And you thought I’d forgotten…
1. Between my wedding, and Dancing With The Stars Ireland, and the Crazy Ex Girlfriend Series 1 Song Ranking, and my husband’s birthday, and the knock on effects of…well you can guess what, I’m sure we’re all sick of mentions of it at this point, it rhymes with “Flex It”, as in “bend over and prepare to flex it”, on my workplace meaning I’m having to cover the work of three people currently, I’ve gotten a bit behind on this, the 9th season of RuPaul’s Drag Race. SO LET’S GET READY TO CATCH UP! We’re now on VH1 so no sunlit LA celebrity bus rides, no long montage of all 100 previous queens, no audition specials featuring people who’ll pop up as Week 3 boots five seasons later, NO, we’re at a lean 40 minutes per episode so we were right into the introductions.
Quite. Mercifully, outside of Jaymes Mansfield’s fuzzy felt puppetry fuckery, the entrances were quite pared back this year, with hardly any of the queens making a screeching Laganja out of themselves to try to get noticed. Sure arthouse queen Sasha Velore did her horror movie scream (because she’s ARTY!), papercraft artiste Nina Bo’Nina Brown turned up as a cartoon mouse (because she’s WACKY!) and latina sweetheart Valentina did the most elegant of regal handwaves (because Valentina is a savant at presenting herself perfectly, physically, at ALL TIMES!) but most of them came on, said their names, and then moved to the side to establish backstory. And there’s the usual – two pageant queens who hate one another (Eureka O’Hara and Trinity Taylor), two old hand besties who will gravitiate together to grizzle over all these young body queens (Charlie Hides and Peppermint) and the typical clique of New Yorkers who think they’re better than anyone else because they hail from the Centre Of The Universe (Sasha Velore and Aja). The latter intro intrigue being a cue for the most impeccable piece of editing shade, as Sasha Velore gushed about how Aja is the hottest queen in Brooklyn, New York, and everyone there is talking about her far more than any other drag artiste. Over this shot.
Does she even want to win?
2. BUT WAIT! Despite the announced 13 strong cast, another, 14th cast member entered the workroom. IN DISGUISE! Yes, we were getting our first celebrity guest star of the season.
IT’S CHLOE SEVIGN…oh no wait that’s Lady Gaga trying to look butch. What a sight. In the workroom, Lady Gaga, in full Lady Gaga garb, was presented to the queens as an extra contestant but it didn’t take long for them all to clock that it was in fact not a Lady Gaga impersonator but genuinely the pop genius behind “Born This Way”, “Poker Face” and “Let’s Gaga Up Christmas : A Festive Frolic Featuring Tony Bennett and Elaine Stritch Ba-Doop-Boop Santa Gaga”. Naturally everyone there lost their shit, although none more than Eureka, who started weeping and wailing about how she’s been CLOSE TO DEATH and when she felt at her lowest ebb she looked up and found Gaga and it was the only thing that pulled her through somehow. Yes I watched an episode of American Horror Story : Hotel once as well, it was truly my generation’s ‘Nam. Lady Gaga somehow remained poised in the face of this tearful vaguefession that was possibly about suicide, possibly about a bad molly trip (*fast forward 30 minutes to her face collapsing in tears because Alexis wore a dress that looked a bit like a Sears rack version of a dress she wore once*) and told all the queens she was so glad she could inspire them. Over a shot of
Jaymes Mansfield’s wig line, levitating two inches off her forehead. If Gagga inspired that then bring back Jessie J let’s be honest. Anyway, as well as to dispense her holy mercy, Gaga also announced this week’s challenge. WEAR A DRESS THAT LOOKS A BIT LIKE A DRESS THAT LADY GAGA WORE ONCE (also something representing your hometown).
3. Just as a warning, every season I will stan for a queen that nobody else remembers or likes, whether it’s because I have odd taste, or because I like being contrary. Jessica Wild, Milan, Lineysha Sparx and now, at this moment
Alexis Michelle. It was this shot of her sprinting around the workroom bussying her two suitcases about like a Real Housewife Of Des Moines rushing through the airport to catch a late flight to Reno, fresh off an entrance line that referenced Gypsy, whilst she booped her bizarrely contoured breasts. So hapless, so accidentally dowdy ❤
4. The workroom footage this episode was limited, as after An Audience With Lady Gaga, and before a double runway, we were working with limited time. In that time we learnt that Vegas showgirl queen Farrah Moan is “adorably” whiny, Vegas showgirl queen Kimora Blac thinks that Aja is a pretentious namedropper (I judged Aja far less for her drawling about her artsy saffron-dyed Arctic fox fur than for her briefly raising the possibility to me that she might wear a kimono for her Lady Gaga tribute outfit. GIRL DO NOT REMIND ME ABOUT THE MADONNA RUNWAY AGAIN, WE ALL REMEMBER, WE ALL WANT TO FORGET), and that Charlie Hides, who is 52 (!), does a Youtube series where he impersonates famous contemporary celebrities (like Anne Archer and Sean Young, what a hoot, the kids are rolling!) and as a result Lana Del Rey once personally called him an asshole. I’m not sure I’ve seen a more ringing endorsement of a queen than that, episode 1, so I’m very ready.
5. Let’s play “What’s That On Her Head?”
6. So, much like the opening runway challenge of Series 7, I’m going to pick some of my favourite and least favourite outfits in each round here. Starting with the Hometown Looks
Trinity Taylor: This got a lot of shade in the episode because to be frank when she turned around the sun she had painted on the back kind of looked like a massive flaming arsehole, but I’ll tell you now I have been to Tampa, Florida, and you absolutely would see this painted on the side of a van. It was thus in its way a better example of trashy couture than Eureka’s more over-the-top redneck look in the same round, although in fairness that look was on purpose.
