What exactly is the point of RuPaul’s Secret Celebrity Drag Race? I mean, seriously: Is it to convince the world that anyone can do drag, because that’s not inherently true, considering people are getting eliminated. It can’t be just to give money to charity, because you could do that without having a TV show. It’s not to introduce the world to any new drag superstars because, bless Poppy Love’s heart, but I doubt she’s going to start doing the Werk the World circuit anytime soon. The creators of the show might argue that it could just exist to entertain, but are we even that entertained, or are we watching because it’s Drag Race and we always watch Drag Race, and blah blah blah.
It’s certainly not because of the conceit that no one knows who the celebrities are, because it’s even more obvious in this week’s ep, in which the queens are asked to “dance their padded asses off.” The episode opens with a cavalcade of gyrating shirtless menzes, and then RuPaul emerges onto the stage, resplendent in red sequins. She introduces judges Michelle Visage and “the hilarious” Ross Mathews, and we’re off to the races with the introduction of the neon-green superqueens, some gags about Polaroids, and Jujubee’s lack of dancing skills. The jokes are slightly better than typical Drag Race fare, which is either due to a better writing team (unlikely) or to the three queens writing their own bits about how Brooke Lynn Hytes is wearing pants under her dress, which I like to think is a wink-wink reference to the well-known fact that Ru typically wears sweatpants and flip-flops behind the Drag Race judging table.
Either way, we’re straight into production on Chic-Li-Fay’s number, Jennifer Lopez’s “On the Floor,” which Chic says is pushing her to learn who she is. It’s a good point, because that’s one of the biggest downfalls of Secret Celebrity: Drag queens aren’t just about their looks. That’s not why we love them. They’re about entire personas, characters, gags, turns of phrase. It’s a whole new person, in a way, or an elevated version of the person inside the makeup, and I’m not entirely sure that any of these celebs have really figured that out yet, save maybe Donna Bellissima, who does seem to have a firm handle on her whole “sassy, big, Italian kook” angle.
Chic-Li-Fay saunters onto the stage in a Jennifer Aydin–esque look that I think, frankly, makes her look a little older than she actually is. She makes funny faces and does a pretty good dance, and I would have pegged her as a worthy winner if the episode had ended right there. But it doesn’t, and Chic is told that, while she might think she’s a comedy queen, she’s actually a performance queen who just happens to have a great sense of humor. The judges also recognize that “this level of sexy is new to you,” though Ross applauds her confidence.
Electra Owl is also no stranger to confidence. In her mystery confessional, she says she’s struggling with “lip syncing but not actually singing and performing,” which seems like bullshit because she is performing. Also, couldn’t she just actually sing, or is that not big enough? I would argue that she just thinks what she does for a career (sing) is somehow better than what drag queens typically do, and it drives me crazy. Let’s just say Electra Owl is no Trixie Mattel or Jinkx Monsoon. She’s not even Lady Bunny. (Har-har.)
Electra Owl’s performance of “Last Dance” is fine, but really, she’s not bringing it in the dance department. She pretty much just parks in the middle of the stage, moves her arms, and lets the guys slowly move her around, which is basically what she did last week. Everything seems about one-tenth of a second too slow, and I still don’t care for her makeup gimmick, which is these sort of feather-lash things glued around her eyes as maybe some sort of owl reference? No offense to the actual celebrity inside the Electra Owl getup, but I would argue that most of the viewers wouldn’t necessarily know who she is anyway just by her face, so I don’t think they need to go whole hog in terms of the disguise.
Many readers and DM all-stars hit me up to let me know who’s inside Thirsty Von Trap’s getup, so many thanks to everyone for that. She’s using this week’s performance as “a lesson in self-confidence that I know is there but I don’t get to exercise out of drag,” and her “modern Saturday Night Fever” version of Dua Lipa’s does get her partially there. I don’t love it, and not just because I’d rather watch Trinity K. Bonet or Laganja Estranja. I agree with the judges that she seems just a touch too timid for how hot she is — and how good a dancer. I want to see Thirsty own the stage, and she’s just not there yet.
Milli Von Sunshine, on the other hand, ate up “Dancing on My Own.” Backstage, we see her pay tribute to Jujubee and Raven’s “iconic” version of the same track, and Milli decides she’s going to approach the song with a similar kind of narrative approach. She says she just got married, which checks out with our guesses about who Milli is, and ends up turning in a performance that’s equal parts comedic and emotional. Ru seems to think it’s more the former, given how much she laughs, but that could just be because she loved the husband dancer’s performance so much she called him out by name. (Shout-out to Ru for knowing the dancers’ names but not Jinkx Monsoon’s.)
