RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 16, Episode 5 was a Girl Groups challenge paired with a wide-open runway prompt: Faster Pussycat Wig Wig! The combination let the queens really show of their range and their imagination. It resulted in strong showings from the entire cast and the tightest judging so far this season.
Drag Race can sometimes be stingy with music options when it comes to its mid-season “Girl Groups” songwriting challenges. Even with strong songwriters like Leland on the production team, often we get a somewhat limp instrumental track without much implied melody for queens to work with.
(There have been some obvious exceptions on the international franchises, like MNEK’s outstanding “Break Up (Bye Bye)” for UK Season 1).
On this episode, the queens got to work with three genuine RuPaul tracks – and, all three of them are absolute bops with House music flavor. Ru has always produced highly-entertaining, booty-shaking dance music. Last year’s record, Black Butta, felt as though it leaned out of making club-ready drag music and slightly more into the current pop mainstream. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that the mainstream has been loving House music influences for the past few years, in no small part thanks to Beyoncé.
For my dollar, “Stay Baby” is the best production of these three tracks, but “Courage to Love” is some of Ru’s better inspiro-pop, and as goofy as “ASMR Lover” is as a title it’s a catch tune.
Was it the high quality of these songs that led to such an outstanding trio of girl groups this episode? Or, do we really have a cast of 12 highly-capable queens who know how to both write and sing? I feel like I was considerably harder on the lyrics produced by the All-Winners for their Girl Groups than I am on the lyrics from this cast.
I was asking the same question for this runway prompt. “Faster Pussycat Wig Wig” is basically just a wig-styling assignment. To this cast’s credit, only one of them took it as a signal to do a full-on cat-themed look – and even she used that to play with proportions in an interesting way. Everyone else got imaginative, and while I didn’t love every outfit there were barely any BOOTs in the mix.
(Although, I think it’s telling that both of the frontrunners pulled the same “the wig is a cat” gag as each other, both layering it on top of another reveal. To me, that was a real “they cracked the code” sort of moment. Both queens seem to have an intrinsic understanding of the beats they need to hit to please Ru, while the other queens chasing them are having trouble finding that rhythm.)
Speaking of trouble with rhythm, this may have been the most-entertaining choreography rehearsal we’ve ever seen on the American franchise. Each group had its unique challenges to surmount, which lead not only to funny moments on stage, but absolutely righteous moments between the eight queens watching the rehearsal.
In the end, the Girl Group performances were so tight that you could easily make the case for any queen to be on the top of this episode. Instead of going for an obvious “one top and one bottom from each team” critique, the show instead bucked tradition for the US franchise and handed out a group win. As a result, that yielded a painfully obvious pair of bottoms – one due to the girl groups, the other due to the runway.
That means we’ve got a handful of big shake-ups in the power rankings compared to last week’s power rankings for RDR Live. In a week where every queen does well, it forces me to really pick apart their momentum. What are their narratives in the edit? What is the story for them Ru seems to be telling with her critiques? And, do they have any hope of lasting until the finale when two (or maybe three) of the top spots already feel like they’re all locked up?
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 5 – Girl Groups & “Faster Pussycat Wig Wig” Power Rankings
Before we get to our power rankings, let’s appreciate Ru’s fashions this episode
I absolutely live for this neon problem-pattern suit in the workroom. I love that Ru’s shirt is made out of the same pattern. Personally, I’d go for a solid shirt in the pink from the pattern on the suit, but there is just something so fucking cool about having every single piece of a suit in the same pattern.
This royal purple runway is almost a perfect “Classic Ru” moment. Except… what is with the two tiny peeks of nude on the dress? And why is the triangle of nude in the middle SO WRINKLED?! I could not stop staring at it.
There’s no reason the dress needed nude there. The triangle is way to small to be doing anything interesting in terms of illusion of shape, and I don’t think anyone would truly show such a tiny slice of nudity in a glamorous dress like this.
It’s one of those “only in drag” nude delusion moments that makes no sense in terms of actual fashion on an otherwise flawless look.
#1 – Nymphia Wind, 2 wins (was #1, 1, 2)
Nymphia Wind played up her weaknesses to her competitors so much and then delivered so hard that it’s impossible to know what was real and what was fake. Did she write her lyrics, or did Megami? Did she choreograph the group, or was it Mhi’ya Iman Le’Paige? One thing we know for sure: she may have had the most opulent runway of the night.
Nymphia Wind truly looked the part of a Girl Group starlet. It’s not only that she has the actual body of a pop star (no nude illusion here), but the halter top, tiny skirt, and fringed boots felt at once classic and of-the-now. Also, she absolutely killed her choreography, adding plenty of smirks and hair tosses along the way to keep it lively.
It all added up to “Pop Star Realness” (even if she did visibly miss lip syncing to a few of her lyrics).
No matter who wrote it, Nymphia’s verse turned out a lot better than whatever it was we saw her thinking of in the workroom! Something about it feels a little anonymous to me, especially as it fits with “ASMR Lover,” but flows well and the rhymes are all clever.
Gone with the wind, I’m fabulous
These mothertuckin’ hoes can’t handle us
Breakin’ wind, servin’ fashion
Actin’ up like Ru said, “Action”
Catch banana fever, I’ll make you a believer
Flew from Taiwan just to say, “Hello”
I’m Nymphia and you better vote yellow!
I’m surprised at the shocked “Nymphia is a dancer?!” reaction from the other queens when it has been obvious Nymphi aknows how to move her body from the second she walked in. But, by not shouting about this skill from the rooftops prior to (or during) the challenge, Nymphia continues to play an outstanding strategic game to disguise her status as an obvious frontrunner.
Sure, it’s obvious to us as viewers in the edit, but I think it’s just dawning on the other queens how much trouble they’re in (compared to last year, when the trouble was obvious as soon as Sasha Colby walked in the door).
Nymphia Wind had by far the most luxe “Faster Pussycat Wig Wig” runway of the evening in this jewel-encrusted dream of an outfit. It was executed at a higher caliber than everyone else on the runway, Q included. The triple-pussy wig reveal from hat, to cat, to pussycat, to genitals went from comedy to fashion to smutty. Also, her make-up was perfect.
I think there was a very real chance of Nymphia being the sole winner of the week. But, I think Ru and the producers have grown slightly more cautious about lumping too many of their wins into one basket too early in a season, so they took the Drag Race UK approach of awarding the entire group instead. It doesn’t fundamentally alter Nymphia’s march to victory, but it makes for more-interesting television and gives them more options for their narrative in the long run.
That puts Nymphia in an early front-runner position as the first queen to two wins, but even without a win her domination of the week could not be ignored. Right now it would seem like Nymphia could easily walk away with the crown like Sasha Colby if it wasn’t for one other titanically talented performer in the mix…
#2 – Sapphira Cristál, 1 win (was #2, 2, 1)
Sapphira Cristál delivered another confident performance, but TS Madison’s comments about seeing her thinking during choreo could be setting up a weak spot for the judges to continue to poke in the future.
PHILLY REPRESENT. My Philly queen is making me proud as a fellow songwriter raised in the City of Brotherly love. Look at this perfection. I wouldn’t change a damn word:
Got you gaggin’ on my dragon(/drag and?), baby, you need to breath
Turnin’ nothin’ into somethin’ like you wouldn’t believe
My one desire to inspire what you can and can’t see(/conceive?)
Sapphira’s here, baby, there’s no limit to what you’ll achieve
I bring the heat by keepin’ my cool
I look like this, you look a damn fool
So listen up, kids, you’re ’bout to get schooled
Sapphira Cristál is Philly’s crowned jewel
In this challenges many queens front-load their vocals and then head into a quick patter of rap to squeeze in the rest of their ideas. I love that Sapphira inverted this trend, coolly delivering her syncopated rap in the first half and then slowing things down to emphasize her rhyming scheme at the end of the verse.
Sapphira also pulled out what might be her sultriest look so far for this performance. Honestly, for a bodysuit I’d say it was styled well enough to actually walk the main runway! If anything was wrong with the look, it was that it slightly pulled focus from the rest of her team for me because it was so strong. Luckily, there were no negative comments about “being the Beyoncé of Destiny’s Child” tonight from the judges (which is wild, since Sapphira did kind of look like Beyoncé).
