A perfume commercial once told me that you never get a second chance to make a first impression, and that is why the most important 30 seconds for every contestant on RuPaul’s Drag Race is when they first walk into that work room in their fiercest outfit and let America clock them for the very first time. That’s when we pick our winners and losers, our heroes and our villains, those we want to hang out with on the RuPaul’s Drag Race cruise sponsored by AlandChuck.travel and those we wouldn’t even pay attention to if they were onstage for free at the local gay watering hole.
This is it, ladies. This is what you gave up six weeks of your life for. In the spirit of the immensity of the occasion, here are my first impressions on each of these ladies as they walked through the door.
Naomi Smalls: She looks like a Shrinky-Dink version of Super Bowl Beyoncé. Or the beef-jerky version of the late Donna. She is skinnier than a thin dime on fen-phen.
Cynthia Lee Fontaine: She seems like a white person playing a Mexican stereotype and I can’t really tell if it’s camp or not. She says it’s comedy, but is it really? Is it funny? I’m a white cis-male homosexual with a master’s degree and a good job who enjoys a fair amount of privilege. Am I allowed to laugh at her just because I want to?
Dax ExclamationPoint: My biggest concern with Dax is that I do not want to be writing out her last name with its 14 letters and two capitals for the rest of the season. But she looks like Roxy from the Misfits, the best band ever on Jem and the Holograms, so that’s pretty cool.
Naysha Lopez: She not only looks like the three-eyed raven from Game of Thrones, but just like that strange omen creature, I have no idea what she’s really doing here. Also, her drag name is awful.
Acid Betty: Full disclosure, Acid Betty and I are friends. Back in the day, when I was an editor for Next Magazine for Homosexuals we used to kiki all over Manhattan and we had more fun than either of us can fully remember. Since we’re now both homebodies, we kiki no longer. Still, I love her form of drag, which is pretty gonzo and more about performance art than female impersonation. Also she’s a bitch, but usually in a fun way.
Robbie Turner: There is no term that has been overused and misapplied more times than “classic Hollywood glamour,” and if I never hear it again, I will be happy. Strangely, I like Robbie better as a boy than as a girl. Sorry, gurl.
Kim Chi: She is essentially Sailor Uranus from a season of Sailor Moon that never aired in America but is available on Hulu. She loves a cheesy joke and I absolutely adore her. I just think of her growing up all gay, weird, and lispy in an Asian family and not having any friends, which turned her into this bizarre freak and I want to hug 16-year-old Kim Chi and never let her go. She’s going to go far.
Thorgy Thor: Have you ever wondered what a chicken would look like if it dressed up like Carol Channing for Halloween? Wonder no longer.
Bob the Drag Queen: I like her. She’s funny. She needs to put a bit more effort into getting dressed, but she’s funny.
Laila McQueen: Why is Kelly Osbourne’s mean aunt on my television screen?
Chi Chi Devayne: Thank god the trash-bag dress from a Project Runway challenge eight seasons ago finally found a good home.
Derrick Barry: He is a Britney Spears impersonator, which I find to be a complete snooze. I don’t think of that as drag. It’s more like the guy who dresses up like Superman on Hollywood Boulevard and charges $5 for a photo. However, he is really sexy as a boy and I would be a slave 4 him as long as he promises never to dress as Britney again.
After introductions, the queens go to do a photo shoot, as they do every season. RuPaul, dressed as an orange left in a cabinet with the world’s worst contact paper, is celebrating her 100th episode, so there are a few twists. The shoot contained all the past winners — Bebe Zahara Benet, Tyra Sanchez, Raja, Sharon Needles, Jinkx Monsoon, Chad Michaels (who won for the abysmal All-Stars season, which means there will forever be an asterisk as big as Jujubee next to her name), Violet Chachki, and, in place of Bianca Del Rio, a circus clown. All the girls have to pose with the former winners and try to stand out in the photo.
The most shocking thing about the introductions and the photo shoot is how teensy-tiny the world of drag really is. All of these ladies already know each other either from living in the same city, working at the same clubs, or knowing some of the other past queens who have been on the show. Now that RuPaul has hosted over 100 contestants, she’s really snatched the best lace fronts from the entire country for her show. They’re going to have to cancel this show soon or else the contestants will be a 93-year-old man wearing a woman’s hospital smock and your little neighbor Justin who sometimes likes to wear his mom’s high heels.
At the photo shoot, almost everyone knows exactly what they’re doing, but Laila McQueen, bless her heart, is skulking around like she’s a PA taking Starbucks orders. Right then I knew that she was going home that night.
When RuPaul announces the maxi challenge (which, shockingly does not come with wings) she tells everyone that they will each be assigned a challenge from a past episode. This is certainly on theme with the 100th episode thing, but it’s sort of an unfair challenge the first week around. Now we can’t judge how good or bad everyone is on a level playing field. They’re all doing something different and working with completely different materials.
In the workroom, we learn a few things: Bob the Drag Queen is hilarious and I will never not call that supermodel Naomi Shambles ever again, Acid Betty is kind of a bitch (told ya!), Chi Chi Devayne is cheaper than a day-old bagel, and as expected, Laila McQueen is not long for this world. Chi Chi Devayne’s dress falls apart at the last minute and we have no idea how she is going to save herself. But she does, and she still manages to look better than at least three or four of those ladies.
The runway looks were mostly good, but watching them made my brain want to bleed, store up all the blood, and then give itself a Silkwood blood shower in my skull to wash away the pain. Why? Because Logo is the only channel on the dial that is not in HD and, for some reason (at least on my cable provider), watching the runway show was like trying to catch a glimpse of a black sheep out of a train window covered by a shade in the middle of the night. What was happening? Why was the picture quality lower than Naomi Smalls’s caloric intake?
The standouts for the judges are Acid Betty in Scrooge McDuck’s money bin eleganza and eventual winner Kim Chi serving up kitty-cat Monchichi Furby realness. In the weird middle ground between good and awful are Naomi Smalls, dressed as guest judge Nicole Richie at Les Deux circa 2007, and Derrick Berry. Of course, Michelle Visage already tells Derrick she needs to give us more than just Britney Spears with mistletoe on her crotch. Duh! Did he not see that coming? I would have dressed like Barbara Bush in the first challenge just to prove I could do more than one celeb.
The hot messes are Naysha Lopez in a dress that only covers one side of her and featured a gold TV dinner as a belt, Robbie Turner as a mound of melted Cool Whip on a paper plate, and, of course, Laila McQueen dressed as Sharon Needles’s angry aunt. On the bright side, at least Laila McQueen can impersonate more famous women than Derrick Berry.
I was all ready for Laila McQueen, a human dose of Ambien with four Depeche Mode playlists on Spotify, to be sent packing, but she actually managed to do a slightly better lip sync than Naysha Lopez. She’s safe for now. Couldn’t Ru have sent both of them home? I guess we’ll have to wait one more week for her to embarrass herself all over again. If there’s one thing I know, she’s never going to make it past this bad first impression.