We’re backpack, backpack, backpack again! All Stars has returned and it’s bigger than ever. New channel. New twist (a mystery that will remain for a while yet). And 13 queens, every one of them thirsty for redemption and fighting for the crown. That was an immediate difference I noticed in the double premiere. Unlike All Stars 5, where 2 of the 10 contestants self-eliminated by Episode 5, here these queens are desperate to stay and play. I am glad to see it. Queens who are cool being early outs, because they were just looking for the exposure and the bump to their booking fee, reek of cynicism to me. This is supposed to be a competition. If you’re not there to win, I honestly don’t need to see you. There are plenty of ambitious performers who will throw down some beads for that spot.
That said, while I love this cast, I was not blown away by most of the performances in the first two challenges. I think it may be time to retire the variety show challenge, as at this point it has very little actual variety. More than half the acts were original songs to which the queens lipsynched. It makes sense — they get to double dip, fulfilling the challenge brief and also having a single they can drop on iTunes and make a few quick coins. But one after another? And some of them of…questionable quality? Not particularly thrilling for viewers. As for the Blue Ball, it was nice to have a proper three-look ball for All Stars — I believe all the previous AS ones were two looks max — but I was expecting a higher level of execution from All Stars queens. Don’t get me wrong, some of them did very well in at least two of the categories. But there were very few looks that made me gag, and when I look at, say, Season 12’s Ball Ball and especially the finale ball in Season 13, I think those pre-All Stars queens on the whole outperformed this cast.
But please understand, overall I loved the first two episodes. I think this cast is stacked and surprising, and so far they’re interacting in ways that excite me. I’ve seen people complain that they didn’t need to see X, Y, and Z queen again after their first season. I would hope that the first two episodes proved that a performer can completely reinvent themselves after going through the reality TV chipper shredder that is Drag Race, and come back as almost an entirely different contestant in All Stars. I am seeing numerous examples of that so far in AS6. TKB was withdrawn and sullen in Season 6 — here she is galvanized and determined to make it to the top, even as she’s stumbling out of the gate. Silky sucked all of the oxygen out of the room in Season 11, but here she’s chill and focused on impressing the judges. All that to say, I wouldn’t write off any of these queens based on what they’ve done before. I think they have PLENTY to show us.
Let’s discuss each of the qirls’ performances in Episode 1 & 2 quickly. Share your thoughts in the comments:
A’keria Chanel Davenport: Stunning entrance look. Showing significantly more personality and energy than she gave us in Season 11 (outside of comedy challenges, where she excelled). I could barely understand the lyrics in her talent show number, so that was a flop for me. I thought her welder look in the ball was a real miss, loved her denim look (Michelle Visage, please show me any girl looking that good going out to the club), and actually did not care for her final self-constructed blue look. It was a cool idea and I loved the transformation of materials, but I didn’t think the final result was terribly flattering on her, and was too stiff.
Eureka! It’s a coup for this show to get Eureka! who is killing it with Shangela and Bob the Drag Queen on HBO’s “We’re Here” and arguably doesn’t “need” All Stars yet the way some of the other queens do. I suspect that the pandemic provided a pause in production that allowed Eureka! to participate. The entrance look — from “We’re Here,” I believe — was outstanding and so far all of Eureka’s looks have been excellent. She lipsynched to an inspirational song she wrote in honor of her late mother, which I thought was very sweet. She also projected images on to her voluminous white dress. It’s a nice concept, but if a Drag Race queen isn’t able to match what Sasha Velour has been doing with projections, I question the wisdom of going there. I thought Eureka performed very strongly in the ball. Her first two looks were among the best in those categories, and I thought she did a hell of a job tailoring her final look, which unapologetically showed off her curves. A great start for Eureka!
Ginger Minj: Delighted to see Good Ol’ Ginge Minj back on the stage. Some people have complained that we’re already bringing back AS2 queens, but Ginger really got screwed last time. She had barely had any time to gain resources between her original season and getting drafted into the majors, and that season was absolutely stacked with strong queens with incredibly tight personal bonds. Ginger went home on a challenge in which she excelled. It was bullshit. Anyway, her entrance look was a choice, and that choice was a bad one. I thought her talent show song was fine, but again, the, like, sixth or seventh original song not performed live — it lacked impact. I thought Ginger was great in the first ball category, fine in the second, and fine in the third. A safe start for Ginger, but I want more, and I know she’s capable of it.
