Welcome to my review, recap, and power rankings of the fifth episode of Drag Race Belgique Season 1 – the first Snatch Game in Belgium, plus a Night of 1001 Audrey Hepburns runway!
I felt that this Snatch Game and accompanying iconic runway said a lot about the drag culture of Belgium.
Snatch Game was low on rude and uproarious jokes and heavy on studied character work. Even the worst queens of this panel presented better character illusions than the best queens of a typical Snatch Game in the United States!
Similarly, while queens on other franchises might take this runway theme as an opportunity to show off a “high glam” version of Audrey Hepburn, here five out of six queens presented near-exact replicas of some of her iconic looks. None of them were draggy for drag’s sake, and none amplified Hepburn’s petite frame with drag staples like exaggerated shoulder pads or giant hair.
As we have the chance to see Drag Race adapted to countries all around the globe, we must remember that the aesthetics of US Drag Race is heavily influenced by the pageant system. Critiques about proportions and “dragging things up” do not always apply equally in other drag subcultures.
From this season thus far I get the sense that Belgian drag values a much less exaggerated sense of femininity from its drag artists, which has been reflected both in the runways and the judging. It seems to be a season where smaller, more-thoughtful performances can thrive.
Snatch Game shook up my power rankings compared to last week’s acting challenge everywhere but the very top. While we maintained the same front-runner, spreading the wins around and putting a new queen in the bottom definitely shuffled the odds of who might wind up in the finale.
(Want to watch Drag Race Belgique outside of Belgium? For most of the world, it’s available as part with a Wow Presents Plus subscription as soon as the episode is done airing.)
Lecteurs, start your engines. Et, que la meilleure Drag Queen gagne!
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. Every drag artist in the world deserves endless essays dedicated to their talents and life stories. I’m commenting on drag artistry in how it fits the established expectations of this specific television program, but the reason I’m commenting at all is because I celebrate all drag and the people who create it.
Drag Race Belgique Season 1, Episode 5 – Snatch Game & “Night of 1001 Audrey Hepburns” runway Review & Power Ranking
Before we closely examine this week’s Snatch Game performances and Audrey Hepburn impersonations, let’s look… perhaps slightly less closely… as Rita Baga’s runway.
#1. Drag Couenne – 2 Wins (avg. 1.60, was #1, 1, 1, 4, Pre-Season #7)
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Drag Couenne played her Snatch Game as politician Michel Daerden a little too drunk, even she did manage to portray him as palpably sleazy. Combined with a runway that went conceptual when the judges wanted pure glam, it was a rare chance to put this frontrunner at risk.
I don’t think either choice from Couenne was a wrong one. Attempting her second choice, a farcical TV character who spoke only in rhyme, would’ve been dangerous. And, delivering a literal Audrey Hepburn look on the runway would not have felt authentic to her punk rock approach to drag.
I think Couenne was still giving enough of a suggestion of Hepburn while also giving the illusion of a cigarette that her runway worked for me. However, the judges were split on the idea of “reducing Audrey to an object.”
Personally, I don’t think it was that strong of a concept to begin with.
This brief misstep (I don’t think we can even call it a stumble) does nothing to lessen Drag Couenne’s status as the queen to beat this season. All three of the queens closely nipping at her heels have shown small weaknesses in a way she hasn’t. Even if another queen wins next week, I feel as though Couenne will remain the front-runner unless she has a true stumble out of overconfidence or sloppiness.
#2. Mademoiselle Boop – 1 Win (avg 5.0, was #3, 5, 8, 7, Pre-Season #1)
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Last week I said Mademoiselle Boop’s narrative arc was primed for her to win Snatch Game, and here we are! Beyond the show’s telegraphed-in-advance narrative. she displayed a sense of confidence in her Audrey Hepburn runway that we’ve never seen from her before.
I think Mademoiselle Boop’s all-new confidence on the Night of 1001 Audrey Hepburns runway won the night for her. It certainly was not the doing of her outfit, in my eyes. This was yet another plain, low drag, femme realness look from Boop. It was incredibly stylish, but nothing about it said “drag queen” except for her eyebrows and her hips!
