A new season of RuPaul’s Drag Race has begun, which means a new crop of queens to stalk when they come through Vancouver to do gigs and shoot music videos.
What’s more, the premiere episode showed probably the highest-calibre crop of contestants of any season – I might even say, on the whole, head and shoulders above the rest, save for the one or two exceptional queens who dominated their respective seasons in the past.
It’s always hard to pick favourites this early, but the editors are dropping clues already. I’ll go through just a handful of the standout performers – whether they stood out for the right reasons or not.
WARNING: Spoilers ahead
Image: Drag Official News
Ladies and gentleman, we have an underdog. Max is getting side-eyes and shady comments from competitors already, but editors are withholding her camera confessionals and life story so far, so we might as well give her a free pass to the Top 3 now. Plus, we’ve seen hints that this oddball has a big bag of hidden talents.
Image: Your Reality Recaps
Max’s competition for the offbeat/personality spot. Katya delivered tight, clever looks, hilarious interview commentary, and has created just about the most bonkers drag persona the show has ever seen in its seven seasons. You might expect someone with such an outré character (Soviet Model-Princess or something) to rely on “weird” to obscure a lack of any real charisma (Milk), but it seems like Katya has plenty of that.
No. Bye. This one came in with a big following from Youtube, but her confessionals are making it clear she brought an equally big head. Frankly she was boring, and if the show can’t paint her as a villain (a less well-meaning Courtney Act, say) then she won’t get to the finale on good looks alone. If she turns out to be the only one we can love to hate, that will be her ticket but I’m not “featuring” her, as they say.
Trixie is bringing all the quirk and camp it takes to go a long way. On the other hand, I can just hear Michelle Visage critiquing the makeup now: “It’s a softening of the edges.” The judges are going to try to push her to show versatility, and if she can’t subvert her extreme look, “clown realness” won’t be reigning for a second year in a row.
Tempest Du Jour
Image: AllStar Management
What I think is most interesting about this is not the performer per se, but the editing leading up to her elimination. Getting a life story is never a good sign, as the documentary producer in the room at our viewing said. I think she had more to give, but someone has to go first and she made a mistake with that ill-fitting bodysuit.
All That Glittered Was Not Gold
Not everything about the production worked. Here are the missteps, in my view.
- The attempt to pretend this week’s challenges were some sort of wild new twist. Much was made of the mini-challenge being upgraded to an actual runway showing of the contestant’s strongest signature looks, but all they really did was put on an outfit and go for a walk. And despite Ru’s dramatic preamble to the main challenge, and the gasps of the contestants, that challenge also wasn’t fundamentally any different from the norm. Which brings me to what specifically didn’t work about…
- The “nude illusion” main challenge. Challenging the contestants to wear a nude bodysuit that had to be blurred over the naughty bits for TV meant we actually couldn’t even see the outfits the queens wore to the runway elimination, obscuring the portion of the show that’s meant to showcase each contestant’s individualism and creativity. Not to mention the fact that everyone ended up wearing essentially the same thing. The real creativity, I suppose, was in the tearaway garments that initially concealed the nude looks – but those garments lasted only a few seconds before being thrown on the floor.
- Untucked. That “raw” behind-the-scenes setup is just awkward, from the staging, to the seating, to seeing the crew puttering around with cameras and headsets. I appreciate that season after season, the producers want to mix it up and bring in something fresh, but this idea comes off really contrived.
Minor quibbles, really. There’s a lot more to come for fans of the show, plus, as previously mentioned, a high likelihood that your favourites will be in town very soon. A winner is always strategically crowned at the start of summer/Pride season to maximize interest and gig bookings.
And if for some reason you’re reading this but have never watched RuPaul’s Drag Race before, it airs in Canada on OutTV, Mondays at 9 p.m.