Welcome to my supersized Power Rankings of the massive double-episode premiere of RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 15 – “One Night Only”! This pair of intro episodes introduced a never-ending cast of 16 queens competing in a mini-challenge photoshoot, a Talent Show, and a runway theme of “Who is She?”
Last season of Drag Race was one of the most-entertaining in the history of the show. It also verged on jumping the shark. There were several stretches of episodes with no eliminations, the season shoved an excessive (but entertaining) lip sync tournament in the middle, and the entire thing was saddled with the “it’s chocolate” save mechanism that was obviously fully under the control of the producers.
It left Season 14 feeling belabored. For the first time, many fans complained that Drag Race was… well, dragging. Drag Race is at its best when it is a non-stop variety show competition with real stakes for the contestants when they misstep. The more it is stuffed full of non-eliminations, immunity, or special saves, the more it drifts into feeling scripted – which minimized the agency of a talent cast of artists.
What saved Season 14 from sailing straight over the proverbial shark was its cast. In retrospect, the cast seems packed full of unforgettable personalities – but, part of why they were so unforgettable is that we got so much time between them Sashaying away!
As it turns out, a belabored season can still be one of the best, as long as it spends that extra time showing off its cast.
The show seems to be headed in the opposite direction this year, with a massive cast competing all at once in this first pair of episodes with a supposedly irreversible elimination at the end. That means far less early screen time per queen. Plus, after this initial pair of episodes, episodes will only air for an hour on MTV (which means the actual content is more like 40 minutes).
Will Drag Race be able to steer away from its impending shark jump by producing a brisk, tight, shenanigan-free season that shows off the talents of its massive cast? Or, will this extra-long season of extra-short episodes collapse under the sheer weight of trying to make each of its 16 queens stand out.
Only time will tell if the season was successful, but based on these first two episodes there seems to be a clear divide in the cast between the competitors and the potential fodder. Several queens burst out of the gates ready to slay, while many others seemed to struggle to make their drag ready for prime time.
Which queens came out on top and which ones are in danger of an early elimination? My Power Rankings considers each queen’s performance on the show as well as how they are treated by the edit and the “meta game” of what a queen needs to win Drag Race in the wake of a season with an unusual winner like Willow Pill.
Readers, start your engines! And, may the best drag queen win!
Reminders: I typically 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 in relation to this specific television program, but the reason I’m commenting at all is because I celebrate all drag!
RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 15, Episodes 1-2: One Night Only Power Rankings
#1 Anetra (was Pre-Season #2)
Anetra came out of the gate as hot, sweeping right through the “One Night Only” Talent Show with an act that combined voguing, absurdity, and Taekwondo and holding off some better runways on the strength of her strut. Folks, we’ve got us an early front-runner!
I’m a fan of Anetra’s entrance look. Yes, the head-hugging spiked helmet messes with the proportions of her long-lined body. However, entrance looks aren’t supposed to be perfectly proportionized. They are meant to stand up to everything from a photo shoot to a dunk tank, and I think Anetra nailed the brief. I got sort of “punk cheerleader for motocross” from this look, and I feel like that wasn’t too far off from reality.
Anetra crushed the talent show in exactly the way that Willow did last year, and Trinity The Tuck did way back in All Stars Season 4. She delivered a number that only she could possibly deliver. Who else would combine ballroom moves and martial arts?!
That alone would’ve been enough to win, but then there was also the utter ridiculous of her lyrics. The high point was “You better walk that fucking duck,” a turn of speech that instantly became a lasting Drag Race catchphrase as soon as she uttered it. I think the catchphrase actually obscures that almost every line of the vocal was hilarious and well-timed. I’ve laughed out loud every time I rewatch it.
Anetra’s runway look was slightly puzzlingly, but not enough to drag down her high marks for the “One Night Only” talent show. The bodysuit comprised of different-colored metallic strips was spectacular, but I think the instinct to wear something additional was right. Slightly obscuring the suit made it pop more. However, the matte black corset came off more like a bullet-proof kevlar vest than high fashion. I think that was down to the shape of it more than the finish. If it had a slightly wider cut or the straps were angled out more I think it’d give less “vest” and more “bustier.”
Still, being a little awkward doesn’t make this a bad look. The clip-on half-cape was a cool idea – I loved how Anetra unbuckled half of it at the end of the runway to use it for a high drama exit.
It’s indisputable that Anetra came out of this episode as the queen to beat. We know she’s a stunt queen and has an incredible high-fashion walk, both of which will take you far on Drag Race. I also get the sense of her intense level of discipline from her Taekwondo practice, which will server her well.
Now the question becomes if she can execute the sense of humor she showed off in her song live and unrehearsed. If she can do that, she’ll be a Drag Race juggernaut.
#2 Mistress Isabelle Brooks (was Pre-Season #6)
Mistress Isabelle Brooks was instantly memorable, instantly lovable, and had the best run of three looks across the episode out of the entire cast. Maybe it’s time that the big girl wins.
Mistress Isabelle’s talent performance showed off how incredibly smart she is.
