RuPaul’s Drag Race
After our fifth non-elimination episode of the season, we have ourselves … a final four. Again. Congrats to all involved, I suppose. Additionally, the rumor mill has been swirling, and social-media sleuths have uncovered evidence indicating that our grand finale will not be broadcast from a Zoom meeting room this season. Well, hello, let’s celebrate that! It’s entirely possible that this will mean a return to the season-nine finale format: a lip-sync tournament (i.e., Russian-nesting-doll-outfit-reveal competition) with preselected songs. However, my personal wish is that we get to experience a more polished iteration of season 12’s finale. Letting the queens choose their songs and give us a little peek into what exactly their drag represents was such a joy last season, and it resulted in some truly memorable moments (if you haven’t checked it out in a while, Crystal’s rendition of Nelly Furtado’s “I’m Like a Bird” merits an immediate rewatch.) The possibilities for this group of creative queens is endless, and I sincerely hope we get to see what they come up with. Of course, it’s all fun and games until Rosé’s performance is her singing all five minutes of “Meadowlark” a cappella … (*monkey’s paw curls*).
But enough speculating, let’s talk about some real, indispensable Drag Race staples: queers crying at their own baby pictures and bizarre RuPaul singles in which she repeatedly sings the word “bussy.” It’s the final competitive episode, so let’s lay out the case for and against each of our finalists:
The case for Kandy Muse can be summed up succinctly: She’s fucking fun. She narrated this season to great success, and sets the bar each episode when it comes to entertainment value. Yes, she’s hotheaded and loud (even the whisper portion of her verse on “Lucky” clocks in at about 60 decibels), but she’s self-aware of the fact, which makes for some satisfying self-deprecation in her interview: “At first I was like … well, bitch, I know better than you, but I’m also fucking delusional.” Ru pees herself, as do I. However, sky-high entertainment value aside, Kandy Muse doesn’t seem to have reached her full potential this season. The runways were spotty to say the least, and her performances in the challenges were very hit or miss. But there’s just something lovable about Kandy, and she cements that underdog narrative in her verse this week, rapping, “They said I would go first, now I’m laughing from the top ha ha ha HA.” Laugh in their faces, Kandy! You earned it.
Honestly, Rosé has a lot going for her this season. She has an immense swell of ground support from young fans, three wins to her name, and not a single bottom-two appearance. Statistically, she’s in first or second place, depending on which school of Dragonomics you subscribe to. So then why doesn’t season 13 feel like Rosé’s time? Well, Ru and Michelle would have you believe it’s Rosé’s perfectionist demeanor that prevents people from connecting to her emotionally, and perhaps there’s something to that. Rosé has certainly had a tendency to appear uptight throughout her time on Drag Race. (“It’s nice to have a more relaxed conversation with Ru and Michelle,” says Rosé after her appearance on their podcast where she methodically goes through her curriculum vitae and reiterates her purpose statement.) But dismissing Rosé as a “perfectionist” feels like an editing cop-out. She has half a million followers, so she can’t have that hard a time connecting with fans. Ultimately, I don’t think Rosé excites Ru and Michelle the same way Gottmik and Symone clearly do. That said, she really does kill this episode. Her verse is probably the best of the four, the singing is legitimately good, and when she hits us with the line “I can rap? What a gag. Check it baby: this is drag,” I’d be lying if I said I didn’t scream! The fact that they didn’t officially award Rosé a win for this episode is a pretty clear indicator that they don’t see her as the winner of the season, but undoubtedly Rosé has left her mark, and I’m excited to see where she goes from here.
Okay … is Gottmik going to win this season? For so long, this season has felt like one long Symone coronation ceremony, but the last couple episodes have left me with the sneaking suspicion that Gottmik might just be America’s Next Drag Superstar. First the obvious: Gottmik comes away from this season having won the two Infinity Stones of the Drag Race Cinematic Universe, the ball and Snatch Game. Along the way, she’s served up some stellar fashion moments, accumulated comedy accolades, and, like celebrated Perdue Chicken Rosé, she’s never had to lip sync. But more important than that, Gottmik has won our hearts. Even more important than that, Gottmik has won Ru’s heart. And whether it’s her natural charm and good nature or just plain Stockholm syndrome, Gottmik seems to love Ru right back. I mean, my God, from the way they’re both cracking up during that interview, you’d think there was a gas leak on the runway. As if that weren’t enough, during critiques, RuPaul quite literally bursts into tears when describing how proud Gottmik makes her. It’s gonna be hard to beat that. In “Lucky,” Gottmik delivers a solid verse that sets a fun, upbeat tone for the rest of the number. Her best line serves as both great lyric and thesis statement for her arc on Drag Race: “Mama Ru said that we’re all born naked, Gottmik says love your body don’t fake it.” It’s a lovely performance and the “gorg” spotted runway at the end of the episode is the cherry on top of a fantastic Drag Race run.
Finally, Symone. This week, there’s a lot of focus on Symone’s stumbles throughout the season, and the ways in which her inner saboteur has disrupted her otherwise impressive streak of challenge wins and runway achievements. This analysis doesn’t seek to undermine Symone, but to remind us why we’re in love with her. By dissecting what makes this typically poised and confident queen fall, we learn so much more about little Reggie, and how Symone came to be in the first place. As she so eloquently puts it: “Symone is the me I didn’t allow myself to be as a kid.” Like … okay, wow. With her podcast episode/therapy session with Ru and Michelle complete, Symone proceeds to kill the rest of this episode. Her verse? Top tier. Her Arkansas twang that colors each “hayyyy?” Infectious. And her final line? Perfection: “You see the crown? Oh, baby, that’s for me.” Symone calls over the crown like it’s an Uber picking her up from LaGuardia. And that is star quality, baby. Although Gottmik is nipping at her heels, four challenge wins and a baker’s dozen iconic fashion moments later, Symone remains our front-runner.
And just like that … it’s over. Well, almost. Next week, we’re taking a short recap break for what I assume will be a rather uneventful RuPaul’s Best Friends Race reunion, and the week following is our mysterious Grand Finale. I’ll see you there!