the Top 3 in the finale after next week’s episode. Two of the choices seem very obvious, while the other one is still hotly contested.
If you want to watch RuPaul’s Drag Race Down Under Season 2 outside of Australia, New Zealand, 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 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 6: Hometown Hunnies Power Rankings
Before we get to this incredibly exciting “swimsuit” runway, let’s admire a glittering version of RuPaul as an awards statuette, complete with Ruby Red hair.
1. Hannah Conda – 3 wins (avg. rank 1.50, was 1, 2, 3, 1, 1, Pre-Season #2)
Hannah Conda (Cameo | Instagram) showed off a laser-focus on her creative vision for her tourism video, yielding a project with a much greater scope and level of gloss than a typical Drag Race commercial. Was that all Hannah, or did the guiding hand of production give her some extra shine? Either way, it bodes well not only for her track record, but for what she can do as a winner of Drag Race.
Hannah Conda took a risk in her Barbarella-inspired take on swimwear. It paid off in her having a completely different look than everyone else on the runway.
I really enjoy the graphic pop of white around her eyes to sell the mod, retro-futuristic aspect of this look. Yet, I wish she had continued the same teal color down to her feet, onto gloves, and at least up her neck if not ontp her entire face. The normal skin of her head poking out of the catsuit just made me ask, “why is she wearing a velour catsuit underneath her bikini?”
(Hannah’s look was inspired by a similar look for Zendaya for Interview Mag, but that was a simple silver-black-and-white version that read more obviously as a 60s reference that wouldn’t continue to Zendaya’s hands, feet, or face. Hannah’s look is giving more “alien at the beach.”)
Hannah’s hometown ad played like a fever dream. Was it about Perth? Was it about how Hannah as a Hobbit who has to shave her toes? Was it about her battling giant black swans?
The point of it – and why Hannah won – is that she could easily adapt her creative vision to the “shoot it on a green screen” environment. Many queens think small in these challenges, giving a variety of talking heads or club set-ups. Hannah actually took advantage of the production possibilities of interacting with her environment. She didn’t overstuff her scenes and she was never frantic. In the end, she produce a fantastical (if not fantastic) result.
Could production have done her dirty and made all of the special effects flop? Absolutely. Even her initial “Middle Perth” title card is far beyond the level of effort production puts into most green screen commercials – even when they’re officially scripted by the show! The same goes for Hannah’s fight with the black swan. Note that it isn’t just a flat image moving back and forth – production actually subtly animated its head and neck! None of the other queens got this level of work on their commercials… but, maybe none of them asked for it.
Hannah Conda certainly deserved her win for her hometown advertisement, which seems to cement her place in the finale. The only thing that could go haywire for her next week in the makeover challenge is if Molly and Kween Kong are on the top and Hannah has to lip sync against Spankie. However, production has so much control over how makeover challenges are received that I can’t imagine they’ll let both Hannah and Spankie lip sync.
That said, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Hannah get her “vulnerability” lip sync next week, either as a showdown against her “twin” Molly or to dispatch Kween Kong in her third lip sync No matter what happens, I think Hannah Conda is headed for the finale.
2. Spankie Jackzon 3 wins, 1 lip sync (avg. rank 2.33, was 2, 1, 1, 2, 6, Pre-Season #3)
Spankie Jackzon (Facebook | Instagram | TikTok | YouTube) brought her signature Kiwi humor to a totally WTF commercial for Palmerston North, which is a mere 90-minute drive from my house. She definitely showed a different side of Palmy than I saw on my trip there in 2018!
Spankie’s outfit is an homage to her colleagues at Palmy North’s Lido Aquatic Center – you can spot her in several of their past Instagram posts! Her look is a relatively straight-forward, “realness” take on a Baywatch swimsuit and jacket, but it’s dragged up with some stoning.
It fits her well and I love her massive pile of platinum blonde hair. This was the right week for Spankie to deliver a plain look with all the details well-minded.
