Welcome to my review, recap, and power rankings of the third episode of Drag Race Sverige (AKA Drag Race Sweden) Season 1 – “Drag-a’-mera!” It’s a familiar unconventional material design challenge with the added pressure of being judged by one of Sweden’s most legendary drag performers, Christer Lindarw, and one of their most notorious fashion icons, Fredrik Robertsson.
The presence of Lindarw and Robertsson seemed to ratchet up the tension in this episode much more than on a typical RuPaul’s Drag Race design challenge. Even when RuPaul’s Drag Race lands massive stars as guest judges, often they represent something apart from drag – or, at least, just a single aspect of success in drag. RuPaul remains the person who it is most important to impress and whose career exists as the exemplar for contestants.
By contrast, on this episode of Sverige it felt as though its charming host Robert Fux was secondary to the pair of heavyweights on the judging panel. The only time RuPaul has ever come close to being eclipsed as the show’s paragon of drag was when Lady Gaga appeared for the Season 9 debut – an episode on which Ru never appeared in drag!
When it comes to design, RuPaul is typically looking for some form of indefinable “eleganza” that’s all about size and structure. However, Fredrik Robertsson’s walkthrough for “Drag-a’-mera” was much more intimidating than a typically breezy (but helpful) commentary from Carson Kressley or Brad Goreski. It felt as though Robertsson was treating the queens as though they were all legitimate fashion designers, demanding that each one of them deliver the careful detailing of haute couture while also using a mix of materials to suggest something more avant-garde.
Meanwhile, the presence of the soft-spoken Christer Lindarw seemed to unnerve some of the queens even more. His career as a drag performer and fashion designer spans nearly 50 years, including four decades of his “After Dark” revue that employed many Swedish performers (including Elecktra). There was a tangible feeling that he had the ability to make or break the career of any queen on the cast, which is usually only true of RuPaul herself on the main franchise.
The result was an unusually polished design challenge runway 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 deserving of a spot in the Top Three with just three more episodes until the finale.
After tonight, two queens who seemed like obvious cuts are experiencing a sudden surge while another former lock feels like she’s in danger. No matter what happens next week, it will be a shocking elimination.
(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 3 – “Drag-a’-mera!” design challenge Power Ranking
Before we get to the major shake-up in my Power Rankings, let’s admire yet another unusual fashion on our charming host Robert Fux. Fux seems to have no interest in portraying himself as a “supermodel of the world” as the show’s host. This look is much closer to some sort of slightly-scary space pope that we’d see from the Boulet Brothers than something RuPaul would wear.
#1. Imaa Queen – 1 win (was #2, 1, Pre-Season #5)
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Imaa Queen continues riding high with her third week on the top as she nearly snatched another win in Drag-a’-mera. Will anything be able to stop this innovative fashion queen who has proven she’s game for a silly performance?
I loved how Imaa objected to the idea that her Drag-a’-mera outfit could be both haute couture and avant-garde, complaining that the two concepts aren’t related (if not actually opposed). Yet, I think she managed to merge the two of them on in her garbage roses dress. It had the hand-crafting of a couture garment, but her wild use of textiles and the massive silhouette was more avant-garde.
After seeing this look up close I’ve almost convinced myself that Imaa Queen is not a drag queen, but some kind of mythical creature. A drag crytpid. How else can you explain how she took a pile of unconventional materials provided by the show and processed them into a texture that looks so distinctly like all of her other looks so far?!
Imaa has a secret, magical process of distressing, interweaving, and structuring her materials that she has put this cloth and plastic through in a single day in the workroom. Is it some form of paper maché? Even if it was, how could she have done it in one day?! How did she have the time to detail the plastic bags and bits of string into her wig?
It’s all fascinating and incredibly impressive to me, including her choice to go with a glistening, silvery face with smokey black eyes when I would expect a conventional beauty face with such a flower look. It goes to prove the only thing we can expect from Imaa is the unexpected.
As the boldest fashion-queen of the season, Imaa Queen was at considerable risk of being knocked down a peg in this challenge if her look wasn’t up to snuff for the pair of Sweden’s gay tastemakers on the panel. She easily survived that. However, Snatch Game and at least one acting challenge loom ahead. Will Imaa be able to handle improv as well as she handled improvised fashion? If so, I’m not sure anything can stop her.
