RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 16, Episode 4 gave us another rendition of RDR Live – their spoof on Saturday Night Live – with with an all-time great “Night of 1,000 Chers” runway branded as “Everything Every-Cher All At Once.” The combo led to some great television, a shocking win, and some shake-ups in the power ranking!
This episode emphasized our tightly-grouped trio of front-runners, but it also allowed several queens from the middle of the pack to make a case for why they should stick around until the back half of the season. There was no “I was rooting for us” levels of disastrous performances here, although one queen in particular completely missed the reference of her skit.
RDR Live is actually an interesting bit of illusion. Because it is satirizing Saturday Night Live, it’s easy to think of it as an improv challenge where queens have some control over their fate. However, it’s really just a scripted comedy acting challenge like Daytona Wind, which means certain roles are locked in as mediocre or even risky based on the script.
(Here’s another interesting tidbit to mull over: These queens may have shot this “RDR Live” challenge without even seeing the All Stars Season 8 version, which aired around the same time this cast was sequestered. Of course, you don’t have to see a spoof of SNL to know how to play a spoof of SNL, but it meant that they were choosing roles without any intel of how Ru and the judges reacted to similar choices from another cast of queens.)
The result was the three front-runner queens making wise choices and doing well for themselves, one upstart taking a risk and paying it off big-time, and a handful of potential cannon fodder queens doing their best to break out of the pack of early-outs.
That yielded a Bottom Two that surprised me with a shocking elimination that I claimed would be impossible in my Power Rankings of the Mother of All Balls last week. Not only was this episode’s “Sashay Away” a shocker, but it also slightly jostled our pack of front-runners with a potential new narrative.
Readers, start your engines. And, may the best drag queen win!
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 am obsessed with drag and the people who create it.
RuPaul’s Drag Race, Season 16 Episode 4 – “RDR Live” & “Everything Every-Cher All At Once” Power Rankings
Before we get to our power rankings, we have to talk about the FOUR LOOKS that Mother Ru turned this episode. She was having her own personal Mother of All Balls this week!
I am totally into this violet suit that uses black shading to imply creases and wrinkles. It reminds me of the use of screen tone (AKA Ben-Day dots) in classic comic books and pop art, which is absolutely the reference that Ru was giving here. I maybe could’ve done with less of the wrinkling around the knees, but it’s impossible to tell if that was real or part of the illusion!
Momma Ru said, “If SNL isn’t going to let me be my own musical guest, I’m going to do it on my own show!”
Both Ru’s headshot and her performance look here were truly stellar makeup looks from Raven. Raven doesn’t often tend to try to replicate the imitable work of Mathu Andersen, but both of these looks felt like classic Mathu versions of Ru’s face. And, Ru was definitely feeling her youthful oats here, because she moved around more fluidly in this performance than we’ve seen her do in years.
I know people love to poke fun of Ru’s performances. On one hand, RuPaul is in her sixties… but, on the other hand, she’s two years younger than Madonna! Ru has never been an aerobic dancer, but I love when she still takes a moment to show these kids how its done.
After all that, Ru’s main stage dress almost felt like a low-key afterparty look. I really love the hair and the waist here, but I can’t help but feel that Zaldy & Co have really lost the plot lately when it comes to Ru’s shoulders and bustline. What is going on with the shape of this top!?
#1 – Sapphira Cristál, 1 win (was #2, 2)
Even if Sapphira Cristál wasn’t in the critiques this week, her presence could still be felt all over the results this episode. That’s the sign of a frontrunner.
Sapphira Cristál showed off killer strategy in RDR Live’s casting deliberations by ceding the host role to Mirage to take a singing role instead. Even if Sapphira liked the idea of showing off as the host, she quickly realized it was a potential death trap and handed it off like a hot potato, sending Mirage to an inevitable trip to the bottom two.
Like Plasma, Sapphira might have been slightly concerned about being typecast as a theatrical queen. Yet, she also has the intense levels of charisma and nerve to know she could stand out in any part – and, especially a singing part. So, of course she utterly destroyed her smaller role in the Barbra sketch only to lose out on a top placement to Plasma’s more-obvious winner narrative.