Sure, it had some generic “snatch the crown” lyrics, but it also had plenty of witty puns and references plus product placement for RuPaul’s chocolate bar. Pandering directly to Ru can flop if it feels like you take the focus off of yourself in the process, but Mistress Isabelle made it a seamless part of her song.
I didn’t get the sense that M.I.B. is destined for a career as a pop star, but she didn’t let that stop her from completing the assignment. If it wasn’t for the hard-to-ignore stunts from Anetra and Jax, I think she could’ve been in the top.
Even as a noted despiser of chaps, I have to admit this was a glorious runway. This Ride’em Cowgirl outfit is stoned within an inch of its life, has plenty of motion thanks to its fringe, and works perfectly for Mistress Isabelle’s proportions. If I could change one thing it would be to double the size of her hat, but that’s a minor quibble.
Beyond serving the best trio of looks this episode. M.I.B also served one of the most memorable personalities. Her quick pivot from shading Sugar & Spice to taking them under her wing was one of the most motherly moves we’ve seen on this show since Bianca Del Rio loaned her corset to Adore. Even when Sugar & Spice mistook Isabelle’s sisterly shade with Irene Dubois, M.I.B. only read them for a moment and then invited them to be a part of the joke.
Mistress Isabelle Brooks has a kindness and magnanimity that can’t be taught. It makes her magnetic to watch both in and out of drag. If she continues to deliver high-end looks while remaining a standout in the workroom I have no doubt she will make a deep run into the season.
#3 Jax (was Pre-Season #4)
Jax stormed the first episode, delivering a gymnastic Talent Show performance that beat out Anetra for sheer athleticism and turning out a runway that fulfilled her Meet The Queens promise of giving us Banjee.
I was worried about Jax when she entered the workroom. While she elevated a basic cheerleading outfit with judicious stoning, the proportions of it weren’t working in her favor. Jax is a pocket-sized queen – the last thing she should be doing is shortening her torso. I think a different waistline and bust-line would’ve completely altered this look.
Credit where credit is due: Jax arrived in a cheerleader outfit and then immediately sold us the cheerleader fantasy in her “Only Night Only” talent show performance. This isn’t RuPaul’s Gymnastics Race and being able to do flips isn’t necessarily going to save Jax in any regular challenge or even in a lip sync.
However, when it comes to crafting a unique talent show that tells us who she is, I think Jax aced the assignment.
I also think Jax aced the runway. I love this look from top to bottom. The high pleather boots, the matching pleather in the jacket, the competing patterns of the jacket and the bodysuit … it’s all very correct. It also feels authentic as a runway take on streetwear, which meant it was effective at communicating that this is “Jax from the Block.”
Jax didn’t have the chance to inject as much humor into her performance as Anetra, so that remains a question mark hovering over her trajectory in this competition. It could be that front-loading her cheering works out to her detriment if she is unable to showcase anything else quite so electrifying.
#4 Marcia Marcia Marcia (was Pre-Season #10)
Will Marcia Marcia Marcia make me pay up on my pre-season wager of $100,000 that she cannot possibly win Season 15 (even though I’d probably fall in love with her)? After this episode I feel like I’m in danger, girl. I might have to pay this queen off in weekly $50 installments for the rest of my life!
Let’s get this out of the way: Marcia’s entrance look was a straight-up BOOT.
We all understand that she is trying to serve Brady Bunch realness, but this needed a serious dragging-up. Stone the nose bandage, wear a glittering turtleneck, line the inside of your jacket with a metallic. ANYTHING to take this from an off-the-rack Clueless reference to something more drag-adjacent.
I know the main metric for entrance outfits is communicating your character while being ready for shenanigans, but I still think Marcia Marcia Marcia slightly undershot the assignment.
Marcia is another queen who showcased her smarts in the “One Night Only” talent show. A 90s ballad totally in Ru’s wheelhouse? Check. Ballet dressed up in a way that won’t make Ru sneer at it? Check. A goofy reveal that makes fun of one of the judges? Check. Marcia was cold and calculated in designing this performance to hit squarely with the one person who decides her fate, and it paid off.
That is exactly what Marcia needs to do all season to stay ahead in this pack of queens. She can never rest for a moment and become that queen who is weaponizing her BFA. She has to surprise and delight, making fun of herself the entire time. That’s what was missing from her antecedent’s like Dusty Ray Bottoms, Blair, Jan, and Rosé.
I worry about Marcia keeping up the element of smarts and surprise from her Talent Show performance because of her fashion this episode. Even though she’s a DIY queen, she might have D’d her I a little too well because everything she wore looked very off-the-rack and her runway felt like a repeat of her entrance look. She isn’t helping her case by painting a standard beauty beat rather than pushing her make-up to high drag.
Of course, the point of all three of these performances was to scream “THIS IS WHO I AM,” so I suppose we consider that another “check” on Marcia list.
Next week is going to be critical for Marcia. If she has a runway look that feels different, she can keep up this positive momentum. She has potential to stand out as the leader of the pack of younger queens on the season. If it feels like another look in the “Ariana Grande plays Elle Woods on Broadway” collection with small “pretty girl” make-up Michelle is going to come for her.
#5 Sasha Colby (was Pre-Season #1)
Sasha Colby lived up to her reputation as our favorite drag queens’ favorite drag queen, but a somewhat safe talent show performance held her back from the top spot despite showing off an already-iconic runway.
Sasha Colby’s entrance look was fine. She has a spectacular body to show off in a bodysuit and I loved the incredible volume of her teased out hair. I think it was one of the best massive wigs we’ve ever seen on the show. However, the cavewoman plainness of her loincloth weighed this down. It made the look feel less “high drag” and more “cosplay from a Netflix show I’m not going to watch.”
Sasha’s “One Night Only” Talent Show performance was well-received on the show and from what I’ve seen online. I had mixed feelings on it. There have been so many straightjacket performances in media over the years that if someone is going to invoke that image I want to see some real specificity to it. Sasha didn’t do much to incorporate it into her choreography and she didn’t make a spectacular escape.
Instead, it was just a symbol of “THIS IS A PIECE ABOUT MENTAL HEALTH” when I think the choreography should have told us that. The Cranberries “Zombie” is about generational trauma and I don’t think it’s a far stretch from there to mental wellness, but hooking her finger into her cheek and doing a split doesn’t really tell me that. If anything, it came off a little cheesy to me.
“Zombie” is such an iconic, bombastic song. It deserved so much more than Sasha gave it.
I think the show could have easily edited Sasha to indicate a bottom placement if she didn’t deliver on the runway … but she was never at any real risk of that with this look packed in her suitcase.
In an incredible flex, Sasha Colby walked the runway in the gown that was part of her winning Miss Continental package in 2012. There is not a single wrong note in this high-glam showgirl eveningwear look, from its massive fan headpiece to its liquid latex skirt. The proportions are perfect, the styling is right, and Sasha knows how to walk this look. She easily won the runway this episode.
Everyone thinks Sasha is the obvious frontrunner of this competition – from the queens in the room to viewers at home to former Drag Race contestants. I’m not convinced. Both her entrance look and her talent performance showed off a certain amount of too-literal thinking when this show actually requires lateral thinking – looking for solutions that aren’t linear or obvious.
There’s no doubt that Sasha Colby is the queen of all pageant showgirls, but if she wants to be America’s Next Drag Superstar she’ll need to deliver some surprise and smarts along with her poised beauty.
#6 Luxx Noir London (was Pre-Season #3)
In the pre-season I was sold that Luxx Noir London was a queen who made her own delusion into reality, and that was certainly a theme for her this episode! With her potential antagonist Irene already dismissed, it will be interesting to see what the edit holds next for Luxx.
Luxx Noir London struck a perfect balance with her entrance look. It’s glam rock but it’s also black-and-white. Similar to Lady Camden’s wonderful Freddie Mercury illusion from last season, the lack of color keeps the focus on the body and the face rather than the moonage dayglow daydream of a loud look.
Of course, we can’t discuss this entrance look without discussion the “40-inche” controversy! Was Luxx’s wig ever 40-inches? Did she believe it was 40 inches? Did she say “40 inches” because that’s just a thing you say about human hair wigs?
I don’t think any of the answers matter. What mattered was that Luxx wasn’t all that pressed about it despite Irene continuing the joke into the next day. The entire situation was consistent with my take that Luxx Noir London is a queen who is always feeling the fantasy of her own delusion. As long as what she delivers is still attractive, high-end drag, the exact number of inches don’t matter.
Where Luxx certainly isn’t deluded is in her pop star ambitions.
So many queens talk a big talk about how they’re a Drag Queen Popstar, but Luxx Noir London might be the first queen to truly walk the walk. Her track was a radio-ready pop single with terrific lyrics and a few rough production edges. In fact, it’s just one of her many songs already out on digital platforms. Also, she’s a nimble dancer who brought out one of my favorite stunts, the slow full split.
I’m so much more interested in a pop queen who has already begun to build her empire than one who is waiting for Post-Drag-Race success to realize her dreams.
Luxx Noir London continued her hot streak this episode by delivering a delicious clash of ultra-saturated pastels on the runway.
We’ve seen this violet-and-green combo before, we’ve seen this corset before, and we’ve seen this cape with absurdly poofed sleeves before. None of it is innovative for Drag Race. However, it’s well put-together, it’s styled well, Luxx’s body looks terrific, and the massive hat with a wraparound bonnet elevates things to camp territory.
Not only does Irene’s boot mean Luxx narratively “won” her dispute this episode, but it also opens up the position of narrator of the season – and Luxx is deliciously snarky in her confessionals. I think this is a queen with staying power.
#7 Salina EsTitties (was Pre-Season #12)
Salina EsTitties came in as hot and as loud as she promised she would in Meet The Queens. In a line-up full of 16 queens it never seemed over-the-top. Based on her Talent Show, Salina really might have the chops to fight the top half of this cast for a place in the finale, but she could be held back back her fashion sense.
I love some things about this Salina EsTitties entrance look. I am here for the glittery lined open jacket contrasted with the plain khaki skirt, exposed undies, and high socks. I immediately understood who Salina was supposed to be, and there were enough drag elements (including the massive hair!) to offset the “realness” aspects of the look.
