Welcome to my review, recap, and power rankings of the seventh episode of Drag Race Belgique Season 1 – Discour de Reine, or “Queen’s Speech.” Each of the Top 4 had to deliver their own coronation speech as Belgium’s queen for a day, and then walk the runway wearing “Glamour à Knokke-le-Zoute.“
A “public speaking but make it funny” challenge is one of those late-season episodes where the judging can be very subjective.
Here I felt that the opposite happened – the judging seemed the most level-headed it had been all season.
Part of that is that the queens easily self-selected into the perfect four roles for a semi-final episode: the overconfident queen who goes over time, the brainy queen finally hitting her mark, the queen who plays it to safe one too many times, and the anxious queen struggling to make herself heard.
The judges had to go by the stratification of the challenge itself, because the runway wasn’t much help. Everyone looked good, but the bigger problem was the judges themselves couldn’t seem to agree on what the theme meant! Glamour à Knokke-le-Zoute is a seaside resort town, and the judges seemed to be split on if they were looking for the actual glamour of the region (which they felt was something more chic than eleganza) or just something glamourous that suggested the region with a nautical theme.
It seemed like that made the queens somewhat immune to hearing the tough runway critiques they’ve encountered earlier in the season, with Susan especially benefiting from the indecision. Ultimately that yielded an unsurprising lip sync, a fair result, and a Top 3 I’ve been rooting for since the pre-season. That means there is zero shake-up from last week’s makeover rankings as we head into the finale next week.
(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 7 – “Discour de reine” public speaking challenge Power Rankings
Before we discuss the Queens’ Speeches, we’ll refrain from discussions Rita Baga’s less-than-regal fashion.
Actually, didn’t mind this runway so much. I loved the magenta blouse and its massive bow, and finally Rita’a hair had some volume on all sides. I was less enthusiastic about the fuzzy orange middle and the cape-let. I hear the show has already been renewed for a second season, and I hope her stylists have enough time to reflect on what they’ve done and figure out how to make amends to poor Rita with her next set of runways.
#1. Drag Couenne – 3 Wins (avg. 1.50, was #1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 4, Pre-Season #7)
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Drag Couenne delivered yet another peerless performance with a self-assured Discour de Reine speech with masterful shifts in tone and content. She also delivered one of her most glamourous runways in a slinky silver gown. At this point, the crown is Couenne’s to lose!
Seeing Couenne shift gears over the course of her Discour de Reine speech from a drag clown persona that would easily fit in on a children’s TV show to a fierce defender of LGBTQA* rights and queer safety was viscerally shocking. When she had her hand puppet spout bigoted slurs right next to her face in its tinny cartoon voice it sent me over the edge into tears. A split second later, she expertly shifted the tone back to her more cartoonish persona.
This is that punk edge I’ve seen in Couenne all along. She has an ability to create hairpin tonal shifts without needing to change her drag, because she understands how to transform herself beyond the transformation of make-up and clothing. Although she brings some rough edges sometimes, they’re always the result of intention rather than being a missed detail.
Drag Couenne’s runway that transformed from a day-lgo old lady to a shimmering seaside siren felt the most on-brand for her of everything we’ve seen on the season so far. While her drag clown look last week spoke to the inspiration for her drag, her actual aesthetic tends to be more leggy and more nude than that from what I have seen on her social media. This look, with its soft, silvery face and minimalist gown, wouldn’t have stood up to scrutiny if it showed up week after week. However, her in the penultimate episode it was something to notice.
(That goes to show how important runway order is for a queen’s narrative. You can pack 8 runways where only 3 of them have similar aesthetics, but if the show happens to line up all three of those weeks in a row it means you’ll get comments about being repetitive. This is a big part of why many of the franchises now start out with core runways like “Hometown Queen” and “Signature Drag” – so queens can anchor the season with a look that isn’t about bringing something unexpected and out of their comfort zone.)
It seems impossible that anyone other than Drag Couenne will take home the crown next episode. While the judges have been surprisingly cool on some queens, they haven’t been unfair about rewarding smart performances. Even if Couenne crashes and burns in the final song-and-dance challenge, I suspect the cumulative success throughout the season is enough to secure her a victory.
