RuPaul’s Drag Race
Before the finale aired, I thought this was the first time in Drag Race history that I would be happy if any of the final three queens took home the crown. Bob the Drag Queen, Naomi Smalls, and Kim Chi are all wonderfully qualified. They show the creativity, uniqueness, nerve, and talent that is required to reign as TV’s most gifted drag artiste. But when the big moment came and Bob was named America’s Next Drag Superstar, I was a little disappointed.
I had convinced myself that Kim Chi would actually win. For my money, she was the most creative, the most consistent, and the most revolutionary of the contestants. We’ve already had winners like Bob, who do flawless comedy even though their drag is a little off. (See: Bianca Del Rio.) We’ve had winners like Naomi Smalls, who aren’t performers as much as they are creators of gorgeous avant-garde beauty. (See: Violet Chachki.) There is no one anywhere in the world like Kim Chi, and I was hoping that would mean she would walk away victorious.
That’s not to say that Bob isn’t deserving. She really does shine in this final episode. I especially liked the format of this year’s finale, which was short on the “reunion” aspects of talking to all the former contestants and put the finalists first, giving them nice big production numbers with mostly shirtless dancers and a little bit of time to talk to RuPaul.
When the final three come out, it is very Wilson Phillips, as in two-thirds of them look fantastic. Bob looks like Cookie Lyon, if she starred in the “Centipede” video as a woman who came to life out of a painting. Kim Chi looks like one of those dolls your grandmother keeps on the toilet, the one whose skirt hides an extra roll of toilet paper, except if the doll were a Sailor Moon action figure. Naomi Smalls, on the other hand, looks like Jessica Rabbit if she did Princess Leia buns and wore a khaki-green rain slicker without shoulders. It is not flattering.
Bob’s song was not “Purse First,” which, of course, is her inevitable first dance single. No, it was a Lucian Piane number called “I Don’t Like to Show Off.” She gives us full-on ratchet drag with a big gold chain and some short shorts. Of all the final lip syncs, Bob’s comes off the best — she’s really acting, hitting a bunch of great dance moves, and even giving us a little vogue break. It ends with the world’s laziest death drop, which is sort of amazing. Every homosexual watching at home will be stealing this move for lip-syncing Beyoncé songs after dinner in Fire Island this summer.
Kim Chi’s performance was pretty stellar as far as I was concerned, but it was concocted to appeal to her strengths, which are mostly just standing there, looking pretty, and being a native Korean speaker. She looks like Imelda Marcos as a wedding-cake topper while she lets the shirtless dancers swirl around her for a funny number called “Fat, Femme, and Asian.” It has verses in both of Kim’s native tongues, celebrating the K-Pop culture that might not be so accepting of drag. She is not asked to dance, but she does hit some light vogueing choreography, so she looks great even though she doesn’t do too much. Knowing how bad Kim can be during a performance, it brought a tear to my eye to see her looking so major and doing so well.
Naomi Smalls looks the best, of course, wearing a hooded cape that is very “Express Yourself”–era Madonna (which Raja interprets quite literally later in the show). Her song is called “Legs” and features the refrain, “I’m legendary. All legs, no dairy,” which is the type of ridiculous genius that we all tune in to Drag Race for. Naomi danced well, but given how well she moved in the music-video challenge, I was ready to be more bowled over than not.
As usual, everyone acquits themselves nicely during their little chat session with Ru. Bob presents Ru with a purse so that she can walk into the room “purse first.” My favorite bit was when she talked to Bob’s brother about what Bob was like growing up and he said, “He cried on my birthday because it wasn’t all about him.” That is the most Bob thing I have ever heard. Bob has a sick mother, who couldn’t make it to the show and sent a sweet recorded message and she said that she always tells her boys to “keep the first thing the first thing.” Why didn’t she stay on theme and say to “keep the first thing the purse thing?”
Kim Chi lets us all know that she still hasn’t told her mother about doing drag — and since her mother hates American culture, she’ll probably never find out about the show. It is the biggest disappointment of the whole night. I hoped that, through this process, Kim would find the strength to tell her mother about her talent and how well she has succeeded, but sadly she has not. Ru offers to take a road trip to tell Kim’s mom herself, which would be sort of major. Ru also asks, “When was the last time you fell over?” and Kim replies, “Earlier today I tripped on my skirt and fell into the craft-services table,” which is the most Kim Chi thing I have ever heard in in my life.
Naomi continues to underwhelm during her interview. The best thing about it is her mom and her family. We learn that Naomi’s mother was the one who started buying Naomi wigs and heels; it is so great to see such a heartwarming display of support after Kim’s struggle her mother. Then, some of Naomi’s 11 siblings came out onstage and it was like a Benetton ad and it made me cry. They were all their to support their sister and I just wanted to melt into a puddle of joyous tears and not come back to life until someone set a big pint of salted caramel Talenti gelato in the middle of me.
Next, it is time to visit with all the other queens. Let’s run down their lewks really quickly, since this is the last time we will ever get to do this.
Dax!: Literally Danielle Moonstar from the New Mutants when she was a Valkyrie warrior.
Laila McQueen: Something something Beetlejuice something something something.
Cynthia Lee Fontaine: A caterpillar eating a Chinese lantern that was being held by Helena Bonham Carter as the Queen of Hearts. Genius.
Naysha Lopez: J.Lo’s daughter when she dresses up in mommy’s things playing Met Ball.
Acid Betty: Human lobster question mark.
Robbie Turner: Someone your mother tells you was once famous, but you don’t really believe her.
Thorgy Thor: That singer from The Fifth Element at Burning Man.
The Long National Nightmare That is Derrick Barry: Yawn. Britney Spears.
Chi Chi DeVayne: Marilyn Monroe, if she joined a biker gang and got some serious tickets to the gun show.
Cynthia Lee Fontaine is awarded Miss Congeniality. I don’t mean to sound like a jerk, but is that because she has liver cancer? I am Cynthia’s biggest fan. I think she is an untapped comedic genius and I will subscribe to her YouTube channel forever for all the unintentional hilarity, but she was barely on the show. How did she win the de facto boobie prize? And what a shock that my old friend Acid Betty is the one who visits her in the hospital. I told you that she wasn’t that bad.
All of the winners from past seasons come out giving us great lewks, but no one as good as Violet Chachki. I was ready to write her off as a bad victor, but she comes out with that tiny waist in that huge Catherine the Great gown with some weird flesh crown on her head, a cockroach on her brow, and blue veins painted all over her like she died or her corset was too tight. I gagged so hard that my neighbor, Mr. Leroy Leonard, had to come over and give me the Heimlich maneuver.
Yes, Bob is the ultimate winner and I’m happy with that. She will do a great job touring the country and keeping all the gays happy and I won’t mind seeing her every year when Ru calls all the winners to convene at Drag Con. She will show the world that when we love ourselves, we can also love someone else. I just loved Kim Chi a little bit more.