Where I got stuck on this look was the airbrushed chest illusion. I think it was effective for showing off the thematically consistent stomach tattoo. I’m just not sure the airbrushing worked for the breasts. I was confused if they were supposed to be female-presenting breasts or male-presenting pecs!
Was the point of this look to be a gender-f*ck mash-up of masculine and feminine? Or, was it supposed to be a breasts-out look? If so… who is wearing this look with their breasts hanging out! I think if that was the purpose of the look, a flat airbrushed breast was too confusing. A traditional breastplate would’ve been better.
Maybe the confusion was the point, because Salina’s “One Night Only” talent show served up an equally puzzling look! On rewatch I decided that I loved her track and her dancing, but on my first viewing I was transfixed by the vertical stripes of her nude illusion that continued up from her stomach to cover the entirety of her chest padding.
Misplaced nude illusion is one of my major pet peeves on this show! There’s no garment on Earth that would make sense with these nude panels! The patterned non-nude stripes don’t hit in the right places to cover up her nipples, so her entire breasts would be hanging out between the stripes.
Once I got past the outfit (and it took a while), I think Salina’s Talent Show performance worked. it. OUT.
It’s hard to deliver a solid rap song that doesn’t just feel like a drag parody, but Salina toed the line perfectly with a sultry track and choreography to match. Girl can MOVE. The production on the track was dismal (the vocal was too low in the mix and needed more compression), but her performance was delightful.
Salina’s runway look thankfully avoided a third instance of nude illusion confusion, but it still was still on the struggle bus.
I’m always down for an all-jeans ensemble, but this fabric looked more like soft felt than crisp denim. The massive airbrushed paisley pattern was confusing. Salina’s shape was lost between the bell bottoms and the baggy waist. And, the hat was completely wrong for the hair – or, at least, it should have been tipped back further.
I get that Salina was trying to deliver a slightly-cartoonish version of a latina girl from the ‘hood, but even if this look was ripped straight from real life it wasn’t successful on the runway.
I worry for Salina’s longevity in the competition as a loud, funny queen making questionable fashion choices. Sure, she can probably out-perform most of these queens in most Drag Race challenges – but, that’s only half the battle. At worst, it will land her in the bottom as soon as she slips up in a challenge. At best, she’ll have a Alexis Michelle run with plenty of highs but limited wins and get cut right before the finale.
#8 Spice (was Pre-Season #11)
Spice was the more flavorful of the twins in this pair of episodes, delivering a stronger entrance look and a funnier talent show. She also took off her wig in front of RuPaul and replaced it with a shower cap, so it may not exactly be smooth sailing from here to the finale.
I think Spice’s entrance look was successful. It was “scene girl goes to the mall in 2004, but make it drag.” I think the over-exaggerated hair and the massive eye make-up did a lot of heavy lifting for the rest of the look, which was plainer by comparison. That’s not a bad thing. It tells me that Spice understands her brand well enough to know which elements to amp up to full-on drag while leaving other aspects more realistic and doll-like.
Spice’s “One Night Only” Talent Show performance was stupid in exactly the way Ru and Michelle love, which placed it in the top group of performances. From the opening drawl of “I’m bored” as she rose from a coffin with decorations straight out of Hot Topic, Spice made her identity as a plastic doll Drag Princess abundantly clear. Combine that with goofy dance moves and a frankly absurd hook of “where my dingaling go” and you have a young queen who has tapped into exactly the kind of ridiculousness that makes Ru laugh.
Also, she rhymed “ding-a-ling” with “ring-a-ling” and “bling-a-ling.” She’s practically all four members of ABBA rolled up into one.
Spice’s runway look was meant to be a sexy version of The Little Mermaid, but I don’t think red hair plus teal alone sells a little mermaid fantasy. Give me massive anti-gravity underwater hair! Give me a fish tail! This is cute, but we’ve seen queens do a lot more with similar ideas on the runway in the past.
Plus, the look was just too clean for the brand Spice had established with her entrance look and her Talent Show. Where was the edgy element?! This look felt a lot more “sugar” than “spice” to me.
I feel as though Spice might wind up with a similar edit to Daya Betty, in that they both obviously walked in doing “alt scene-girl” drag but it’s hard to express that in performances and across every runway theme. Despite a flop in her Talent Show, Daya eventually found her own bitchy, beautiful niche as she pushed her make-up and her performance farther and farther each week. I think if Spice wants to make it to the finale she will need a similar trajectory. Cute doll drag with a slight edge won’t be enough to be America’s Next Drag Superstar.
Even with all that said, I can’t bring myself to rank Spice any lower because her Talent Show was so stupid. If she can bring that level of intentional comedy to future challenges, I think she’ll beat out the blander elements of this cast to make it to the back half of the season.
#9 Malaysia Babydoll Foxx (was Pre-Season #5)
Malaysia Babydoll Foxx is part of the quarter of Season 15 queens who present old-school drag, and for her that meant some major over-the-top costume moments. Is she the back-to-basics queen Ru will be looking to crown after two seasons of boundary-pushing winners?
