Welcome to my review, recap, and power rankings of the eighth episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 15 – “LipSync Lalaparuza Smackdown.” This is a new tradition on the show where we get to see all of the mid-season contenders lip sync to keep their place in the competition.
If I can be incredibly vulnerable with you for a moment (in a way that will bite me in the ass if I ever perform in drag later), I have a confession to make: I don’t care about lip syncing.
I’ll pause while some readers close their browser tabs in frustration. Not you. I know you’re a real one.
Sure, I dig lip syncs on Drag Race as the ultimate test of whether a queen sashays or shantés. And, I know that lip syncing is a cherished part of drag culture that partly stems from a history of performing celebrity illusions.
But, out in the wild? You watch someone move their body to another person’s song for four minutes. And I’m supposed to TIP THEM?!
Girl, I wouldn’t pay to go see Janet Jackson lip syncing back in the day, why would I care about a drag queen doing it? Especially when that drag queen might only fit in a few numbers in a night when Ms. Jackson is performing a whole damn show?
I’ve seen a few conceptual lip sync numbers live that have stuck with me, but for me every one of them was beaten beaten hands down by a queen singing live on the mic or performing an unusual talent. (I saw Ivy Winters do a costume quick-change number that was phenomenal!) Granted, queens who make their own custom mixes are giving us more of a perspective than someone who just says, “cue track X from YouTube,” but give me live singing. Give me a comedy act. Give me a circus performance.
Don’t give me a trio of four-minute lip sync spots and pretend that you performed a whole show.
(Keep in mind that I am someone who, when given the chance to take over a bar for a night, would play a FIVE HOUR SET from 9pm to 2am with only two 10 minute breaks. I have a more-is-more approach to entertainment that is reflected in my approach to making blog content.)
I know this opinion puts me at odds with essentially the entirety of the international drag industrial complex. (Except Charlie Hides, she always sings live.) Honestly, between this and not drinking, it’s why I’ve never been too interested in local drag shows. I’ve even considered performing in drag, but the idea of lip syncing just bores me too much.
Does that mean I was bored by this episode? Hell no! I think the Lalaparuza is a welcome addition to the show’s canon. It prevents any queen from sailing through the entire season without a lip sync. Plus, it’s a good way to feature everyone equally at the mid-season point to allow every queen to make a case for why she should be a finalist.
That means the Lalaparuza can really shake up my Power Rankings! There are some extremely unexpected rises and falls in the rankings compared to last week, including a new pair of challengers for what seemed like a completely locked-in Final Five.
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, Episode 8: “LipSync Lalaparuza Smackdown” Power Rankings
Before we get to ranking the queens, let’s take a moment to enjoy that RuPaul pulled out a greatest-of-all-time look just to watch these ladies dance. I love the classy, slightly asymmetrical black dress and the shock of silver/white hair. I also love that Raven toned down the more severe elements of Ru’s make-up to give us a rich, full lip and broad, dark eyes.
However, I’m not in love with how Raven has been painting Ru’s nose contour lately. It’s getting to be so cartoonish that we’re losing the illusion of an actual nose.
#1. Sasha Colby – 1 Win (1.71 avg; was #2, 1, 1, 1, 1, 5, Pre-Season #1)
Sasha Colby is an icon, she’s a legend, she is the moment. I think we all knew we’d get a killer lip sync from her, but her combination of body control, face, hairography, and stage sense on “I’m in Love with a Monster” was truly stunning.
We’ve had several season-dominating queens in the history of the American Drag Race franchise, but some of them sailed through because the show protected their one weak spot. Bianca and Bob are often held up as queens who won as soon as they walked into the Workroom, but Bianca del Rio never had to dance on her own and Bob got several passes for her fashion. Even Aquaria had a few wobbly placements ignored over the course of her season.
Sasha Colby feels more like Raja on Season 3: she’s good at most things, game to try anything else, and she’s going to to slay if she has to lip sync. If she happens to fall into the bottom two again as the cast dwindles there’s no one who can defeat her. She is going to the finale.
I’m not worried about Sasha at all in next week’s ball challenge. Even if her own constructed look is just okay, I’m sure someone else on this cast will do worse.
#2. Anetra – 1 lip sync (3.29 avg; was #3, 5, 6, 3, 3, 1, Pre-Season #2)
Anetra delivered a trio of spectacular, aerobic lip syncs full of dancing, stunts, face, and comedy.
