“I’m back!” screeched RuPaul at the top of the 9 o’clock hour last night, announcing that, yes ladies, another season of RuPaul’s Drag Race — Logo’s ridiculously addictive search for America’s Next Drag Superstar — had begun. And back it certainly was, fiercer than ever. More contestants, a brighter (although is that a good thing in a drag situation?) workroom, and crazier challenges! Or as Ru put it during her first She Mail delivery: This season’s is set to have “more twists and turns than Kim Kardashian trying to wiggle out of a pair of Spanx.” But before I delve into the genius Scarlett O’Hara-inspired competition that consumed the show last night, let’s talk a bit about the 12 new contestants, who we met right away.
First there was Nicole Paige Brooks, the southern belle who called herself “big mama.” If nothing else, she scored points for her delightful name and insistence that she always be introduced as “Nicole Paige Brooks from Atlanta, Georgia,” with a staccato emphasis on that Georg-ia. Having a calling card, especially at this point, is key. Next was Shangela LaQuifa Wadley. Again, a killer name, and at first, I thought, also a rather killer contestant. But then she did the whole “debutantess of the Deep South”-type thing, much like Nicole, and revealed that she’d only been dragging for five months. I should have seen the set-up for her demise — just 55 minutes away at this point! — right then, what with all her extreme amounts of screen time and sappy story set-up. Next was the beautiful Raven, who quickly proclaimed that she doesn’t “carry a purse — I stick it all in my tits. I like to be that mysterious queen.” Now, if she could have just figured out a way to better hide her bulging mic pack, which was haphazardly crammed under her tight dress, all would have been well. (Doesn’t tucking apply to things beyond just the ladies’ bits and pieces?)
Jujubee was a near Kimora Lee Simmons knock-off, but when it comes to dragging, that’s a good thing. She seemed fun, in that harajuku girl type of way, but I didn’t love it when her alter-ego Asian dude described himself as a Bostonian and then said that Juju loves glitter “because it’s wicked sparkly.” Skip the Boston accent — that is not central to your drag persona. All we learned about Sahara Davenport, meanwhile, was that she went to college with Shangela, who was still being a life-suck on the screen time. Morgan McMichaels (who’s a cutie out of drag!) was connected to Raven and quickly proclaimed that she was “just eating solid food again.” Which was clearly a joke, but didn’t seem too far off-point.
Then — lordy, lordy, lord — Mystique Summers Madison appeared, in all her size-22 glory. That large size is clearly her calling card: “Big girls are gonna represent this year,” she proclaimed before describing her ample, uncontainable bosoms as “cheeseburger, Taco Bell, and a Diet Coke on the side, girl.” Mystique was definitely the most entertaining contestant, at this point. Fan-chosen Puerto Rican contestant Jessica Wild appeared next, worried about her slight troubles with the English language. But her attitude about how to deal with it was spot-on: “If I’m not understanding something, I am going to smile.” That’s right, girl — just smile. Next came Sonique, who knew Nicole Paige Brooks from Atlanta, Georg-ia. Her mom sent her to military school to get a little soldier but instead got a drag queen. Hilarious.
Tatianna was instantly endearing after being introduced because she revealed that she first dragged when she was 14 by heading to school as a lady. “It was my closest taste to being, like, famous.” The fabulous Pandora Boxx made an instant impression, busting into the workroom with a triumphant, “Hey fake ladies!” And then she revealed that her persona Pandora “is a melting pot of different people. There’s definitely a dash of Madonna, a sprinkle of Goldie Hawn, and a big chunk of Kathy Griffin thrown in there.” Plus: She sews. (FYI: She’s instantly on my list of favorites.) Last came Tyra Sanchez, a beautiful but shy gal who was clearly full of herself: “I do think that I am the prettiest one.”
Right off the bat, the ladies were thrown into a photoshoot with Ru’s favorite celebrity photographer, Mike Ruiz, who is so cute you just want to pinch his cheeks (and biceps). The always-game Ruiz told the ladies the shoot was inspired by Gone with the Wind: “It’s the height of the Civil War. You need to straddle that cannon, work that piece of fabric, and interact with the guys.” (Two muscled-out soldiers stood guard, natch.) Literally. And straddle that cannon, those ladies certainly did! As a whole, the photoshoot was good for several laughs, especially when the ladies’ fake lashes went absolutely haywire amid the wind being blown at them by a huge fashion fan. Jujubee nearly lost her wig, later remarking: “I have never been blown like that in my life!” And Morgan actually lost her wig, inciting Ru to add: “Those damn Yankees took everything from you!” Ru is either the whip-smartest one-line creator or has a great comedic writer behind her.