That all said, I do agree with TS Madison that Sapphira’s choreography had a certain mechanical, box-ticking quality to it. It was still sharply performed, but she wasn’t giving joy in her face the way Nymphia was.
I think a bald-headed Dr. Evil look has the potential to be low-glam campy cosplay, but Sapphira really made it work on this “Faster Pussycat Kill Kill” runway. It’s always hard to know whether you can get away with a reference stacked on top of another reference in a runway category, but this gray/blue dress with capelet sleeves was so elegant that it excused using the pussycat wig as a way in to the Dr. Evil reference. With some adjusted tailoring around the shoulders I think this look could easily walk a red carpet.
Sapphira Cristál continues to handle every challenge with glee and ease. The preview for next week makes it look like she could be in trouble for the first time. Will Sapphira make a strategic deployment of her Immunity Potion to avoid a potential bottom placement? If not, it’s curtains for whoever goes up against her in the lip sync – not only is it too early in the season to lose her, but not many of these queens have what it takes to defeat her!
#3 – Plane Jane, 1 win (was #4, 5, 5)
Plane Jane was the main character of this episode, dominating the camera time and the storyline. Also, it turns out that she’s better than fine at choreography despite looking a bit wooden in earlier performances.
Plane Jane not only turned out to be a strong dancer, but her lyrics were FIRE. She murdered this challenge. This verse is so dense with great turns of phrase.
Plane Jane, Miss Jane, if you’re nasty
And if the pipe real long, holla at me
Booty fat, and the body so right
Got ’em flyin’ on this plane all day and night
Don’t play with me, just play that track
Don’t break my heart, just break my back
When you hear this song, yes, it’s time, come aboard
You a real bad bitch with the courage to love
Sure “If you’re nasty” is an old Janet reference at this point, but the second line is absolutely fucking genius. Then the “flyin’ on this plane,” and “break my back” lyrics are both perfectly placed and incredibly clever. I think she could’ve written a better final line, but otherwise no notes on the lyrics or the delivery. This verse is so fast and it would’ve been easy for Plane to get tripped up on the lyrics, but she delivered it all with perfect rhythm and clarity.
This is the work of a very smart queen.
I can’t say that I was wild about this extreme fetish BDSM runway from Plane Jane. Having so much stuff strapped to her face and head completely obscured the pussycat wig. Also, unlike Sapphira, I think this was just too much concept stacked on top of an existing runway concept without a clear storyline to connect them.
The outfit was well-constructed and Plane’s body looked great, but I just didn’t find it very exciting.
Plane Jane most be our most self-produced queen since Willam. In the mirror chat she said to Sapphira that she sometimes doesn’t realize the impact of her words, but I’m not sure that I buy it. Plane Jane is an elite queen with all the right skills for Drag Race plus a killer runway package. I don’t think that queen is a villain by mistake. I think she’s hamming it up early on to make sure she has a story, and eventually she’ll turn a corner into a kinder version of herself to secure her spot in the finals.
(I’m not 100% sure that Plane Jane even wants to win the season. More on that as things continue to develop.)
#4 – Plasma, 1 win (was #7, 6, 3)
Plasma has fully usurped the “she’s a professional” edit from Q after delivering a dominant Girl Group performance and some diversity on the runway. You can feel the vibe changing as the judges continue to become more enamoured with her.
First, can I say: this wig is sheer perfection and I need it. It’s the pinkest pink I’ve ever seen, the curls are sumptuous, and it’s just the right proportions for Plasma’s face.
Also, I’m not sure if this look is nude illusion or a true cutout, but it looks very right on Plasma’s body. (I think it must be illusion, since it hits right on her nipples.) It creates interesting shapes and emphasizes the V of her torso, which is a big win.
We’ll forgive Plasma for very nearly plagiarizing “Born this Way” in her first two lines because her lyrics actually fit in perfectly with “Courage to Love.” They don’t have much to say about who she is, but that wasn’t necessarily the assignment.