As for Spankie’s ad – it was very Spankie and very New Zealand. I can’t decide what I like more, the shouting about chips or the plug for lamb and sheep products. Even if the narrative didn’t quite wind up making sense in the end, it felt entirely Kiwi and also like a fully-ealized version of Spankie’s absurdist humor.
Spankie is RuPaul’s favorite queen this season. She’s also a rather manly man who I doubt will have trouble making over another burly gentleman in next week’s makeover challenge. Even if she falls into her second lip sync, Ru will save her against any of these other queens to preserve the season’s narrative heading into the finale. Then, the question becomes if Ru would really crown Spankie and her uneven runways over Hannah Conda – but, I’ll have more to say about that after next week’s episode.
3. Kween Kong – 1 win, 2 lip syncs (avg. rank 4.50, was 3, 3, 4, 6, 8, Pre-Season #1)
I hated Kween Kong’s Swimsuit Edition runway. Her look was too close to being a complete nude illusion to read as a garment. Was she supposed to be completely nude, just draped in flowing fabric? Then why did the suit have stoning and why did the one fabric swath cut her crotch in half? I think she either needed to fully push in the nude-illusion direction, or spangle up her suit more.
Kween said her look was meant as an homage to the Samoan warrior queen Nafanua. A Google Image search of Nafanua reveals so many different directions that Kween Kong could’ve taken this look! A lot of the illustrations and concepts of the historical Nafanua would’ve easily conquered this runway challenge if Kween had adapted them. We’ve seen examples of cultural references being lost on the Drag Race runway, but in this case I just don’t think Kween developed her concept far enough.
Kween Kong hometown is South Auckland, which can have a reputation as being rough or crime-riddled, though some of that is down to obvious racism towards its overwhelming Māori and Polynesian population. I think Kween’s approach to re-brand it as a sort of an urban anti-zen retreat was potentially hilarious, and a lot of the jokes were solid right through the middle of the ad.
For me, it fell apart with the lack of a punchline at the close. If Kween had simply closed with, “it’s the place that made me the Kween I am today,” the farce of the ad would’ve made sense. It would read as being her personalized version of the challenges of growing up in South Auckland, which would give it a weirdly inspirational bent. When she delivered the final line as “Book your tickets to Kween Kong island… please,” it made it sound more as if the entire thing had been about her only loneliness or neediness, which retroactively sucked the air out of her best jokes.
I don’t think Kween Kong can win the season at this point, but I also don’t think her story is over after her words with Ru on the runway about family and acceptance. She, of all four remaining queens, knows the best how to beat a masculine face into high drag. That’s the challenge next week, and I have a strong feeling the show will reward her for it. Even if Kween isn’t Down Under’s next drag superstar, I get the sense Ru still wants to see more of her.
4. Molly Poppinz – 1 win, 1 lip sync (avg. rank 3.33, was 4, 4, 2, 4, 2, Pre-Season #9)
Molly Poppinz (Facebook | Instagram | TikTok | Twitter) delivered a polished and downright goofy commercial without letting Michelle psyche her out about having so many scenes. Even if it wasn’t the funniest of the bunch, it proved once again how brainy Molly is behind her ditzy drag exterior.
On the runway, Molly Poppinz had the most-basic interpretation of Swimsuit Edition. She went far too literal on delivering a Gold Coast Meter Maid, wearing just a gold one-piece with a sash. I liked her shoes, but there’s nothing else to say about it. It was giving “realness” category.
I loved how Molly opened her ad with “Welcome to the town where I currently am.” It was giving Tia Kofi “adequate dress” vibes. Molly started out by delivering a straight-forward tourism ad, but it became a send-up of the oblivious tornado of destructive behavior of Newcastle party girls. That worked to her benefit in keeping her out of the bottom two, because she had a clear narrative and some solid jokes. It also worked to her detriment in barring her from a much-needed second win, since it was neither a true tourism ad nor especially about Molly herself.
