In a nation that is still mourning the death of a beloved monarch, suffering the knock-on effects of leaving the European Union, and lacking anything to look forward to now that the Wagatha Christie saga has come to a close, we need Drag Race U.K. more than ever. It’s not like Liz Truss is going to cheer any of us up, and we’re staring down the barrel of a long, cold British winter. That is why we need Ru making jokes about how Michelle Visage is 100 years old. It is not only funny but familiar. It is not only cunty but comforting. That is why we need this season now more than ever.
And a new season means a new crop of girls. Shall we meet them?
Danny Beard: She claims to be the first bearded queen in Drag Race herstory, but then she does Gottmik whiteface every time she’s in drag, covering up almost all of her facial hair. Does that a bearded queen make?
Baby: This London lass needs to do something about her SEO. When you Google “baby,” do you know what comes up? A video for a Justin Bieber song and advertisements for IUD placement. I liked her orange entrance wig though.
Pixie Polite: She is from Brighton, England’s gay capital, and she is basically Lawrence Chaney with a different accent. She and Danny were competitors in a drag pageant and she lost. Does that make Pixie the Coco Montrese of the season?
Sminty Drop: She arrives wearing a helmet, and I was like, “Sis, how we even gonna know your face?” But then she took it off and a cascade of white hair came out, and I was like, “Sis, how are we ever gonna forget your face?” So she wins this round.
Starlet: I have never seen a human being look so much like the original 1950s Barbie doll in my life, and I am honestly impressed.
Jonbers Blonde: Being an East Londoner myself, I love a queen who lives at the Glory. I especially love a femme fatale with no regard for the English language, how spelling works, or what makes a good drag name. She’s queering the alphabet. Baby, take note. This is how you do SEO.
Black Peppa: Giving a whole new meaning to the term “mask for mask,” she comes in wearing a silver space suit, a tiny corset, and a mask of her own face on her actual face. I was immediately in love. Then when I saw her confessional wig that looks like something from Jem and the Holograms, I was immediately in lust.
Just May: Would you be allowed to slap Geri Halliwell from the Spice Gettles (isn’t that how Ru says “girls”?) in the face with Trixie Mattell? I’m not sure, but you Just May.
Dakota Schiffer: She is the first openly trans contestant on the show, but it seems like she and Starlet are going to have to fight for who gets the time machine to keep going back to the ’50s for their looks.
Copper Topp: I love a ginger queen, but her name is a little too close to Carrot Top, who haunts most of our nightmares. She is the second queen who describes herself as “end of the pier,” which means DRUK is going back to its British drag roots. I can’t wait for all of us to fall off the pier together.
Le Fil: I thought we’d seen every drag iteration of Madonna’s cone bra outfit, but here we have not only a cone bra but a cone clit too. Complete with about 864 inches of weave, this is a whole lot of queen.
Cheddar Gorgeous: She says she is 488 years old and is from the future. She looks like it, too, with gills for ears and an outfit that looks like Joan Crawford dressed as Marjorie the Trash Heap from Fraggle Rock. Give this bitch the crown already.
Everyone enters the werk room, they kiki, they throw shade, and then they have to do a photo shoot where they stand on top of a black London cab and have water dripped on them. Can we just scrap this challenge at this point? Much like taking a selfie from below, I don’t think this has ever resulted in one adequate picture. At least we get to see a bit more of the girls, and my lover Black Peppa wins the mini-challenge.
The maxi-challenge is what we have come to expect from the first episode of this series: The girls have to serve two looks. However, one of them is not about where they’re from, like in past years. The first look has to honor the 100th anniversary of the BBC. No, it’s not what you’re thinking based on all the gentlemen you follow on your porny Twitter alt, it’s the British Broadcasting Corporation. You know, the people so cheap they won’t even give these queens a real prize. Those guys. The second look is supposed to tell us about who the queens are.
As the queens are sitting around getting ready, Just May starts talking about her body-image issues and how she learned to make people laugh because she feels uncomfortable. Airing her tragic backstory so soon? You know this girl is in big trouble. Will she be the first queen to go? She Just May.