#2. Athena Sorgelikis – 2 Wins, 2 Lip Syncs (avg. 2.83, was #2, 4, 4, 4, 2, 1, Pre-Season #3)
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Athena Sorgelikis has been consistently safe or better throughout the competition, so it was surprising to see her wracked with anxiety over writing and delivering a speech this episode.
We’ve seen many queens balk at learning complex choreography or trying to think up jokes. Athena’s difficulty with this challenge was more than just in the brainstorming. Putting thoughts on paper was a major barrier for her that trigged anxiety and self-doubt.
It’s a good reminder for me that someone can be “brainy” or “intellectual” and not perfectly fit my definition of what skills and talents that should include. Someone can be intellectual and have an amazing intelligence for visual communication but be challenged by words! We’ve seen many Drag Race queens have challenges from reading from a script who are geniuses in other forms of communication like singing or dance. That’s why Drag Race is not a university program with specific prerequisites.
To her credit, Rita Baga was sympathetic to Athena’s plight and gave her sound advice. If writing is the thing that’s threatening about planning a speech, take the writing out of it. Just start with a simple list of key words or concepts. Then, talk through them a few times. Jot down the key phrases you find yourself saying every time.
Rita’s coaching seemed to click with Athena, because her Discour de Reine script was solid by the time she arrived on stage. Unfortunately, then she had to get through her nerves about reading it from the cue cards. It didn’t help that her speech began with several canned bits before it continued into a genuine, impassioned plea for safety for queer people.
I think Athena’s speech actually achieved the full brief of being politically-relevant parody, especially as she dipped into cheeky talking points about restrictions for and conversion of cis straight men. (Can you imagine if someone gave that speech on American TV? Conservatives would lose their chickens!) If she had been less nervous and less tied to her cue cards, she stood a real chance of scoring a win based on the content of her speech.
I also loved Athena’s runway! She skirted the question of if a Knokke-le-Zoute look would be chic or glam by simply dressing in materials that screamed “seaside” with a netting dress and an arm cuff of braided rope. I think this was the smartest take on this concept of all four queens. Also smart was to wear hair with some volume rather than a flat, wet-styled wig – which wouldn’t help proportionally on a minimal outfit like this.
Despite this single bottom placement, I think the show has made Athena out to be the one credible contender remaining to challenge Couenne for the crown next week. She has said over and over that she wants a dance challenge, so I expect she will be adept at any choreography that comes her way next week. Could she really win? Perhaps if Couenne fails across every category, but right now Athena feels like a lovely first runner-up who can come back for some international iteration of All Stars with a bit more nerve than she has shown this season.
#3. Susan [from Grindr] – 1 Win, 1 Lip Sync (avg. 4.17, was #3, 3, 5, 2, 7, 5, Pre-Season #2)
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Susan delivered a witty and impassioned Discour de Reine and delivered a runway that was both funny and so on-theme that it inspired the judges to reevaluate their concept of what they were looking for from the runway! Even if this wasn’t a week-winning performance, it seemed like Susan exempted herself from being considered for the bottom two purely on the strength of how much she made the judges think.
I think this double-dose of the cerebral qualities of Susan’s drag came at the perfect time for her in this competition. We’ve seen the judges range from soft to downright hostile to Susan’s approach to drag over the course of the season. I think that’s partly because so much of what she has been asked to do came with so little ability to establish her own context.
This challenge and runway were the perfect venue to show off how much thought Susan puts into her drag. I was fascinated with how her Discour de Reine script played with language, and her confession that thinking and writing in French can be challenging for her. My novice level of French comprehension never picked that detail up from here over the course of the season. She turned the potential weakness into a strength, peppering her speech with Belgium’s other common languages and mocking her own vocabulary slip-ups
Susan’s speech also delivered a pointed message grounded in real world politics about sometimes strident separatism between people living in the Fleming and Walloon regions. While this briefly addressed the dangers a Far Right moment present to the queer community, it was mostly an effective political speech even outside the context of Drag Race. Combined with her multilingualism, it made for a powerful comment on unity and community.
