Welcome to my review, recap, and power rankings of the second episode of Drag Race Sverige (AKA Drag Race Sweden) Season 1 – “MARATHON Talent Hunt.” It’s a standard Drag Race talent show paired with an in-the-dark quick drag mini-challenge and a Longstocking Extravaganza runway.
The Drag Race talent show challenge has transformed from a novelty when it debuted in All Stars 2 back in 2016 to a staple regular seasons around the globe. It usually comes early enough in the season that it isn’t a a must-win challenge, it has definitely proved to be a “must not flop” challenge every time it has appeared on the show.
The flopping comes not in singing a little out of tune (a-hem, Monét), but in approaching it with a lack of imagination. As with many challenges on Drag Race, the talent show isn’t really a challenge about talent but a challenge about branding. You can sing an original song, but what does it communicate about you and how you do drag? You can dance to a royalty-free track rather than penning your own song, but what are you saying about yourself with the dancing?
MARATHON Talent Hunt saw a particular pair of queens understand the idea of “talent” in vastly different ways. Both of them are primarily talented at drag itself. One of them turned that into a hilarious song and dance act about being an untalented hack. The other used their act to protest the idea that Drag Race asks queens to have a talent.
One act was a terrific branding win about having a sense of self-deprecating humor. The other was a complete branding fail that made its performer out to be a bland, petulant prima donna. Unsurprisingly, the former was in the top and the latter only narrowly won a lip sync for her life.
What do those performances and the other talent show acts mean for my power ranking compared to last week’s debut episode? One queen from the middle of the pack has made her move to be a front-runner while another plummeted to the bottom of the rank. Meanwhile, a talented queen missed an opportunity to gain momentum with some questionable choices.
(Want to watch Drag Race Sverige outside of Sweden? For most of the world, it’s available as part with a Wow Presents Plus subscription as soon as the episode is done airing.)
Läsare, start your engines. Och må den bästa Drag Queen vinna!
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.
Drag Race Sverige Season 1, Episode 2 – “MARATHON Talent Hunt” & Longstocking Extravaganza runway Power Ranking
Before we get to the Långstrump Extravaganza runway (“Longstocking Extravaganza,” in celebration of national character Pipi Longstocking), let’s appreciate this truly odd look from host Robert Fux made up entirely of massive metallic daisies from head to thigh. I was impressed that she kept this on throughout the entirety of judging – it didn’t strike me as the most comfortable look to sit in for an extended period of time!
#1. Elecktra – 1 win (was #4, Pre-Season #6)
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I think we all need to expect the unexpected from Elecktra. I would not have picked this seasoned queen as the one to bring a highly-absurd, fully-camp act about indulging yourself to the Marathon Talent Hunt. Perhaps it’s not such a bad thing that her social media isn’t about being a queen 100% of the time – it means she has many surprises in store!
Elecktra’s campy “Pamper Yourself” talent show song exists on the same portion of the “high camp” spectrum as Willow Pill’s Season 15 bathtub routine.
Elecktra’s song was more overtly silly, but both acts celebrate and mock the idea of “self-care” from the exaggerated perspective of a drag queen. Is self care devouring spaghetti and meatballs and then electrocuting yourself in the bathtub? Is it watching a drag queen treat herself to candies and a comfortable chaise lounge while hurling insults at you?
The reason both acts work so well as that they take small, familiar elements of comfort and then repurpose them in a monstrous, over-the-top way. They hold up a mirror to us to force us to ask if we’re really caring for ourselves or just adding absurd routines to our lives. They also amplify the absurdity their drag characters, imagining them as full-time personas who bathe, eat, and sleep rather than personalities put on for show and then wiped off at the end of the night.
Also, Elecktra bellowed her song in a booming, scratchy baritone, which added to the camp factor.
I questioned if Elecktra’s “Longstocking Candy Dealer” outfit was extravaganza enough for the Drag Race runway, but it obeyed the primary rule of Drag Race: make the judges laugh. Between an unexpectedly inane talent show number and a hilarious runway that packed plenty of longstockings, Elecktra snatched a win from Santana Sexmachine’s eager grasp.
Robert Fux and the other judges seem to be particularly sweet on Elecktra, between her positive reception in the photo shoot last episode and this talent show win. As an old-school queen who isn’t all about chasing social media clout, Elecktra comes equipped with a perspective that has evolved separate from the global Drag Race machine. I was worried that might make her drag seem outdated, but it’s doing the opposite: she feels downright refreshing.
