Welcome to my review, recap, and power rankings of the fifth episode of Drag Race Sverige (AKA Drag Race Sweden) Season 1 – “The Dragodi Festival.” It’s a Girl Groups challenge in the form of a Eurovision qualifying round, with a reveals-on-reveals runway theme.
This season of RuPaul’s Drag Race featured one of the most-obvious frontrunners of all time in Sasha Colby, but it still felt competitive and fun. Even if Sasha is the obvious winner, we still got to see some other high-achieving queens do well for themselves. The show never cut Sasha any slack and made sure to bring the fiercest-of-the-fierce competition to the finale.
Don’t worry, you’re reading the right post: this is about Drag Race Sverige! However, I bring up Sasha and her winning run because production’s hand in steering a Sasha-friendly outcome could not often be felt. That’s not the case here on Sverige, which seems to be doing anything within its power to produce a result that honors the local drag legends over edgy upstarts or newer queens.
I don’t know how else to explain the totally nonsensical judging of the past few episodes. There’s making each episode count on its own, and then there’s totally ignoring the challenge and runway criteria to produce the result that favors your slightly-boring designated frontrunner.
Last episode, Imaa Queen had one of the worst three Snatch Game performances but one of the best runways, and was sent to lip sync. That makes sense – even the best runway cannot save you from a bad challenge performance! Yet, tonight the best runway saved one of the worst challenge performances, and another weak challenge performance with a weak runway was saved from lip syncing.
The chaotic judging means we’ve lost the two most-revolutionary queens in a row, leaving us with three competent but slightly-dull showgirls as front-runners and a pair of younger queens who lack the nerve (and style) to win the season. To be fair, two of those top three were my top picks at the start of the season, and the third I said could surprise us if her drag wasn’t too boring.
As it turns out, slightly-boring drag might be exactly what this season is looking for. Okay, maybe that’s a little bit cruel. What I mean is that the judging might be telling us something about Sweden’s drag culture that promo photo shoots and social media can’t. It feels like Sverige is very focused on longevity. It has paid homage to classics and idols, both in how it addresses its queens and in the way it has treated its guest judges. Perhaps as a first season in a drag season with a clear divide between traditional showgirls and punk queens there was never any way for the latter to defeat the former.
What does that mean for our Power Rankings? Who cares! Only one queen maintains her ranking compared to Snatch Game, but much like Snatch Game we’re playing a game where show where everything’s made up and the points don’t matter.
(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 5 – “The Dragodi Festival” Power Rankings
Before we dig into The Dragodi Festival and severalmany reveals, let’s closely examine this Robert Fux runway. I know I’ve been effusive about his runways so far, but this one might have a few too many elements on it to work for me. I can buy the long unfinished jacket and the high blue boots, but the green sleeve ruffles and the top hat might be a bridge too far for me. Still, I love that they are pushing all of Fux’s looks in a hyper-chic, avant-garde direction that feels entirely his own.
#1. Admira Thunderpussy – 2 wins (was #2, 6, 4, 3, Pre-Season #1)
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Admira Thunderpussy gave a forgettable Dragodi Festival girl group performance but an all-time great delivery of a reveal runway. On a season that keeps flip-flopping over which half of the show is more important, that was enough to score a win for a queen they clearly want as a frontrunner.
I can barely recall Admira’s performance after watching it twice. She bellowed her vocals chestily and had a mop of curly hair and looked like something out of an old-timey saloon. I don’t think “The Dragodi Festival” demanding high glamour, but it did ask for some kind of pop star gimmick. I don’t think Admira delivered that.
Where Admira did deliver a great gimmick was on the runway. Drag Race loves the ridiculous audacity of revealing into a nearly-identical look, like Monét X Change whipping off a pussycat wig to reveal another pussycat wig beneath in the final lip sync of All Stars Season 4. Admira one-upped Monét by revealing the same dress four times in multiple colors and ever-so-slightly different cuts, only to return back to the original dress at the end of the runway in a perfectly timed final surprise.
This runway is the first time I’ve had a real sense of energetic playfulness from Admira all season long. All of her other high points have been about playing things ultra-glam or very old. Admira often feels like she is playing the role of Chad Michaels as “Mother Dust” without any of the humorous and sometimes slightly punk energy that Chad could bring to the challenges and runway.