Here is where I will mention that I still hate, hate, hate, hate, hate Milli’s makeup, with her overdrawn lip mustache thing, but the team must be going for something here in her aesthetic that I just do not get. I would love it if they let the secret celebs explain their looks someday, because right now it just feels like “the team said this is what I should wear, so I did,” but that’s hopefully not it. Right?
It does seem like Jackie Would has had some say in her look, which Jujubee calls “slutty drunk aunt.” She admittedly knows nothing about choreographed dancing, but she goes for it in a bubblegum workout number to Technotronic’s “Pump Up the Jam.” It’s a little Electra Owl in its “stand in one place and move your arms,” but at least she brings a bit of personality to it. She did some good prop work, though I wish she’d incorporated those step-aerobics steps before the very end. Michelle says her whole thing was “a headband away from Jackie Stallone,” and lauds her use of the sprinkler, which you so rarely see on a drag stage.
Chakra 7 says that while last week’s Chaka Khan number was all about being fierce, this week’s Whitney Houston bop is all about having fun. It’s clear that she loves “I Wanna Dance With Somebody,” which she says was her first favorite song. (Again, syncing with our guesses about her identity, given her age.) I think she missed some lyrics, but she seems to have done well enough to have missed the bottom. It might not be good enough in a few episodes, but for this week, it is. Ross also tells Ru he sees Liv Lux Miyake-Mugler in Chakra’s big smile and confidence, which seems apt.
Donna Bellissima’s performance of Rosemary Clooney’s “Mambo Italiano” is full of comedy and kitten heels, which Donna seems a bit worried about. Because she’s a bigger queen, she can’t wear the spike pumps the other gals can, but she’s trying to work through it. She incorporates a shoe removal and very wide “wine barrel” into her routine, which I liked the idea of but was kind of underwhelmed by in execution. (I would have loved to see some sort of raised actual barrel or something.) Still, her performance is fun, well acted, and charismatic, and she says she feels invincible, which rules.
Speaking of invincible: Poppy Love. She pulls her second win in a row this week with an absolutely stunning performance of “Show Me How You Burlesque” by Christina Aguilera. While I would still bet actual money the person behind Poppy couldn’t tell me succinctly who Poppy actually is as a character, it doesn’t 100 percent matter, because that person — and Poppy by association — is a mothertuckin’ performer. While last week it seemed like she was still a little unsteady on her heels, this week Poppy is bringing her decades of dancing to the stage. Poppy says his performance is a tribute to his daughters, who love the movie Burlesque, and Ru jokes that they’ll probably have some questions about Daddy and his pasties, but that’s okay. (For the record, Poppy’s daughters seem to be about 10 and 5, which is not what I expected in terms of watching Burlesque, but I won’t challenge another parent’s choices.) The queens supreme give her a standing O, and honestly, Poppy’s performance was so good that I would even watch it again, which I think says something, so good job, Poppy.
In the end, it’s Thirsty versus Electra in the bottom two, and they’re charged with tackling Rihanna’s “Shut Up and Drive.” There’s a part of me that wonders if the queens got “lip-sync dance camp,” because I do think Thirsty has some moves that most non-queens would, like the whole “boot scoot across the floor” thing, but I don’t actually know the answer to that. Either way, Thirsty can dance and Electra seems to just be able to walk around, so she has to fly away. No money for your mystery charity, Electra. Now you’ll just have to “sing and perform” for it instead.
• I’m not going to run down my list of who I think everyone is again, but I will say that I’m even more convinced that I’m right in my initial guesses, which you can find in the premiere recap’s notes, with the exception of Thirsty, who readers rightfully called out as Mark Indelicato from Ugly Betty and Hacks.
• There were some truly enormous wigs on this week’s ep, from Thirsty’s Gina Liano swoop to Chakra’s mega-Whitney. Like Ru, I would love to know how many wigs were in those stacks, because those were some statement pieces.
• Why was Milli wearing an Elvis outfit? I mean … Vegas, weddings, etc., but does the bride usually do Elvis? I didn’t mind it, but it was still odd and not really embellished enough to read full Elvis either.
• It’s funny how they shoot the “secret” celebrities from the back in the mirror but obscure their faces. When they actually show them working, though, or talking to the queen supremes, if you have any sort of guess about who they are, it’s very, very obvious — especially looking at [SPOILER ALERT] Thom Filicia, AJ McLean, and Danny Franzese.