(More on that in a moment.)
Seriously, these other queens are just going to let the opera singer who won the talent show slide her way into a singing part in a comedy challenge?! Are they trying to lose this season to Sapphira?
Sapphira also nailed her “Everything Every-Cher All At Once.” The show did her a disservice by not showing a photo of Cher in the full shoulder pads version of her look, because Sapphira’s version is perfect. It looks just as rich and sumptuous as Cher’s version. Cher’s was slightly denser with feathers, but Sapphira made up for it by making the neck slightly wider and having the feathers spray out slightly farther.
A sense of scale is so important in drag. Sapphira seems to be a queen on this cast who absolutely understand that. Similarly, look how huge her earrings are compared to Cher’s. Look at how her afro puff lifts away from her face at the sides while Cher’s sits lower on her head. Sapphira knows what she’s doing.
THAT ALL SAID, the nude illusion panel on the front and back of Sapphira’s body suit was baggy. Make no mistake – it perfectly matched the design of Cher’s version. It was just slightly ill-fitted.
Sapphira has so much confidence that it’s hard to imagine any kind of performance-based challenge getting in her way. This is the benefit of getting onto Drag Race as stage veteran outside of just putting on drag shows and walking in pageants. Even if Sapphira doesn’t have on-camera experience, over a decade of staged rehearsals with directing and blocking is much closer to what Drag Race expects from a queen than a decade of mildly-choreographed lip syncs at bar gigs.
I really can’t see anything getting in Sapphira’s way on the race to the finale other than a fashion misstep, or just being outmaneuvered by our other frontrunner…
#2 – Nymphia Wind, 1 win (was #1, 1)
Nymphia Wind didn’t make a single misstep in her RDR Live comedy role. Even if Plasma struck gold in outshining her, we still haven’t seen a single weakness from this frontrunner.
Nymphia had a tall order to fulfill in this “Barbra Shop Quartet” skit on RDR Live. Not only did she have to give Babs, she had to do it against the cast’s pair of classically-trained singers! And, she had to go FIRST.
I think Nymphia absolutely delivered here. Going first meant she got to define her own version of Streisand without having to match or beat either of the other two. She kept it stilly and slightly unintelligible, which was funny. She actually sang a bit without being totally intimidated by the other two. And, she looked utterly gorgeous while doing it.
When it comes to Nymphia’s Cher look, I’m hot then I’m cold, I’m yes then I’m no, and I’m then I’m out, I’m up then I’m down.
Sorry, I was just haunted by Katy Perry for a moment there.
I am one of the most frequent proponents of Drag Race queens giving nudity rather than using nude illusion panels. To me, illusion panels should be more for maintaining the structure of a garment rather than standing in for skin. Skin is sexy; fabric is not.
However, when you are giving a lot of body in a look, you have to pay careful attention to the lines of your garments, because one hem being slightly angled or convex can be the difference between the illusion of curves versus looking boxy.
I think Nymphia got slightly caught in the middle of that struggle here – with some good and some bad.
The garment itself is perfect. I love how she slightly amped up the scale and color saturation of Cher’s version. Cher did have a version of this outfit with a “Isis Wings” cape that was slightly pink and blue, but I think Nymphia made the right choice and a clear cape was less of a distraction and gave more of a pop when extended.
Yet, there are also some distractions. Cher’s version of the panty shown in the photo had extremely high straps that wrapped up over her hips. That created a deep “V” on her torso, elongating her midsection and giving the illusion of an even slimmer waist than she had. Nymphia’s straps are more horizontal, creating a squarer line at her waist.
Then, the bottom straps of Cher’s bra cups ever-so-subtly curved down from a diamond in the center, with additional straps running across to cover her nipples. Nymphia’s straps go straight across below her bust, and some angle up to intersect or wrap around each other in the middle rather than creating a diamond or “X.” Also, her bra cups are both totally nude-colored, which was confusing.
These are such little details on a truly beautiful garment, but it’s these little details that made Cher look impeccable so often. Nymphia should have been serving pure sex here, but her midsection looks like a square box of flesh and her breasts look too close together.
