We’re back! Did you miss me? Oh, stop! You’re too sweet!
As you can see, I’m fully broken. But luckily for us, Drag Race is not, and tonight we got the first installment of what’s shaping up to be a very exciting season. The All Stars season premiere boasts a talented, well-cast group of queens and an innovative format twist that not only shakes up the typical All Stars rhythm, but also practically guarantees exciting lip sync performances to cap off each episode. And did I mention that the queens are voting this season? That’s right, henny, we’re doing Survivor now. Minor judging quibbles aside, I loved this episode, and I’m eager to see what this season has up its sleeve. In no particular order, it’s time to meet the dolls:
Show of hands: who else gave Shea entrance applause when she walked into the werk room? Those hands better be UP… If Drag Race were Game of Thrones (shoutout to Shangela) then Shea Couleé would probably be Jon Snow. With four challenge wins on her season, Shea is one of the strongest competitors in Drag Race herstory. If not for the last-minute finale format change on season 9, Shea would probably already be a Drag Race winner. Shea, with royal blood running through her veins, enters this competition the clear frontrunner, and she’s off to a good start. Shea delivers some great reads (the Ongina one in particular had me giggling) and in the talent show, she delivers a pole dancing lip sync so sexy that Lana Del Rey is drafting a notes app meltdown about it as we speak. She’s safe this episode, but seems no less poised to snatch the crown. Queen in the North! (Chicago).
Mariah Paris Balenciaga
Mariah is another highly regarded queen in the Drag Race canon. She’s known for her flawless mug, her legend status in the Atlanta Ball scene, and my favorite Drag Race exit line. Mariah impressed me this episode. Her read of Shea made me fall off my chair and her daring performance in the variety show shook me (and Ricky Martin) to the core. She gave us Mariah Paris aka Mariah Angelou aka Mariah Abramovic with a spoken word piece focused on queer and black oppression called “Stains on the Wall”. It’s beautiful, and I’m so excited to see what else Mariah has to offer us this season.
Lucky for us, this season has no shortage of Drag Race legends. Jujubee is known as the queen of reading, a lip sync assassin, and one funny bitch. While she’s previously competed on an All Stars run, RuPaul seems to be as unwilling to talk about that season as she is her Wyoming fracking empire. Juju is a fierce queen and it feels deeply correct to watch her waltz in and instantly snatch yet another reading challenge victory. Her reputation remains unmatched. Even more exciting, the girl can SING. Juju serenades the crowd with a touching ballad and her effortless breath control almost makes you forget that she’s wearing 10 pounds of padding and a corset. Juju hit the ground running, and I’m getting top three vibes! JujuBEE?? Haha, more like Juju A+!! This recap is a cry for help :)
Blair St. Clair
I guess I’ll just admit this now: I never really got Blair St. Clair on her season. I think she had a couple nice runways, but I was truly shocked by the effusive praise she consistently received on her acting and eye for fashion. However, I will try to be as nice as I possibly can to her this season. Okay, here we go: In the talent show, Blair sucked. (Well, I tried!) She was pitchy, couldn’t hold a tune, and I felt no emotional resonance in her performance. Somehow she’s safe, which (yet again) baffles me, but maybe I’ll just have to get used to it. That said, Blair absolutely made me laugh in the reading challenge and definitely deserved her co-win.
I’m so happy to see Miz Cracker back for an All Stars run. Miz Cracker is a fan favorite from season ten, and, not to mention, a certified New York darling. There are few drag shows more fun than Miz Cracker’s weekly Drag Race viewing parties at Industry. (Remember bars?) On her season, Cracker admits that she was perpetually anxious and in her head, but none of that is to be found in her first episode back. She performs solidly in the mini-challenge thanks to a couple of well-placed zingers at India and Blair, and she receives top marks for her talent show lip sync. Cracker’s signature brand of “high-brow intellectual, but make it stupid” is on full display, and the judges eat up every last white, crunchy, salty bite.