The photoshoot was just a warm up, though, for the main event: A challenge that Ru called “Gone with the Window,” which required the queens to create their best drag look using just curtains. And a few home furnishings thrown in for accessories, of course. And thus began the battle for the best curtains, as the ladies ran to snatch the best threads, a la Scarlett O’Hara. “There were no ladies on that set today,” Shangela, who was still eating up the screen time, said. “There were men runnin’ for curtains.” Then began construction, which largely focused on the hot mess that was Mystique’s attempt at creating something, anything, remotely flattering. “Mystique looks like,” Raven said, “she’s making a huge pillowcase.” Goodness it was a mess, and Mystique even knew it: “With this hot-ass-mess I’m going to wear out there tomorrow, this is gonna be brutal,” Mystique added. And Morgan agreed: “Mystique is a mistake.”
The runway, however — at least at first — was not a mistake. Ru showed up, glammed up to the nines in a sparkly red gown that put all the competing queens to shame. Guest judge Kathy Griffin killed with her fawning greeting of Ru: “Ru, I cannot believe you dismembered our First Lady and stole Michele Obama’s arms. They are perfect, as are you!” Personally, I would kill for Ru’s thin, muscular arms.
The runway walks began, and it was clear who was in the winners circle from the beginning: Tyra, in a flowing gown; Morgan, in her Egyptian warrior-inspired dress; and Pandora, looking like her idol Kathy Griffin (“I can’t believe that bitch went into my purse and took that wig!” Griffin remarked), were tops. Morgan eventually won, but overall, I feel like the showing on the runway was rather poor. It could have been the parameters of the challenge, which only allowed the ladies to use drapes and used home furnishings for their outfits. But overall, the looks just were not that fabulous. Morgan’s outfit, the judges even said, looked like it wasn’t cohesive, yet it still won. Which makes me just realize that I’m ready for the challenges that let the ladies use their own garb! Bebe Zahara Benet and Nina Flowers, for instance, were at their most fabulous last season when they got to dress themselves from their own trunks.
Seeing as how the top contenders this week were so poor, the bottom three—Shangela, Sahara, and Mystique—were downright disgusting. Shangela made her matronly gown out of what looked like burlap and she was missing one very important drag queen staple: boobs! It literally looked like she didn’t stuff anything down there, but maybe that could have been solved if she’d just cinched her waist. Sahara’s dress was just bunk and totally not over-the-top or glamorous at all. In fact, I couldn’t help but see visions of Shereé Whitfield of The Real Housewives of Atlanta, a fine drag icon but only if you amp her up about a billion times, as she padded down the runway. And Mystique, who clearly should have gone home but was saved by producers for her apparent fan-favorite status, was just a mess. The judges said that her humorous presentation, which saw her do a thunderous split before heading back to the Interior Illusions Lounge (yes!), was the best part, and truly, it was. Because, people, she was carrying a basket on her head. “Who needs a hybrid when you could have a basket on your head?” Ru said. And her dress, short in the front and long in the back, was so amateur-ish. Ru put it best when she told Mystique: “There is one word for your outfit: raggedy!”
The fact that Mystique didn’t go home — and didn’t even have to lip sync for her life — was shocking. But overall, good, because we’ll see her crazy crazy for yet another week. Ultimately, Shangela LaQuifa Wadley went home, despite trying to save herself by pulling off her dress while lip synching versus her friend, Sahara. (Don’t worry, the editors played up that sad story.) And truly, I think the judges might have misstepped here. Sahara, while beautiful, showed absolutely no personality during the episode. At least Shangela entertained with her constantly commentary.
What did you think of the episode, PopWatchers? Did the right queen sashay away this week? Or should Sahara or Mystique have gone home? Are you living for Ru’s seemingly even-better one-liners this season? Who’s your favorite contestant so far?
More on RuPaul and ‘RuPaul’s Drag Race’ on EW.com: