RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars
We’re in the endgame, folks. After today’s episode, we’re left with our final final top four. But to claim their finalist spot, our five remaining queens must duke it out beatnik-style with the C.U.N.T. monologues (Ru’s words, not mine!) This is my final chance to lay out the pros and cons of each queen going into the finale, so I decided to take a page out of Drag Race herstorian and fellow recapper Kevin O’Keeffe’s book and make a good old-fashioned power ranking. While my own personal preferences and undisguised biases will be very apparent, my goal is to rank the queens on the basis of how likely they are to win. So, behold: my unscientific, completely arbitrary rankings of our lovely top four. Enjoy!
1. Ra’Jah O’Hara: “Bunny Tail”
While it’s anyone’s game, I genuinely believe Ra’Jah O’Hara has the best shot at taking the crown next week. Hand on the Bible! Or at least a copy of “GuRu.” As I’ve explained (perhaps ad nauseam) in past recaps, Ra’Jah has had one of the most unique about-faces in All Stars herstory. From villain to darling, from filler to finalist, what’s not to love? But beyond the narrative satisfaction a Ra’Jah win offers, she’s also had a pretty unimpeachable run. Tonight was only her second time “in the bottom,” and it’s hard to dwell on that considering her string of high placements, particularly those early in the season. From the talent show to the ball, to Snatch Game, to “Isiya Queen,” Ra’Jah has shown us the wide breadth of her drag abilities and converted quite a few fans along the way. But her most important convert? RuPaul. There is no better boon for a Ru girl than that sweet RuPaul seal of approval. Symone got it, Aquaria got it, Sasha Velour got it. It’s not a perfect system, of course (think Gottmik or Gigi Goode), but there’s a distinct advantage to earning the goodwill of the queen whose name is on the checks. While Ra’Jah stumbles at the beginning of her monologue, she executes an impressive recovery and acts out a dynamic, entertaining story about the time her tuck came loose in the middle of a number. During critiques, we see Ru gush over Ra’Jah’s journey and marvel at the fact that she’s made every look she’s worn on the runway this season. Since the moment doesn’t necessarily serve the narrative of this episode, it feels like a very intentional choice to leave it in. If we’re scouring the edit for clues indicating which queen the show might be teeing up for a crowning, this moment stands out. So there you have it! I’ve made no secret of it: Ra’Jah is my pick to win this season. And I think she should be yours too.
2. Ginger Minj: “My Ruby Slipper”
Next up, Ginger, who by all accounts remains our statistical frontrunner going into the finale next week. Ginger has performed quite well this season: she’s stayed consistent as hell, she’s got two wins under her belt (plus mini challenges), and her runways have markedly improved since her appearances on season seven and All Stars 2. Despite another “bottom four” placement in this episode, it’s hard to view this episode as anything other than a victory for Ginger. She received glowing praise from the judges, captivated the audience with a well-spun childhood yarn detailing a touching moment between mom and gay son, and remained polished as ever. But … has Ginger girlbossed a little too close to the sun? Carson’s critique of Ginger this week highlights the downside of that perfectionist veneer: “Sometimes, it’s so finely polished, so perfect, that it doesn’t seem as real to us in the moment.” The judges throwing in a half-assed “but was it too perfect …?” critique is nothing new to the Drag Race Cinematic Universe, but I do think this one holds some water. When the challenge is to draw an audience in with the vulnerability of a childhood story, a hyper-scripted, unflinchingly perfect monologue can give the impression of insincerity. One need only look over to Kylie to see the difference between true emotional vulnerability and Ginger’s pageant showmanship. That said, you can only access that sort of critique when there’s literally nothing else wrong with you, so let’s give credit where credit is due. She tops off her successful night with a runway presentation that’s, well … perfect! The storyline is clear and funny, and I don’t even know what kind of Florida swamp witch drag magic resulted in a burn mark magically appearing on her hand. But as is typical for Ginger, it all works, and she remains a good bet for the crown going into next week.