Of course, none of that detracts from the fact that Nymphia remains ensconced in the top of the pack at the moment. She handled this comedy challenge without a single falter. And, despite being a non-singer, she wasn’t afraid to open her mouth up and sing – which probably bodes well for her next week in Girl Groups.
Does Nymphia have any weaknesses? Choreography, perhaps? I’m intensely curious to know if anything can trip her up.
#3 – Plasma, 1 win (was #7, 6)
Plasma did exactly what needed to be done in this episode, self-producing a perfect storyline and then fully going for it in RDR Live as if her very life depended on it. We love to tease the theatre kids who come on this show that Ru is going to immediately “cue the snipers,” but the plus side of having an experienced theatrical queen on the show is her ability to deliver this hard when it counts.
Plasma was utterly perfect as a member of the Barbra Shop Quartet. What else can we say? She had the mannerisms. The voice. She got the jokes. She nailed the timing. It was a master class of not only getting the reference, but running with it and making it your own.
Last week I said, “I’m sure Plasma is going to come out swinging hard next week for RDR Live” and I was absolutely right, but I also said, “I really think Plasma is going to be positioned as a foil for both Sapphira and Dawn this season, as both a stage veteran and a NYC weirdo.”
Is it a coincidence that she had conflict with Dawn here and got highlighted over Sapphira (who was also perfect in this sketch)?
I was slightly surprised that Plasma notched this win over Q just because I think her runway had some problems.
First, her make-up. There is something very wrong happening with the way the dark sides of the nose contour marry to her eyebrow, the brown of her cut crease, and the placement of her cheek contour.
Just her nose in general is consistently weird. I get having a long and somewhat bulky nose and feeling the need to contour it, but the weird sliver of white that Plasma paints is unflattering from almost every angle.
I don’t understand why Plasma renders the dark part of her nose contour in such a light chestnut brown, why the sides aren’t blended, and why she doesn’t take the lightness on the bridge of her nose farther down to the tip. It only looks good from one angle, sometimes.
(This is a rare make-up critique where I actually speak from experience. My nose has been contoured every time you’ve seen me appear online for a video for the past two years. Nose contouring is magic.)
Now, onto the outfit. This is a solid look when seen on its own, but compared side-by-side with Cher’s version it misses almost everything cool about the original. The gold on Cher’s version is a bright, yellow-y gold that contrasts with her nude illusion, but Plasma’s gold is just sequins. Cher’s bodice comes down to a deep V on the right side to elongate her torso. Two separate “leaves” black-rimmed with gold rise up and split to cover her breasts, implying a deep V between them. And, the top has a high collar, which gives the illusion of Cher’s head floating above the look.
Plasma’s version has none of that. The bodice is symmetrical and comes down to a shallow concave below Plasma’s waist, which gives a weird illusion. The black leaves on her top don’t split apart until just beneath her breasts, which is giving “awkward bikini.” And, the collar is wide and flat at the neck, really not doing anything.
Also, this could just be me, but I think the high slit actually makes her look shorter when what she really needed was an elongated effect.
Production knew exactly what they were doing with Plasma’s top placement and win on this episode.
Plasma has the narrative and the talent to make her look like a threat in a season that is top-heavy with three obvious front-runners versus an entire cast of fodder. She went toe-to-toe with two frontrunners this week and kicked their asses, and then she slid past the third front-runner to snag a win.
Let’s game theory the critique placements for a moment, shall we?
Even though both Sapphira and Nymphia were great in the challenge and on the runway, production wouldn’t put Sapphira or Nymphia in the top with Plasma. It would have overshadowed Plasma’s “you took a chance” story to also reward someone else in the same group as her.
Similarly, they also wouldn’t put Amanda or Dawn in the top as newsreaders, because Plasma needed to get her comeuppance against them after being pushed out of her preferred role.
The only remaining queens strong enough to be in the top were Plane Jane, Megami, and Q – and, having Plasma score a win over Q continued Q’s “bridesmaid not bride” narrative and pumped up Plasma even more as a top competitor to break up the obvious group of early frontrunners.