When I was younger, my mama said to me
“Just be yourself, baby, the rest comes naturally”
Bein’ a queen is a state of mind
Be true to yourself, share love, be kind
Remember, girls, rule number one, have fun
Whatever you are, better be a damn good one
I wish Plasma hadn’t leaned so hard into her retro NYC accent for the talky half of her verse. I suppose if she had to do something approaching rap it was a way to keep it safe and in-character, but it was jarring to hear that voice coming out while she looked like a total pop starlet.
Plasma’s “Faster Pussycat Wig Wig” runway was the right amount of too much for the Drag Race stage. The silhouette felt youthful and it used Plasma’s pocket-size to her advantage by having proportions that made her look even more tiny.
However, I could’ve done without the fully furry arms and the gold cherubs on the skirt of the dress. I just found myself looking too many places at once, and the fuzzy shoulders dampened the impact of the winged ears.
Based on Ru and Michelle’s reaction to Plasma, she has now cemented herself in their minds as a queen they have their eyes on. At the same time, it was also clear that Ru went suddenly dead-behind-the-eyes when Plasma went into her theatre kid schtick on the runway. Plasma can’t let these two weeks of positive notices go to her head or allow her to revert to type.
Plasma has to keep pushing to deliver surprising, out-of-the-box solutions to the show’s challenges. If she does that, she may just lock up a trip to the finale and a lasting reputation as a queen who broke out of her assigned “theatre kid cannon fodder” narrative through sheer charisma, uniqueness, nerve, and talent.
#5 – Megami, 1 win (was #14, 9, 8)
Megami was the big winner of this episode, delivering one of the best Girl Groups performances and allegedly writing some-or-all of Nymphia’s verse for her. While Megami’s fashion will probably hold her back from the finale, right now she’s making a strong case for herself as one of the top performance artists of the season when she has a specific challenge to give her focus.
First, let’s talk about this look. It’s perfectly slinky and Megami’s shape was great in it, but it needed a pop of color to break up the black. A yellow belt would’ve made Megami look more a part of her group and would have given this some visual interest.
The verse is solid. The lyrics track perfectly and there is no obvious break in the narrative. It’s clear that Megami knows her way around writing a song.
Down on your knees, bitch, pray to me
‘Cause Megami is the goddess that you’ll pay to see
That’s M-E-G-A-M-I, what?
Clear the runway, watch a big girl strut
It’s just the beginnin’, I’ll keep your head spinnin’
And all the boys sinnin’, I better start winnin’
Ain’t nobody ever eat the runway like I do
Runnin’ over bitches on the rough, drive-through
Megami seems to love these tight little sheer mini-dresses that show off her curves and her tattoos. I think this one was constructed and styled better than her Gaga look from two weeks ago, but I think the joke of the tiny fairy wings in the back didn’t read on the massive Drag Race stage.
(I suspect Megami agreed, because when she showed this look on her Instagram it was with giant-size wings.)
I think bigger wings would’ve sold this better by giving the illusion of Megami being pint-sized. Also, a big “NO” to those silvery-white shoes with an ankle-strap. They not only cut her leg awkardly, but they simply didn’t look too good. I would’ve taken a glitter silver pump or a big chunky shoe in a similar robin’s egg blue.
Given Megami’s crafting abilities, I can’t imagine she will be felled by the doll-making challenge next week unless it involves a runway look from a suitcase and hers turns out to be totally rotted. However, one caveat on that: if the show suspects she could be a threat to win Snatch Game, they might bump her off early. I doubt they want her to be that big of a frontrunner, and it would be easy for the judges to quickly give her a retroactive beatdown for her runway aesthetics the same way they did for Amanda Tori Meating this episode.
#6 – Mhi’ya Iman Le’Paige, 1 win (was #13, 13, 10)
Mhi’ya Iman Le’Paige came alive in the episode, delivering the most energy we’ve seen from her so far and a pair of her simplest and best looks. Given Ru’s obsession with and encouragement of her over the course of the past two episodes, it’s a good sign that Mhi’ya is making moves to snatch an underdog edit that will carry her into the top half of this competition.