I was delighted at how Susan’s runway caused dissension on the judging panel over what a Glamour à Knokke-le-Zoute look ought to be. While Susan’s look wasn’t traditional high glam, it was apparently completely in-line with what a smartly-dressed woman in the Knokke-le-Zoute region might wear to go shopping. Even if that is more chic than it is glam, it’s hard to deny that Susan fulfilled the brief – plus, added a little bit of her own whimsy. It was like Valenciaga’s bird-shit themed ceci n’est pas un look runway crossed with Acid Betty’s Madonna runway!
I wish Susan had worn a more styled wig rather than opt for the easy way out with a cropped cut all covered in crap. A fancy updo with a nested bird poking out of it couldn’t added even more hilarity to this presentation.
Both of these examples are where Susan shines: where she can bring her own concept and has room to show the context of why she thought that way. What was holding her back from doing more of this all season long? Was it the nature of the challenges, or the nature of her confidence?
I have been certain from the moment I set eyes on Susan that she would have what it would take to reach the finale. However, based on the edit and the judges’ reactions to her drag, I don’t feel like she would be eligible for a win even if Couenne stumbles. We have seen the judges show considerable excitement for Athena’s drag even when she has been safe, but Susan has not had the same reception – even when she has been great. I don’t foresee a win in her future, but I am happy to spend one more week with her and her drag.
Eliminated in 4th Place: Mademoiselle Boop – 1 Win, 2 Lip Syncs (avg 4.83, was #4, 2, 3, 5, 8, 7, Pre-Season #1)
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Mademoiselle Boop was earnest to the very end of her run on this season, always presenting a viewpoint on drag that was authentically her own.
Boop’s Discour de Reine was a wonderful speech on erasing the lines of gender, even if it wasn’t particularly amusing. I think her words were universal when she spoke about taking back your narrative from the labels assigned to you and boxes you’ve been placed inside. That isn’t just true for drag or for gender non-conforming people. As Boop herself pointed it, it’s also an important message to internally for people with autism or mental health conditions.
Boop wasn’t bad this week. She was seldom, if ever, bad. She was subtle. I think part of that comes down to the generational divide between her and some of the other queens on the season and the fact that she holds a matriarchal role in Belgium’s drag scene. Boop owns her own cabaret and produces her own podcast. She isn’t lacking for platforms to display her viewpoint. I think that made her come off as slightly less hungry than Couenne or even Athena, even if that lack of hunger was actually Boop’s proficiency and quiet confidence.
In the pre-season I was sure that Mademoiselle Boop’s proficiency would carry her into the finale. I almost had that right! In the end, she simply didn’t have quite as much momentum as Athena, who was hot off her second win and had never lip synced before.
I think Mademoiselle Boop can walk away from this season proud that she made a strong showing for herself and what she represents about Belgium’s drag. Even if I was frustrated with the safety of her performances, I genuinely enjoyed her as a person and she was nothing but kind the entire time. There are a lot of extraordinarily “professional” drag queens in the world, but extraordinary kindness will always make you more memorable in the end.
5th Place: Peach – 2 Lip Syncs (avg. 4.20, was #5, 2, 3, 3, 8, Pre-Season #8)
6th Place: Valenciaga – 3 Lip Syncs (was #6, 7, 6, 3, Pre-Season #5)
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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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Patty Garofano says
“That goes to show how important runway order is for a queen’s narrative. You can pack 8 runways where only 3 of them have similar aesthetics, but if the show happens to line up all three of those weeks in a row it means you’ll get comments about being repetitive. This is a big part of why many of the franchises now start out with core runways like “Hometown Queen” and “Signature Drag” – so queens can anchor the season with a look that isn’t about bringing something unexpected out of their comfort zone.”
Krises: Your analysis of the show is always so perceptive. I love it!
Patty Garofano says
That’s okay, “krises” would be the plural of “krisis” and I sure could use some more of these to cover all of the Drag Race franchises!