I am here for Malaysia Babydoll Foxx’s entrance look. It’s lodged in a perfect spot between furry cosplay and pageant drag. On Season 13 I was incredibly harsh on Simone’s custom furry costume because it was just a custom furry costume. I have no such quibbles with this look. Malaysia amped things all the way up. Every ounce of the look is giving campy high drag. It’s stoned within an inch of its life, the pattern of the fabric is gorgeous, and her massive furry bosom is hilarious.
Malaysia’s look might have been the least-practical of the entire cast when it came to participating in a physical mini-challenge, but for visual impact it may have been the best.
Malaysia had the misfortune of going first in the “One Night Only” Talent Show, and compounded that by presenting a song with no hook. Her track was the same line over and over again, and her choreography combined all of the thrills of walking around with the surprise of pointing at stuff.
It’s not Malaysia’s fault that she’s a beginner songwriter who doesn’t know how to pen a catchy hook, but that combined with the lackluster performance makes me doubt that she has anything revolutionary to show us this season.
I appreciated Malaysia’s runway look, even if I wasn’t in love with it. She effectively served a glammed up “Arctic Fox” version of her entrance look. (“She had been a fox, but she had crystalized…”)
The one thing that bugs me about this look is the straight-across line of stones just below her crotch. It feels too high on the dress to be giving a mini-skirt illusion and it makes her proportions look boxy. I don’t see the argument in favor of putting a straight line across any dress unless it’s doing you a favor in the proportion department. I think the dress would have been lovelier without it.
Despite her lackluster Talent Show song, I think Malaysia made a solid case for being a contender this season based on her style as well as her charm. She has an old-school drag sensibility without making it feel old. My major concern is that both Sasha and Mistress occupy a similar lane, and I’m not sure what Malaysia will do to distinguish herself from them once she runs out of fox cosplay – because there’s no way all three of them are going to the finale together.
#10 Robin Fierce (was Pre-Season #7)
Robin Fierce felt like the median queen this episode. She was gorgeous and poised, free of errors, but also free of breakout moments. That’s a fine place to be in a first episode.
I absolutely loved Robin Fierce’s entrance look. It might have been my favorite of the entire cast! I love the brown pleather pants, I love the strappy top, I love that it’s just a few shades darker than her skin tone. The proportions were terrific, her body looked amazing, her make-up was great, and I adored the massive puff of her wig.
I have to stop short of saying that Robin was flawless from head-to-toe, since other queens clocked that you could see the shine of the tape beneath her wig. Silly me, I thought it was intentional! I was like, “Did you stone that scalp?!”
I’ll say this about Robin’s “One Night Only” Talent Show number to Heavy D’s “Now That We Found Love” – she made it clear to every viewer why we should come to see her at a club. It was a high-energy, dynamic performance and she squeezed choreography into every possible beat of it, including just enough staple drag moves and stunts packed in.
If you’re going to stick with an existing track for your Talent Show without a Marcia-style gimmick, this is what you absolutely must do to succeed.
I was not as obsessed with Robin’s runway as I was with her entrance look. I honestly found this icy-blue, satin, half-caped jumpsuit confusing.
I think this is an example of when an inessential reveal can make your look worse off both before and after the reveal happens. When Robin had the half-cape fully attached as a skirt it looked incomplete – like more of it should be attached or it should have more volume coming off of her waist. Also, since the bodysuit is the same icy color, it was hard to see where the skirt ended and her legs began. Then, when she removed it, the proportions of the suit looked wrong and the front of it looked ill-fitted. Finally, it didn’t feel like she knew what to do with the skirt! The way she left it hanging over one arm at the end of the runway walk was awkward.
I think if Robin had committed to styling the skirt in a way that was meant to be left fully-attached it would’ve had a higher impact. We could all see the bodysuit beneath the skirt whether or not she removed it. If anything, this made me appreciate Anetra’s half-cape even more, since she worked it so expertly.
I think Robin Fierce had a strong showing on this episode. She’s still one of my favorite queens in the cast, but her quiet confidence is getting swallowed up by this massive, loud cast. I worry about if she has something other than dance moves to help her stand out in this crowd.
#11 Princess Poppy (was Pre-Season #15)
Princess Poppy was virtually invisible this episode after presenting the worst entrance look of the season, but her campy Talent Show act shows that she might have a few tricks up her… sleeve(?).
Princess Poppy’s entrance look wasn’t good. We all get that she was trying to serve “painter’s palette” on her skirt, but it didn’t have to look like a basic Twister board! Give us more colors, give us drips of color, give us a ridiculously oversized brush, tear away to reveal a nude bodysuit covered in paint. Anything to make it camp!
Poppy delivered a serviceable “One Night Only” Talent Show vaudeville act between her and a misshapen tumor puppet on her right arm. It was incredibly clever to produce an original track that didn’t rely on her own vocals. However, if you pay attention to it… what is it about, exactly? The puppet is a tumor and also a herpes sore. They’re sisters but they’re best friends and they’re also getting married.
