RuPaul’s Drag Race
Every season, the puppeteers at World of Wonder pick one girl to make squirm. New York City queens with their Empire State–size drag egos often make good targets (see Jan or Miz Cracker,) and indeed, just two episodes ago, it seemed the producers had their sights fixed on NYC girlie Jasmine Kennedie as this season’s punching bag. The setup was right: The girls universally agreed Jasmine was loud and garrulous, and Kornbread was plenty willing to carry that narrative torch. But as it turns out, Jasmine just isn’t that fragile. Despite near constant badgering over the last few weeks, Jasmine has been relatively chill about her lot in life as season 14’s loud, annoying baby sister. So what now? Well, enter Daya Betty. While on the surface, this kooky alt queen from Springfield, Missouri, seems unsuited for the role of Dragzilla, it has quickly become apparent that Daya has one glaringly obvious insecurity that is positively ripe for excessive prodding: her sister Crystal Methyd. Combine that with a barely concealed vicious perfectionism, and honey … we’re cooking with gas.
At the top of the episode, Daya is a raw nerve. As her teammates Lady Camden and Bosco celebrate the heaps of praise RuPaul has lavished upon them, Daya sits stone-faced. “Daya, you were a little disappointed with being safe,” Deja Skye (correctly) notes. “I wasn’t disappointed. Don’t twist my words, bitch.” Daya snaps. A lie, and a transparent one at that. Psychological tensions are already high, but they climb to new heights the next day in the werkroom. For this week’s Glamazon Prime–themed challenge, the girls must crush a local factory union to keep shipping prices competitive. Oops! Sorry, I meant: They must use the unconventional materials found in unmarked shipping boxes to construct a high-fashion runway look. (My bad!) As the girls work diligently on their trash couture, Ru and Carson complete their walkthrough where Daya seals her own fate with a single question: “I haven’t really gotten any critiques, so … is there anything you want to see particularly more from me?” “You’re very evocative of Crystal Methyd … we need to figure out who you are,” says Carson, and RuPaul wholeheartedly agrees. Button pushed. Daya manages to play it cool for the moment, thanking Carson and Ru for their feedback through gritted teeth. But for the next few hours, she works herself into a tizzy. Sure, other girls have their various throughlines in this episode: Lady Camden needs to overdraw her lips, Jorgeous needs to “bring it” or whatever Ru said, and Willow finds herself struggling without the support system/mom energy of Kornbread in the werkroom. But all these moments are eclipsed by Daya Betty’s increasingly frenzied monologuing. Eventually, we’re provided some reprieve in the form of the runway. And folks, it wouldn’t be a Drag Race runway challenge if I didn’t find myself disagreeing with the judges at almost every turn. Overall, it’s a pretty strong showing, with looks ranging from just fine to quite impressive. However, my opinions on where the queens fell on that spectrum were quite at odds with the episode’s narrative. Drag me if you must, I welcome it — relish it, even — and let’s get into it.
First, what the judges and I had in common. Namely, the certainty that Maddy’s look is irredeemable. It’s unpleasant to look at, and the overdone presentation and prop work only served to highlight Maddy’s insecurity with her own design. Jasmine Kennedie has also seen better days. During the ball challenge, I was wowed by the construction of Jasmine’s gown, so it’s pretty shocking not to see a similar taste level reflected in this outfit. The judges also have harsh words for Deja Skye, but I think she looks … pretty darn good! Michelle points out that the paper fan atop her wig looks cheap, but given how well put together the rest is, it seems bizarre to place her in the bottom three. Who would I put in her place? Perhaps safe queen Kerri Colby. Kerri’s look appears disjointed to me, a mix of unrelated fabrics and textures in almost random arrangements, with an unhealthy amount of body glitter poured on top. I’m surprised to see her escape any scrutiny this episode as she joins the safe queens.
Another point of commonality between the judges and I? Lady Camden. Lady Camden’s makeup looks better than ever, and I’m gobsmacked at the dance costume and accompanying Victoria’s Secret model fairy wings she’s managed to make out of a kiddie pool, a tent, and a bed canopy. No other look holds a candle to hers in either scope or detail (and the girls in Untucked agree.) However, RuPaul just can’t get enough of Jorgeous and her infectious personality. She smartly scraps her earlier look, and goes for a Shakira-reminiscent garment that she styles quite smartly. A categorically safe look to me, but to Ru, it’s a masterpiece. I guess! Angeria is also lauded for managing to construct a little black dress out of such stiff, intractable fabric. Personally speaking, I’ve been to far too many musical theater BFA showcases in the 2010s to be able to stomach peplum dresses anymore, so I can’t say I enjoy the look as much as the judges do. I would’ve swapped in Bosco and her Tom Ford-looking breastplate and Ikea bag pants to accompany Lady Camden in the top two.
But alas, despite my one-sided parasocial relationship with the judges, I have no say in their decisions, and so — to Daya Betty’s shock as well as my own — it’s Jorgeous who takes the top prize this week. And (much more justifiably) Jasmine and Maddy end up in the bottom two. But before we discuss the main event, we simply must discuss the pregame in Untucked where, after several more minutes (hours?) of ranting from Daya Betty, we’re treated to our first true drag queen tussle of the season: “It’s my runway, it’s my lip-sync, and I’m not going nowhere,” says Maddy. “And I want you to feel that way,” replies Jasmine. The fight that follows is such a funny dynamic. Maddy is worked up because Jasmine is wholly unintimidated by her, and Jasmine is worked up at the audacity of Maddy to suggest that she should would ever be intimidated in the first place. It’s an entertaining, bombastic clash of egos and proof that Maddy is assimilating into queer culture very well!
Back on the runway, the pair lip-sync to Beyoncé’s “Suga Mama.” Mark this day in herstory: Beyoncé has officially licensed music to Drag Race. I don’t know what kind of backroom deals were struck or which government officials were blackmailed, but I’m grateful for it. True to form, Jasmine slays. To her credit, Maddy isn’t bad either, but it’s no contest: Jasmine embodies the confident sexuality of B-Day Beyoncé, twisting on the floor and expertly flipping her hair back and forth with practiced ease. And so ends the historic run of Maddy Morphosis, Drag Race’s first cishet man to grace the main stage. Catch you later, bro! Thanks for stopping by.
Some predictions looking ahead: We seem to be rapidly approaching the end of Daya Betty’s arc. The high-strung Missouri queen’s attitude simply isn’t sustainable, and her unflattering edit this episode indicates that she won’t be sticking around much longer. The writing is on the wall for Deja Skye and Jasmine Kennedie, as well. Despite their best efforts and some standout moments, the judges just aren’t buying what they’re selling. In contrast, Jorgeous is just warming up. This episode proves that the judges are invested in her long-term growth, and her win this week provides her with some much-needed momentum. Stick around, and let’s see how the season’s mid-game shakes out.
Until next time!