#2. Vanity Vain – 1 lip sync (was #7, 6 Pre-Season #2)
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Does a Drag-a’-mera Design Challenge win mean Vanity Vain has any momentum in this competition after her petulant performance last week? Not if she goes back to presenting her deglammed take on club drag starting next week, but this challenge proved there’s more to her personal design aesthetic than meets the eye.
I was tempted to dislike Vanity Vain’s design challenge construction. I’m often not a fan of any dress that is simply a cascade of frills or fringe (see The Viv’s UK Season 1 design challenge in – not a favorite of mine).
However, the more I looked at this garment the more impressive it seemed to me. That’s because these black spines were not simply a fringe that Vanity could drape artfully off of her body. Each one had structure to it, and she had to carefully consider how to place them in order to create the suggestion of shape that she wanted. Most of them are suspended from the cuff at her neck, but there also seems to be another layer of them blooming from her waist.
I wish we could see more of Vanity’s undergarment. If it is a plain black corset, I’d be slightly disappointed – I hope it is something that she constructed or altered at least a little.
I’m surprised the judges would be so willing to grant Vanity a victory in the Drag-a’-mera challenge this week after the premeditated temper tantrum of her talent show last week. Perhaps this win was a meant as a message to her that there is a way to play the game of Drag Race her own way and be rewarded for it.
Can Vanity Vain continue this momentum through Snatch Game and two more episodes to snag a spot in the finale? I anticipate that character illusion one of Vanity’s chief skills based on what I’ve seen from her social media, but I’m not sure how will she will do at making it funny. A week ago I would’ve told you she would be the obvious next queen to go, but now that would be a surprise.
#3. Fontana (was #5, 5, Pre-Season #4)
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After two episodes of safety, Fontana showed her nerve and stubbornness off in the best possible way and received positive notices for it. Is this the beginning of an upswing, or a brief moment of encouragement prior to dismissal?
Fontana’s Drag-a’-mera design challenge garment wasn’t the best construction we’ve seen out of these blue canvas tarps, a common unconventional material seen across many Drag Race franchises. We all know by now that it’s an inflexible fabric that can be hard to pattern and sew for an inexperienced seamstress
What was so impressive about Fontana’s effort was the amount of size and texture she quickly figured out how to get out of her tarp material with a blend of convention sewing and improvised hot-gluing. Fontana has a tiny frame and it would be easy for a garment like this to quickly swallow her up. Yet, she still felt like she was modeling the dress rather than it modeling her.
The asymmetry of the pleated frill at one shoulder (echoed in her fascinator) versus the more loosely-structured skirt meant the lines of her body were still visible. The cascading center of blooming flowers had just enough shape and structure to seem like an intentional design element rather than a hodgepodge of messy details.
Last week we saw Fontana wind up safe for a lack of nerve. This week it felt for a moment like her nerves might overtake her in the workroom as she struggled with her garment, but from that we got to witness her stubborn “I’ve got to make it work” focus kick into gear. I’m sure that’s part of how she has gotten so far in her career as both a makeup artist and drag performer. However, I feel like our guru RuPaul would tell her she is “addicted to anxiety,” and that she has to figure out how to harness her power of focus without the nerves to fuel it.
I hope this confidence boost will serve Fontana well in Snatch Game next week. If she is an unexpected firecracker, she might snag a win from the grasp of these more laid-back Swedish queens. However, it could also be that her humor falls flat with Robert Fux and we see her hit the bottom next week.
#4. Elecktra – 1 win (was #1, 4, Pre-Season #6)
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A pair of external judges came down hard on Elecktra and her unconventional materials dress that was actually very conventional. In a cast this small, there’s nowhere to hide when you make even the smallest misstep!
Elecktra’s Drag-a’-mera garment wasn’t bad. She found a way to give it structure and used the reflective backs of her CDs in the place of large, chunky gems. However, I can see where the judges came from with their comments and bottom placements. Ultimately, this is just a glittery showgirl look, and when zooming in on the details it feels like Elecktra took a quantity over quality look to bejeweling her garment – exactly what guest judge Fredrik Robertsson warned her against in the walkthrough.
