For Episode 2, all 10 — I mean 11, as the excommunicated queen was very obviously present for the entirety of this episode; you could tell by the clever editing tricks — returned for two broadly cat-related challenges. While I didn’t find the episode as fresh as the season premiere, I still enjoyed it and find that I’m vibing with most if not all of the queens this season. At least, the ones we’re being shown.
The mini-challenge was a bizarre musical-chairs gig involving a bag passed from queen to queen. When the music stopped, the queen holding the bag had to open it, reveal a smaller bag inside, and then read aloud the cat-related tag on it. They then had to give that bag to the queen they felt most embodied the tag (for instance, “Purrr-fection” to the queen who isn’t quite as perfect as she thinks she is). This went on until one tiny bag remained, holding a minor advantage for the maxi challenge. This was a way of getting to know the queens a little better, and maybe stir up a bit of drama. But it felt overly complicated. I am intrigued by this new Brit Crew member they have, he seems to have a personality. But those trunks? Entirely too much coverage, babes.
Ultimately Tomara Thomas won the mini challenge, allowing her and a queen of her choice the advanced opportunity to select an item of their choosing from the materials for the maxi-challenge, creating a garment using items sourced from a pet store. Tomara chose DeDeLicious to share their advantage, and then all the other queens descended on the pet materials like *animal cliche* devouring *pet-food cliche*.
The drama started almost immediately, as Cara Melle was offended that her real-life roommate Tomara chose someone else for the advantage over her. Tomara explained that she picked DeDe because she knew she was a strong sewer — DeDe created many of the looks she brought, and designed several of the more iconic looks worn by drag sister Krystle Versace on UKS3 — and hoped DeDe would give her a hand in the challenge. Two problems with that logic: DeDe more or less told Tomara she was on her own as she needed to focus on delivering in a challenge made for her, and Cara was upset because she is ALSO a designer/seamstress, so Tomara should have picked her.
This drama spilled over into Ru’s work room check-in, for which he was accompanied by Edward Enninful, the editor of British Vogue. This is a major “get” for Drag Race UK. That is legit fashion royalty, and all of the queens were ecstatic to meet and get advice from such a fashion icon (and to be silently judged by Enninful’s dog, also named Ru). When Tomara and Cara came up for their walk-through, human Ru poked at the issue between them, and when Tomara swore that she didn’t know Cara could sew, and had never seen a garment Cara had created, it just heightened the tension. Cara was seriously pissed and Tomara didn’t understand what she had done wrong.
My take is this: I think Cara was taking this super personally. I can see the argument that she didn’t want her skills diminished in front of Ru, Enninful, or dog Ru. I can also see Tomara genuinely not recalling any garment Cara had ever sewn, and when Tomara kept asking Cara to give an example, she immediately deflected — that was telling. I don’t believe that Tomara was being malicious at all, and I do understand why Cara would think this whole thing reflected poorly on her. But I don’t think either one of them came out looking great, and based on previews the beef is not squashed. I guess it’s good to have some on-screen drama instead of just the behind-the-scenes issues.
On that note, quick aside: I strongly suspect that Vicki Vivacious was paired with the unmentionable queen for her check-in with Ru, as we saw absolutely no footage of that meeting, and just got a talking head with Vicki discussing her vision for her look. The editors are so brilliant with how they handled this whole situation.
On the catwalk, I was largely impressed by the results of this unconventional materials challenge. It seemed that at least a third if not one-half of these queens can actually sew/design, and if they couldn’t, most of them faked it pretty damned well. There was only one very clear bomb to me, and a few that had good ideas but lousy executions. But the majority of them did well in this challenge.
That being said, I disagreed with some of the decisions at judging. Banksie and DeDe were unquestionably tops, they both did a great job with this challenge and created well made, visually striking outfits. I will give DeDe an edge here for using more unconventional materials, as Banksie largely stuck to fabric or fabric-like materials — but she deployed them really well. I thought a few in the safe group could have easily joined them in the top, specifically Vicki, whose hot pink look was a total knockout; Ginger Johnson in a really bold 80s power bitch inspired outfit; or Kate Butch in a multi-animal-print dress. Instead, the third top placement went to Tomara. While the pink-and-yellow colors she used were great, and she sold the shit out of it on the runway, her ass was literally hanging out the entire time. It was basically a festooned corset and that’s it. It should have been safe at best.
Meanwhile, the three bottom looks were correct. Alexis St. Pete had a good idea of making a mourning gown for her fish’s funeral using a beautiful see-through fabric (I do question where that was sourced from a pet store) but the slit was far too high and the bustline stretched out; Cara Melle wanted to create a parrot-inspired feathered look but ran out of time to do basically anything for the skirt; and I don’t know what the hell Miss Naomi Carter was going for but it was not only the worst thing on that runway, but among the worst-ever looks for a sewing challenge in Drag Race history. The bright green tits? Wonky. Her ass? Completely out. Her between me down thereses? A bright yellow strip of fabric basically commanding you to look at how naked she was. Ru referred to it as “rotted,” but kept saying it was so wrong that it almost wrapped around to be right. But no. It was just…really wrong.