First things first: Mhi’ya Iman Le’Paige looked so hot in this girl group number! Finally, she delivered a silhouette that didn’t involve a boxy middle or something obscuring her neck and face. I think it is the best she has looked on the show so far.
Mhi’ya’s verse is perfection. It doesn’t feel like a RuPaul remix verse, it just feels like a song. The “dainty lady / out of Haiti” opening rhyme is genius. Lyrics on Drag Race rarely have the clever specificity of a turn of phrase like “dainty lady,” and then to hit the slant rhyme on “know I’m crazy” just seals for me how good Mhi’ya is at this.
You make me feel like a dainty lady
High heel boots, straight out of Haiti
So 305, so Dade County
With my stank ass walk, boy, you know I’m crazy
Is the name they’re screamin’ when they see me flippin’
Is the drag that took her man, bitch
After such a stellar girl group outfit, Mhi’ya’s “Faster Pussycat Wig Wig” runway look continued her upward trajectory. Sure, it’s just a bar outfit, but it flattered her figure and lacked the fashion faux pas of her outfits so far. It meant there was nothing standing in the way of her winning this week’s challenge.
That allowed Ru to reward Mhi’ya for breaking out of her shell, a narrative Ru herself has been cultivating over the past two episodes. Ru loves rewarding a queen who knows how to roll with the potential positive narrative she’s been handed. If Mhi’ya had an inner saboteur moment this episode, I’m certain it would’ve been the end of her run.
Now, the question becomes if Mhi’ya has already reached the end of her story arc. We’ve seen this from Ru in the past with queens like Plastique Tiara, who were rewarded and then immediately discarded. Mhi’ya needs to keep showing growth and independent motivation – she can’t just wait for another direction from Ru.
My fear for Mhi’ya Iman Le’Paige is that next week seems to be a design challenge, or at least design-adjacent. That could mean it’s finally her moment to hit the bottom and deliver a lip sync, but it feels like she has too much momentum at the moment to be dismissed on her first Bottom Two unless it happens to be against one of the top four queens.
#7 – Q, 1 lsft-win, 1 lip sync (was #3, 3, 4)
Q flopped in the Girl Groups challenge. She not only missed most of her choreography, but she looked absolutely wooden while missing it. Also? She had one of the weakest sets of lyrics of the night. Not even another perfectly-tailored runway could save her from a trip to the Bottom Two.
I’ll give this to Q – from the shoulders up she is giving me “Dragged Up True Blue Madonna.” I love this tiny curly blonde wig and I love the blue against it. But, from the shoulders down it’s different story. I don’t think she needed bikini cups that large without a breastplate, and the tight waist of her bikini bottom is squeezing her so much that it’s making her hips look square instead of curvy.
Q’s verse comes on strong with a nice rhyme of “fashion / passion” and I love the “just one letter, nobody better,” but there’s no connective tissue in the middle of those two rhymes. Also, I really hate “no crashin” as a lyric (especially since this was a true car crash of a performance).
I strut in in the fashion
Servin’ looks, my passion
Leavin’ it all on stage, no crashin’
You cannot stop me
Just one letter, nobody better
Slayin’ every way
Yet, what looks weak on paper actually fit well into the track, especially how “slaying in every way” wound up rhyming with Ru’s subsequent “you’re a star baby” hook.
The dancing? Oof. I can’t explain it other than by saying it looked like Q’s legs hinged and bent in completely different places than all of the other queens. It was giving me memories of being a kid and trying to mix a toy with few points of articulation with more-articulated toys from another line.
I’m willing to show some sympathy for that as someone who loves to dance but is not a dancer. I think Q was relying on an amount of stiffness to try to give good lines, but it made her entire dance look robotic. Combined with being behind the beat for so many of her moves, and it was “all crashin’.”
Also, she was terrible at the Aunt Viv. Go back and watch some Fresh Prince, Q.
Q’s “Faster Pussycat Wig Wig” runway was outstanding, which is what we’ve come to expect from her. She nailed the brief on the wig, and paired it with a complete concept that was exquisitely detailed from head to toe.