Jan: I see we are continuing with Season 12’s trend of the producers trying to break poor Jan. And you know it’s intentional, because the camera keeps showing us close-ups of her every time she’s marked as Safe when she should have been in the top at least. The entrance look was…fine. Not elevated, but fine. Jan absolutely annihilated that Variety Show. Yes, it was another original song, but she came out and sang it LIVE and she melted the faces off the judges. HOW was this not in the top? How did this not WIN?! Absolute insanity and I think everyone involved knew it. For the ball, I think Jan was trying to be too clever by half with her blue-collar tire look. It was very cool but didn’t really meet the assignment, in my opinion. She absolutely slayed the second category (denim) and acquitted herself well in the third. I certainly thought she should have been in the top over at least one of the three that ended up there. The producers continue to try to break Jan, and I for one do not appreciate it, nor do I find it entertaining. Let her live her Jantasy.
Kylie Sonique Love: “Girl, you got female.” My wig has been teleported to Mars. The Artist Formerly Known as Sonique came in here ready to slay, and that entrance look was sex on a stick, honey. Kylie continued to look absolutely stunning in the Variety Show, even if the song she performed was merely solid. She ended up high in the ball, and I’m not sure I agree. The carpenter look was chic but communicated solely via accessories. I loved the denim look, referencing Britney, Xtina, and her trans community. But I did not respond positively to the third, self-created look. Michelle said it “could look messy.” I thought it DID look messy. It wasn’t a bad look, and Kylie should have been safe at the very least, but I was surprised she was so close to the win that episode. That said, a very promising start for Kylie, and proof that nobody should be underestimating the queens who have been out of the spotlight for a while.
Pandora Boxx: I was delighted to see Pandora back. Pandora was one of this show’s original Robbed Queens, and was so popular in the early years that she came in SECOND in the fan vote that determined the final slot for All Stars 1 (Sharon Needles came in first, but abdicated the slot to Pandora after she was named the winner of S1). AS1 was brutal for Pandora, and she really needed the opportunity to reintroduce herself to the fandom. So far I think she’s acquitting herself well. That entrance look is probably the best thing she’s ever worn on this show — old-school glamour, absolutely stunning. Pandora placed high in the talent show, which honestly surprised me. The original song was not my cup of tea, but she did perform the hell out of it, and the surprise ending delighted the panel. I would have put her as a solid safe. For the ball, I loved her first two looks — they were adorable and very much in character for Pandora — and I thought she did well in the third category. So far Pandora is proving all over again that she’s very good at Drag Race, and we haven’t even gotten to where she excels — comedy, acting, impersonations. I’m troubled by her almost total lack of talking heads, but noticed that the editors keep giving us close-ups of her reacting to many events…
Ra’jah O’Hara: Talk about a total 180. Ra’jah came into AS6 as one of the least-popular queens from one of the least-popular seasons. If she keeps up what she served in Episode 1 & 2, she’s going to be a superstar by the end. Ra’jah addressed head on that she had a terrible attitude on Season 11, and while she’s still got a lot of opinions, thus far she has been much more charming. Her entrance look was glamorous and 100 percent Ra’jah. Her talent show routine, creating a dress from scratch in 60 seconds, was oddly riveting and unique. And she did very well in the ball. I personally would not have given her that win. Top, sure. But I did not gag over her blue-collar look the way the judges did, and while I loved the top of the denim outfit I thought there was a disconnect with the overly baggy jeans. But she unquestionably created a very chic, very modern look for the final round. That said, I have no objections to the win, because it gave us an instantly iconic lipsynch opposite S11 sister Brooke Lynn Hytes to Janet Jackson’s “Miss You Much.” Ra’jah’s talent was always clear in Season 11, but she wasn’t getting the love from the judges, and her attitude turned off viewers. Those don’t seem to be an issue in AS6, and I think we’re about to watch her skyrocket. I’m excited to see it.
Scarlet Envy: Meanwhile, poor Scarlet — like Jan — is getting more of what she was getting in S11, which is: paid dust. Scarlet’s entrance looks was one of my favorites. It was ridiculously large, absurdly colorful, and perfect. I thought her talent show, a burlesque bubble fantasy, was wonderful and different. I thought she crushed the ball as well. The only possible weakness in her collection was the denim look, which was arguably more Americana than denim. But I thought that last look alone should have bought her a ticket to the top. She’s getting robbed again, but given how highly people thought of her despite being one of the early outs in Season 11, I think she’s going to continue to build on her reputation as a fabulous queen who the judges just refuse to acknowledge.
