RuPaul’s Drag Race Down Under
Well, we’ve made it: After eight fun, sometimes infuriatingly convoluted weeks, we’re finally at the finish line of RuPaul’s Drag Race Down Under season one. Season 13 of Drag Race may have actually been the longest season the show’s ever produced, but Drag Race Down Under season one, despite having half the episodes, certainly feels like it’s been the longest season ever. From Art’s elimination and speedy return to Elektra’s near-constant presence in the lip-sync to Ru’s polemics on cancel culture to Rhys Nicholson’s incessant anal sex jokes, this season has often felt like the Groundhog Day of Drag Race seasons, with me as the gorgeous, talented blogger forced to watch the same episode over and over. There was fun to be had, no doubt — these are undoubtedly some of the wittiest and nastiest queens to ever grace the Drag Race stage — but as we look upon our top four at the beginning of this grand finale, it’s hard not to think about how often this season felt like a missed opportunity.
In many ways, this grand finale feels a little like a vision of what this season could have been. The challenge, the obligatory Rumix and dance number, is a classic; there’s a little cattiness, but it never swerves into all-out bullying; the outfits are, by and large, gorgeous; and it genuinely feels like there’s a connection between the girls and the judges, which hasn’t always come through in Drag Race Down Under.
That last element is, to me, what makes this episode feel so special. As always, the top four queens get a chance to have a sit-down “lunch” — this time consisting of a Jaffa, a local spin on the traditional Tic Tac lunch — with Ru and Michelle. I’m not sure why, but these conversations seemed more raw and, surprisingly, less produced than they usually do. (Let’s chalk it up to the fact that Ru and Michelle don’t have to contend with all the L.A. air pollution.) In Scarlet’s sit-down, she opens up about the support she’s received from her mother and partner; in Karen’s, we hear about how her mother, who did actually work in finance, inspired her character; and in Kita’s, we learn about how her parents’ divorce, during which she was forced to live with her father and separated from her sisters, caused her lasting harm. But it’s Art’s interview that hits hardest: As she’s talking about being the main breadwinner of her family, Michelle cuts her off and tells her that she needs to start looking after herself. This portion of the competition is always emotional, but rarely has there ever been an interaction as two-way as this one, where one of the judges actively counsels a contestant like this. Afterwards, Art seems genuinely shaken for the better; it’s a sweet, tough-love moment from Ru and Michelle, the kind of un-produced interaction this season could have used a lot more of.
When it comes time for the queens to be coached through their dance moves, we get this episode’s requisite messiness. Where to begin? Art can’t stop saying “noonie,” and is horrified that her sequence involves so much “noonie-touching,” while the choreographer gives Karen the decidedly unhelpful advice that “Karen is dancing like a Karen … Karen needs to dance like a Ka-RON,” which I’m not sure means anything at all. The choreographer, a king and a legend, says more of the obvious — that Scarlet is clearly doing better than the other girls, but that “there’s got to be an underdog.” This man needs a podcast!
As the queens get ready for the runway, Scarlet and Art reveal that they both experienced similarly tumultuous relationships with their fathers, with both connecting with them late in life only to cut off contact upon finding out they were gay. Both have the same takeaway: It’s their fathers’ loss at the end of the day.
During the musical number, everyone looks a little … random? Kita’s wearing another of her clownish bodysuits, while Art looks like someone’s mum attending her first pride parade. Still, we get some fun additional verses for “I’m a Winner Baby” that go beyond the usual “I’m gonna snatch that crown sis!”–style verse that seems to be endemic on U.S. Drag Race. Karen’s verse is particularly inspired, serving up big Glass Candy “Warm In The Winter” energy; Kita takes a risk in singing her portion of the song, but it pays off handsomely. In all, one of the better Rumixes we’ve had, and if you see me listening to it on the Spotify social feed post-show, no you didn’t!
Category on the runway is Best Drag, and these queens don’t take that theme lightly: All four look stunning. Art’s shimmering aquamarine ball gown, which matches the colour of her boy hair, is camp and unbelievably glamorous, while Karen’s pinstripe suit dress is a little like the most elevated tuxedo T-shirt of all time. Kita is a vision in white, looking like a Vegas showgirl (and the best she’s looked all competition.) Scarlet looks wonderful too, but it’s not necessarily my favourite of her looks this season; still, that’s probably just the curse of high expectations. During critiques, all three judges seem genuinely proud, and it’s an undeniable thrill to hear how talented they think the contestants are. Still, there can be only one winner, and, in something a shock — although not at all an unwelcome shock — the wonderful Kita Mean is named Down Under’s first drag superstar!! Over the past few weeks, no queen has shown versatility and star power like Kita, and, of course, no other queen shares a name with Australia’s favourite dissociative drug. Kita can sing, she can dance, she’s funny, she’s camp, she’s glamorous, she’s Elektra Shock’s boss: It kinda feels like there’s nothing this queen can’t do, and it’s a total thrill to see her take the crown.
This brings us to the end of a wild, weird season of Drag Race. Although it hasn’t been all highs, it’s been an honour to take you through this season, and it’s been lovely for it to end on this high. After all, if there’s one thing that can take the edge off a bumpy ride like Drag Race Down Under, it’s a healthy dose of Kita Mean.