RuPaul’s Drag Race
Ah, DragCon. What was once a RuPaul pipe dream has suddenly become a fixture of the Drag Race media landscape. And like any RuPaul IP worth its salt, DragCon has made its way into maxi-challenge territory. This week, as they have for several seasons now, the queens must work together to program and host their very own DragCon panels. This particular genre of self-referential challenge truly tickles me. RuPaul has created a challenge to test a very specific skill set that drag queens must possess, but said skill set would not exist at all if RuPaul didn’t create the need for said skill set in the first place. Ru’s drag empire is now so vast that her show functions as an audition boot camp for all the other entertainment avenues into which she might slot her hundreds of children. And in this way, the content cycle feeds itself. An ouRuboros, if you will.
However, there’s a slight variation on the usual DragCon Panel this go-round. As opposed to the teams fighting over which of two topics they get to discuss, they’re both given the same topic: men. Sounds good to me! Behind the scenes, meditations on gender and the queens’ relationship (or lack thereof) to manhood have quickly become the most interesting part of this season, so why not formalize these thoughts in a challenge on the main stage? Willow wins the mini-challenge and expertly hand selects her team, leaving the other girls on what Daya Betty christens #TeamLeftovers.
Team Willow consists of Lady Camden, Angeria, and Deja Skye. I think Willow might be a strategic genius. On the surface, it seems Willow is just choosing the strongest players of the competition. Angeria consistently dominates every challenge, Lady Camden’s star is rising, and Deja is also still there. However, this begs the question: Why no Bosco? Not only has she been killing the game as well, they just worked together to great success last week in their girl group. Willow knows this. She also knows that Bosco just won the reading challenge and is evidently great on a hot mic. Willow is quick-witted and funny, of course, but Bosco’s brand of comedy is a little more audacious and more than a few decibels louder than Willows, which could easily lead to a situation where she is outshined. So by leaving Bosco with weaker players (Jorgeous and Jasmine), she gives her a hurdle to overcome. Instead, Willow elects to draft the ever polite Lady Camden, who (while great) would never dream of interrupting or overreaching in a panel environment. Sure, you may say this read on the situation is a reach, but it’s hardly the first time Willow has revealed she’s playing a strategic game. Just last week, she admitted she’d been concealing her dancing abilities to gain a tactical advantage. If Drag Race is a game of chess, Willow is the Bobby Fisc(her/them).
And dominate, she does. Willow effortlessly weaves vulnerable discussion of her disability with her signature brand of bold dark humor. It’s never forced, and the result is a small, lovely peek into her fascinating mind. As usual, Angeria also shines, albeit perhaps not quite as brightly as Willow. I could listen to her talk all day, and she also manages to strike the perfect balance between comedy and genuine human connection. No surprise here. Our front-runners remain running up front! Rounding out the pack are Deja Skye, the moderator (who keeps the pace brisk but never hurried), and Lady Camden (who we are supposed to believe “stumbles” when she says one name wrong and makes a joke about it). Team Willow is cohesive as hell, and unfortunately, #TeamLeftovers doesn’t really stand a chance.
Now onto the ladies Willow doesn’t choose: Daya Betty, Jorgeous, Jasmine Kennedie, and Bosco. The key to a challenge like this is to play to your strengths. If you don’t have anything insightful to add, maybe you’re the queen the group turns to for a quip. If you’re not particularly funny, maybe lean into an earnest or vulnerable anecdote. Because relying on any skill that’s not your forte will be instantly obvious on a four-person panel speaking to an audience of eight. So I can’t help but wonder why the group shoots down Jasmine Kennedie as a moderator but decides she is best suited to give a concise explanation and general overview of the nuances of male privilege. It seems destined to set her up for failure (which is perhaps the goal), and indeed she ends up launching into a self-conscious ramble. Jorgeous doesn’t fare much better. Nothing she has to say feels particularly different than what we’ve heard before, and she finds herself frequently stumbling over her words. Daya Betty does Just Fine™ (which is all she needs to do this week.) She delivers some concise, adequately entertaining musings on each subject Bosco brings up, but most importantly, she outshines Jasmine and Jorgeous. As predicted, this crew is nowhere near as strong as Willow’s team of All-Stars. However, this differential works out very well for Bosco. Bosco positions herself as the north star of her group. She expertly steers the queens from topic to topic, all the while nailing the prewritten jokes she’s written for herself. Is she funnier than Willow? Hard to say. But by comparing them solely within the context of their own teams, Bosco’s performance seems much more impressive (relatively speaking) than Willow’s. Perhaps a low-probability event that Willow couldn’t quite see coming.
With the challenge behind us, it’s onto the runway. Angeria delivers perhaps her most stunning creation yet, a clashing houndstooth bodysuit and cape with a matching crown, making it all the more surprising that she isn’t placed in the top this week. Willow’s runway is surprisingly literal and simple for a queen who has made a habit of shocking us. Bosco’s look is quite straightforward as well, albeit a bit more sartorially successful than Willow’s. I’m not fully sold on it until Bosco describes it as “the Morton Salt Girl meets a villain from Power Rangers.” (Okay, yeah, I stan.) The judges have nothing but praise for Bosco, Willow, and (somewhat surprisingly) Deja Skye, and while they perfunctorily note their disappointment with the runways not going “far enough,” it’s straight A’s for the trio. Bosco edges out Willow for the win, all but securing her place in this season’s top four. Brava, Bosco!
And no surprise here, it’s the highly anticipated Gen-Z dancer showdown in the bottom two, as Jorgeous and Jasmine Kennedie duke it out to Etta James’ “Something’s Got a Hold On Me.” And, baby? They don’t disappoint. It would have been so easy for a battle between two limber divas to become an overwhelming display of flips and tricks, but it doesn’t. While both Jasmine and Jorgeous are engaged and alive within the song, it feels more like two queens performing a number to the best of their abilities instead of a desperate display of one attempting to “outdo” the other. The result is a highly rewatchable lip sync, which I must insist you view multiple times to truly appreciate. Maybe I’m going soft, or maybe two weeks from now, I’ll be annoyed by this double save, but for now, I’m happy to celebrate these two powerhouse performers staying put in the competition.
A weekly segment where I discuss stray thoughts that won’t leave my head.
• The Sisterhood of the Traveling Kandy Muse Wig: I’m obsessed with the widespread proliferation of the puffball braids that Kandy debuted on season 13. Kandy, Olivia Lux, Nicole Byer, who’s next? I want more! MORE!
• Daya Betty: I grow very weary of Daya Betty’s near-constant rudeness. If Jasmine decides to beat her ass next week, I will not blame her.