As the swallows return to Capistrano, so must the drag queens return to Logo, with the premiere of season seven of RuPaul’s Drag Race. The series’ appeal only seems to grow with time, even gaining recognition from the Television Critics’ Association as the best reality show of 2014. And what’s not to love? Taking the tried and true America’s Next Top Model format and polishing it to a high-camp sheen makes for television that’s not just fun but downright impressive, proving that Dolly Parton had it right when she said, “It takes a lot of money to look this cheap.” And time and effort and sheer ferocity.
So let’s take a look at the five can’t-miss moments from the season premiere.
1. She-Mail No More
Though discontinued towards the tail end of last season, the premiere solidifies that the She-Mail moniker is truly gone for good. An episode staple since the earliest days of the series, the feature traditionally served as RuPaul’s opening message to the queens in any given episode. While that aspect of the show still exists, the punny name is no more, excised in the wake of the growing controversy the show faced with regards to its treatment of trans issues, as some found repeated use of the word shemale wholly unnecessary, if not offensive. The decision to forgo the name is the right one, as an entire series built around the persona and puns that make up RuPaul can afford to let a single joke go, especially if the punch line revolves around those who can least afford it.
2. Platinum Blonde Is the New Black
Clearly inspired by the success of previous fierceness as encapsulated by the likes of Sharon Needles, Alaska, and Willam Belli, this season seems to be overflowing with high-cheekboned, delicate-featured platinum blondes. The problem lies in the fact that after a single episode it’s impossible to tell many of the contestants apart, particularly given that this seems to be a particularly shady bunch of queens, and their acid tongues aren’t helping to delineate between them. Other surprising contingents include the midwestern queens (hailing from Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Iowa, respectively), significantly outnumbering the California queens, the plus-size queens, and the comedy queens. The comedy queens are a particularly surprising group, given that the last two winners of the show, Bianca Del Rio and Jinkx Monsoon, were both comediennes, suggesting that this season would go a different route, either trending back toward a glamour queen, or perhaps finally crowning a plus-size queen.
Joining some of the judges at the fashion show, at which the contestants modeled both a spring and fall look, was season-five runner-up Alaska, who brought Anna Wintour realness to the near-catwalk. Despite never being acknowledged, Alaska nearly stole the show with her cutting commentary and blonde-bobbed perfection.
4. Holy Polio
Though there may have been better looks to grace the stage both during the challenge and the final runway, few were as memorable as silver-fox Max’s last stroll down the aisle. The contestants were tasked with creating a resortwear look that transformed into something deceptively nude. While Max had no problem meeting the requirements, he further decides to go conceptual and fashions a sort of “Franklin Delano Roosevelt visits Warm Springs to treat his polio and is also a drag queen” look, replete with metal crutches. The effect is bold, yet bizarre. It’s a risky move in an episode full of safe bets, and for that reason alone, it's worth remembering.
5. Michelle Visage Side-Eye
With Santino Rice’s departure, Michelle Visage now becomes the veteran at the judge’s table (save for RuPaul), newly flanked by Carson Kressley and Ross Mathews, as well as a rotating stable of guest judges. While Visage seems to be taking nicely to the role of second-in-command, it was clear that she was less than enthused when guest judge Kathy Griffin blatantly disagreed with her criticisms of Violet Chachki as “too boyish.” It didn’t help that Chachki effusively thanked Griffin for her praise, resulting in a vicious case of Michelle Visage side-eye, a moment that will hopefully live forever in GIF form, Tumblr willing. As for the rest of the judges, Kressley seems to be acclimating himself well, while Mathews said little, which will ideally be his M.O. for the rest of the season.
Winner: Violet Chachki
Bottom two: Tempest DuJour and Kandy Ho
Eliminated: Tempest DuJour
Line of the night: “Like two pigs fighting under a blanket.” —Michelle Visage. Sorry, kids. Quoting Steel Magnolias is an automatic win.