3. Kylie Sonique Love: “First Time”
To call Kylie’s rise to stardom this season “surprising” would be ignorant. Yes, Kylie was eliminated fourth on her season, but she’s been anything but idle in the decade since. You need only look as far as her Instagram to see how much she’s elevated her craft since exiting the show. So, no, I wasn’t surprised by her exquisite lip syncs, her flawless underboob, or her daring and exciting portrayal of Steve Tyler in the halftime show challenge. But what took me aback was the deeply introspective and wise human being who revealed herself over the season. Throughout the past eleven episodes, Kylie has been generous with sage advice and articulate when explaining the details of her own journey to self-love. Two skills that certainly come in handy in tonight’s challenge. Kylie’s story is my favorite. I’m instantly pulled in by the dulcet tones of her voice, and I raptly watch as she gently yet passionately tells us of her first time in drag. Kylie’s magnetism and vulnerability just can’t be taught. Oh, and did I mention she’s fucking funny? That part I didn’t see coming. To go from eliminated on Snatch Game to a Dolly impersonation I will be quoting for years to come? A true underdog tale. That said, despite her myriad strengths and strong track record, Kylie has had a harder time crossing the finish line than Ra’Jah or Ginger. In fact, in two of her strongest episodes (Snatch Game and the Ball), she was edged out by the queens who are now her toughest competition. So, yes, maybe it’s more difficult to make a strong logical case for Kylie, but, as Ru often says: “Damn the rules!” Perhaps a Kylie crowing is just what we need.
4. Eureka O’Hara: “A Benefit for Boom Boom”
Coming up in a strong fourth is Eureka O’Hara. Eureka needed her win this week. It’s practically her cover charge for reentering the competition and scooting into the finale. So while Eureka arguably has the most quantifiable momentum (after a first-place finish this week and a sound defeat of lip-sync champ Silky Ganache the week before), it’s still hard to overlook the fact that she has the most bottom placements and fewest wins of our finalists. Oh, and she was fully eliminated two weeks previous. But let’s be real, who cares about statistics? (And other things Marjorie Taylor Greene says). When it comes to Drag Race, the math doesn’t always tell the whole story. Like Ra’Jah, Eureka’s reversal of public opinion this season has been incredibly impressive. Fans were divided on Eureka from the get, and she had plenty of time to draw more ire and annoyance as she progressed all the way to the finals of season 10. The result was more than a little groaning when Eureka was announced for All Stars. I can’t speak for my fellow contrarians, but I’m ready to eat my words. Eureka has always been a smart and capable entertainer (that was never in doubt), but this season we got a chance to enjoy her humor, her confidence, and all the other qualities she brings to the table. Whatever your thoughts on Eureka before this season, you simply can’t tell me you wouldn’t get your life at a Eureka-hosted drag show. I wouldn’t believe you! So, yes, while I’m placing Eureka fourth in these unscientific, arbitrary rankings, the race is still tight as hell. Who knows what she’ll pull out next week? Surprise me, bitch!
5. Trinity K. Bonet: “Bamboozled”
In fifth place (for obvious reasons) is my queen Trinity K. Bonet. Trinity was a fan-favorite entering this season and established herself as a frontrunner early on. Her halftime show performance as Beyoncé and her verse on “Show Up Queen” were soaring highs for Trinity, and at one point in the season, she seemed unstoppable. However, old patterns and self-destructive habits die hard, and they began to creep back into Trinity’s psyche in the last few weeks. We watched her fall into spirals of self-doubt, throw a mini-tantrum during the lip sync tournament, and, in this week’s deliberations, we watch her give up. So, yes, Trinity gets eliminated, and while it still feels like a gut punch, it’s a lovely performance note to leave on. I think it’s safe to say that stand-up comedy hasn’t been Trinity’s strong suit this season, but when she arrives at the emotional heart of her story the pieces really begin to come together. It’s a moving reminder that while this show is diversionary entertainment for many, Drag Race is truly life-changing to some. To top it off, her interpretation of “fashionable fashion mistakes” is clever and fun, and the resulting runway look is gorgeous. But it’s still not quite enough to save her. Unfortunately, Trinity’s flame burned a little too quickly this season, but boy did it burn bright.
There you have it! This time next week, we will have our seventh addition into the Drag Race Hall of Fame (or seventh and eighth … who knows these days.) Whoever it may be, I can’t wait to celebrate with you all next week.