The inability to deliver a confident dance performance is a relatively minor transgression in the scope of all the weaknesses we’ve seen from potential finalists over the course of the past 15 seasons of Drag Race. However, lip syncing skills have become emphasized on recent seasons. Q has now bombed a pair of them, barely surviving this episode purely because it was her opponent’s time to go.
I don’t know if Ru and production have the patience to carry Q through another lip sync, so she needs to avoid a bottom placement for the rest of the season if she wants to make the finale.
#8 – Dawn (was #5, 4, 7)
Dawn delivered a confident Girl Groups performance and finally got some positive notes from the judges. Yet, it doesn’t feel like she has done anything particularly memorable yet – and the window to get a win on the board against the dominant potential finalists is quickly closing.
Dawn looked like a velvet mushroom in this performance outfit, and I’m sure that was something like what she was going for. She loves giving “hallucinogenic trip as fashion.”
With my songwriter hat on, I have to admit Dawn wrote a killer verse. It plays with her name, it’s all about her brand, and it has both a Disney reference and a David Bowie reference. Aside from the generic “turning looks” lyric, I have no notes.
Oh, my God, babe, wake up, it’s Dawn
Silly little fillies with my elf ears on
Not part of your world, it’s all my own
So dumb, so c*nt, your minds are blown
From the stars, layin’ bars
Didn’t you know there’s life on Mars?
Galaxy, fantasy, turnin’ look, settin’ free
And can I be honest? I’m a star, baby
Dawn’s vocal sounded great – it sounded enough like her speaking voice that I don’t think there was much tuning happening. Also… was she an even better dancer than Sapphira?! Dawn might have a few hidden talents up her extra-long sleeves just like Nymphia.
This runway was a hodgepodge. It has some cool lines, colors, and textures, but I’m not sure where my eye is supposed to rest or what shape I’m supposed to be seeing.
On top of that, Dawn resisted giving an obvious pussycat wig for the “Faster Pussycat Wig Wig” runway in favor of delivering this mushroom cut fantasy with a tiny bit of pussycat in the back. For what? This look could’ve been just as cool with a pussycat wig. Dawn fought against the prompt purely because she’s Dawn.
To me, Dawn is giving Season 7 Trixie. No, not because of the eye make-up.
S7 Trixie was constant “more is more.” Some of her runways were stunning (remember her bearded angel?!), and she clearly had the talent to make a deep run on the show, but beyond her nerve problems she lacked a consistent aesthetic to marry to the consistency of her signature makeup. Later, on All Stars 3 Trixie understood that her strength was retro fashion and she hammered that all season long.
S16 Dawn is “twink who thrift-shops in Brooklyn and who also paints like an elf.” It’s constant more is more. It’s obvious she’s mega-talented, but it needs focus. When she watches herself back on TV she’s going to have an a-ha moment and everything will get refined.
I still think Dawn is one of the few queens on this cast who is enough of an all-arounder to knock out one of the queens orbiting the finalist nucleus of Nymphia + Sapphira. To get herself stuck into one of the remaining top spots Dawn needs a breakout moment like Plasma had last week in RDR Live. To do that, I think Dawn may need to let go of her aesthetic more than she’s willing or able to do at the moment. If she’s got some hidden talents, now is the time to let them show.
#9 – Xunami Muse (was #10, 11, 9)
Xunami Muse showed a real spark in a performance challenge for the second week in a row. Plus, the judges ate up her androgynous runway. If she can notch a top placement or a win in the next two weeks, she’ll secure some momentum while some of her competitors falter.
Xunami Muse’s verse is one of those efforts that sounds fun in the moment but doesn’t hold up under scrutiny. It flows and the rhymes work, but it doesn’t really scan as lyrics or tell a story. Also, she may have had the most trouble with diction and delivery out of the entire cast.
Come on, strut, find your light
Turn your head to the left and you shake it to the right
Cute face, tight waist, she’s got it all
Can’t tell me nothin’ now ’cause I’m here with Miss Paul
Good luck’s with the attitude
Came through from the good to shake the groove
No, no, don’t stop, let the love come through
At the end of the day, you got no one but you
I’d agree with the judges that Xunami seemed entirely “in it” during her performance. She may have looked the most like an authentic current girl group-er out of everyone in the cast other than Nymphia, and she moved with ease.