If Elecktra can keep up this ease and unpredictability for just four more episodes, she might be handsomely rewarded for her habit of pampering herself with a healthy drag/life balance.
#2. Imaa Queen – 1 win (was #1, Pre-Season #5)
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The judges are still in love with Imaa Queen after a talent show number that (successfully) mocked the idea of talent (as opposed to one of her cast mates).
As a fashion-focused queen without a true talent for singing, I think it was genius for Imaa Queen to deliver a “Marathon Talent Hunt” song that was about not having talent.
That’s really the sort of thing these Drag Race talent shows are testing for. This isn’t Drag Idol or Drag’s Got Talent. They are looking at how these artists choose to deliver their drag personas when they have an international spotlight shone directly on them.
That’s why Imaa Queen and her act was more notable than Admira Thunderpussy, even though they both sang cabaret-style songs (and Admira sang hers a bit better). Imaa brought more than a song to the talent show – she brought a story about her life, and a smirking joke about being talentless while delivering the highest-possible level of drag. If you slag her for singing badly, you miss that the talent was in developing the joke, writing the song, staging the act confidently, and being a drag queen.
(We’ll compare that to what Vanity Vain delivered a bit later in the ranking.)
I think Imaa Queen’s “Longstocking Extravaganza” look was the best of the three stuff-on-stuff-on-stuff looks she has presented in two episodes. There’s something incredibly chic about her patchwork of pantyhose, and especially the literal stocking cap emulating a fingerwave hairdo.
However, I think it was interesting that the judges issued her an early warning about presenting looks with similar silhouettes. If Imaa has several more of these looks in her suitcase, she will need to style each one carefully to accentuate its unique, glamorous story. That’s what won the day last episode – not the layers-on-layers of her looks, but the uniquely personal story of her ceramic stove.
Now we know Imaa Queen is a willing and able performer who will not shy away from her chance at the spotlight. She needs to maintain this early momentum while showing diversity in her looks. With a small cast and a brief season, she doesn’t have to hold off the other queens for very long to make it to the finale.
#3. Santana Sexmachine (was #2, Pre-Season #3)
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Santana Sexmachine delivered an incredibly confident pole dance and a slinky, high-fashion Longstocking Extravaganza runway. She barely missed winning due to the unexpected level of camp from Elecktra.
Santana Sexmachine’s pole dance routine for “Marathon Talent Hunt” may have had the most visual impact and the highest drama of all of the talent shows.
What it was missing was levels.
Of course, I’m not talking about literal vertical levels, because Santana had plenty of those! Instead, I’m talking about the cadence of the routine. It had a few big tricks and memorable visual moments. What it did not have was a discernible rising action that worked up to a climax. She was pole dancing right up until she wasn’t.
I think that’s an inherent problem with bringing any choreographed dance to the Drag Race talent show – and, make no mistake, a pole act is a dance routine. You need to make the routine engaging from start to finish, but it needs to build up to something. There must be rising tension with a tangible, visible reward. Think of All Stars Season 3 with Aja jumping from atop her box and Ben de la Creme’s escalating tassel dance. They were acts with an early surprise, ongoing visual panache, and an identifiable big finish – not unlike a one minute cut of a pop song that goes verse, chorus, CHORUS!
Santana’s act didn’t have that rhythm. Even with the pace of her act working against her, Santana very nearly snatched this win from Imaa Queen’s grasp. Her beige-on-beige runway was just as slick and fashionable as Imaa’s version of the prompt.
This is a thing Drag Race often does: they pick an obviously powerful contender and hand them a few almost-wins in the early episodes. It can sometimes feel cruel, but it’s good storytelling. It’s not satisfying for us as viewers to see a queen crush her competition right out of the gate and then keep crushing all season long. Then we start complaining about things being “too predictable.” If a queen can easily deliver in the first one or two challenges, it stands to reason that she’ll still be delivering by the third – plus, if she doesn’t, it leads to juicy reality television drama.
(This is why we sometimes see a questionable win for a strong queen in episode 3 or later – the show is paying off this narrative by shoehorning in a win that isn’t entirely deserved but which fits the narrative of the season. If a queen shows signs of cracking under pressure too early in this story, the “early runner-up becomes a long-term winner” narrative can be easily converted to the “Jan” plot of an eternal bridesmaid who is never the bride.)
I’m still seeing a potential winner narrative for Santana Sexmachine despite the early strength from Elecktra and Imaa. As long as Santana doesn’t get stuck in her head after these two brushes with victory, her time will come soon. I doubt next week’s design challenge will fell such a crafty queen, nor would she lose her first lip sync if it did.
#4. Admira Thunderpussy (was #3, Pre-Season #1)
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Amira Thunderpussy’s confidence remains unflappable while she maintains a mix of haughtiness and good humor, but her talent show was an unusually plain cabaret performance.
I am absolutely obsessed with Admira Thunderpussy as a reality TV character. She is a total human cartoon, both in an out of drag – both for her exaggerated features and for her constant stream of memorable lines. Just when she’s in the middle of taking herself seriously she pivots back to being a lovable goof. She reminds me a bit of Trinity The Tuck in her original Season 9 run, who realized she had just as much power in her silliness as in her stillness.
The problem for Admira Thunderpussy is that it doesn’t feel like she is adapting her polished take on drag to the demands of the show. For the second runway in a row, it felt as though she brought a gorgeous, already-existing look that just barely fit the theme. She had decent explanations for last week’s flower gown and martial look, but unless I’m missing something cultural it felt like this taffy jumpsuit didn’t have a thing to do with “longstockings.”
I had a similar reaction to Admira’s talent show. She very competently sang a very fine cabaret tune. It was perfectly safe. But, what did it say about her? Did she think at all about how to alter her existing stage act for the Drag Race runway or cameras? Or, did she simply bring something from home, even if it didn’t quite fit?
I am rabidly curious to see how Admira handles a design challenge next week, since it is not something she can bring from home. There’s no question about her eye for style and polish, and she strikes me as a queen who knows her way around a sewing machine. Snatch Game is sure to follow, and I’m sure Admira can do a hilarious impersonation. That means she will reach Top 5 at minimum – very likely with a win under her belt.
It’s there that things will get interesting. There is no way to win this season without eliminating of the first three queens on this list and proving herself the better of the other two. Admira doesn’t have the flash or edginess of Imaa or Santana, and she feels stuck in her “old school drag” ways compared to Elecktra. At some point, Admira will need to show how she represents the future of drag and not just the glamorous past if she wants to be Sweden’s next drag superstar.
#5. Fontana (was #5, Pre-Season #4)
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Fontana is an adorable, lovable queen who created an emotional moment for herself by bringing Samba to the international Drag Race stage. However, she showed a certain lack of killer instinct in choosing both her talent and the talent show lineup.
I think Fontana squandered a key opportunity in the “Marathon Talent Hunt” show and with a season this short she may not have time to recover.
Actually, we just saw this same mistake made by Amethyst on Drag Race Season 15! Both Fontana and Amethyst are real life pop girls. They can sing and write and make catchy music. Why in the world would you not bring that to the Talent Show, when you know so many queens who can’t sing or write are going to bring flaccid tracks of their own?
Fontana’s reasoning makes more sense than Amethyst’s did. Fontana tells the story of the prevalence of violence against LGBTQA+ people in Brazil. Performing the samba while queer, out, and proud means making a target out of yourself. She left a country she loves for a safer life in a strange place, which is something I can fully appreciate as an immigrant. Of course she would choose to perform an act that is so close to the heart of her immigration story – both for personal reasons and in the hope it would make for good TV!
I think it did make for good TV, but Fontana should’ve shown more confidence in herself and placed herself later in the running order – possibly last. She talked a big talk about the honor of going first, but I think it was also a sign of wanting to “get it over with” early so she wouldn’t have to maintain her energy through watching the other talent numbers.
(Also, there’s no guarantee of a proper singing challenge! Why squander the chance to show off what makes you unique in the controlled environment of a talent show rather than later find out you have to sing heavy metal dressed up as an octogenarian?)
If Fontana had been more cutthroat in her lineup, or if she had incorporated some vocals into her act, I think she was set up for an easy win here. Her slightly gothy take on “Longstocking Extravaganza” could’ve easily been in the top. Instead, she earned a second safe placement without critiques.
I think that means Fontana is sure to get a critique next week, and I worry for her construction and styling abilities after zooming in on her promo look. She feels like a very likely lip syncer – whether that’s to dispatch Endigo or to be sacrificed to a top queen who makes a misstep.
#6. Endigo – 1 lip sync (was #7, Pre-Season #8)
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Endigo represents unique archetype for Drag Race. She is primarily a “bedroom queen” and she has a major social media following and she has a well-developed style and she is a performer with an outrageous talent. We often see queens with two, or even three of those qualities – but very rarely all four of them.
The judges felt that Endigo’s nerves got the better of her in the talent show.
The thing is, I don’t think she was all that nervous. You can’t be shaking in fear while you deliver a tapping solo like that on electric guitar. There’s no safety net of double-tracked vocals and reverb to save you from even a minor fault.
