Lip syncs, whether they are for a queen’s life, her legacy, the crown, or the chop, are one of the most essential ingredients in the delectable reality-TV poundcake that is RuPaul’s Drag Race. Every episode of Drag Race culminates in a heated lip-sync showdown, but not every season of Drag Race has a bona fide lip-sync assassin. A lip-sync assassin is a queen like season two’s Jujubee or season six’s Trinity K Bonet who routinely sends other queens packing in Drag Race’s Lip Sync for Your Life elimination format, and does it with levels of flair and passion that could blow a circuit and crack a screen when you watch it at home. We are only four episodes into Drag Race season 13, but on January 22, Alaskan queen Denali cemented her status as the John Wick of lip-sync assassins.
Due to some formatting conflama this season, Denali has lip-synced on every episode she’s appeared in, and last night’s was one of the best performances we’ve seen on television so far this year, full stop. After a Hallmark movie parody acting challenge, Denali landed herself in the Bottom 2 opposite the gorgeous Kahmora Hall, who gave a wooden performance as a lesbian tree (if that’s not enough of a reason to watch this show, we don’t know what is). Both are coincidentally wearing looks inspired by majestic beasts — Denali as a resplendent quetzal, Kahmora as a golden dragon — lending this battle a mythic quality. The track “100% Pure Love” by Crystal Waters kicks in, and Denali immediately sheds her feathered train, the better to kick and flip in. Kahmora, meanwhile, is confined by her floor length gown, and doesn’t do much but swish her arms and walk around the stage verrrrry slowly. But Denali doesn’t go easy on her opponent. Needing to prove herself to the judges and queens, she vogues and duckwalks and struts, her energy perfectly matching the ’90s dance track.
This many seasons into the Drag Race machine, it’s rare to see RuPaul so taken with a performance, but Ru and the judges cackle, gasp, and clap along to the mesmerizingly confident queen. “I pity the fool that has to go up against you,” Ru tells Denali as she declares her the victor. Some fans theorized on Twitter that it’s the fastest “shantay you stay” Ru-ling in Drag Race herstory. It’s a lip-sync massacre, it’s great television, and it’s the most fun you can have while the bars are still closed.