I appreciate it on the level of mocking all of the common vaudeville partnered-song tropes at once, but it’s hard to concentrate on because there’s not really a narrative there. It felt like the same joke rephrased multiple different times and ways. And, if you take your focus off the puppet, you’ll realize Poppy does… hardly anything. She basically hopped back and forth across the stage. We needed some tap dancing or something!
Princess Poppy’s runway had problems similar to her entrance look. What was this, exactly? The skirt has a rainbow ruffle of bisexual colors, but what is going on with the shape of each ruffle? Why do they seem so floppy? Why aren’t they lined?
Also, what the hell is going on with the bodice of the dress? The half-corset looks like it’s made out of ace bandages and the bra cups make no sense at all.
Credit where due: this is delightfully colorful and I love the big hair. But, the execution of the outfit was by far the worst of this entire runway. What does it say about her, other than that it’s almost the same silhouette as her dull entrance look!
Even if Poppy was mildly funny in the Talent Show, seeing a pair of under-thought, under-styled looks from her doesn’t give me much confidence in her staying power on this season. Maybe if she is a killer comedy queen she can climb out of the bottom of the ranks, but I fear for her in a design challenge if this is the best she can do with several weeks to prepare.
#12 Sugar (was Pre-Season #16)
Sugar’s lovely “Disney drag” runway was the only notable point in her appearance this episode after a dull entrance look and talent show. I still think she will be the first twin to sashay away – and it will be pretty soon!
Sugar’s entrance look was pure “hot girl goes to the mall.” Nothing about it screamed “I’m in drag.” Yes, she was padded and the shorts had some sparkle to them, but what did we learn about Sugar? I didn’t even get a specific “sweet” vibe from this look.
Sugar may have wanted to stay away from a “blonde and pink” brand so she wouldn’t come off like too much of a Britney-style pop girl (and, she may have had a premonition that many other girls would go blonde-and-pink). Still, I needed more sugar from Sugar’s look to help me remember who she is – especially since she was walking in side-by-side with someone identical to her!
Try as I might, I can barely remember any of Sugar’s “One Night Only” Talent Show performance without having it playing in front of me. Even then, it’s like cotton candy – it’s sweet and neon-colored but there’s no substance!
Sugar’s performance felt like a knockoff of Spice’s performance. I don’t think it was just because Spice went first. They both woke up from sleep, but a bed isn’t as memorable as a coffin. The tracks had a similar feel, but Spice’s was more intelligible and had more jokes. They both incorporated silly meme dance moves, but Spice’s were more-pronounced and punctuated the song at the right points.
The one place in this episode where Sugar distinguished herself was the runway. This slightly-sultry take on Belle from Beauty and the Beast was instantly recognizable and it was dragged up to the max! A first “Who is She?” runway theme is the perfect opportunity to get away with doing Disney drag without the judges saying it doesn’t fit the category.
Sugar seized the day and ran with it, delivering one of the best looks of the episode. It wasn’t just a good look – it was a good indication that she can be deliberate in her style choices.
Ultimately, Sugar is going to have to work twice as hard to stand out from the pack because she has to distinguish herself from 14 other queens and then also from Spice. Her runway was a step in the right direction, but if she doesn’t keep sticking out I think her more-generic sweet version of drag is going to get swallowed up by this massive cast (and by Spice’s pricklier version of the same vibe).
#13 Aura Mayari (was Pre-Season #9)
Aura Mayari delivered a flat premiere performance. Despite garnering plenty of screen time, she never managed to deliver anything memorable. She wore all black across three outfits, had some make-up problems, and delivered a meandering Talent Show performance. So much for “the walking filter.”
Aura’s entrance look was fine: a pleated pleather jacket full of interesting ruffles and angles.
I think it suffered from a pair of problems, one of which was out of Aura’s control. The element she could control was that this look could’ve used a pop of something to break it up. It’s hard to read the details of a shiny, all-black look like this one on camera without perfect lighting. Even a silver belt or a glittering necklace rather than a choker would’ve increased the visual impact of Aura’s jacket.
The problem that was out of Aura’s control was the expectation game. Drag Race viewers have been trained to expect a reveal when they see a massive belted jacket. It can be the coolest jacket in the world, but if it looks like it could be hiding something we all turn it into “Chekhov’s Reveal Coat” in our minds.
Even if Aura placed a few pops of color or shimmer onto her look, a lot of fans would be left wanting more. Still, I’d say she completed the assignment just fine. And, having a pleather look might’ve made things a little easier on her in the mini-challenge, since it wouldn’t get too weighed-down when it got wet.
Now let’s talk about Aura’s wig line.
If you’re not in the know: A “lace front” wig literally has a translucent lacy trim that runs all along the edges. The idea is that you snip the trim to a small margin, lay it down directly on your skin, and then blend it down with makeup. This helps create the illusion that the wig is growing right out of your head, since there’s no obvious break between the edge of the wig and your scalp.
(Before lace front wigs were as common, queens would paint their foreheads extremely dark to create a similar blending effect up to the edge of their hard-front wig. You can still see this on pageant queens even in a post-lace world. Look back at some Ginger Minj and Kennedy Davenport looks.)