Now with Imaa Queen’s fashion and Santana Sexmachine’s unpredictability out of the way, there’s plenty of room for Admira to find more moments to shine in the next two episodes. Unless Elecktra pours on the uniqueness, nerve, and talent across them both, I suspect Admira is going to win this on charisma alone.
#2. Vanity Vain – 1 win, 1 lip sync (was #4, 2, 7, 6 Pre-Season #2)
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Vanity very nearly had this win in the bag with the far-and-away best performance in The Dragodi Festival, both in singing and dancing. Yet, her showgirl-to-showgirl runway reveal was slightly too subtle compared to Admira’s four-reveal camp classic.
(Apparently, Vanity’s reveal was a last-minute choice because she feared getting tangled up in her more-complex planned look with a trio of reveals. Given Santana’s fate, that was a wise decision!)
Riddle me this: If Vanity Vain sings that well, why didn’t she sing as a talent show performance?! She has an undeniably lovely voice that lead her to easily the best of all the recorded vocals in the performance (even if that seemingly counted for nothing in the judging).
She also had one of the surest performances in the actual Dragodi Festival performance. None of the queens entirely missed the mark, but to my eyes it felt as though Vanity was dancing with the most intent out of all six queens. Every move she made seemed purposeful and well-timed. Her ability to sell this slapdash choreography speaks to the depth of her onstage experience.
This is the version of Vanity I was hoping to see based on her pre-season socials. She is a punk at heart with the polish of an established performer. She is the kind of queen who finds a way to hit the stage and entertain night after night.
Vanity survived a dreadful opening pair of weeks purely the grace of other queens being worse than her and got through the Snatch Game by the skin of her teeth. Now, she is surging at just the right time. With only two challenges between her and the finale it feels like there’s a clear divide between the top three in this cast and the bottom two. If she can notch another win, she might hold off Elecktra to be the queen to compete with Admira for the crown.
#3. Elecktra – 1 win, 1 lip sync (was #1, 4, 1, 4, Pre-Season #6)
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Singing clearly isn’t Elecktra’s forte, and she couldn’t summon up the high camp that drove her to a Talent Show win to get noticed in this girl groups challenge. Her reveals runway was merely a dress with some removable parts.
Elecktra was fine in the girl groups challenge without really standing out and forgettable on a runway that demanded high drama. I think she had a clearer narrative for a bottom placement than Fontana, who beat her in both elements.
Above all else Elecktra brings a sense of competence to the stage. Even when she delivers something slightly dull and expected, it’s hard to nitpick it. The only time we’ve seen the judges willing to go in on her is when two legends were on the panel whose experience in drag greatly outranked Elecktra’s.
Elecktra occupies an enviable position this season in that she is delivering exactly the sort of drag the judges want and expect to see. Her challenge is to find one or two unexpected moments to deliver in the next two episodes to prove she has the same kind of spark to her drag that Admira and Vanity bring. I think we saw that Elecktra has the power to do that in her Longstockings runway and Snatch Game. She simply needs to repeat that kind of moment in both of the next two episodes to make herself the clear pick over Vanity to battle Admira for the crown.
#4. Fontana – 1 lip sync (was #5, 3, 5, 5, Pre-Season #4)
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Fontana was strong the girl groups challenge, with a bubblegum pop vocal matched by a silly airhead performance. She also had a great runway look that echoed Violet Chachki’s historic black-to-tartan batwing jumpsuit reveal – perhaps also the second best of the night. But, you could see a hint of pink before her reveal and she smiles a lot, so rather than being in contention to win this challenge she was sent to lip sync.
What could be missing from my assessment – as well as from Fontana’s performance – is cultural awareness. The Dragodi Festival is a specific spoof of Melodifestivalen, which is Sweden’s qualifying round for Eurovision. It’s a much-beloved annual TV event that has been high camp for decades. Fontana delivered a serviceable pop-star performance, but The Dragodi Festival wasn’t looking for international popstress realness – it was looking for Swedish Eurovision authenticity.
That connects to the judges critiques of Fontana. Even as a fan of hers, I can admit that Fontana’s performance this season has a common thread of lacking a certain amount of authenticity. I think that connects to her obvious lack of NERVE. That isn’t just in a lack of killer instinct, but in her tendency to go for a cheerful performance over showing a some grit. I myself also carry a cheerful, can-do attitude across many settings, so I understand that getting gritty isn’t something you can simply turn on and off.