I think Xunami scored major points on the “Faster Pussycat Wig Wig” runway by getting such a reaction from Ru and Michelle. That’s the kind of notice she has been missing so far this season. I think it really proved her power both in styling and modeling.
Seen hanging on a mannequin, this outfit would not be all that impressive. It’s a glittery matador jacket, but nothing else about it screams “high drag.” Yet, Xunami combined the right elements to give the judges “power lesbian realness” vibes and she modeled it perfectly. It’s not just about her walk, but the face she serves to the judges.
I don’t think one good runway and a confident challenge performance is enough for Xunami to be a frontrunner. However, I do think showing the judges she has some real potential could help tie-break when she inevitably ends up in the bottom sometime in the next few episodes. Also, it continues her subtle trend of bringing her interview sassiness to the challenges that began last episode.
I’m ultimately rooting for everyone to do well during Drag Race, and I’m fascinated by the potential trajectory for Xunami to score a high placement in next week’s design challenge, then survive another week and make it to Snatch Game. There’s a version of how this season plays out where she absolutely could sneak into the top half of the placements. However, I don’t rate her chances of surviving a lip sync very high against any of the other queens in this cast other than Q or Megami.
#10 – Morphine Love Dion (was #9, 12, 11)
Morphine Love Dion was flawless in the Girl Groups challenge. Had it been judged individually it’s possible she could have snatched a top placement. However, without that top spot, she is now one of the least-decorated queens in the cast… and there’s not much time left to find a way to stand out before things get tight.
Morphine Dion Love nailed the girl group fantasy here. She looked the part, moved the part, and sounded the part. She’d absolutely be in my tops for the week – if not the overall winner.
Morphine, like the drug, but no relation
When you’re at my shows, you stay in admiration
Fascination! Even a standin’ ovation
I’m the only reason for your fixation
The flawless, the face, the beauty, the taste
Savor it, ’cause you can’t replace
Dándolo todo perra, ow
I love the way Morphine stuck with the hard “A” rhyme sounds on every line in her verse. It gave it a real sense of building momentum. Some of the rhythm felt a little bit forced, especially with the quick change from “admiration / fascination,” but I think that could be down to having to write and record this verse in a matter of hours with little time to rehearse (and without an outstanding celebrity songwriting coach like the ones supplied on Drag Race Canada).
Also, to my ears, Morphine’s vocal required very little auto-tuning.
I’ve been tough on Morphine Dion Love on the runway before, but I can’t complain about this “Faster Pussycat Wig Wig” look. Perhaps the expanded hips are sitting a little bit low, but the construction of the garment looks great and of course the mug is right.
This is much more polished than anything else we’ve seen on the runway so far from Morphine. You can’t do much to change your suitcase, so it could just be that she struck gold with one designer here and we’ll be back to frumpier looks next week. Yet, it shows off what she is capable of when she’s working with a strong package.
I’m growing to enjoy Morphine, but I think she is running out of chances to fight her way into the top half of this cast. I’ve said for the past two weeks that Morphine needed to make her mark either in comedy or singing if she wanted to escape being cannon fodder for the obvious top group of queens when one of them falls into the bottom. She made a mark here, but unfortunately it didn’t come with the high placement she needed to pad her standings for the season. I fear that she’ll be unremarkable in next week’s doll challenge, and I don’t have high hopes for her in the impending Snatch Game that will follow in the next 1-2 weeks.
#11 – Geneva Karr, 1 win, 1 lsft-win, 2 lip syncs (was #6, 10, 12)
Geneva Karr snagged a win by default this week along with her Girl Group, despite having one of the weaker verses and one of the worst runways. With another design challenge ahead next week and Snatch Game surely coming soon, I don’t know how much longer she can possibly hold on.
Here’s my problem with Geneva’s verse: it doesn’t feel original. The “clearing customs” line is lifted from Geneva’s talent show song, as are a lot of the dance moves. “Sickenin” feels like a Alexis Mateo reference rather than something that belongs to Geneva herself.
