RuPaul's Drag Race recap: Hello, Kitty Girls!
The queens unleash their cat power.
Last week I think my homemade pasties were chafing my nips because I was as ornery as Ginger Minj with low blood sugar. I was mostly ornery about this year’s queens not turnt-ing it up, and one of my biggest beefs was about the lack of a truly gag-worthy lip sync this season.
I’m officially taking a seat because Kennedy Davenport and Katya TURNT. IT. OUT. in this week’s lip sync. In the immortal words of Gia Gunn:
“Yas. Bitch. WERK!”
At its best, Drag Race can be straight-up transcendent, and I felt nothing short of inspired after watching Kennedy and Katya smash their taints against the stage over and over again to the sound of “Roar” by Katy Perry. Both of them started out mostly giving face as the verses built up, but when they started gyrating to “uh ah oh oh oh oh oh,” I knew we were in for a moment.
Kennedy, who’s been so low energy in the Werk Room and especially in the Untucked studio all season, really came out of the gate with all those splits. I didn’t know she had that level of fierceness in her, so snaps to her for saving it until when she really needed it. She pounded into the first chorus with a cartwheel into a split into a series of headbangs, but that was nothing compared to her leap off the stage into another split at the song’s climax. But more than the splits, her face is what sold the performance. During the song’s bridge, when the beat slowed way down, the stare she gave to the judges’ panel gave me more life than a liver transplant. That stare was so bold it was threatening to snatch the wig right off Ru’s regal head.
Still, I would have been totally happy if Katya won in spite of Kennedy’s objectively live-giving performance. Katya stayed truer to the emotional content of the song, and she may have only pulled out one split, but it was the best split of the night—full extension and perfect timing to the music. (As a good Russian girl, Katya was the more elegant and precise Nastia Liukin to Kennedy’s sloppier but more dynamic Shawn Johnson.) I was totally with Violet Chachki when she leapt in the air and cheered at that very moment. It reminded me of Joslyn Fox vs. Laganja Estranja or Alyssa Edwards vs. Coco Montrese—all queens who took the “lip-sync for your life” edict literally. Ru was in such ecstasy by the end that she sounded like she was actually gagging, as if she had one of Ornacia’s eyes lodged in her throat.
It was a much-needed breath of sweaty lip-sync realness in a season full of comedy lip-syncs or Pearl lip-syncs, which are never cute. (Justin described Pearl’s go-to dance move perfectly as the “Spider-Man,” where she flips her wrists as if webs are slinging out of them.) But in case anyone forgot, there was a whole episode leading up to the lip-sync, and it was pretty sickening, too. First of all, we got this season’s Everybody Loves Puppets challenge, which is one of my favorite recurring Mini Challenges. Pearl was hilarious as Kennedy in her horrific chicken-run-over-by-a-tractor death costume. Kennedy forgot to move puppet-Pearl’s mouth, which was actually a spot-on creative choice. Ginger’s Violet impression wasn’t particularly accurate voice-wise, but she came up with the best one-liner about Violet’s name: “I wanted to figure out what was beautiful and completely worthless. A tchotchke!”
Ginger won the Mini-Challenge and got a slight head start in gathering Hello Kitty supplies for the Hello Kitty-themed main challenge. Usually it irks me when reality shows use flagrant corporate tie-ins for challenges—I went off on Project Runway when they had a dress challenge inspired by Go-gurt flavors or whatever—but I was cool with this one because all brand partnerships on Drag Race work toward the betterment and ennoblement of drag queens. (Or at least that’s what I tell myself). Also, Hello Kitty is freaking cute. Santino Rice came by the Werk Room and had a weird moment where he leered uncomfortably at Violet, but let’s hope that was just the editing.
I loved the last-minute twist where the queens had to create a second “BFF of Hello Kitty” character. We knew from the jump that those BFF characters would be scraggly-looking as hell, but they turned out to be fun to laugh at.
Of course, Katya spun out the most in reaction to the twist. Katya is and has been one of my favorites all season, but her self-deprecation has gotten out of control lately. Watching her has actually been instructive and taught me a real-life lesson. Self-deprecation can be cathartic and show vulnerability and make people like you, but at a certain point, you need to rein it in and show some swagger. After a while, people start to believe your anti-hype, and that’s what happened to Katya. This competition isn’t just about the challenges and the lip syncs. It’s about the energy you put out whenever you’re on camera because the fans have to be able to see you as America’s Next Drag Superstar. (More on that later). Katya is more relatable than Violet, funnier than Pearl, better on the runway than Ginger, and more charismatic than Kennedy, but it’s been impossible to think of her as a potential winner because of her attitude about herself. I hope she’s able to work on her confidence and come back in an All Stars season because she has all the goods to win.
On to the runway, which was cute as hell. Little known fact: Hello Kitty was played by Kenya Michaels this episode. (I made that up.) All the BFF characters were hilarious, but I liked Ginger’s cow character and Pearl’s banjee character the best, although only Violet’s was sellable. Even though Katya and Kennedy got harsh critiques for their Hello Kitty couture, I thought everyone did a pretty good job. The looks were all bright, sparkly, and fun. I would have put Pearl in the bottom for her Slanket dress, and either Kennedy or Katya would have destroyed her in the lip sync. Violet’s win was well deserved, though.
Even though her attitude stood in Katya’s way, I’m still devastated about her elimination, so let’s skip straight to the Fierce List:
1. Violet Chachki: SHOCKER OF THE SEASON! The momentum is shifting away from Ginger and toward Violet. Ru loves a story arc, and Violet has a good one, as the fishy, young bitch everyone hated but now people seem to respect (begrudgingly).
2. Ginger Minj: Even though the winner of Drag Race is Ru’s decision alone, she certainly takes public opinion into account, and I think that’s where Ginger suffers. As I said before, any time spent on camera counts, and Ginger’s shadiness and shit-talking has gotten out of control on Untucked. Will Ru choose a queen the Logo-viewing public doesn’t connect to? Possible, but unlikely.
3. Kennedy Davenport: Ugh, it pains me to put Kennedy in the top three. She has talent, for sure, but does she have charisma, uniqueness, and nerve? Violet, Ginger, and Katya would have been a solid top three, so that’s why it pains me Katya got eliminated. Why did Kennedy have to turn it out THAT much in the lip sync?
4. Pearl: As much shade as I’ve thrown at Pearl, she’s been fun this season. She’s just not the best at anything, and for that we can’t take her seriously as a possible winner.