Molly is in a tricky spot heading into next week. It’s clear that Ru has an amount of affection for her, or else her wobbly ad and lackluster runway could’ve easily been pitted against either Kween Kong or Beverly in a lip sync this episode. However, it feels like Molly has completely run out of momentum in the past three episodes compared to the first three. That puts her at a disadvantage heading into a makeover episode where she needs to clinch a spot in the finale.
I think Molly’s only hope is to deliver a decisive win next week to even up the odds heading into the final. If she doesn’t, I think she will be sacrificed to a lip sync against any of these queens – including Kween Kong – because the three of them make the most-compelling top three.
Eliminated: Beverly Kills (avg. rank 5.00, was 5, 6, 5, 5, 3, Pre-Season #8)
Beverly Kills (Cameo | Instagram | TikTok | Twitter) is a multi-talented queen who can dominate any stage performance, but finds it trickier to simply be herself. That served her well in the girl group performance and her trio of lip syncs. In a challenge like this one, her retreat into a fanciful character made it obvious that her run on the show had come to a close.
Personally, I found a lot of this “Be authentic, Beverly” talk from the other queens in the workroom to be bullshit.
I don’t say that invalidate the experiences of the other four queens, who seemed united in their critiques of Beverly and her backstage conduct. I’m sure they were observing Beverly holding back from engaging with the group or acting inconsistently, and their interpretation of that was Beverly being inauthentic.
Here’s what I have to say to that: You can be a complete person even if your public persona is about being cheerful and addicted to the idea of success in your creative pursuit – especially at 21 years old! That’s almost exactly who I was at age 21, as documented on this very blog, especially if you throw in a constant supply of vodka-based drinks.
If the other queens didn’t enjoy that, too bad. No one owes other people their inner turmoil, especially when most people are happy to use that against you as soon as you reveal it. It felt like the other four queens wanted Beverly to be another queen to kiki with in the dressing room at a gig, when I get the sense Beverly arrives in the dressing room ready to slay her performance with no time for distractions.
That same youthful hyper-focus on success that serves Beverly in her career failed Beverly in connecting with RuPaul. It’s not because she was inauthentic, but because – like any good theatre kid – she was waiting for firm direction that never came.
We’ve seen many young queens dazzle RuPaul with their takes on drag, from Violet to Aquaria to Krystal Versace. In fact, in all three of those cases we never got to see anything especially deep or traumatic beyond being crushingly good at drag. Aquaria, in particular, had a wholesome family life and made her entire focus the pursuit of drag skills from early in her teen years.
The difference between Beverly and those three queens is that all three of them were dying to present a new perspective on their drag at every single opportunity. In a Drag Brunch they’d talk about themselves and never shut up. Aquaria would pull out endless fashion references on the runway. Krystal Versace would paint an all-new face in 30 minutes in a ball. And Violet Chachki would never blow the chance to make a commercial all about herself on a silly made-up character.
RuPaul doesn’t only respond to pathos – she’s also obsessed with a pureness of vision. Beverly Kill’s weakness in this competition wasn’t her personality, her skills, or her drag – it was that she kept waiting for Ru to say what she liked instead of telling Ru what she ought to like. Not every queen has something Ru will like, but Beverly certainly does. That was obvious last week in the girl groups challenge, where Beverly served her standard stage drag and RuPaul ate it up. All she needed to do is keep serving that.
Even if Beverly didn’t snatch the Drag Race Down Under crown, I think she had a better run on the show than her track record or ranking reveals. This is a queen who has already made herself into a full-rounded drag success at a point in life when most people are still in university or trying to figure out what they want to do with their lives.
What I hope Beverly got out of this experience is the knowledge that she and her drag are enough without inventing more gimmicks or characters, or showing some imaginary deeper version of herself. She doesn’t have to wait for RuPaul or anyone else to tell her she is a star. She already is one, and we all want to see what she is capable of doing next.