RuPaul’s Drag Race U.K.
Oh, how I miss the Drag Race live finale, with lots of showmanship, stunning looks, and enough lip-sync battles that it makes the last episode a bit of an event unto itself. But, alas, we are working with a BBC budget in a pandemic, so this magnificent season of Drag Race U.K. limps across the finish line with an episode that doesn’t seem to know what to do with itself and, like Sister Sister’s face when she came out of lockdown, is full of filler.
The ending of the episode also made me question the double save at the end of last week. It’s like the producers said, “Ru, we don’t have enough to make a full hour of television, you have to save Ellie so that she can be interviewed for the podcast and we can get a few more minutes out of her.” Then, when it got to the very, very end, Ellie was summarily dismissed and there was a final three lip-sync, as if it had been planned that way all along. I’m also a little sad that Lawrence took home the crown. Yes, she was consistently great throughout the season, but I’ve been #TeamBimini for weeks now, because she seems like a much more interesting choice than Lawrence. It also didn’t help that Lawrence’s mean girl side came out in the last few episodes, like that Snake Emoji Alaska.
At the beginning of the episode, Lawrence points out that the final queens are representing England, Scotland, and Wales, three of the countries of the United Kingdom. Yes. This is something Americans don’t quite get. While it is one big country, the individual kingdoms are not like states. They each have their own languages, history, and cultural identity and, in some cases, they don’t all get along. Well, they’re almost unanimously united in their hatred for the English. Why? Well, look at last season’s finale. It was three English queens pretending to represent the country as a whole. That’s why.
The final challenge is what we have come to expect. At this stage we should really call it RuPaul’s Tesla Race because this shit runs on autopilot. The queens each have to make up a verse to a RuPaul song (for sale now on iTunes), learn some tough choreography, give us an eleganza look, and wait for one of them to be crowned the queen. Inevitably one of the queens will use the lyrics “snatch the crown,” which is the Drag Race equivalent of singing “Hallelujah” on American Idol. Dutifully all the girls sit around writing lyrics while listening to the music on the world’s last remaining iPod Nanos while waiting for their chance to share a TicTac with Ru.
We don’t really learn anything from these chats that we didn’t know before, except that Tayce’s dad was the bass player for Wham!, which is 100 percent what made Tayce into the homosexual drag queen that we know today. All that exposure to the altering effects of George Michael’s aura will have that effect on one’s semen. We also learn that this is Lawrence’s boy hair when it’s calm. Now that Lawrence won, I hope one of her prizes is a haircut from celebrity hairstylist Ken Paves or something when she’s in Hollywood making her video series, because something needs to be done about this Scottish terror. Oh, we also learn that Bimini studied journalism at university and decided to become a drag queen instead. Speaking as a journalist, this was a sound idea. The media is dying. All the jobs are gone. You make more shaking your tuck for tips than I did writing this 2,000-word summary.
While not really illuminating, these interviews always make me cry, with the stories of bullied queens, supportive mothers, and the everlasting power of 2001’s “Lady Marmalade.” Between this and the queens giving their younger selves advice, this whole episode is practically brought to you by Kleenex and Visine. (It is also shocking that Lawrence Chaney at 10 and Lawrence Chaney at 21 are identical.)
The moment that really made me tear up, though, is during dance rehearsal when the queens are working with choreographer Jay Revell, a man who is allowed to destroy every atom of my body and then put them back together using only his spit and tender caresses. Lawrence, who is no dancer, can’t figure out what to do and is paralyzed. His Scottish sister Ellie yells from the sidelines: “You know what to do. ‘Campy and fierce!’” Ellie does a little dance singing Lawrence’s lyrics and Lawrence apes it and then takes it even further, finding her groove and proving to herself that maybe she can dance after all. Queens lifting up other queens. Gets me every time. Can I get an everyone-say-amen-bring-back-my-girls-don’t-fuck-it-up-she-already-done-had-herses-reading-is-fundamental-everyone-loves-puppets up in here?
The performance looks great, but I couldn’t understand anything the girls are rapping. It was like listening to a podcast on 1.5x the speed. Did they speed up the tape to make the choreo look more intricate? Everyone is dressed in red, pink, and black, and Bimini slays in her Gaultier-does-Madonna cone bra and panties with a tuck that would make even Trinity Taylor blush. She is doing splits, spread eagles, flip flops, back flips, one right after the other. She had it coming all along, bitch. Ellie is wearing a bodysuit with a two-tone big curly wig and sleeves that look like they’re made out of one trillion Tribbles. Of course are giant sleeves. She always has giant sleeves. I think Ellie, who is a student of Drag Race more than she is a student of drag, misheard Bob the Drag Queen when he said “purse first,” because she’s sleeves peeves, sleeves peeves. Walk into a room sleeves peeves.
