The Olympics of Drag Race is back! It’s RuPaul’s Drag Race UK vs. The World Season 2 Episode 1 – a Queen’s Variety Show talent performance and a national pride “For Queen and Country” runway.
That allowed 11 queens from 7 different Drag Race franchises to show off their brands and how they’ve grown since their original run (or, in a few cases, how they stayed exactly the same).
The entire point of the Talent Show as a challenge on Drag Race is for each queen to have a minute of uninterrupted stage time to show off the idiosyncrasies of her personality and aesthetic.
Very few queens actually manage to do that.
Across many franchises, we’ve seen dozens of queens misunderstand this challenge as “deliver your club performance (without using a licensed track).” Really, the challenge is, “give us a commercial for your brand that people will always remember you by.”
Think of some of the most-impactful talent show performances we’ve seen on Ru-hosted franchises. For me, that includes Tatianna, Willow Pill, Anetra, & Jimbo. They were all unique, slightly surreal, and surprising while also making complete sense once we got to know the queens better. Tatianna is about unclockable realness with moments of silliness. Willow Pill is about making light of morbidity. Anetra is about being a ballroom-imitating martial artist.
And Jimbo is about… baloney?
Those performances can be endlessly imitated, but the original magic will never quite be recaptured because each one was as much about talent as it was about brand and personality.
Three queens figured that formula out on this episode, and it was unsurprising to see all three of them in the top of the critiques.
The same thing is true about any kind of runway about local or national pride. It’s not about dressing as a cheesesteak if you’re from Philly. It’s about showing your home and what it means to you as seen through your own unique lens of drag.
What did that mean for our power rankings compared to my pre-season prognosticating? Two queens quickly vaulted to the top, a shaky queen solidified her standing, and one predicted finalist didn’t have the intense glow-up I was expecting.
(Want to watch RuPaul’s Drag Race UK vs. The World outside of the UK? For most of the world, it’s available with a Wow Presents Plus subscription as soon as the episode is done airing.)
Readers, start your engines. And, may the best international drag superstar win!