If we’re being honest, we all know that seeing Anetra in three lip syncs in this episode wasn’t a sign of weakness – it was a sign of the show loving her and wanting to make a terrific episode. Much as with Bosco on Season 14, it seems a sure sign to expect her in the finale – and that production might not expect to see her lip sync again before then.
Similar to Bosco, Anetra is a consistent performer who could turn out a winning lip sync performance in any round of the battle. That made her a safe option to send into the final round, whereas Jax would’ve eaten Malaysia up and Luxx might have face-cracked under the pressure. By contrast, Anetra seemed completely unshaken.
That was certainly evidenced by Anetra’s choice to pass on an easy win in a battle against Spice in the final round. A lot of people would read that either as bravado (that she could beat Jax) or pity (on Spice, who isn’t much of a lip sync artist). However, I read it a third way: strategic.
Anetra is an observer. She clearly understood that Jax was out of storyline and that Ru doesn’t feature her at all. The lip sync tournament was a chance to give her a final showcase before sending her on her way. It’s the exact same plot Jasmine Kennedie received last season. Anetra was in zero danger of losing to Jax unless she pulled a Valentina or a Charlie Hides, and she knew it.
On the other hand, as bad as Spice might be, from a plot perspective she is more of an unknown. She had only lip synced against her sister, and there’s an outside chance that Ru has a redemption plot planned for her. Why risk being sacrificed to prop up Spice’s story? It wasn’t worth the seemingly “easy” choice.
I think both production’s choices and Anetra’s choices in this episode mark her as a finalist. Now it’s up to her to craft a winning narrative to match in the back half of the season. If she does, I think we’ll be seeing her going up against Sasha again in the final lip sync of the season.
#3. Luxx Noir London – 1 Win (3.86 avg; was #5, 3, 3, 5, 2, 6, Pre-Season #3)
Luxx Noir London delivered a pair of spectacular lip syncs and still hasn’t shown any weaknesses as we head into the back half of the season.
I firmly believe Luxx could’ve won her first lip sync to Celine Dion against anyone other than Salina. She adapted her dramatic, high-energy style perfectly to the classic ballad. Similarly, she kept up with Anetra and Jax in the second lip sync, and while I feel like they were all neck-and-neck I’d agree with the queens in the Workroom that Luxx simply embodied the period of the song the most.
Luxx Noir London feels like she has an “underdog with delusions of victory” edit. That’s the right place for a talented young queen to be positioned at this point in the season against the drag juggernaut of Sasha Colby. Luxx is the perfect queen to play a foil to Sasha if Anetra falls short. And, honestly, I’m not sure any remaining challenge on the list could get in her way save for comedy.
#4. Mistress Isabelle Brooks – 1 Win (3 avg; was #1, 2, 4, 4, 4, 2, Pre-Season #6)
Mistress Isabelle Brooks has as much steely confidence as Anetra, but doesn’t deliver quite as hard. That’s a risky prospect, because if that slight mismatch becomes a wider gulf she’ll be saddled with a “delusion” plotline that could see her fall short of the finale.
I’ve been a MIB fan all season long, but she didn’t impress me much with her sleepy take on Taylor Dayne’s classic “Tell It To My Heart.” Yeah, she served face. Yes, I believe her when she said she was holding back a few tricks in case she went to Round 2.
However, I think Jax won the lip sync fair and square. I think Mistress Isabelle misjudged the energy of the song and won purely for narrative purposes.
I don’t know how much that changes MIB’s chances to make the finale. She’s clearly an able lip sync artist who could probably survive a scrap with most of the cast members ranked below her. The only real danger for her is if she comes up against Anetra or Luxx on the verge of making it to the finale, who are both strong lip sync artists with equally strong narratives in comparison to Mistress Isabelle Brooks.
#5. Salina EsTitties – 1 lip sync (7.86 avg; was #8, 11, 8, 8, 7, Pre-Season #12)
We already knew that Salina Estitties was a strong lip sync performer, but I still think she got a major boost from her performance to “It’s All Coming Back to Me Now.”
First things first: Salina was the most gorgeous queen in the entire LipSync Lalaparuza Smackdown. Her paint is incredible every single episode.
While no one on the cast knew to expect Marcia to pull out gymnastic tricks in her lip sync, I think it was an even bigger surprise to see Salina straight-up slay a ballad in one of the best individual lip sync performances of the night. Everyone in the cast thought she was a known quantity when it came to delivering sultry dance moves and tricks, but they didn’t anticipate how her acting and comedy could come through in a lip sync.
