This week on RuPaul’s Secret Celebrity Drag Race, our “secret” celebrity-adjacent queens get teamed up with actual working queens from RuPaul’s Drag Race. While it’s an enjoyable watch, it really proves once again that while you can throw hair, a coat of paint, and a dress on a person and make them look like a drag queen, to actually be a drag star takes a little more effort. (And, some would argue, many more years than the four weeks or — let’s be honest, because it’s reality TV — eight or so days that these newbie queens have probably had.)
Anyway, into the depths we go after a couple of “Brangie” jokes. First up is Donna Bellissima, who’s been paired with the Reverend Dr. Silky Nutmeg Ganache. These two “larger than life” queens actually do seem like a good match, because Donna says she’s struggled with body shame and Silky certainly believes that no matter what you look like, you are enough. (Donna also says, “It took me so long to become who I am, I don’t know how to do it so quickly with a new persona,” which reinforces my major gripe about the show, so thank you, Donna.) Silk and Donna take the stage in “as little as possible” for a trashy beach-themed version of “Whatta Man.” Silky’s hose are visible the entire time, which bothered me because I’m an asshole, but it was a fun and cute performance, and I do think Donna looked really beautiful. Donna definitely knew all her words and seems to have taken Silky’s advice to heart, reminding everyone that, “it’s a blessing and a humble honor to be on stage.”
Chakra 7 is up next and is paired with Eureka O’Hara. The show doesn’t mention Eureka’s work on the Emmy-nominated HBO show We’re Here, but Eureka alludes to it, saying she’s no stranger to mentoring queens. “Just do your art, baby,” she tells Chakra, and the two turn in a heavy-handed storytelling version of “Fly” by Nicki Minaj, featuring Rihanna. (Never let it be said that Eureka doesn’t like a sappy slow song.) The look team puts Chakra in some sort of ice-blue contact that I thought made her look vision-impaired, and I wasn’t feeling the whole birds-in-paradise vibe, but the judges seem to love it, with the always-effusive Ross Mathews telling Chakra, “You blew me away. If Polly want a cracker, Chakra want a crown!” Chakra seems especially enamored with drag’s storytelling potential, so it’s probably fair to say we’ll continue to see more performances in this vein going forward.
Thirsty is next, and she’s paired with her absolute favorite drag performer, Katya Zamolodchikova. (World of Wonder really pulled in all the L.A. girls, huh?) Thirsty says performing with Katya has “bucket list vibes,” and the v/o says Katya is “one of the most twisted queens in Drag Race herstory.” Given that Katya then goes on to say she wants to be the crowbar to Thirsty’s Nancy Kerrigan, that’s probably true.
Thirsty and Katya turn in a cute performance of Eve and Gwen Stefani’s, “Let Me Blow Ya Mind,” but I agree with something Violet says later: Those outfits, no. Thirsty looks cute because Thirsty always looks cute. (She has a face made for drag, after all.) Katya looks like … not Katya? I don’t know that I’ve ever seen her wear a ’50s housewife dress with a crinoline, and while I suppose it’s possible, it just felt a little out of character for her. She makes the best of it in the post-performance interview, though, joking that from Thirsty she learned that, “Children are not just things that you eat. They can also do stuff and entertain.”
Poppy Love draws Morgan McMichaels as her partner, and it’s a good match. Morgan’s brand of drag is about a sort of hard femininity, and that seems like something Poppy could learn to lean into. (I’m still not sure Poppy knows who Poppy is, really.) Morgan tells Poppy, “Try and steal my spotlight, I dare you,” and the two go head to head in a maternity ward-inspired version of “The Boy Is Mine.” There are dancers in nude undies crawling around, glam hospital gowns, and lots of laughs, though I would argue those are because of how WTF the whole production is, not the performances, necessarily. The backstage queens joke that they should have made out at the end of the lip sync, and I agree, especially considering the judges tell Poppy she has to keep going forward and pushing things even further.
Milli Von Sunshine draws Gottmik, and the two decide to really ham it up this week. “Sass is what’s really going to bring this home,” one of them says, and while I wouldn’t really associate Gottmik with comedy, I guess she’s funny enough. Either way, she’s the one that actually shines in the pair’s airplane-themed version of “Side To Side” by Ariana Grande and Nicki Minaj. I don’t know if it was Milli’s paint, but I needed more expression from her overall. She has the physical comedy down, but it wasn’t reading in her face. Also, why didn’t they paint Milli white, like Gottmik? If you’re going for family resemblance, which it kind of seems like they were, then really go for it.
Our final set of performers is Chic-Li-Fay and Violet Chachki, and props to Chic for not being incredibly intimidated by Violet, because I certainly would be. Violet advises Chic that there’s “power in stillness” and an “art to subtlety,” and Chic does seem to try and take that to heart for the duo’s take on Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston’s “When You Believe.” I think Violet would have been fine making it a straight-up diva performance, but Chic brings some desperation comedy to it, and the two have some good physical interactions with the ripping of sleeves and whatnot. Ru and the judges seem to dig it too, and Chic comes away from the night a winner, as well as a new member of the House of Chachki. Now she just has to master “the two-inch waist.”
This week’s bottom two are Thirsty and Milli, with Ru saying the decision was about “separating the A players from the A-plus players.” I wouldn’t have put Thirsty in the bottom, but I guess if someone has to be there, she’s as good a choice as any. Ultimately, she takes down Milli in a lip sync to “My Life Would Suck Without You” by Kelly Clarkson. While Milli gave it a good go, I think she maybe gave it too much. At times it felt like she was doing the most, while Thirsty was actually delivering an acted performance of the song. Props to Milli for landing a split, and props to Thirsty for completing a pretty good U.K. knee slide, but it was not, as Brooklyn suggested, a double shantay. Milli is revealed to be Glee actor Jenna Ushkowitz, and slinks off back to her boring regular life. We’re down to just five queens now and probably just a few more episodes, so here’s hoping things get a little more compelling.
• What exactly is on Ru’s gown? There are embellishments there that just didn’t read on my screener, and I’m wondering if it’s … flowers? Puff balls? Something else?
• The queens are in the same outfits in the first workroom meetings and the on-stage rehearsals, leading me to believe these took place either the morning of the taping or at most the day before. I think the celebrity queens probably learn their choreo beforehand each week, too, which would make sense. We never see anyone struggling to learn and I think we would, given how fond Drag Race is of the whole, “I can’t learn this eight count!” schtick.
• I touched on this above, but Violet saying, “Judging on looks, Katya is in the bottom two,” was vicious and I loved it. That’s the kind of read I need in those backstage chats. Conviviality gets boring after a while. I want to hear some roasts.
• To remind everyone of who I think the queens are (SPOILER ALERT), my (very educated) guesses are that Poppy Love is AJ McLean, Thirsty Von Trap is Mark Indelicato, Chakra 7 is Tatiana Ali, Donna Bellissima is Daniel Franzese, and Chic-Li-Fay is Kevin McHale. I’m a little surprised they didn’t pit Chic and Mill against each other in this week’s lip sync, considering Kevin and Jenna actually hosted a Glee recap podcast together, but it would have been hard to argue that Chic tanked this week. Oh well.