I’m not saying Plasma didn’t deserve this win. I’m saying that there’s a reason this show wins Emmys, and part of that is that they know how to run with a story arc when a queen hands it to them on a silver platter.
And, next week is Girl Groups – another challenge directly in Plasma’s wheelhouse. Could we see her in the top repeatedly through Snatch Game? Right now it feels a trip to the finale as a solid foil to the likely top two is hers to lose (and lose it she might, with some frumpy costume choices and too-heavy makeup).
#4 – Q (was #3, 3)
Q took the stupidest role in RDR Live and gave a fine-but-not-great delivery, and then took the most high-glam approach to the Cher runway and delivered it flawlessly. While there’s a clear argument to be made for Plasma’s win this week, it’s also obvious that Q is getting the “edge her until she cracks” story that puts her in the Jan / DaLuca seat this season.
Was Q’s “Brick from Stonewall” funny? Yes.
Do I think she wrung all of the possible comedy out of it? No.
I think it was right to play this in a sort of sad sack way rather than as super-energetic or “yaaaaas queen.” Bringing an Eeyore quality to the brick was smart work. However, I also think Q stepped on a few of her own punchlines and read some of the emphasis in her lines a little wrongly.
That’s okay. What’s important is that she made decisions and went for it. You can’t take these awful Drag Race comedy scripts and just read them as written. Even if Q didn’t get every drop of potential comedy out of this bit, the fact that she made some choices and committed to them counts for a lot.
Q delivered a jaw-dropping recreation of this famous Bob Mackie look for “Everything Every-Cher All At Once.”
It’s not an exact copy. If you see a full-body version of the Cher look (nicknamed “Electric Feathers”), the sharp white slashes dominate the negative space. On Q’s version, the white comes off as fern-like tendrils and the black reaches more deeply onto the left side of her body.
I agree Sarah Michelle Gellar’s comment: I think it was a smart choice. It allowed Q to play with the shape of her body in subtle ways that the original couldn’t.
I think it’s safe to say after just three weeks that Q may have the best self-made runway package ever brought to the US regular season franchise. She also seemed completely unflappable in this comedy challenge, which bodes well for the rest of the season full of improv, acting, and more comedy.
Even if Q is getting a familiar “always the bridesmaid” edit, I don’t think it’s for a familiar reason. Jan and Loosey DaLuca were both incredible competitors, but they both had weak spots and the show preyed upon them. Q doesn’t really seem to have any weak spots, other than lip syncing. The show is testing her mettle early to see if she snaps, because if she snaps then it’s easy to send her to the bottom to clear the way for the Sapphira/Nymphia anointed top two. It’s much easier to have a queen like Plasma fill out the finale, because she’s easier to send home as a very deserving runner-up.
But… if Q never snaps and just keeps delivering, she could very well foil some ready-made narratives for the season.
#5 – Plane Jane, 1 win (was #4, 5)
Plane Jane got rewarded this week, but not necessarily for having the best performance. She’s still delivering the same schtick as the past few episodes, and it’s easy to make a front-runner out of her so she will continue to turn up the dial on her villainy.
Plane Jane strikes me as a queen who truly has “cracked the code” of Drag Race. In the same way she knew exactly how to deliver an absurd talent show performance that would make RuPaul howl, she knew that picking the bimbo character in a comedy challenge was all about delivering a beautifully absent vessel – nothing more, nothing less.
I didn’t think Jane’s blankness was as funny as the judges thought it was. However, I do love how Jane sold the bit with her bland, wide-eyed facial expressions and her playing with her hair. Jane really knows how to use her face for effect in drag, and it adds a lot to her characters.
Plane Jane delivered one of the top “Everything Every-Cher All At Once” looks of the night. Somehow she turned up the dial of sumptuousness on this Bob Mackie look while successfully avoiding delivering it as simply a nude illusion.
I think she missed a trick with the furry forearms when Cher’s looked more like fringe, but there’s very little to complain about on this smart reimagining of an iconic original.