I think this look would have been read for filth on US Drag Race, starting with the flat hair! However, it is clear that the big hair and pageant shininess of American drag isn’t the emphasis for Belgium’s queens. Think about Couenne’s winning look from Episode 2 – I was sure it would be a bottom look, because it didn’t conform to the judging standards I’ve learned from US Drag Race. Yet, for these judges, it was a clear winner.
I think that Belgique’s appreciation for “low key realness” was reflected in the expectations for Snatch Game. I found Boop’s earnest take on Amélie Nothomb to be painfully unfunny, but it also may have been the best and most-consistent characterization with the most real life reference. Yet, it seems that the judges really valued that approach. They wanted a fully formed character who would behave as themselves, not “a gimmick,” as they accused Couenne of relying upon too heavily.
Combined with a clean runway look, Boop’s Snatch Game tactics made her a winner.
Also, it certainly didn’t hurt that giving Boop a win means everyone feels like they are in equal contention with Couenne right now (even winless Peach, with her two runner-up placements). That gives the show maximum flexibility to produce the exact finale they want to see based on the placements in the next two weeks.
I think it’s anyone’s game at this point, but Boop has narrative momentum, surging confidence, and a sense that the judges are really on her side. She might even turn out to be the pre-ordained winner I saw her as in the pre-season! All she needs to do is stay steady while Susan, Athena, and Peach self-sabotage so she can go head-to-head with Couenne in the finale.
#3. Susan [from Grindr] – 1 Win, 1 Lip Sync (avg. 4.40, was #5, 2, 7, 5, Pre-Season #2)
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Susan played this week perfectly, with the best Snatch Game character and a strong runway. While it didn’t make sense to hand her a second win, it feels like she remains a hair ahead of Athena – who played Snatch Game much safer.
I got the sense that this My Fair Lady look for the Night of 1001 Audrey Hepburns runway might be as conventionally glamorous as we’ll see Susan all season. She’s a queen who loves to put a humorous edge on things, but this take on Audrey Hepburn was straight-forward beauty.
It suited Susan well. Susan’s boy face is a perfect canvas for drag, which is what lets her get away with so many no-hair looks while still looking pretty – as she did twice this episode! Combined with her Snatch Game, I think this would have been enough to lift her to a second win if it was not convenient to have Boop earn a win this episode.
Susan’s Soeur Sourire was the only truly hilarious Snatch Game for me. She managed to sneak in jokes that were both clueless and bawdy, she referenced an iconic song, and she even played a bit with Rita Baga. Those are all of the hallmarks of Snatch Game success, and Susan checked each box with ease.
It feels as though there is a firm narrative in place with Susan that she gets in her own way as much as she succeeds. The judges seem to want some sort of breakthrough from Susan, but it’s not clear to me what exactly that look like on her. Is it minding more of the details of her styling? Is it always having confidence consistent to what she showed in Snatch Game?
Right now I get the sense the show would be perfectly happy dismissing Susan or having her be a lovely second runner up. She’d have to light a super-hot fire of competitiveness for the next two weeks for her to feel like she poses the sort of credible risk to Couenne’s imminent crowning that Boop does purely by her standing in the drag scene.
#4. Athena Sorgelikis – 1 Win (avg. 3.0, was #4, 4, 2, 1, Pre-Season #3)
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Athena Sorgelikis had a win easily within her grasp with the best Snatch Game likeness and a fashionable reveal runway that didn’t feel belaboured. Still, even if she had shown nerves of steel, the win may have still gone to Boop.
Athena Sorgelikis crushed the rest of the cast under her heel on this Night of 1001 Audrey Hepburns runway. This was a reveal done right – even if the look was obviously layered, it wasn’t obviously a reveal. And, every single step along the way was fashionable on its own. None of them were giving “butterfly cocoon realness.”
I absolutely loved Athena’s Serge Gainsbourg as a character study. The makeup, the posture, the gesturing with cigarettes – it was all totally right. However, to me it felt as though Athena was trapped behind a pane of glass the entire time which she was unwilling to break. She could’ve played things so much more curmudgeonly. Her fear of taking it farther was palpable.
Last week I said that Athena needed to break out of her safe streak in Snatch Game or be sent to lip sync as a wake-up call. Weirdly, I think her special note of high praise from the judges on the runway was the same wake-up call I expected from a lip sync – it’s just positive reinforcement rather than negative reinforcement.