I was looking forward to Ongina this season, and I still have high hopes for her, but I’m definitely worried for my girl. Ongina entered with a bang in a stunning ensemble inspired by Fillipino comic book superhero Darna. But the rest of the episode, she fizzled. In the library challenge, Ongina applied a sort of… Socratic method to her reads: she would offer up a line of inquiry, and then wait for the queen she was talking to respond before moving on to the next girl. As Jujubee so eloquently puts it: “the crickets aren’t even laughing.” Her fortunes did not improve in the talent show, which was a campy RuPaul dance medley with a couple of reveals that felt like afterthoughts. The judges appear to be cutting Ongina some slack, however, and she narrowly escapes the bottom two.
Alexis has the distinction of being top three in season three, notoriously one of the most difficult Drag Race seasons of all time. The queens had to execute sewing challenge after sewing challenge, creating looks made of paper, plastic, garbage and more. She then competed on All Stars season one alongside her Puerto Rican sister Yara Sofia. An experienced queen, Alexis is not to be underestimated. However, I couldn’t help but feel that Alexis faded into the background this episode. She certainly didn’t do anything egregious, but All Stars is the best of the best (and Derrick is there too), so Alexis needs to step it up if she wants to make it far this season.
First of all, Mayhem deserved to be safe for giving us “Mariah Angelou” alone. Mayhem’s talent show performance starts as a recreation of her iconic performance at Showgirls (a show at Mickey’s WeHo) that made the rounds on social media last year (this year? Two years ago? Time doesn’t exist to me anymore.) In it, she executes what can only be described as “blinkography.” The performance was heavily meme’d, and, being well-versed in RuGirl marketing 101, Mayhem seized on the opportunity with T-shirts, enamel pins, and more. However, Mayhem’s performance tonight shows that meme status is a double-edged sword. Jasmine Masters learned the same lesson on All Stars 4, where she was unable to translate her meme queen notoriety into a functional five-minute set. In Mayhem’s case, the eye bit quickly gives way to mumbled rapping. It’s impossible to understand, and the performance is not nearly compelling enough to make up for it. Luckily for Mayhem, this mistake didn’t cost her the competition. She remains safe to blink another week.
Not two minutes into Derrick’s werk room entrance, we discover that there is significant beef between India and Derrick. India appears to want to hug it out, but (lucky for us) drag queens are not known for their conflict abation skills, and Derrick seems determined to escalate the drama into a full-on feud. I kind of love when Drag Race drama originating from Facebook statuses makes its way onto the show, because it makes me feel like Drag Race girls are just my aunt from Maryland in a $400 hair system. We never really get the full story of this drama, so feel free to project your anger on whichever queen you dislike more. In the talent show, Derrick’s concept is a perfect joke. The premise is funny within itself (Derrick Barry doing impressions) and it’s even funnier to watch him attempt to execute truly awful impressions to a silent crowd. I laughed the entire time. It’s high performance art and I think he should have won. Derrick is our generation’s Andy Kaufman. The judges (and the other queens) happen to disagree with me, and Derrick is sent home this episode *Hunger Games cannon fires*
As any new All Stars season approaches, invariably some waifish twink raises the question: “Who will be this season’s Tatianna?” Of course this refers to season two legend Tatianna, who surprised and stunned the kingdom with her masterful performance of “Same Parts” in the premiere episode of All Stars 2, then made her way back into the competition by facing off against Alyssa Edwards in what many refer to as the best lip sync of all time. Well, it appears that this time around the underestimated queen who might gag us all is none other than India Ferrah. India seemed intimidated before her talent show. Watching one girl after the next deliver beautiful, creative performances shook the season three queen. Nevertheless, India delivered a hilarious, gag-worthy performance to her single “Drag Is Not A Contact Sport” (referencing her infamous lip sync against an OG Drag Race villain, Mimi Imfurst.) She earns both the top prize this week and the right to be thoroughly trounced in a lip sync by Yvie Oddly. I’m happy India got a chance to shine in this episode, but to be honest I’m not sure how much gas she has left in her. Winning the first challenge on All Stars is rarely a predictor of overall success, so it’s TBD if she sticks around much longer.
And with that, we find ourselves at the end of our first episode of All Stars. I’m excited about this season. The cast is strong, the lip sync assassin gimmick is really working for me thus far, and the Survivor-esque trial by jury is sure to create some good old-fashioned, heart-healthy, reality television drama as the season progresses. These days, I find myself prizing my moments of escapism more than ever before, and I’m grateful this season of Drag Race seems to be living up to its potential. Until next week!