For the BBC runway, Cheddar kills it right out of the gate as the creepy clown from the BBC title card. This is the kind of synthesis that I want. Take that look and make it drag, baby. I feel the same way about both Mr. Blobbys. (For Americans, Mr. Blobby was a character on a long-running BBC Saturday evening program who only ever says the word blobby, sort of like Groot if he were a wad of bubblegum with herpes sores rather than a tree.) Danny and Black Peppa took the character and it made it their own, Danny by turning it into a Leigh Bowery club-kid look and Black Peppa by turning it into a giant velvet dress and the hot-dog fingers from Everything Everywhere All at Once.
Other queens took the theme a bit too literally. Le Fil is actually just Pudsey Bear. Starlet is exactly like Patsy Stone, and she’s doing it in front of guest judge Joanna Lumley, the actual Patsy Stone, who is very gracious in saying that Starlet looks better than she ever did. Copper Top is just a Julie Walters sketch, and Pixie is just Del Boy from Only Fools and Horses, a reference so British I don’t think it will actually show up on American television sets.
I loved the queens who took it somewhere. Yes, Just May’s bust of Queen Victoria from EastEnders looked a whole damn mess, but it was funny and clever. The big winner, though, is Sminty, who takes on Antiques Roadshow by turning herself into the sexiest lamp I have ever seen outside of A Christmas Story. This is someone who had an idea and took it to a radical extreme, which is what drag is all about.
That’s the problem I had with both of Dakota’s looks. She has this great notion that she is a ’70s Scandinavian supermodel who is still in therapy, but on the runway, she just looks … normal. Her Anne Boleyn looked like a rejected costume idea for a regional production of Six. And for her best drag, she said she wanted to look like Anya Taylor-Joy in a Valentino campaign. That’s cool and all, but that is not drag. It’s like real, actual glamour. Drag is about taking that feminine ideal and amping it up to the thousandth degree.
As for Ru-vealing their true identities, when Sminty came out in her giant Marge Simpson blonde wig and a tiny Marie Antoinette dress with a huge train, I snapped my fingers at the television as if she could actually hear me. I wanted to give her the win immediately. That is until Black Peppa came out in her chocolate headdress and pointy purple gown that showed off her beautiful skin and her gorgeous body.
The biggest event of the episode is that her chocolate crown fell off while she was strutting, but like a pro, Black Peppa just kept giving fabulosity and pretended it didn’t happen. You know Ru was pissed. You know she was like, “I want to be able to tell her to just ignore it and keep going, and then she did it, and she robbed me of giving some life-affirming advice. How will I get my California State Life Coaching License if I don’t give out affirming advice at least once a day?”
There were some other excellent looks, particularly Starlet’s spot-on impersonation of Tinkerbell from the Disney Peter Pan, but when describing her outfit, she name-checks Lana Turner, Cinderella, and Glenda the Good Witch. Is it possible that Starlet has no idea that she looks like a Tinkerbell Barbie? Does she even know Tinkerbell and Barbie?
There may have been more bad looks than good. Dakota we already went over, but I failed to mention it was the same bodysuit-with-garters silhouette as her Playboy Bunny–esque entrance look. Pixie was a rainbow with a pot of gold, and the outfit looked so cheap that even the BBC was like, “Yeah, we could afford that.” I actually kind of like Copper Top’s “Ginger Fag” outfit with the huge shoulders that turned into “Ginger and Fagulous” when she got her accessories involved. She also entered in a look that said Copper Top. Is she a typesetter or something? Does her look always need to literally spell out the theme?
And let us not forget Just May’s look that was, again, a Geri Halliwell reference. Her skin-tight tube dress had a print of her face all over it. It’s like saying that she is herself because, well, she is herself. Do I think that’s a little bit solipsistic and tautological? I Just May.
I thought Sminty was a shoo-in for the win, but Black Peppa could not be stopped and took the first RuPeter Badge of the year. Is she the British Symone? Maybe, and I am here for every damn second.
It is May, Copper, and Dakota in the bottom, predictably. Copper is saved, and it’s left to Dakota and May to lip-sync, and it seemed like, somewhere in the first few bars, Just May just (May) gave up. Dakota was working her giant Doctor Zhivago hat, she was slinking around the stage, and Just May was just (May) throwing up Spice Gettles peace signs hoping she wouldn’t be sent home first. Alas, she was, and for a moment I forgot that it is already September of an annus horribilis and thought it was Just May.