Salina is a queen who will always go for it as hard as she possibly can. That’s true no matter what the “it” is – a laugh, a part in “Daytona Wind,” a trick in a lip sync. She goes hard every time. That’s what I want to see from every queen on Drag Race!
Ironically, it’s Salina’s comedic chops combined with going hard in every context that seems to be holding her back from the top of this competition. As much as Ru loves to laugh, at some point you’ve got to show her some steely nerve if you want to be crowned America’s Next Drag Superstar.
I still don’t see a path for Salina to the finale, but I think we’re in for several more weeks of fun from her. I think she’s going to get the Katya or Alexis Michelle edit of being a favorite who was never going to go all the way. She feels like a queen who can defeat both Marcia Marcia Marcia and Loosey LaDuca in a lip sync, which makes me think she could go right to the verge of the finale.
#6. Marcia Marcia Marcia (6.71 avg; was #7, 9, 8, 6, 7, 4, Pre-Season #10)
Marcia Marcia Marcia got to gag the entire cast of queens with a sultry and aerobic lip sync performance that none of them were expecting. There’s no question she was the secret weapon of this tournament. That’s both a good thing and a bad thing – good for her, and bad for the rest of the cast.
I’ve known from the jump that Marcia was ready-to-do-so when it came to lip syncing. Even if the other queens haven’t seen all of her YouTube clips like I have, surely her ballet performance in the talent show should’ve tipped them off that she has intense dance training to show off!
You’re really gonna pick the ballerina to dance against in the first round? Really?!
What’s wild to me is that I’m certain Marcia didn’t show all of her stuff in her lip sync! She took a gymnastic approach for a huge visual pop, but didn’t bring most of her dance training out on the song. She was saving something for Round 2, if necessary – while still delivering a high-energy performance.
What I got from tonight is that Marcia isn’t going to be an easy mark for another queen to take out in a bottom two lip sync. While several of them could manage it, it wouldn’t be a sure thing for any of them. That’s scary from Production’s standpoint if it would mean losing a frontrunner earlier than they intend. They will need to be careful about when they send Marcia to the bottom and who accompanies her.
That means Marcia just crafted a brand new narrative for herself!
I think she might’ve transformed from underdog to potential late-season lip sync assassin. The judges can beat up on her for her make-up all they want, but they’ve got a queen on their hands who could very well lip sync her way to the Top Four if she pulls the right sequence of opponents.
That might give Production a welcome redux of the “Wake up Pearl” storyline where they demand more from a pretty young queen all season and then she actually delivers and comes back to the finale to stun everyone.
The narrative is right there for Marcia to grab, and it might be enough for her to unseat anyone by Sasha from a confirmed trip to the finals. I’m incredibly interested to see how this turns out. Will she be rolled out for a revenge lip sync against Malaysia? Will be the one to dispatch Salina or Loosey? Suddenly, the possibilities for Marcia Marcia Marcia are looking very very very interesting.
#7. Loosey LaDuca – 1 Win (5.43 avg; was #4, 4, 2, 2, 5, 14, Pre-Season #8)
Loosey LaDuca might have won Round 1 of the Lalaparuza, but there’s no question to me that she was the biggest loser out of everyone who survived this LipSync Lalaparuza Smackdown.
Spice gave Loosey a gift-wrapped present by choosing “Do You Want To Touch Me There.” It’s rock, it’s raunchy, and it’s retro. Loosey should’ve delivered it with the force of an atomic sex bomb to put the other girls on notice that she has her own style of lip sync tricks up her sleeve.
Instead, she delivered some awkward walking around and off-beat humping of a sweater. It was pure cringe. A Cringeapalooza at the Lalaparuza.
Loosey just broadcast loud and clear to the other queens that she can’t top her stiff dancing from her weak week one talent show. That was the albatross around her neck heading into this week. She has opened the door wide open for Anetra, Luxx, Mistress, or even Marcia to snag her spot in the final four – especially if she faces any of them in a lip sync.
Loosey LaDuca is a queen of many talents who I genuinely enjoy, but this lack of lip sync energy and the inability to hold the stage on her own is going to be her undoing. Her only hope to make it to the finals might now be to play a perfect game without a single lip sync, and there’s already one queen destined for that track record in Sasha Colby. Can Loosey play an error-free game from here to the finish line… especially with what’s feeling like a Rusical coming up at Top 8?