You could make the argument that she managed to center herself when it came time time to perform her solo, a rote skill she has drilled for hundreds if not thousands of hours. However, as a singer/songwriter who has watched a lot of myself on video over the past 20 years, I was seeing something very different in this performance: a translation problem.
I felt as though Endigo’s experience as a guitar-rocking frontperson were at odds with how she wanted to portray her drag character. I’ve had this same problem in translating myself from solo performance to different band setups and back again. I have it whenever I cut my hair short, because tossing my hair out of my face is part of how I perform. Without my long hair, I just look like I’m having a convulsion with all the whipping back and forth of my neck!
That’s what I saw in Endigo’s performance. It wasn’t nerves about performing. It was uncertainty of how to merge her experienced rocker persona with her drag persona while standing alone at a microphone.
Or, maybe I’m totally wrong? Maybe I see this cool, pink-haired, non-binary guitar player on my favorite TV show and I’m just projecting! And, I suppose uncertainty isn’t so different than nerves in the final accounting of Endigo’s performance.
If Endigo is uncertain of how to be a drag rocker, she has no ideas at all about how to translate herself onto the runway. Her look was stockings-to-the-max, but she walked it in an awkward way – just as she would walk casually down the street, rather than modeling her garment. (Also, I hated those chunky boots – the look would’ve read much better in a boot with a proper heel!)
I doubt that Endigo can survive a design challenge next week. Her fashion seems to be less about construction and more about layering multiple existing garments to craft a new look. However, purely on the power of this episode, there is one queen who I feel compelled to rank even lower…
#7 . Vanity Vain – 1 lip sync (was #6 Pre-Season #2)
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I don’t know if we have ever seen a queen show as much open contempt for Drag Race as we saw from Vanity Vain in the first two episodes of this season. For a queen who insists that her talent in drag should be enough, you might expect her to present the best and most-polished drag on the show.
On one level, I understand Vanity Vain’s objection to the “Marathon Talent Hunt” show. She doesn’t want to be a drag popstar or a drag model or a drag pole dancer. She wants to be a drag queen.
That’s a reasonable aspiration to have as a contestant on Drag Race. The problem comes with being petulant about it. We’ve seen many past talent show successes whose talent has been all about drawing attention to their drag. Trinity The Tuck won a talent show for tucking (it certainly wasn’t for her singing). Ra’Jah O’Hara nearly won for sewing herself a dress. She was defeated by Yara Sofia, who jumped up and down until her breastplate smacked her in the face.
Hell, Elektra walked around bellowing about pampering herself! That wasn’t a traditional talent. Her song was just a delivery mechanism for drag.
My point is: drag is a talent. We already know this. It is why we’re watching the show. Protesting it is pointless because we all agree!
In the process of staging her dull protest, Vanity made it seem as though she lacks the imagination and creativity to translate her drag for an international audience. It made her look small.
Also? If you’re going to be this strident about your drag being your talent, I want to see some next level drag that is carefully considered from head to toe. I want someone like Violet Chachki, Yvie Oddly, Crystal Method, Cheddar Gorgeous or even Jimbo. Every one of those queens could simply walk back and forth on stage without saying a word and it would be obvious that their drag is art. Hell, that’s exactly what Jimbo did for her talent show (although she added years of clowning experience and a smuggled package of baloney).
Is Vanity’s drag at that level of polish? Does she have that amount of all-star Charisma, Uniqueness, Nerve, and… let’s not forget the last word: Talent?
I leave that to you to decide for yourself.
I think I would have more patience for Vanity’s antics if they developed over the course of a season as a reaction to experiencing the Drag Race machine firsthand. However, this is who she has been right out of the gate. Unless she undergoes a massive transformation in her drag and her philosophy, she has already disqualified herself from winning this season.
Eliminated in 8th Place: Antonina Nutshell (was #8, Pre-Season #7)
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Antonina Nutshell is a genuine queen who is using drag to tell healing stories to her younger self about body positivity and confidence.
There are many worst fates in the world of Drag Race than spending two episodes talking about how you learned to love yourself and then sashaying away. I think that would make RuPaul proud – but, more importantly, it seemed to make Antonina proud of herself. Even if her version of drag wasn’t going to win Drag Race, I think it was valuable to see it on Drag Race.
[…] without any true failures, but with more than one surprising development in the judging. That meant a major shake-up for my power rankings compared to last week’s talent show! It feels like this season is already down to a set of heavyweight frontrunners who are all […]