Plane Jane was a lock for getting a top three critique in this episode because Plasma was going to win the week. Plane Jane was the next most-obvious person to add to the top against Plasma and Q, and another high placement would continue to pump her up with confidence so she would keep cutting down the other queens.
Plane Jane is too strong, too funny, and too dramatic to be going anywhere anytime soon. Even if she has a catastrophic failure in Girl Groups next week, I’m convinced she will be saved from the Bottom Two. She won’t be risked by production this early in the season against any queen who might pull out some tricks in a lip sync. However, seeing how the other queens are so easy to snap back at her for her cutting comments makes me wonder what the vibe will be like if she makes it all the way to Top 6. It’s not going to be a Heathers/Booger situation. It might turn out that Jane has managed to surround herself with queens who just don’t like her all that much. It wouldn’t surprise me if she winds up being a universal answer to “who should go home and why?”
#6 – Amanda Tori Meating (was #11, 7)
Amanda Tori Meating ate her RDR Live performance and continued to refine her makeup and presentation on the runway. Despite being on the wrong side of the Plasma confrontation in this episode, it seems like she’s got everything this show is looking for… except contouring.
For me, of everyone in this RDR Live challenge it may have been Amanda Tori Meating who gave me the most-accurate SNL energy. She completely committed to the deadpan bit of a Weekend Update anchor, and as a result she was able to reap rewards from the uneven script. In terms of joke density, she absolutely won the night for me.
Unfortunately, ATM gave up a trip to a top spot with a “Everything Every-Cher All At Once” runway with one awkward problem.
The criss-cross top of this Cher doll look was riding up from the moment Amanda hit the runway, and things only got worse as she walked it. This sort of a top is hard to pull off with a flat chest, because there’s no tension of breasts to hold it in place.
Everything else about this look was great – the glittering dress, the oversize wrap, the bangs and long black hair. But, the chest ruined it completely.
Last week I said “the show isn’t going to discard a queen this smart with a brand this obvious and stupid” and I think I nailed it. Finding out that Amanda Tori Meating ghost-writes for OnlyFans not only added to the hilarity of her brand, but proves that’s she’s a smart queen who knows how to market herself in the real world. She’s not going to win this season, but even if she gets eliminated next week I believe she knows exactly how to make the most of her time on the show.
(And, I doubt she will get eliminated next week. She is absolutely a secret singer.)
#7 – Dawn (was #5, 4)
Dawn showed weakness for the first time this week in the challenge, on the runway, and in her story-editing. That’s not the trifecta you want early in the season while you’re trying to catch Ru’s eye.
Dawn was… adequate in her performance as a newsreader. She obviously understood the Amy Poehler deadpan that the role required, but I’m just not sure she ever got there. Enough performances in the challenge were stronger than hers that I was legitimately worried she might wind up in the bottom.
Especially after seeing her runway…
Dawn may have had the worst runway of the Night of 1000 Chers.
Even if we leave aside her unflattering color choice here, she simply missed the mark Cher’s look. Cher’s coat is a little peculiar-looking, but it’s still luxe and it has shape – both from its puffs of fur and it’s long sleeves and knee length. Dawn’s version has none of that. It’s just four awkward, lumpy stripes and a sad asymmetrical zipper.
The all-white jumpsuit Dawn had beneath the jacket was cute, but not gorgeous. The coat was meant to be the big statement, and she literally threw it away on the runway.
I still think Dawn is hanging on to a spot in the top half of this competition, but any little surprise from an upstart beneath her could send her home early. If she wants to make the case for herself being in the final four, I think it’s absolutely critical she lands a top spot in one of the next two episodes. Girl Groups, especially, might turn out to be a must-win for her in the long run. She needs to be larger than life in the challenges and her runways need to stay high-concept without a hint of being overly-busy or frumpy.
#8 – Megami (was #14, 9)
Megami had a “must not flop” week in RDR Live, and she fulfilled the assignment plus easily ticked the box of picking the most-familiar and hardest-to-fuck-up Cher look. With a slew of performance challenges headed our way, she might find her way into the top half of the competition after a shaky start.
