One of the things that really stuck out to me on last night’s highly entertaining episode of Drag Race was what an amazing teacher — and self-promoter — RuPaul is for this fast-dwindling group of queens. The main challenge was all about having the ladies create a storyline for a book they’d potentially write about themselves and shoot a drag cover appropriate for said book. In addition, Pandora, Raven, Tyra, and the rest had to do a satellite interview with E!’s entertainment journalist Marc Malkin, where they’d try to incorporate both the name of their book and plugs for the Absolut Açaí vodka cocktail they were sipping. (Supposedly, açaí is a cross of blueberry and pomegranate. Who knew?!)
I say that RuPaul is the ultimate teacher and self-promoter because, if you watched carefully, the host plugged her book in several different ways throughout the episode — on the mainstage, while explaining the challenge to the queens, and by simply wearing the same outfit she wore on the book’s cover to the runway portion of the show. (Did you put that together? Genius!) What I mean is that this is one bish who knows how to work it, gurl! I’m continually impressed. If you didn’t, however, notice that RuPaul was plugging her book the whole time, that’s because, of course, she was doing a good, seamless job of working it in without knocking you over the head with it.
Truly, some of the queens could have paid more attention to how RuPaul works it. Like, for instance, Tatianna who admitted, after shooting the satellite interview, that she “might have screwed up” for “not mentioning the book.” Um, ya think? Wasn’t the whole point of the challenge to promote your book? Jessica, too, was a mess, screwing up both her book title (literally, Jessica Wild: The Dreams of a Golden Child) and saying things like, “I love that drink,” instead of actually naming the drink, as she sipped her Absolut Açaí cocktail during the interview. But, of course, it wasn’t just the total messes that were entertaining during the challenge. Jujubee had me hooting and hollering after she assured Malkin that “there’s a lot of candy going on down here,” referring to her genitals. “It’s not true what they say about Asians, honey,” she added. I mean, that’s taking the funny into crass territory, as the judges (including author Jackie Collins, above with RuPaul) said while dinging her on the runway, but again, that is what drag queens do. So kudos to Jujubee for just putting it out there.
Plus, the mere fact that the ladies were doing a satellite interview instead of just a regular sit-down interview (like they did last season) really shows what a great mentor RuPaul is. Like, this is how the business works. In the event that any of these queens becomes a RuPaul-statused superstar someday, they will have to do satellite interviews — it’s all not going to just be fancy sit-downs with Wendy Williams and Oprah. So it’s good that they learn how to do the difficult stuff — and learn about product placement and promotion, which this show does at every turn! — from day one. Props to RuPaul for serving up the realities — and challenges — of stardom on the show. I mean, as silly as it all might be! Whatever, it makes for entertaining television at least!
What also made for good television was last night’s mini-challenge, which found the ladies “throwing shade” or rather “reading” all of their competition. “You will read your fellow queens!” RuPaul told the contestants. “I want you to read these bitches!” The whole thing was ridiculously fun, as each queen was made to go up and stand next to RuPaul before insulting each of the other ladies. Jujubee eventually took home the “throwing shade” crown, but I was impressed with most of the ladies’ attempts at being nasty to their friends. (Except Tatianna, who seemed to crack under pressure and could hardly serve up one insult.) “Are you swimming or are you doing drag, mama?” Tyra threw at Raven, who was dressed in shorts and a tank. Jessica also went for the jugular: “What are you doing here, mama?” she said to Jujubee. “Go back to Chinatown!” And Pandora Boxx — oh dear, sweet Pandora Boxx, how I love thee — threw what I thought was the best insult at Tyra: “If you are America’s sweetheart, America needs a transplant!” Juju was great, sure, but I thought Pandora was better. But she’s still suffering from that Susan Lucci curse here on Drag Race, so it’s no surprise that she didn’t win the challenge.
The other great aspect of last night’s episode was all the backstory we got about the ladies. Most poignantly, we found out that Pandora Boxx had tried to commit suicide a number of times while growing up. “I hated myself for years,” she said, adding yet another dimension to one of the show’s most crafty, hilarious characters. Jessica talked about being made fun of as a child in Puerto Rico. And Raven talked about her days being broke. I guess what I loved about all this was seeing that these young gays merely represented somewhere on television, telling their stories. Simply put, that’s nice to see amid all the glamour and makeup that Drag Race includes.
I suppose before I sign off I should talk about my reaction to the results! In the end, the judges put Tatianna (who sort of bombed both the mini and main challenges) and Jessica Wild (who really bombed with her trainwreck interview) up for elimination, forcing them to “lipsynch for their life!” to “He’s the Greatest Dancer” by Sister Sledge. In the end, Tatianna ended up staying, while Jessica — one of my favorite contestants from as far back as the first episode, as you all know — was sent home. I have mixed feelings about the auf’ing. To be fair, Jessica Wild had been sort of uneven, especially last night, serving up both a cracked-out interview and a weird book cover. But she was, honestly, one of the most fun contestants Drag Race has ever had! When everyone else was being bitchy and nasty, who was over nearby just having a good time? Jessica Wild, natch. I get that the judges have to judge off of the challenge at hand, but Tatianna stunk up the runway with her jailbird dress, bombed the interview, and she couldn’t throw shade at all. And she’s been sort of not doing well the whole season so far. I guess that sultry lipsynching did save her in the end. Who knew that lipsynching could really save your life (on the show)? But you could tell that even Tatianna was surprised about staying. Alas, bon voyage, Jessica, you will be sorely missed!
A few other things that delighted me last night were: the title of Jujubee’s book, Memoirs of a Gay-sha; Raven’s vindication for finally winning a challenge; Jessica’s Wild wide gold bracelets she wore during the shoot for her book cover; Pandora’s resistance to change her questionable style, despite the surly Santino calling for it yet again, and the name of her book, Out of the Box: How Drag Saved My Life; and the fact that Tyra’s love of Beyoncé has become such a joke that even the producers can’t help but include her constant references to the diva every week. “I dedicate my book to Beyoncé,” she said early on. Lots of good little details last night.
Drag Racers, what did you love — or hate — about last night’s hour? Are you as sad as I am to see Jessica Wild be told to “sashay away”? Did you love Raven’s new disco-diva look and ‘fro? Are you dying for a Absolut Açaí vodka cocktail right about now?
Tanner on Twitter: @EWTanStransky
More on RuPaul and ‘RuPaul’s Drag Race’ on EW.com: