It has come to our attention that we may have spoken too soon in declaring RuPaul’s Drag Race season 13’s lip-sync assassin to be Denali. A new assassin has thrown her wig into the arena, and her name is LaLa Ri. On last night’s episode of Drag Race, Atlanta queen LaLa Ri found herself in the bottom two, opposite self-declared “filler queen” Joey Jay. The queens had to create looks made entirely out of bags for a “Bag Ball” challenge, and after Utica tried to help LaLa thread a bobbin to no avail, she ended up just hot glueing some flimsy paper gift bags to a body suit and calling it an outfit. It’s a travesty of a DIY look, one that Vulture recapper Paul McCallion called “the worst look in Drag Race herstory.” It looks like a cleanup situation in the party favor aisle at Dollar Tree. But like a phoenix rises from the ashes, so too does LaLa Ri ascend from runway lows to entertainment heights, in a Lip Sync for Your Life to “Fancy” by Iggy Azalea.
From the opening sounds of the track, LaLa is one with the music, knowing when to point, when to strut, when to dance. She snatches her wig off, a move long seen as overdone and eventually verboten in Drag Race lip-syncs, made anew through LaLa’s entertaining performance, turning the pink mohawk into a clutch. Her expressions are entrancing, humorous, and fierce, elevating the source material by leagues (again, this is Iggy Azalea we’re talking about). It’s impossible to take your eyes off her, and every cutaway to see what Joey Jay is doing feels like we’re being robbed of precious seconds of a perfect performance. Ru is smiling and laughing. Michelle Visage is cackling. Guest judge Nicole Byer looks giddy. And punctuating it all are the queens getting their life in the background; you can hear Kandy Muse yell “YES BITCH!” as the second chorus begins.
The master stroke comes at the first chorus, when Joey Jay pulls a preplanned stunt of throwing fake money in the air as she descends into splits. LaLa snatches them up from the stage, as though she were being showered with tips at a gig, stuffing them into her bodice. Like something out of Sun Tzu or at the very least a particularly good episode of Beyblades, she used her enemy’s ace in the sleeve to destroy her. The judges ate it up, and you will too. This one’s for the hall of fame.