Lawrence is doing her sexy granny thing, which is odd considering she’s not yet 30. She’s like the non-problematic Sherry Pie. This time she’s dressed as an old lady at an alien S&M convention. I mean that as a compliment. Also out of this world is Tayce in this red, black, and white futuristic bodysuit that makes her look like Chromatica entered a sex doll in the Intergalactic Vogueing Competition. Yes, Bimini does tricks, but Tayce’s performance is head and shoulders above all the other girls, which is ironic because their head and shoulders were above her while she writhed around on the floor.
At the end of the song all the eliminated queens from the season come out from the back, sort of like when you lift up the duvet five minutes after a fart and you get a little surprise whiff. They’re in the back haunting us, some looking better than others. Tia Kofi’s in an ill-fitting Pink Power Ranger costume that proves if she stuck around to the finale, her drag wouldn’t really have improved. A’Whora looks absolutely amazing in a spangled bodysuit with a red bikini printed on it and a long straight wig and makeup right out of the Grow Your Own Adore Delano Kit you can buy at Tescos. Veronica Green is wearing a white sheath covered in flowers like she’s doing Midsommer cosplay and didn’t get the memo that we wear pink on Wednesdays.
I think a little bit more could have been made about the queens’ return, especially considering how much they must have spent on Covid tests to make this happen. They recap the “gags” of the season, including a comic turn by none other than Ginny Sour Lemons, but since we’re not getting a reunion, couldn’t they have chatted a bit more?
When the queens go to untuck, all of their sisters are there in their finale dresses. Joe Black, certainly not in H&M, is dressed as an all-red Queen Elizabeth with a whole damn ship on her head. Sister Sister has her blue face circle back, this time with a glittery axe for chopping all the queens. Veronica Green is wearing a Sailor Jupiter costume, which means either she is saving her really good drag for All Stars or she just got out of the hospital with coronavirus and I should cut her a break.
But no one looks better than A’Whora, who has a blonde wig with a comb stuck in it like There’s Something About Mary but make it fashion. She’s sporting one puffy white sleeve and a long train with one long mint green opera glove and one high mint green boot. If I die and come back as a drag ensemble, I want it to be this one. I think, for a minute, that I would much rather have her in this final four than Ellie Sleeves Peeves Diamond or Tayce.
That’s because, well, Tayce’s outfit on the runway is really disappointing. She had the best performance, by far, but she comes out in a bodysuit, and not a well-made or well-fitting one. It has some furs and hair clumps plastered on it like a remnant at the toupee factory. Standing next to the other queens, she doesn’t look like she’s even in the same league. It was like watching Roxxxy Andrews in the “Read You, Wrote You” number all over again. The judges didn’t love it either. Michelle says, “Is it the most elevated thing I’ve ever seen? No. But it’s you.” I know the judges have to be sunny in the final critique, but that is a read for the ages.
Michelle, strangely enough, is a huge Ellie D supporter. She’s dressed as Glenda the Good Witch in a pink dress with a hoop skirt as big as all of your orifices feel after your first whiff of poppers. Yes, there are puffy sleeves. Graham Norton says it’s expected. That every time Ellie has the same hair, the same face, the same silhouette. RuPaul agrees that she has worked out how to win Drag Race, but has none of the grit. Michelle says she appreciates the consistency, which is rich coming from Michelle, who is always telling queens she wants to see something else and pushing them out of their typical drag.
It’s clear that the final two is really Bimini versus Lawrence, which was the narrative the show had been building to since returning from its quarantine break. Bimini’s final outfit is flawless. She looks like Billy Idol dressed as “Like a Virgin”–era Madonna about to perform White Wedding. It’s a perfect distillation of the fashion-meets-punk aesthetic, with just a hint of sly sluttiness, that carried her to four wins in the second half of the competition. Lawrence looks totally herself in a signature purple number inspired by the series “RuPaul hosting Top Gear” key art. Her mermaid silhouette (the Lawrence version of Ellie’s sleeves peeves) has a checkerboard up the side. It’s camp, it’s old school, it’s totally Lawrence.
When Ru eliminates Ellie and has the final three lip sync, it seems a dead heat. There is too much running and mugging around the stage to tell who has the clear advantage. In the end Lawrence takes it by a hair, but it’s telling that #TeamBimini was the hashtag that was trending as soon as the episode aired. Just like The Vivienne last season, Lawrence was the safe choice, but a little bit uninspiring. I would for sure go see Lawrence Chainey’s show next time she comes down to London, but Bimini is the future of drag.