Even if the camera loved Plane Jane more than Megami in this skit (we never get a solo shot of Megami despite repeated shots of Jane), she gave exactly what she needed to give here: part Anna Nicole Smith, part Jennifer Coolidge, part Cock Destroyer.
It wasn’t a meaty part, but she made enough of a meal of it to make clear that she knows her way around a comedy performance.
We’ve now seen several versions of Cher’s infamous “If I Could Turn Back Time” jumpsuit both on Cher herself and on various Drag Race franchises. I think Megami totally nailed her version for this Night of 1000 Chers. I love the asymmetry of the middle to help give the illusion of shape, as opposed to the awkward “pregnancy belly” version Cher is wearing in her photo. Also, Cher’s meagre “V” of short garter straps aren’t flattering, but Megami’s stoned tights and boots look good.
Megami truly stoned the ever-living fuck out of this outfit and she also make sure her hair was multiple times as big as her head.
Bottom line: Megami dragged it up in ways that flattered her.
Megami has now delivered a solid design look and a solid comedy performance. She just might have what it takes to stay in the middle of the pack through the middle of the season when things start to get tighter. But… then what? She might find herself stuck in a Salina EsTitties situation where she’s still around but the judges don’t feature her at all (and, Salina was a stellar lip sync artist). It’s critical for Megami to score some early high placements before things get really cutthroat.
#9 – Xunami Muse (was #10, 11)
Xunami Muse impressed me this week, easily delivering her scripted lines as a stuffy newscaster with charm and rhythm despite being surrounded by some disastrous performances. Some of the charisma from her confessionals might finally be bleeding through to her challenge performances, which is exactly what she needs to survive these early cuts.
There were several queens who were entirely in on the joke of being in a parody of an SNL parody of real life, and I think Xunami was part of that in-crowd.
The faces she was pulling, the playing with her fake earpiece… I am confident that she fully understood that this assignment wasn’t realness, but being the fakest possible fake. And, she did that in a group that could’ve easily been named “obvious cannon fodder” – meaning it’s not like anyone else helped her get there.
That made for a surprising, endearing performance from a queen who has so far only shown an instinct for walking the runway. The fact that Xunami’s charm showed through here is a glimmer of hope that she could fight her way to the middle of this season.
If Xunami’s challenge performance was a glimmer of hope, this runway was a giant spotlight of inspiration. She absolutely nailed this look from Prisoner-era Cher. It may have stealthily been the best runway of this Night of 1000 Chers.
What’s so clever about this look for me is that Xunami departed pretty far from the original, but it still immediately read for me as someone who knows the comparison. Cher’s look is all nude illusion with hair draped over it (although I do think some of the hair does continue onto the outfit, though its not evident from the picture they used on the show). Xunami actually continues the glittering wig material onto her corset. Also, the corset is a beautiful match for her skin tone, but it’s not just nude illusion. There’s some subtle lining to it that adds to Xunami’s shape illusion.
For picking a Cher look that was basically just “nudity,” this is all sorts of clever. As was Xunami’s Humpty Dumpty look last week. As was her overbearing newscaster in RDR Live. Are we getting a peek that there is more to see from Xunami than just a runway walk?! I think I might be rooting for her to show out in the Girl Groups challenge more than anyone else in this cast.
#10 – Mhi’ya Iman Le’Paige (was #13, 13)
Mhi’ya Iman Le’Paige really went for it in her RDR Live performance, which was exactly the kind of competitive spirit we all wanted to see from her – including RuPaul!
Sure, Mhi’ya Iman Le’Paige’s remote correspondent performance was rough around the edges, but it showed that she can shed her self-consciousness to bring a little of her kicking and twirling self to the show’s challenges.
This was loud, silly, and messy in exactly the way it needed to be. I think she was placed in the bottom for it more to give her some encouraging feedback and less to seriously consider throwing her into the lip sync.
Mhi’ya Iman Le’Paige missed the mark on her Night of 1000 Chers runway, and I’m just not quite sure how that happened.
She picked a promo look from Cher that was basically just Cher in a leather jacket, but Mhi’ya showed up in something that looked kinda like the “If I Could Turn Back Time” video look.
