Ousting of eccentric Geminis be damned, RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars 3 sashays onward with eight queens leading the charge. Ahead of Thursday’s episode, here’s how the remaining ladies stack up against each other.
1 – BenDeLaCreme
While she’s only served one fresh idea across two main stage challenges thus far (the elusive drag-teuse’s burlesque routine was nothing more than a rehash of her set from the Battle of the Seasons tour), BenDeLaCreme’s electrifying commitment to showgirl swag is irresistibly watchable, no matter what she’s doing on that stage. This week, her hilarious sung-rapped, Iggy-Azalea-meets-The–Stepford-Wives interpretation of a scripted Julie Andrews musical number was the most inspired take on the VH1 Divas challenge, and won her a rightful spot among the top two performers of the week. This marks Ben’s second consecutive finish at the head of the pack (though something still feels fishy about Shangela winning the lip-sync) after just two episodes, making her a statistical leader — regardless of how you feel about her affected persona.
2 – Shangela
It’s about time Shangela’s creative output justified her status as a perennially returning player on the Drag Race scene. Heading into All Stars 3, Shangela’s inclusion on yet another cast list (she first appeared on season 2, only to return inside a giant box for season 3) felt more like a gimmick than a reflection of the best talent mined from the depths of Drag Race herstory, but her explosive song-and-dance routine from the season premiere — coupled with her spot-on comedic timing as Mariah Carey during this week’s diva challenge — has turned a recurring Drag Race joke into a serious threat for the All Stars crown.
3 – Aja
Sure, eight other previously eliminated ladies with far more experience sashayed their way back into the Werk Room during the All Stars 3 premiere, but the youngest of the bunch has thus far earned the distinction of being the season’s ultimate comeback queen. Across two episodes of All Stars 3, Aja has flexed more muscle than she did during her entire stint on season 9, both in terms of her skills on stage (last week’s sky-high-split-that-spawned-a-legendary-meme is perhaps her crowning performative achievement on Drag Race) and on her body (this week’s “remix” outfit turned one of the worst looks in Drag Race history into one of this season’s best). With renewed confidence (and a new chin, to boot), Aja is on the ascent.
4 – Trixie Mattel
When the All Stars 3 cast was announced all the way back in October, season 7’s Trixie Mattel seemed like a shoe-in for a spot in the Drag Race Hall of Fame. After all, she’s established one of the most successful post-show careers of any of RuPaul’s graduates, which includes a country music album and a wildly successful YouTube series that evolved into a Viceland talk show. Outside of perfecting her signature look (described as a “Lisa Frank serial killer” during the All Stars 3 premiere) and clever brand of observational humor, Trixie has had a difficult time breaking new ground instead of coasting on her reputation, offering up a solid performance of an original tune (she’s the only one who didn’t lip-sync) and a safe portrayal of Dolly Parton for the first pair of challenges. It’s still early, but Trixie, despite her undying bravado, has yet to rise above the expectations many Drag Race fans placed upon her at the start of the season. The impending improv challenge, in which the ladies are tasked with courting a hunky gentleman in a spoof of The Bachelor, should play to Trixie’s strengths and give her talent the proper All Stars spotlight she deserves (outside her shady-as-hell confessionals, which have been spot-on).
5 – Bebe Zahara Benet
With one Drag Race crown to her name already, Bebe Zahara Benet has carried the victors’ torch well as she’s been introduced to a new generation of fans on All Stars 3. She werks old-school glamour like no other, but Bebe’s stoicism might also be her downfall. Ru loved Bebe as Diana Ross, but as Thorgy observed, the Cameroon native didn’t exactly do much with the character she was given. The Wilhelmina Slater realness she rocked on the runway was similarly simple and clean, enlivened only by the fierce confidence exuded by the queen underneath. Bebe’s challenge is going to be keeping up with the forward-thinking ladies around her if she wants to break new ground in front of a new audience, and how she fares across the impending acting challenge will give us a better idea of how well she’ll uphold her legacy against the queens she blazed a trail for during Drag Race‘s fledgling season.
6 – Kennedy Davenport
Yeah, she can do this…
…but Kennedy Davenport’s inability to breathe the same life into her performance as Janet Jackson during the VH1 Divas challenge knocked her down several rungs on the Drag Race ladder. As far back as her first appearance on season 7, Kennedy’s problem has always been her inability to consistently replicate her fiery dedication to performing on her own terms (the above GIFs are lifted from a routine she choreographed herself, and her classic take on Little Richard during Snatch Game is one of the finest moments in Drag Race herstory) — specifically when tasked with harmonizing her talents with the show’s criteria for excellence (she floundered when asked to conjure Jackson’s aesthetic and general chutzpah with a pre-written script on the main stage). She’s better off left to her own devices. She’s hanging on, however, by the threads of her expertly stitched costumes. Her Ponyta/ice queen combination lewk left us gagging, even if her lackluster Janet eleganza inspired more of a heave. With an acting challenge on deck, prospects for Kennedy’s improvement seem dire given her track record with scripted characters.
7 – Chi Chi DeVayne
Though both Chi Chi and Morgan McMichaels failed to deliver during the variety show challenge, the consensus in the Drag Race fandom seems to be that the latter deserved a second chance to remain in the competition. Chi Chi began to prove the haters wrong when she blazed through the VH1 Divas challenge in an ace Patti LaBelle getup, but her subpar neon runway ensemble likely turned away any new fans she might have courted in the process. Of all the All Stars 3 competitors, Chi Chi seems to have improved the least between her original season and now, but her saving grace is that she embraces her rough-around-the-edges aesthetic, it’s endearing to an extent, but ultimately not enough to warrant her position next to the likes of all-around polished forces like Shangela, BenDeLaCreme, and Trixie Mattel.
8 – Milk
She does a body good, but Milk’s doing herself few favors with that shady attitude. Fans fell in love with the season 6 queen for her avant-garde fashions and resistance to convention, but her incessant negativity and elitist approach to the competition have made her the unparalleled villain of All Stars 3. The Drag Race fandom loves a bad girl, but Milk has made it difficult to gulp down her souring demeanor, especially when her perception of her own work is, as Trixie pointed out last week, out of touch with her actual output. Michelle seemingly took notice of Milk’s true colors last week (her face read furious when she heard Milk disparaging the week’s top performers), setting up for a likely confrontation on the main stage this week that can’t bode well for this queen’s shelf life.
RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars 3 airs Thursdays at 8 p.m. ET on VH1. Keep up with EW’s rolling list of memorable GIFs from the show here.