RuPaul’s Drag Race Season-Finale Recap: And the Winner Is …

RuPaul’s Drag Race

Grand Finale!
Season 14 Episode 16
Editor’s Rating 4 stars

RuPaul’s Drag Race

Grand Finale!
Season 14 Episode 16
Editor’s Rating 4 stars
Photo: VH1

We did it, Joe! We made it to the end of the season, witnessed Drag Race’s first quadruple elimination, and of course crowned America’s Next Drag Superstar. And where better to celebrate spectacle, glam, and cutthroat pageant antics than Sin City? RuPaul has conquered Hollywood and is now aggressively planting roots in the income-tax haven that is Las Vegas, Nevada. In the first act of this episode alone, we’re treated to clip packages from the top-five queens that function as tourism advertisements of the city, and a full number from the Drag Race Vegas show, and RuPaul is presented with “a key to the city” by Michelle Visage. Michelle claims this key is “from the mayor,” but do we have any independent confirmation of this fact? Absolutely not. I highly doubt the Las Vegas city council sanctioned this move, but what are they going to do? Release a statement explaining the fact that they’re not giving our favorite queer media mogul and oil tycoon a key to the city? Another genius gambit furthering RuPaul’s goal of global media domination. We stan! But we came here for drag, baby. So let’s get into the final performances from the top-five queens. (Ranked, of course.)

5. Angeria Paris VanMichaels

Angeria’s clip package is as sweet and endearing as she is. She shows out in full Vegas drag (rhinestones, oversize headdress) and tells us all about how her pageant background has served her throughout this competition. I do grow a little weary of this long-debunked narrative Drag Race often pushes (that pageant queens are robots devoid of comedy or personality until proved otherwise), but that’s a discussion for another day. In the meantime, we have Angeria’s lovely parents to meet and a final lip-sync performance to enjoy. Angie performs her custom song, “Check My Track Record.” She turns out a solid performance, showcasing many of the classic Angeria moves we’ve seen from her throughout this season. There’s ferocious lip-syncing in utkatasana, there are high knees across the stage, and of course a healthy reveal up top. Unfortunately, it’s not quite enough to catapult Angeria to the top two. While perfectly serviceable, Angeria’s performance puts her in the bottom half of tonight’s numbers. She heads home to Atlanta without the crown, but I have a feeling we’ll be seeing plenty more of Angie in the years to come.

4. Daya Betty

Is it just me, or is there something a little off about Daya’s clip package in this episode? I guess it should come as no surprise that it reinforces her season-long narrative: a combative queen who will do and say anything to win. But even accounting for that, precious little time is spent on Daya’s strengths. We spend more time discussing Crystal Methyd and obliquely referencing Jasmine Kennedie than we do talking about Daya’s challenge win or upward trajectory. While, in theory, each of the final five has an equal shot at being a finalist, the framing of this episode makes it pretty clear that Daya does not. Even Daya’s boyfriend seems to drive home this story line. When asked what his favorite quality of his partner is, he says, “She’s not afraid to express her emotions outwardly.” Given the context of the clip package, the comment seems backhanded at best. That said, Daya does an admirable job in her final lip-sync to “Fighter.” (Sound-wise, think the pop punkification of the Beetlejuice musical.) I’ve yet to come up with a unifying theory on the physics behind the floating appendages behind her costume, but suffice it to say I’m mesmerized. If I were to find some fault, it would be that Daya is somewhat upstaged by her elaborate costume. I find myself spending more time admiring the craftsmanship of the garment than I do taking in her lip-sync. With that, Daya’s run on Drag Race comes to an end. But something tells me the Daya-Jasmine sequel will be coming to some All Stars franchise in the very near future.