Fontana obviously has deeper, more resonant notes she could be playing in the challenges and the runways. We’ve seen hints of that in her workroom chats, as in this episode with the story of her family subjecting her to an exorcism as a young child to try to drive the homosexuality out of her body. Fontana isn’t just a surface level pop princess. There is a lot more to her and her drag than that.
I don’t think that the judges are asking that she brings that sense of tragedy to the runway. They simply want to see some levels other than the constant cheerleader energy that Fontana has brought to the show.
Do I think that means she deserved to be in the bottom for this challenge? Absolutely not. We’ve been waiting all season for Fontana to serve us a pop star moment, and it makes no sense to punish her for delivering pop princess in the one instance where that’s exactly what the challenge required.
Even if Fontana avoids a lip sync next week, right now it feels like the only way for her to reach the finale is for both Vanity or Elecktra to fumble the following week. If Fontana has any chance of surviving, she needs to show nerves of steel in next week’s challenge. If she does, this season is just unpredictable enough to reward her for it, even at this late stage.
#5. Antonina Nutshell – 1 elimination, (was #6, N/A, Elim, 8, Pre-Season #7)
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Antonina Nutshell served a somewhat daffy girl groups character that was fine but forgettable, but once again had a runway look so bad that it wouldn’t have even survived on the mall-ready runway line-ups on RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 2. Santana was sent to lip sync 100% due to her runway, but Antonina got a pass for some reason.
In fairness, I think this singing challenge finale gave Antonina a chance to show off the sort of thing she is good at doing – selling big, silly, almost-slapstick comedy in her performances. She might not have a killer runway walk, but when it comes to being a drag clown Antonina knows exactly how to take up space on the stage.
I would love to say that means that Antonina was so great in the challenge that she clearly earned her survival here. However, that’s simply not the case. She was outmatched by both other members of her group, and she had the worst pair of runway looks of the night with an awkward transition between them.
Many seasons of Drag Race have kept a queen a few weeks too long. However, none have ever been so cruel to hang on to a queen who seems so ill-prepared for the runway. There’s a reason we have heard that the producers of any RuPaul franchise will take a look at all of a queen’s planned runways when she first unpacks her bags, and that’s to avoid this situation: keeping a queen who has nothing to show for herself in the most memorable segment of each episode.
It’s just not fair to give multiple extra chances to a queen who not only does not have a shot of winning, but who is going to be Worst in Show every week until she is eliminated. I wish we could glimpse an alternate reality of this season where Antonina performed exactly the same but had a killer suitcase on her side. How would we be receiving her average performances in Snatch Game and The Dragodi Festival if she had Imaa’s runway package, or even Fontana’s?
I think it’s important that we all remember that a queen’s placement is never her fault. If you are frustrated that we’ll be seeing another week of Antonina next week rather than more of Imaa or Santana, that’s the show’s fault – not hers.
Eliminated in 6th Place Santana Sexmachine – 1 lip sync (was #3, 5, 3, 2, Pre-Season #3)
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Santana Sexmachine was angry after her elimination, as much at herself for her flubbed reveals as for the show for its inane judging. Personally, I feel like she could have been even angrier. Her frustration over keeping Antonina around for two extra weeks where she was still clearly the worst was palpable.
As disconnected and somewhat clumsy as Santana’s runway reveals were, once each look was fully revealed each was better than either of Antonina’s looks. By all accounts, she seemed to be one of the more competent and compelling queens in the challenge. If her runway meltdown was too major to save her from lip syncing, then why wasn’t Antonina in this lip sync over Fontana?
I’d be a lot more pissed at this outcome than Santana was. Santana is an electrifying queen with a real perspective in drag who could’ve offered a true contrast to Admira and Elecktra in the final three since we lost our first option in Imaa. Hopefully we see her return on a versus The World season where her talents will be more appreciated than they were on Sverige.
7th Place: Imaa Queen – 1 win (was #1, 2, 1, Pre-Season #5)
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8th Place: Endigo – 2 lip syncs (was #6, 7, Pre-Season #8)
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Previously 8th Place: Antonina Nutshell (was #8, Pre-Season #7)
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[…] kinship into a surprising performance while Admira can’t translate her humor onto the runway, which leaves our power rankings severely shaken compared to last week’s “Dragodi Festiva…. What does that mean with just one more episode before the finale? It feels like we have our winner […]