It tracked for me that Elecktra would not come up on top for a challenge focused on haute couture. Her drag aesthetic so far has been “small, traditional, and effective,” like a tiny-but-sharp dagger of drag. However, Elecktra may have brought that knife to a fight filled with much heavier artillery against the dramatic looks of Imaa Queen and unpredictability of Vanity Vain and Santana.
It also didn’t help her case to deliver an equally small lip sync performance against Endigo. I’m certain several other queens on this cast could easily defeat her if she falls into the bottom two – especially the slinky, aerobic Santana Sexmachine.
Can a tried-and-true character illusion keep Elecktra safe in Snatch Game next week – or even deliver her a second win? If not, her early momentum may completely evaporate and leave her at risk of missing the finale as other queens eclipse her reliable version of showgirl drag.
#5. Santana Sexmachine (was #3, 2, Pre-Season #3)
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Santana Sexmachine was fairly called safe for her Design Challenge look, but being safe isn’t an option for her after narrowly missing a win two weeks in a row. She badly needs some validation and momentum to get back into the top three of this ranking.
Santana Sexmachine may have had the cleanest construction out of all of the design challenge looks. She clearly knows her way around a pattern and a sewing machine based on the perfectly fitted shirt and pants. Her outfit was like a harlequin fashion illustration torn right from a sketchpad. However, that fashion was somewhat casual and not especially avant-garde, so I can understand why it was called safe.
Right now it feels like Santana is being set up to be the shocking elimination within the next two episodes. Despite two weeks of extremely positive notices before this, she is winless and the show is pushing an “always the bridesmaid” narrative on her.
If Santana truly is headed for elimination before the semi-final episode it will be one of the biggest shocks and greatest missteps across the past few years of international Drag Race. This is a queen who is packed with Charisma, Uniqueness, Nerve, and Talent in exactly the way this show values. I sincerely hope she’ll be given more of a chance to show that off.
#6. Admira Thunderpussy (was #4, 3, Pre-Season #1)
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Admira Thunderpussy turned in the most underdeveloped look of the design challenge and was safe for the second week in a row (after mixed comments in week one). Even if she’s one of the most-delightful workroom characters in the entire franchise, she needs to kickstart a mainstage narrative for herself next week or her time on the show is about to run out.
The top of this look is a delightful bit of trash couture that suggested the dramatic ballgown of an evil queen, but it felt like Admira gave up at the waist of this garment. Is that because judge Fredrik Robertsson put her off wearing leopard print pants out of his own vanity, knowing he’d be wearing leopard print print to the judge’s panel the next day?
Whatever the reason, this look felt incomplete – like it was intended to have a bottom half that never materialized. That’s a pity, because the construction of the top holds up to close inspection. Admira tried to push a fashion model angle by modeling it with long, leggy look sans pads. Maybe the confident modeling is what locked in her safe placement over Elecktra.
Right now Admira Thunderpussy feels like the queen on this cast with the most unexplored potential. She is a drag veteran who seems able to back up her exasperated persona with a solid performance in nearly every aspect of drag, but I don’t think we’ve seen what makes her a superstar just yet. That might be Snatch Game – and, a win next week would catapult her from the bottom of the ranking to the top. However, if she doesn’t at least place high next week, she is feeling like the next most-obvious queen to lip sync.
Eliminated in 7th Place: Endigo – 2 lip syncs (was #7, Pre-Season #8)
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Endigo put in a commendable effort in this Drag-a’-mera design challenge, crafting her first ever garment with a surprising eye for structure and working on taking up more time and space in her runway presentation. However, there was a clear divide between her experimentation with drag and the experience level of the six remaining queens.
I think Endigo got something from this show far more valuable than the exposure or a potential cash prize. As a queen who mostly explored her femininity in her own bedroom or as a glammed up front person of a band, this was the first time she got to experience drag as part of a community of other queens. Even if she wasn’t meant to be Sweden’s Next Drag superstar, her immense charisma and considerable talent were all loud and clear in these three episodes.
Whether or not Endigo chooses to become a full-time drag queen or simply bring more drag elements to her rock performances and every day life, she departs Drag Race Sverge as a memorable and truly unique new member of the Drag Race family.
8th Place: Antonina Nutshell (was #8, Pre-Season #7)
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[…] course, the unusual developments of this episode shook up my power rankings from last week’s design challenge. With our front-running no longer in the race it’s not only a toss-up for who will come out […]