Ultimately Banskie won the challenge — I probably would have given it to DeDe, but I get it — and Alexis and Naomi had to lipsynch to a rather dull Charli XCX/Tiesto song. (Sorry fans, but it just doesn’t go anywhere.) There were moments where I thought Alexis might have this, as she gave us a few great tricks. But her heel got caught in her skirt, and she had to literally remove her shoe to escape. I think that was the moment it was over. Her discarded veil nearly took out Naomi, which I’m sure didn’t help. I did think about how far lipsynchs have come on this franchise, because if you recall Season 1, they were absolutely dreadful. This one was arguably better than that song deserved.
In the end, Naomi was spared, and Alexis was the first queen to sashay away this season. A pity. She seemed really lovely and I do think she’s a strong dancer. I also think this cast is pretty stacked and she was already wrestling with self doubt, which just isn’t going to work with this group.
Quick shout out to guest judge Yasmin Finney, who was so invested in the queens, who seemed to have a solid grasp on the art of drag, and who just seemed in awe over the whole experience. You can always tell when a guest judge is actually a fan of the show, and Yasmin almost certainly is.
Next: it’s girl groups, and Cara Melle and Tomara Thomas are at it again!
International “Drag Race” Round-Up
I watch all the international seasons so you don’t have to!
“Drag Race” Philippines S2: DRPh2 wrapped up this week, giving us a truly grand Grand Finale — and a controversial winner. The jam-packed final episode started out with, frankly, an ill-considered performance by host Paolo Ballestros. I have previously commented on Pao’s struggles with her styling this season, and her awkward teleprompter readings. But I didn’t realize how weak she is at performing as well. This…was not good. I don’t know Pinoy culture. I am sure that there is a reason that Pao got this coveted hosting gig. I think Pao is great in the work room, and it is very clear Pao cares for the contestants and their struggles deeply. But Pao got outshone by many of the eliminated contestants in what was supposed to be a performance starring her. Much like Pangina Heals’ recent guest judging appearance, this only served to call into question Pao’s credentials to host this show. She seems lovely, but I don’t think any other franchise has this little separation between hosting skills and contestant skills.
Moving on, the finale gave us a ball in which each of the four finalists — Arizona Brandy, Bernie, Captivating KatKat, and M1ss Jade S0 — presented three distinct looks, and then a lipsynch smackdown for the crown. Bernie and Jade in particular served us some great ball looks (but nobody flopped). In lipsynch battle #1, KatKat did fairly conclusively best fan-favorite Bernie, and she advanced to the Final 2; in lipsynch battle #2, there was no doubt that Arizona crushed Jade, leading to her F2 placement. And that’s really saying something, because Jade stripped down to nothing but pasties over her nipples and hoo-ha. But Arizona absolutely dominated that stage. Ultimately, in an evenly matched F2 lipsynch that saw both queens whip out flags at virtually the same time (do we think this was planned?), KatKat was named the winner.
I was surprised by this. KatKat has been a stronger competitor all around than Arizona, but KatKat does not appear well liked by the Drag Race fandom or her DRPh2 sisters. Since the cast announcement she has been widely derided, specifically criticized for performing in blackface early in her career. KatKat did issue a public apology for this, but I’ve seen more than a few voices reject her apology. I’m curious if there’s a different feeling about KatKat within the Pinoy community, but from the overall Drag Race community, I’m not seeing a lot of people happy about this outcome. Regardless, Bernie and Jade are instant superstars (OV Cunt as well), and I’m eager to see what happens with their careers. Jade in particular is such a fascinating character. If you haven’t been watching Philippines, I recommend it. The first few episodes are rough, but it comes together beautifully. (US viewers can watch it on WoW Presents Plus)
“Drag Race” Brasil S1: This week Brasil gave us its first-ever Snatch Game. I had absolutely no idea who any of the “celebrities” were, and didn’t get any of the references — and that’s how it should be. I think the international franchises should lean into their unique identities and homegrown cultures. Even totally devoid of context, it seemed that the Snatch Game overall went OK, which puts it ahead of several others that have aired in 2023. The Carmen Miranda-inspired runway was one of the show’s most successful to date, with several queens serving up memorable looks (Miranda, Malditta, Shannon among them). I’m glad to see Brasil continue to improve week over week, but I still find it the least engaging of the currently airing international seasons. (US viewers can watch it on WoW Presents Plus)
“Drag Race” Germany S1: This week was the first proper stinker episode of Germany. The maxi challenge was an improv comedy spin on a court TV show, with host Barbie Breakout playing the judge. The queens competed in pairs of two, and literally 3/4 of the skits ended with the sparring plaintiffs making out on the floor. It got very old very fast. For any queen going on Drag Race, I beg you: when you get to the inevitable comedy improv challenge, at least attempt to do something more interesting than just just furiously “make out” with your scene partner. It’s so played out. The raver parade runway was largely a flop for me, and while I like most of the Germany panel quite a bit — and I love Barbie Breakout as host — I found the decisions here almost baffling. The winner of the challenge was on the obviously worst-performing team, and did nothing to stand out. Her runway outfit was…fine. The other member of the Bottom 2 was the weaker scene partner in her duo, but it was still an overall much better segment than virtually any of the others. I truly think they just wanted a strong lipsyncher to finally put the beleaguered Tessa Testicle out of her misery. In five episodes, Tessa had lipsynched FOUR TIMES. I don’t know if it is the worst track record of any franchise, because she did have one High placement. But it was pretty difficult to watch her get shoved into the B2 each week (although I do think most of those placements were justified, even with the baffling judging). (US viewers can watch it on WoW Presents Plus)
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