3. Bosco

If there was a third-place tonight, I think Bosco would’ve claimed it. After a stunning runway entrance, we cut to Bosco’s clip package, where she is positively glowing (“The estrogen is hitting tonight,” she explains.) But while the retrospective of her 16-week Drag Race career is nice, she truly shines in her number, “Devil.” She enters as a magnificent, heavenly, multi-winged creature lip-syncing to a rather underwhelming ersatz–Melanie Martinez track. However, Bosco, in all her biblically accurate angelic glory, elevates the number to new heights with her sickening reveal, transforming from angel to demon in the blink of an eye. It’s beautifully constructed, and you can watch the crowd go up as the number draws to a close. And Bosco shines brighter still in her interview with Ru, seamlessly blending the humor and heart we’ve known her for all season. It’s also lovely to meet her drag sister Lucy Lips (who I hope is preparing her audition tape as we speak). Unfortunately for dedicated Bosconters such as myself, Bosco is just edged out by the top two queens of the evening. But that said, never have I seen a queen so prepared to snatch an All Stars crown. Looking forward to it, diva!

2. Lady Camden

Coming in second place for the solo numbers, it’s Lady Camden. Lady Camden has the distinction of having the best written original song: “I Fell Down,” a Queen knockoff with a strong Freddie Mercury vocal line and an ear-worm of a chorus. But a catchy refrain alone is not a guarantee of a memorable performance. Luckily, Lady Camden has some tricks up her wig. Even without gimmicks, Lady Camden is a great dancer. Her ballet training and charisma are on full display, and she’s able to keep pace with (and even outshine) her background eye candy more than any other queen in the top five. So when she dramatically untwists her tutu while pique turning across the stage and flips off her wig to reveal a Freddie Mercury get-up underneath, it’s simply the cherry on top. When it comes to a lip-sync, very few queens have been able to hold a candle to Lady Camden this year, and tonight is no exception. Lady Camden is officially in the top two, and she’s earned her spot.

1. Willow Pill

Did anyone doubt Willow would top this list? Willow has been serving winner energy from the jump, and this episode’s solo performance solidifies that narrative. Each of the top five has a unique perspective on drag, but to me, Willow’s is the most captivating. And I’m not the only one: Willow has far and away become the fan-favorite leading up to the finale on social media, so expectations and hopes are high going into this finale. Needless to say, she doesn’t disappoint. I can barely remember the tune of Willow’s number (“I Hate People”), but the image of her face framed by comically oversize ruffles and a single red curl is forever ingrained in my mind. And that’s before she rips off the outer ruffle revealing two mini Willow heads in complementary hair and makeup underneath. But the pièce de ré·sis·tance? The fourth and final Willow head sitting daintily underneath her skirt. A Pussy Willow, if you will. It’s easily the most memorable performance of the night, and if you weren’t #TeamWillow before, I bet you are now.

Lip-sync for the Crown

So after a Vegas-style slot machine reveal, it’s Lady Camden and Willow left to lip-sync for the crown. Willow begins the number in an oversize pink and black striped blazer, with cartoon-lengthed arms in a callback to her nightmare teddy bear look from early in the season. Lady Camden starts off with a dance costume and a crown in a nod to her British roots. In perhaps the campiest song choice in Drag Race herstory, the final two must duke it out to “Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (Cher’s Version).” And if the assignment is camp, no one has a better understanding of that aesthetic than Willow. Midway through the number, she rips off her oversize blazer to reveal … a matching oversize pair of trousers. CAMP!! Camden tries a stunt as well, attempting to recreate her iconic fake-fall-plus-wig-reveal combo, but it doesn’t have the same impact the second time around. Willow maintains complete control of the stage, and even a dual bodysuit reveal isn’t enough for me to take my eyes off of her. Camden puts up a good fight, but Willow’s victory is nothing short of definitive.

And so it should come as no surprise that the winner is … Willow Pill! While this probably comes as no surprise, it’s nonetheless quite satisfying. Willow is an oddball of a queen, and in a different set of circumstances, it’s easy to imagine the judges not quite “getting” her comedy, or Willow getting lost in the shuffle. But Willow’s talent and unique artistic perspective won out. Throughout the season, Willow showed a wide-ranging breadth of talent and a rarely before seen strategic mind for competition. It’s truly a testament to her charisma that, despite having the worst track record of the final five, this season has felt like Willow’s to lose from the jump. That’s a kind of magnetism that $150,000 can’t buy. Congratulations, Willow. You’ve made your mark.

Thank you all for coming on this journey with me once again. I love this show, and I’ll probably be talking about it until the day I die! So thanks for listening.

Until next time!

RuPaul’s Drag Race Recap: And the Winner Is …