Now, look… I am not going to come for any queen based on one uneven element of their makeup on one day. I’m still on my own journey to attempt rudimentary drag makeup and if you have never done it before it is so much harder than you think. Also, that first day of shooting is a very long, very sweaty journey that begins pre-dawn in non-ideal lighting conditions and involves several walks outside under direct sunlight (as we saw in Untucked).
That all said: Aura’s wig line looked rough. We noticed it. Other contestants noticed it. Ru surely noticed it. No one is going to get kicked off of Drag Race for one badly-blended wig, but for someone who calls herself “the walking filter” and who projects a lot of confidence you just can’t give the show such obvious unforced errors to catch you on.
Unfortunately, this whole episode was unforced errors from Aura. She made a move to distinguish herself by choreographing the Talent Show’s opening number, but she was second-guessed at every move as a choreographer by Marcia Marcia Marcia and – eventually – everyone else. It’s hard to say if any of her moves made the final cut. It feels like the entire gag of having to choreograph the number existed only to create drama and not to be judged in the slightest.
What did exist to be judged was the “One Night Only” Talent Show itself and Aura gave us next to nothing to judge in her hip hop dance act. I understand from online chatter that she might have been performing through a serious pre-season injury. I can’t imagine how frustrating it must be to get cast on Drag Race only to be able to show off the full range of your talents. But… you’ve got to do something.
Even if Aura’s movements were restricted, she could’ve delivered more dramatic poses, more hand choreography, … anything! Instead, we got a second black outfit and what felt like some walking around to an existing club song.
It was another unforced error. And, it was not memorable – not even in a bad way.
Aura had the same problem on the runway as she did with her entrance look. This outfit is gorgeous. The proportions are right, the details are there. But, it’s just hard to make an all-black look pop in non-ideal lighting conditions.
That’s not only true for us watching from home – the judges can lose some of the details in the runway lights as well. That’s why they piled so many compliments on Jaida Essence Hall on All Stars All-Winners when she walked black looks with lots of detailed texture to break up the blacks!
Aura might have delivered the second all-around worst performance across every category of this premiere. Luckily, a few queens bombed even harder in the talent show, keeping her out of the bottom. She won’t be that lucky in a few episodes, when all the obvious fodder is gone. If Aura’s dancing advantage is currently restricted, finding an early win is going to be difficult.
#14 Loosey LaDuca (was Pre-Season #8)
Loosey LaDuca snagged mini-challenge win, but struggled with singing against her own pre-existing vocals in the talent show. It didn’t help that the producers did her dirty by mixing her live vocals in the most vicious possible fashion, making her look like a total loser to most fans without a background in audio production. Between her performance and the production shenanigans, it feels like she could be marked for an early exit.
Loosey LaDuca really seemed to be on the right track with her entrance look and mini-challenge performance. Her entrance was a total Barbie Doll moment. Every element was cartoonishly exaggerated, from the hair to the all-over acid wash print to the massive pink heels. She managed to deliver a take on being an absurd fashion doll come to life without feeling like a retread of Trixie Mattel’s version of Barbie nor a neighbor to Sugar & Spice’s Bratz Doll antics.
Then came the disaster of Loosey’s Talent Show performance. She was a little stiff as she sang, but the singing was what the show made out to be a total disaster. I have some notes… and, they aren’t for Loosey. They’re for production.
Without getting into the weeds of audio production, there were three easily fixable problems with the talent show. First, it didn’t look as though Loosey got in-ear monitors. For a song that loud and that high in her range, not having her track in her ears was a major detriment – especially because she was singing to a (probably auto-tuned) vocal already on the track.
On top of that, the production team didn’t give Loosey the benefit of any compression on her vocal. Basically, when we’re listening to an Ariana Grande record, her voice always seems like it’s about the same volume. Are her wild whistle-tones screechingly loud or whisper-quiet? We’ll never know, because compression flattens the volume dynamics of a performance down to the tiniest range possible so an entire song maintains a similar volume.
As a result, whenever Loosey sang with major power, not only was her volume LOUD, production let it “clip” – which means her volume exceeded the volume limit of the system, so it just created distortion. I doubt it even sounded like that in the room, because it’s not Loosey’s job to moderate her volume as the singer – it’s the job of the audio engineer.
I’m not talking about anything fancy here. This is stuff you have to know to run a garden-variety open-mic night. Sure, Loosey didn’t deliver an amazing performance, but she was also done dirty so she would look especially bad to viewers.
It’s a pity that Loosey crashed and burned in the “One Night Only” Talent Show, because her space-age stewardess look was one of the best runway outfits. I think it continued the narrative that her drag draws from toys and cartoons of the 70s and 80s without feeling like it repeated her entrance look at all. There’s the through-line of the denim blue, but it is executed differently in each look with the same level of exaggerated padding.
I think it’s hard to tell a “Who is She?” story across multiple outfits without them feeling repetitive. Loosey LaDuca nailed it… perhaps the best out of every queen in the cast other than Mistress Isabelle Brooks!