Did Mhi’ya see a leather jacket and think “yeah, I’ve got that”? Was she unable to score the “Turn Back Time” look she wanted but figured she could back-door her way into it with this look?
It’s not a terrible look. Actually, it’s one of the more-flattering things Mhi’ya has work so far. I’m slightly annoyed by the judges talking about how Cher’s hair is always so big. Mhi’ya’s hair is a pretty good match for the size of Cher’s hair in the original look! It’s just that Cher’s hair in that look is wavy, but Mhi’ya’s is curly – and when Cher wears curly hair it does tend to be massive.
Mhi’ya Iman Le’Paige is that certain brand of “diamond in the rough” black Southern queen that RuPaul loves to root for because she sees some of herself in them. Often queens can’t figure out how to take advantage of Ru’s combination of tough love and fascination, but sometimes it clicks and we get a Heidi N Closet or a Chi Chi DeVayne (may she rest in peace & power). Ru has been working some charming moments out of Mhi’ya slowly but surely, and if there’s any challenge that could finally light a spark in Mhi’ya it could be Girl Groups next week.
#11 – Morphine Love Dion (was #9, 12)
Morphine Love Dion gave a bad performance in RDR Live, swallowing her words and missing her punchlines. I said last week that we either needed to see amazing comedy or amazing singing from her to light a spark with the judges. She’ll have just one more chance to do that next week.
Morphine’s RDR Live “End of the World Countdown” anchor was a big nothing. It’s not like she had the best script to work with, but she was meant to be giving “sexpot hosting a NYE special” and instead we got an India Ferrah impersonator in a leotard.
Even if we leave aside the boggling outfit, Morphine didn’t have ant perspective on who this character was. She was just saying lines, gargling the middles and endings of many of them.
I think standing, planting, and saying your lines counts a solid amount this early in a Drag Race season – and, here it was enough to keep her safe.
On the other hand, Morphine tackled one of the most-famous Bob Mackie Cher designs of all time for “Everything Every-Cher All At Once” and she fulfilled the brief. She was absolutely in the top half of the pack of this Night of 1000 Chers.
There are some things I could pick at here. The shape of Morphine’s bust isn’t as deep as Cher’s, the sparkly crotch isn’t as broad, and her wrap seemed much less luxurious. However, I think her big pile of hair was perfect and she modeled the look extremely well (but maybe with too much body glitter).
I’ve been hard on Morphine so far, but that’s because I suspect she can deliver performances as thought-through as this runway and her mug. I’m not sure what she needs to get her to that point. More time? Less pressure? I don’t know, but even though she hasn’t showed us much so far I think she might be able to pull through the Girl Groups challenge if she put just a little bit of imagination into it.
#12 – Geneva Karr, 2 lip syncs (was #6, 10)
Geneva Karr was marked for death by Ru and the production team this week, but survived by the lucky fluke of Mirage not knowing her words. There’s no way Geneva can survive another lip sync, so she needs to be safe in Girl Groups next week if she wants to sneak past the other fodder queens to make it anywhere close to the midway point of the season.
Geneva flubbed her Lindsay Graham impression due to not knowing the reference, but let’s be honest – this was a thankless role that only someone with the wit of Ben de la Creme could’ve sold with this listless script they were handed.
The script had confirmed bachelor Graham (long rumored to be closeted) being suddenly and absurdly out-and-proud, but I think dressing him flamboyantly completely misses the potential humor of this role. The whole point is to play him visually like as a buttoned-up elderly lesbian who is serving stuffy Senator realness. It’s not a coincidence that I just learned via Google that Kate McKinnon has played him that way, because that’s what he looks like.
It’s hard to tell how much production assisted any of these queens with their looks for this challenge, so that might have been out of Geneva’s hands… but, the fact that she went into this totally blind without asking about the reference speaks to how lost she is on this season.
There were few things going right with this Cher Ringling Brothers Circus look… and a lot going wrong.
Cher wore this as a halter top, and Geneva wore it as long sleeves. Yes, halters can mess with drag proportions because they show your natural shoulders, but Geneva didn’t do anything else with her shoulders to create an illusion here. She would’ve had a more interesting shape with some skin exposed.