Silky Nutmeg Ganache: When the cast for AS6 was announced, Silky was one of the ones that most people immediately complained about. Silky in S11 was…alot. It’s true. And I say that as someone who was so excited to see her on it. The Silky who showed up to AS6 is clearly a much different queen, who has taken the notes she could not possibly have avoided from a very vocal, and very caustic, fandom. Silky had one of the very best entrance looks — has she ever looked more beautiful? — and the milk and cookies in the titties? Work, bitch. The talent show number was a great idea, but it’s like she lost energy halfway through her church piano/singing number. It just fizzled, which landed her in the B3. In the ball, I thought she did well overall. Her milkman was super elevated, even though I’m not sure why it was so aggressively red. I thought her self-created look was quite impressive. I wish she had removed a few of the accessories from it, but I thought those pants and the capelet were fabulous. A good start for Silky.
Trinity K. Bonet: A rough start for Trinity, who has wanted this All Stars spot for years now (and she has deserved it). The entrance look was not on the level that many of the other queens gave us, and that we know Trinity herself can serve. The talent show stand-up routine was, plainly, disastrous — and at least Trinity knew that. I really appreciate the fire that Trinity brought to the deliberations and it’s such a different energy than we saw from her before. She so badly wants to be there. I think we all expected her to dominate the ball, but her first look was way, way too literal in its interpretation of a crossing guard, the second look was definitely better but still didn’t feel elevated — but the third look was sublime. A gorgeous Cinderella fantasy that she sold with the missing slipper at the end. I think Season 6 Trinity would have already been broken by the criticism and the pressure, but AS6 Trinity is just getting hungrier for it. I am rooting for her and hope she finds her groove, because she does have everything it takes.
Yara Sofia: Yara and her chaotic energy make for great TV, and I’m glad to finally see her in a season where she’s an individual instead of part of a group (Yarlexis in AS1, The Boogers in S3). AS5 was great for Alexis Mateo, and AS6 could be for Yara as well. The glamour bitch entrance look was fun. The absolutely batshit talent show number with those pendulous fake breasts was…a thing that happened. I would not have given her the win, I don’t think I would have ever placed her high. It was entertaining, sure, but did it display more talent than some of the other numbers? I’m not convinced. I thought Coco Montrese absolutely won the E1 lipsynch to “Uptown Funk” (weird song choice btw, too masc for my tastes). As for the ball, the first look was not good at all, the second look did not read denim, but the third look was gorgeous. Yara was in the Bottom 2, which I think is correct. She also stayed, which I think is also correct.
Jiggly Caliente: I was delighted to see Jiggly brought back. Season 4 gets very little love despite being one of my favorite seasons. Jiggly had lots of personality back then, but lacked in the performance and look categories. She has really stepped it up since, finding significant acting work in Hollywood. She has also transitioned to living her life fulltime as a woman. This was a much more mature Jiggly, and it was a pleasure to see her again. I did not think the talent show number was particularly effective, and when it came to the ball, she was brought down again by another design challenge. I was glad Jiggly got this opportunity to come back, and personally, I will miss her. She is a great queen deserving of more attention.
Serena Cha Cha: Serena being included was the gag of the season. The second boot of Season 5 on All Stars? Random, right? But consider, Serena has become quite the successful wig mogul since her time on the show. This wasn’t fully explained on the show, just referenced obliquely. Serena is also part of several iconic moments from Drag Race that are still referenced. There are also very few queens left from Season 5 who have yet to come back and COULD come back (Ivy Winters has basically given up drag, Honey Mahogany is now an elected official, Jade Jolie is allegedly on the next season of Dragula), so I was glad to see her included. Her talent show number was a mess, and I put a lot of it on the random wig heads in the background and really dreadful audio mixing in the song itself. Still, Serena handled it all with a great attitude, and I’m glad she got this opportunity.
What do we think about the season so far? Have your opinions on any of the dolls changed? What do you think the “game within a game” twist is? Let us know in the comments!
Next episode: marketing!