It’s hard to guess whether Loosey’s trajectory on the show will continue the downward slope of this episode. She seems like a capable queen who possesses the aesthetics and smarts to keep Ru and Michelle entertained. Will that be enough to make it to the finals?
For the moment, I am sticking with my pre-season prognostication: Loosey can only go far if she shows the ability to act on feedback from the judges. Sasha, Mistress, and Malaysia are going to own the “old school glamour queen” lane this season. If Loosey wants to stick around, she needs to take hold of the “old dog learns new tricks” storyline and run with it.
#15 Amethyst (was Pre-Season #13)
Amethyst is a charming young queen, but everything about her came off as small this episode. I’m shocked she didn’t use the talent show to present a major pophead moment given her love of adding verses to songs on TikTok. With that chance to impress wasted and a trip to the Bottom 2 already on her track record, Amethyst’s Season 15 journey feels like it’s already coming to a close.
Amethyst hit a barrier that plagues many confident local queens when they arrive in the workroom: her drag just isn’t big enough for TV. The light-sensitive, translucent vinyl of her entrance look is a great outfit for a brightly-lit stage in a darkened bar. On TV, it just looked shiny-but-tiny.
Later in the episode, other queens singled Amethyst out for having the tiniest “pancake” hip pads in the entire cast. Add her subtle shape to this relatively-small hair and you have an entrance look that lacked visual impact. My own curls have more volume than that wig right out of the shower!
Amethyst’s “One Night Only” Talent Show performance was similarly small in a way that probably reads well in a club but not on the main stage of Drag Race. The judges focused on how her performance to Lisa Stansfield’s 1989 hit “All Around The World” featured a baby that was far too easy to find. I was more hung up on Amethyst’s look. I would never say “thou must not wear sneakers on the runway,” because any element can work on the right outfit. But, Amethyst’s 1989 suburban housewife non-glamour wasn’t serving up enough drag for Drag Race.
Again: too small. You can wear sneakers, but stone them up. You can wear mom jeans, but pad the heck out of them. Without those exaggerated elements, Amethyst’s performance came off as an awkward SNL audition rather than a deliriously funny drag performance.
Then, on top of that, add the all-to-obvious baby on her back while she lip synced.
Been around the world and I, I, I
I can’t find my baby
I don’t know when, I don’t know why
Why he’s gone away
And I don’t know where he can be, my baby
But I’m gonna find him
Amethyst’s “too small” theme continued on the runway. This outfit has a lot of positive elements! The asymmetrical criss-crossy straps are cool! As a whole it’s too small and smushed together.
You can do a flat chest, but if you do you should make use of it – not just wear the same high hem you’d pair with larger cleavage. You can do high socks, but think about the shape you create between the top of the socks and the bottom of your body suit. You can wear a bow around your neck, but if it’s going to totally block your neck make sure you’re getting a visual impact that’s with it. You can wear pigtails, but make sure they erupt out of your head and cascade down on each side rather than just trickle down.
If I sound like I’m beating up on Amethyst, I really don’t mean to be. If anything, I’m frustrated on her behalf. She had a lot of good ideas this episode, but none of them felt quite fully-baked. In this cast full of loud queens with equally loud aesthetics, I don’t know if there is any version of the season where Amethyst can manage to last more than another few episodes.
That’s frustrating. As much as we all hate to see worthy queens dismissed too-early, I firmly believe that no one should be cast on Drag Race purely as fodder. Amethyst might have been better served if both she and the show waited another year or two to include her in the cast.
Eliminated: Irene Dubois (was Pre-Season #14)
I was pretty certain that RuPaul would not care about Irene Dubois, but I didn’t realize things would escalate this quickly!
Irene was undeniably the narrator of both of the debut episodes and she won the first mini-challenge. Based on that, I was excited to see how she would shake things up all season long as a “says what she’s thinking” queen with a similar sarcastic edge to her Seattle sister Bosco.
Alas, it wasn’t meant to be. Irene’s talent of “making a glass of ice water” fell completely flat in the room.
We can blame many failed performances on Ru withholding her raucous laughter. That was not the problem tonight. Irene’s act had too much dead air throughout. There was many spots were she took an exaggerated pause that left me waiting for a joke or a gag that never came.
On social media, Irene reports that this is usually a much longer act that kills in clubs. I believe she slays with it in clubs, but if her excuse is that this run time was too short for the act I would have expected it to be over-packed with silly gags – not under-stuffed.
The reality is that it’s really hard to make an “awkward pause” brand of humor work on Drag Race. That involves letting the audience sit with their discomfort, and Drag Race ain’t got time to sit around and wait! You either adapt to become a comedy shark who never stops the constant jokes-jokes-jokes or you drown.
Honestly, I’m shocked to see a queen cut so early who has prepared at least 12 whole runway looks (plus likely a dozen more looks for challenges and other prompts). I know many fans were disappointed with the large swaths of Season 14 that passed without an elimination, I loved them. While part of me wants to hope for some sort of shadowy game-within-a-game that can see these queens continue to compete, I think the sudden and permanent cut in this first pair of episodes won’t be reversed.
Sometimes drag is a cruel mistress. At least Irene scored a brilliant edit before sashaying away.