Also, Cher’s look has a bare stomach with a subtly concave waistline to accentuate her hips. Geneva just has a solid band around her middle. She looks like a big red barrel. What drag queen in their right mind wraps a totally flat strip around their mid-section without any kind of illusion of shape to it?
But, wait, I’m not finished! Cher’s bellbottoms flared out on the ground even though she was wearing heels. Geneva’s just hang at her ankles without as much of a flare. Again, nothing intrinsically wrong with that, but she’s giving away the chance to create illusion of shape. A bigger flare at the bottom of pants contrasts with the size of your hips.
And, finally, the hat. It’s actually almost perfectly to scale to Cher’s hat… except, Cher has different proportions than Geneva. Geneva’s version of the hat should’ve been two times bigger.
I get that I have the benefit of hindsight when I’m picking apart this look. But, the problems I have here are the problems I’ve had with Geneva since her entrance. She’s beautiful and she clearly has access to some awesome drag materials, because her looks have been high quality. But, she doesn’t seem to understand how to make all of the details work in her favor to enhance her beauty and her shape. The materials are being wasted on her execution.
I actually think Geneva stands a solid chance of making it through Girl Groups next week, as there are other queens I can see stumbling in a challenge that involves singing and choreography. But, if that’s followed up by true improv, acting, or Snatch Game, I don’t think she’s going to make it to the halfway point. At this point, production knows that they can send Geneva to the bottom to give a queen they prefer an easy pass… as long a she knows the words.
Eliminated – 13th Place: Mirage, 1 lip sync (was #8, 8)
Mirage gave us one of the saddest sashays we’ve had in a while. Even if I never had Mirage pegged to go past the halfway point, I never expected her to be cut second. She is a queen with a lot of potential and a lot of skill who just pulled an unfortunate combination of an intentionally weak challenge role, a runway where Ru had a specific bone to pick, and a lip sync song where she just didn’t have the words down.
Let’s tackle those one by one.
I think Mirage’s choice to want to host RDR Live was well-intentioned on its face. She wanted to do something that would help her stick out! However, she wasn’t playing the meta-game of Drag Race, which is that the hosting gig is almost always a rotten pick because you have no one to play off of. Add in that this was a hosting gig with jokes supplied by the never-to-be-trusted Drag Race writers and Mirage’s role choice was a truly poisoned chalice.
Plus, it’s not like Mirage is Plasma – someone who has to fight against being typecast into a certain kind of drag. She could’ve played against type by being funny in just about any role in RDR Live.
Second, let’s talk about the runway. I have problems with this “Night of 1000 Chers” copy other than Ru’s obsession with Mirage mashing up 60s hair with a 70s outfit.
Yes, Mother Ru, the children are blending their references. You know who else blended their references. Fricking Cher. Wearing the flat wig Cher has on in the file photo would’ve gotten most queens read by the judges. Mirage made the right choice to keep Cher’s straight hair and bangs but give herself a silhouette with a 60s bump in the back. There’s nothing wrong with that.
However, there were other things wrong with the outfit. The bodice and midriff were too busy compared to the original. Of this entire cast, Mirage has the body to pull of a verbatim Cher look – so why turn this iconic original into an awkward figure skating costume? Also, Mirage’s skirt was a shapeless muddle of tasseled pieces. The original Mackie was a feathered fringe that had shape, with higher feathers on the outside and lower ones toward the middle.
I love to highlight when my predictions are spot-on, so I should also own up to it when I miss the mark Last week I said, “There ain’t no way she is going to lose her first lip sync, so at the moment she is safely ensconced in the middle of the pack.” But, there’s just nothing to be done when you don’t know the words.
(And, beyond that, I found Geneva’s facial performance more compelling at multiple points in the song.)
I suspect Mirage will have no problem with her bookings following this season. She’s young, beautiful, and a dynamic dancer. This early elimination surely stung, but she might come out of it as more of a fan favorite than if she had stuck around for several weeks of middle-of-the-pack placements.