RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars
Every All Stars I get just a teensy bit nervous that the girls will be too nice to each other, robbing us of any compelling storylines. All Stars is an opportunity for queens to “Rudeem” themselves and become the online darling of an ever-growing Gen Z fanbase. What RuGirl doesn’t dream of having her Twitter mentions spammed with compilations of her finest runway moments set to Nicki Minaj’s “Itty Bitty Piggy”? However, as it turns out, my fears are completely unfounded so far. As this episode proves, Drag Race is as much a competition as it is group therapy. There’s much to discuss: The dolls confront Miz Cracker (telling her she’s difficult to work with), Miz Cracker proves them right by emotionally destroying Ongina, Juju picks a fight with Mayhem for no reason, and Shea is perfection in human form. Let’s dive in!
For this week’s maxi challenge, the queens must write original verses and create choreography for a song dedicated to their “celebrity man crush.” This raises the question: Is it really a “man crush” if everyone is attracted to men in the first place? In my experience, “man crush” is a term used by straight-adjacent Boston bros who want to justify having a poster of Tom Brady in their bedroom. But I digress! The queens divide into teams: Shea leads Ongina and Mariah, India leads Alexis and Jujubee, and Blair leads Cracker and Mayhem. Most of the teams get along swimmingly with the notable exception of Team St. Crackhem (working title).
With the Derrick/India drama that dominated last episode concluded, something inevitably had to rush in to fill that void. As it turns out, that something is Miz Cracker. Throughout the episode, we watch Miz Cracker let her perfectionism get the best of her. In the recording session, she gives Mayhem unsolicited notes on her lyrics, and in the dance rehearsal, we see Cracker constantly interrupting Blair and undermining her authority as team captain. This culminates in a work room confrontation while the girls are putting on their makeup (as Drag Race conflicts are wont to do), where Juju, Blair, and Alexis call her “egotistical.” This shakes Cracker to her core, because two drag queens calling you “egotistical” is kind of like Jojo Siwa calling your outfit “a bit busy.” It’s a high bar. Cracker takes this to heart, and opens up to her fellow queens about how she hasn’t made a friend in years, and often keeps people at arm’s length because she’s afraid of getting hurt. It’s painful to watch Cracker break down. She so badly wants to be liked, but her Inner Saboteur™ is getting in the way. Despite this confrontation, however, Cracker and Blair turn out memorable performances on the runway with Mayhem in a distant, but solid, third place. Blair rises to the top with a gorgeous pink-themed runway, and the rest of St. Crackhem is safe.
Next up is Alexis, Jujubee, and India. Team, um… Julexindia? Alexis and Jujubee do their very best to carry India through this challenge to little avail. The writing was on the wall for India when her first choice for her man crush was her own fiancé. India’s love for her man runs so deep that he inspires such passionate lyrics as: “I’m in love with my fiancé. His name is RJ. And nothing can take him. Away.” Convinced yet? Alexis and Juju are not, and thankfully they convince India to switch her crush to Justin Timberlake. If Team Julexinida is NSYNC, however, there’s no doubt that Alexis is the JT. Alexis easily has the best and most energetic verse of the three, and she even choreographs their entire section of the song. She was forced to, but still! I gave Alexis a lukewarm review last episode, and I want to take this opportunity to issue a full retraction: Alexis is in top form this challenge, and we are #blessed to have her with us. As penance, I promise to do all in my power to get Daddy Yankee to send Alexis a dick pic. The always entertaining Jujubee is great as well, but, unfortunately, India pales in comparison to these two comedic performance behemoths. It’s a definitive fall from grace for India, and it lands her in the bottom three.
Finally, let’s talk about Shea, Ongina, and Mariah, whom I will christen… Team Shmagina. (Portmanteaus are not my strong suit.) Ongina and Mariah falter in this episode. Ongina has a cold, Mariah doesn’t know the difference between Aquaman and Superman, and both of their performances come off as low energy. In Mariah’s case, I’m hoping this is a stumble that she’s able to recover from. She herself describes it as a “wake-up call” during voting. For Ongina, however, it’s unfortunately the end of the line. It’s disappointing to watch Ongina go home so soon. In season one, she was a plucky, avant-garde, bald artist that paved the way for queens like Milk, Sasha, and Crystal Methyd to succeed on Drag Race. It’s no secret that Ongina has long campaigned to compete on All Stars, so it’s heartbreaking to see her run end so quickly.
However, while two thirds of Team Shmagina struggled this week, one soared. As I have said before (and will say again), Shea is one of the strongest competitors in Drag Race history. She claimed four challenge wins on her season, and that doesn’t even include her decisive victory in the final rap challenge of season 9. So what better challenge for Shea to begin her meteoric rise than this one? In the recording session, it’s clear that Shea’s ability to speed rap has not dulled one bit. She blows her teammates out of the water with her verse serenading Chadwick Boseman. Shea also takes up the mantle of choreographer, which serves the dual purpose of showcasing her leadership and allowing her to play to her strengths as a dancer. Come performance time, it’s no contest. Shea hits every beat and lip syncs each syllable of her syncopated rap flawlessly. On the runway, it’s (again) no contest. Shea’s artistry and her interpretation of the “skin” theme is mind blowing. Given that Shea was already operating at such a high level in season 9, it hardly seems fair that she was able to raise it even further.
Shea is decisively named the top all star of the week, and earns the right to a lip sync showdown with Alyssa Edwards. Much like last week, the lipsync is thrilling. Both Alyssa and Shea are excellent, but Shea embodies that unique soul/disco/pop Pointer Sisters vibe and claims the win.
These end-of-episode lip sync pairings feel like the homosexual equivalent of “who would win a fight, Batman or Superman?” And I mean that in the best way possible. For any who were (justifiably) skeptical of this somewhat convoluted format shakeup, I hope your fears have been quelled. This episode is nothing short of a runaway victory for Miss Shea Couleé, and, if she keeps it up, the rest of the season might be as well. See you next week!
“It DO Take Nerve!”
Quotes that left me mouth agape
• “First of all: you’re not Ben De La Creme and you wish you were. And second: you’re not a judge so slow your roll. And third: there is no third, because shut the fuck up.” —Ongina
FATALITY. This is some early season, vintage Drag Race ferocity, and I’m glad Ongina serves it to us.
• “This bitch is into eating people…. and she’s that skinny…?” —Alexis Mateo
Again, I can’t apologize enough for doubting Alexis.