Sasha Velore : Sasha would very much like you to know that she reads books and knows who Basquiat is. It’s that one who lives in a trash can and gets chased around by Officer Dibble right?
Valentina : Honestly I’m surprised she wasn’t read more for the fact that occasionally that little bib flared up and you could see her boy chest, but in terms of establishing a strong visual identity, I’m not sure anybody topped Valentina’s hometown look all episode. The show’s looking for its first overtly latina winner (sure Bianca was latina but you’d not know it apart from when she used it as an occasional springboard to make racist jokes) and Valentina is savvy enough to know it and play to it, and props to her
Kimora Blac : The problem with Kimora being the most classically handsome out of drag is that it’s very hard to do her face up like a showgirl up close and not have it read as masculine. Which is to say the jawline is a little much, and not helped by the fact that she’s deliberately made her head up to look like a pineapple.
Farrah Moan : I love how 80s this feels. It’s like we’re in a very special episode of Murder She Wrote where Jessica’s niece is marrying a casino owner in Vegas whose shady business partner is found floating face down in a fountain and Farrah Moan is the comedically bimbette showgirl whose red herring motive is highly sexual. I am absolutely not surprised this is how Vegas still looks now it’s how I’ve always pictured it
Jaymes Mansfield : Way to go deliberately hand picking and bringing with you as your best drag a custom-made dress that looks exactly the same as the Wisconsin hoedown dress Magnolia Crawford made from scratch for the first challenge of Series 6, but worse
Nina Bo’nina Brown : Genuinely unsettling in the best possible way. It’s been a while since I’ve watched this show and thought well that’s new and here we are. Tromatastic and made in Georgia.
Alexis Michelle : Part of the reason I’m already stanning for Alexis is because of brilliant atrocities against taste like this. Of the broad pool of New York queens in this cast Aja and Peppermint did the expected and came as the Statue Of Liberty, Sasha Valore played on New York’s reputation as a centre for modern art, and Alexis scribbled “Black Lives Matter” and “End Rent” on herself with a crusty dried-up black Sharpie. Iconic Legend.
7. And as for the Gaga looks :
Aja : Yes, admittedly, her face is an absolute trainwreck for the ages but this is a conceptual outfit done in a cute way. Admittedly the cute way is taking an outfit that made Gaga look otherworldly and alien and doing it in a way that made Aja look like a third string Dynasty character, but it’s very outside of the box none the less.
Shea Coulee : Honestly I like Shea’s basic core charisma and ethos but this honestly looks like the floor of a particularly rough unisex toilet.
Nina Bo’nina Brown : I know it’s an overused reference with this show when it comes to black queens but everything about this was giving me Grace Jones static. And then she started moving and jiggling and bopping those giant fake titties and I was living for it.
Sasha Velour : I’m getting “boy”
Alexis Michelle : The “comeback” narrative of this was a little overplayed, but you could tell Alexis was pretending she was at the Tonys the whole time she was walking this down the runway and I was feeling her oats. Also that cartoonishly cinched waist? *kisses fingers*
Kimora Blac I feel like when Sharon Needles had her whole Nazi phase it probably looked like this, although even in the deepest depths of her meth stupor Sharon never would have done her hips to look like a fucking centaur.
Farrah Moan : Fetish, fetish, fetish, I love it. She sold it so hard I can almost forgive the obvious floof at the end of the runway where she was going to turn it into a tearaway and she decided against it. And even that was more seemlessly carried off that Charlie’s whipping his Pilgrim Mother skirt off like a bad rehearsal for Bucks Fizz at Eurovision
Jaymes Mansfield : Just no. It looks like they Christmas shrink-wrapped a blender.
8. Bonus points above all go to Lady Gaga for just how extra she was being judging the pageant challenge crafted in her honour. She showed her true drag race fan side, by chanelling Sharon Needles as Michelle Visage in Snatch Game. Remember when Lady Gaga and Donatella Versace went to the Golden Globes and afterwards they went for hot dogs at the Boston and Donatella got relish on her boobs and William H Macy gave them such a look, it was the greatest day of her life.
GAGA DOES! SHE REMEMBERS! In the end, her combined discussions with the judges gave us a Top 3 of Nina, Eureka, and Sasha, with Nina winning, and crying everywhere at the validation of it all. I absolutely agree on Nina winning, as she made easily the strongest first impression, although I would have had Valentina and Farrah up there with her. At the other end of the scale, the judges made it pretty obvious that if Lady Gaga hadn’t pulled a Our Lady Of The Benevolant Chruch Of Germanotta and refused to eliminate anybody on this, her special day, then we would have been facing a bottom 2 of Jaymes vs Kimora (which I would agree with – I didn’t like Sasha either but it was more for reasons of instant personal repulsion, if you’re about her sort of energy then I bet she brought it well for you). Good job there’s a whole next episode for them to show why they’re worthy of redemption!
9. BUT WAIT! THERE’S MORE! Lady Gaga might not be the 14th queen, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t one! The episode ended with Ru calling proceedings to a screeching halt, as she announced the arrival of Yet Another Comeback Queen, getting another chance to shine after not excelling in a previous season. Who could it be? April Carrion? An even more educated now Serena Cha Cha? SHANGELA? Well, if you follow spoilers at all you’d know who it was, because she couldn’t keep her big fat cucu shut about it during the off-season, but we’ll leave that mystery for the next recap.
10. This Week’s Best Untucked Moment : Lady Gaga bursting into the room with an armful of binders, full of extra feedback for the queens like an over-eager HR executive. You wouldn’t even have known it was Ru’s show this week would you?