Clearin’ customs left and right
Geneva Karr has just arrived
La diva mas latina that your eyes will ever see
I mean, just look at me, I’m what? Sickenin’
If you wanna read, there’ll be subtitles down here
So you can keep up, ’cause, baby, I am fierce
Move away or Miss Karr will run you over
Even I can admit that “If you wanna read, there’ll be subtitles down here” is a great line – especially with Geneva breaking the fourth wall to gesture down to the subtitles below her. Despite that, the lyrics just don’t track, overall. There was a certain slowness to her delivery matched by a slight clumsiness in executing her solo dance moves.
This is hideous. What is it? I understand there are flapper elements in it, but it doesn’t make any sense on the whole. What is with the rainbow camouflage pattern? Also, why is Geneva so much cuter as a boy than as a drag queen? I think she is fighting her own facial features just as much as Amanda Tori Meating is, but she isn’t getting comments on it.
I think at this point in the season Geneva Karr has officially hit “bitch eating crackers” status with me – a queen who I will be annoyed by no matter what she does. I last conferred this title upon Drag Chuchi on Drag Race España. No matter what Geneva serves in upcoming episodes, I’m probably not going to like it.
But, these rankings aren’t about what I like – it’s about how queens are being edited and their apparent momentum in the competition. So, how do I have a queen who won this episode in the bottom spot on the rankings?
For me, it’s because all of the other low-ranking queens got positive notes on their performances this episode and none of them hit the bottom. Even with a win on her side, Geneva still remains the easiest queen to cut if she is in the bottom again. Now we’re heading into another design-oriented challenge when Geneva has the most aesthetic challenges of anyone remaining in this cast. I need to see her get positive critiques to be convinced she has any traction to survive past Morphine and Xunami.
Eliminated – 12th Place: Amanda Tori Meating, 1 lip sync (was #11, 7, 6)
Amanda Tori Meating has the natural charisma that some queens don’t even manage by the time they return for All Stars. Yet, at just two years into her journey as a drag artist, Amanda simply didn’t have the skills, suitcase, or nuance to make it much farther in this competition.
Despite a terrific vocal and dance performance in her verse, ATM may have had the weakest set of lyrics of all 12 queens. They weren’t the shocking nonsense we’ve seen from some past competitors, but they feel incredibly generic and don’t really track from line to line.
Someone told me who I am is wrong
But now I trust myself, I know that I am strong
No, it doеsn’t matter who hurt me in the past
‘Causе now I love on myself
I’m goin’ out so I can throw this past
(Seriously, I love this vocal. Listen for that beautifully controlled switch up to mixed voice on “doesn’t matter.” This is a queen with obvious singing experience.)
Combine the lackluster lyrics with padding problems, wig malfunctions, and an unflattering runway with a confusing theme, and ATM was the obvious second bottom queen of the episode despite a stellar vocal and dance performance. She would have easily gotten a pass in many past Girl Groups challenges.
Even as an Amanda Tori Fan, to my eyes the lip sync was almost 50/50. Q lucked out and pulled a pop song with retro elements that fit her perfectly. There were points where they were both doing effectively the same thing. But, Q did some specifically amusing bits aimed at Ru, while Amanda started at 100% and didn’t leave anywhere to go.
I had a lot of hope that Amanda would make a deeper run on this season purely based on her memorability compared to a lot of the more-generic contestants in the cast. Instead, she served as a good reminder that the show is invested in producing memorable drag moments in every in-drag minute of an episode. As much as the show loves a charismatic narrator in the interview chair, if you are severely lacking on the runway it can be just as much as a liability as being an uncertain performer.
I doubt very much that this is the last we’ve seen of Amanda Tori Meating. Fans haven’t been kind to other queens who have seemed underprepared for the runway, but I’ve seen a largely positive reception to her. Maybe Plane Jane’s pointed critiques were a gift in disguise, because they kept the fandom on ATM’s side. Or, maybe everyone loved her quirkiness and intelligence from the start just like I did.
No matter what the answer, I look forward to what Amanda Tori Meating does with the race that begins after the show ends. She has already got a start by coming out as trans in an interview with EW earlier this week. I hope everything from here on out is nothing but joy and success for her.