Unlike Susan, who just might not be the person the judges want her to be, Athena has all of the goods to impress the judges and win this season. This is truly a queen who is struggling against her inner saboteur. If she could just shake herself to fully commit to her performance without any signs of hesitance she would have the power to rise above the rest of this cast. Next week might be her one last chance to do that.
#5. Peach (avg. 4.20, was #2, 3, 3, 8, Pre-Season #8)
After turning a pair of surprising acting performances in on-camera challenges, the “live and on your own” nature of Snatch Game finally defeated this young queen’s nerve. Unfortunately, that came along with one of the weakest Drag Race runways of all time – weak enough to give the typically-kind Rita Baga her own “H&M” moment on the judging panel.
Peach backslide this week on the runway. After amping up the drama of her presentation for the past two episodes, we were back to “pretty girl realness” here to an extreme degree – she was just a girl in an oversized men’s shirt for this Night of 1001 Audrey Hepburns
Was it a perfect imitation of Audrey Hepburn? Actually… it kinda was! And, given the unpredictable nature of this judging panel, there was a possibility they might’ve eaten it up! However, it seemed as though the judges wanted to see a certain amount of reverence and glamour from this runway, and Peach’s plain look didn’t fit the brief.
Peach could’ve easily been a Snatch Game winner if she brought a little bit more nerve to her performance as Dominique Lehmann. After two comedy performances of going massively over the top, it felt like she simply lacked the willpower to push the boulder up the hill for a third time – especially with no teammates relying on her.
Peach has proved to be a terrific team player, but she needs to own her own killer queen instincts if she wants to survive two more weeks to reach the finale. As skeptical as I was of her before the season started, I am now fully in her corner. I love a queen who can surprise the judges and herself! However, I don’t think she can simply wait for Susan and Athena to self-destruct themselves out of finale contention these next two weeks. Peach can make it to the final three without a win, but I am certain she cannot do it with another lip sync.
Eliminated in 6th Place: Valenciaga – 3 Lip Syncs (was #6, 7, 6, 3, Pre-Season #5)
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Valenciaga found herself in a similar situation to Peach this episode. She is primarily a high fashion queen tasked with a third comedy challenge in five episodes. She barely survived the first and thrived in the second, but conquering a third was too big a challenge for her.
It’s a shame that Valenciaga did not get the chance to participate in some Drag Race staple challenges like a makeover or a proper branding challenge. It felt as though she had a true sense of self throughout the competition that was never shaken by the judge’s comments or the runway themes. Challenges that relied more on that quality and less on humor may have seen her surging at this point in the competition.
Alas, queens can only run the Drag Race they are given. I think Valenciaga should be proud of what she showed on Drag Race Belgique. I expected a severe fashion queen, but what we got was a sensitive soul who sees fashion as a form of expression that can speak just as loudly as her words. I hope Valenciaga’s online following swells after her run on the show, and that she gets some of the fashion industry opportunities she richly deserves.
7th Place: Mocca Bonè – 2 Lip Syncs (was #6, 5, 6, Pre-Season #6)
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8th Place: Edna Sorgelsen – 1 Lip Sync (was #4, 2, Pre-Season #4)
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Daphne Dane says
I laughed at the subtle read of Rita’s look for this episode and the appropriate comparison to “an H&M moment”.
I always looked forward to your reviews because you understand why certain judging decisions are made for every franchise, unlike some audiences who would simply complain and compare it to the US franchise that has a totally different drag culture. I’m tired of seeing comments like, “Imagine what Michelle would say!”. But Michelle isn’t in the show, is she?
What a delightful comment to wake up to today, Daphne! I’m glad you’re enjoying my perspective on the international seasons. I know I can’t get to the depth of someone watching who lives in each country, but I think it’s a lot of fun to view them from an outsider’s perspective while NOT trying to apply a purely US Drag Race filter to them.
James D. says
So excited to have learned that you’re into watching the international Drag Race seasons! Between this, Marvel United (where I bumped into you in the KS comment section), and our judicious comic book cataloging habits, it’s so lovely to encounter a kindred spirit!
WOW, James, we truly are cut from the same cloth. I have a strong suspicion that there’s no one else on the internet diving quite so deeply into both drag and comic books as I am (and, if there is, I want to meet them too!)
What has been your favorite international season so far?