#8. Malaysia Babydoll Foxx (8.43 avg; was #6, 10, 5, 9, 12, 9, Pre-Season #5)
Malaysia narrowly escaped the final round of Lalaparuza. Worse, it feels like she is completely out of narrative momentum other than playing off of Mistress Isabelle Brooks.
MIB clearly understands that dynamic and wants to use it to self-produce a story. Meanwhile, it feels like Malaysia is leaning away from it. Maybe that’s wise, since Mistress Isabelle is doing much better in the competition than Malaysia. Bolting their stories together might simply guarantee Mistress would be discarded to give MIB a boost late in the season. Malaysia might simply prefer taking her chances on her own.
I fear those chances are growing quite scarce. While the Lalaparuza doesn’t have any real bearing on placements, Malaysia getting blown away by Marcia and then narrowly defeating Spice by knowing one more word than she did doesn’t exactly scream “finalist” to me.
Next week is a design challenge, and Malaysia nearly scooped up a win in the first one. If she wants to remain in this competition, she needs a win there or in the Rusical that I’m certain will follow it. If she doesn’t manage a win in the next two weeks, we’ll be at the point where production is starting to narrow the field down to finalists. Malaysia will simply become fodder for Mistress Isabelle Brooks, whether she wants that narrative or not.
#9. Spice – 1 lip sync (9.0 avg; was #9, 12, 12, 6, 8, Pre-Season #11)
Once again, we saw that Spice would have the power to conquer these other queens if she had the nerve to fully commit.
Spice almost rocked hard enough to defeat Loosey in the first round, but she wouldn’t push it far enough. A queen with more experience under her belt would’ve smelled blood in the water and pushed harder through the end of the song.
Then, Spice almost rocked Malaysia right out of the second round, but she didn’t know the words well enough. Once the nerves took her, she receded in the lip sync. Meanwhile, Malaysia is enough of a veteran not to be as shook by not knowing the words.
Finally, Spice was saved from certain doom by Anetra giving her a pass from a lip sync blow-out in the final round.
What we learned tonight is there is no way for Spice to survive a lip sync against any of the remaining queens in this cast. Even if she doesn’t sashay next week, she will be dispatched as canon fodder as soon as a queen Ru wants to keep hits the bottom two.
If there’s a fascinating twist to Spice’s failure to connect it’s that she is a young, fit twink who gives the illusion of being a skinny young bombshell in drag. That’s the sort of queen this show usually loves. The kind of queen who Ru is happy to tell that they were born to do drag.
All Spice needs to do is own her own power just a little bit rather than playing it off all the time. Honestly, I’m very interested to see that version of Spice. Spice already has the charisma, and I enjoy her brand of goofy humor. But, I think beneath the silliness there’s a steelier queen who would rise to the occasion in moments if she only had the nerve.
Eliminated in 10th place: Jax – 3 lip syncs (8.67 avg; was #11, 10, 7, 11, 3, Pre-Season #4)
Jax won at least one of her lip syncs fair and square, if not all three. Unfortunately, she never found a distinct narrative lane for herself other than as a lip sync assassin, and RuPaul seemed to be openly hostile to her drag.
We’re at the point in the season where all of the remaining queens feel as though they have a distinct storyline, and Jax was the odd one out whose only real story beat was “lip syncer.”
With a design challenge on the horizon it was likely Jax would lip sync again next week, so it made sense to put her through her paces in the Lalaparuza tournament. That way, she’d have a “we’ve already seen all your tricks” edit heading into next week, even if she was offered a surprise escape hatch in the final round.
It seems as though every season there’s one queen who I read as being mega-confident in her “Meet The Queens” and rank in the Top 4 only to have her be an early- or mid-out. It shows that my ranking methodology isn’t foolproof, because it fails to account for one major unknown: The Ru-Factor. It’s impossible to know how much RuPaul will enjoy a queen until we see their first contact. I believed Ru would dig Jax’s laid back confidence, but that never came to pass on the show.
In tonight’s live-watch party at Roscoe’s, Jax said she got home from Drag Race, threw out all of her old drag, and re-started from scratch. I don’t think her run on the show necessitated such drastic measures. But, I find it refreshing to hear that Jax got a completely new perspective on drag performance and came back energized rather than defeated.
Maybe that’s the energy I was picking up on in her Meet The Queens, since those intereviews are now shot after the season rather than in the early weeks. If that’s the case, I think Jax has a terrific drag career ahead of her – although, I’m not sure she would benefit from a return on All Stars anytime soon.