Will Crystal Methyd, Jaida Essence Hall, or Gigi Goode win the crown?

By Joey Nolfi
May 27, 2020 at 12:08 PM EDT
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Like Soju boarding an airplane with an engorged cyst or Lashauwn Beyond attempting to pronounce "post-apocalyptic," RuPaul's Drag Race season 12 has trudged through seemingly insurmountable difficulties (a pre-season scandal, a global pandemic) to emerge as one of quarantine season's most indulgent pleasures. Though global coronavirus containment efforts forced the Emmy-winning contest to take unprecedented measures in wrapping up its current edition (a virtual reunion and digitally produced finale featuring recorded-at-home lip-syncs), the three finalists vying for the crown are an enduring, decadent collective of drag excellence whose talents transcend the show's challenging predicament. So, who will become America's Next Drag Superstar? We'll find out when the RuPaul's Drag Race season 12 finale airs Friday at 8:00 p.m. on VH1, but, leading up to the big reveal, read on for EW's prediction for how the final episode could play out.

Second runner-up: Gigi Goode

Charlotte Rutherford/VH1

Let it be known that there's not a bad bitch (though they're all badass bitches) in this bunch, and if we could anoint all three with the drag industry's foremost title, we would. But, this remains a competition, and, unless you're All-Stars 4 (or the Holi-Slay Spectacular... or episode three of RuPaul's Secret Celebrity Drag Race... or... you get the point), there can only be one victor. From the start, it appeared the season's youngest competitor, Gigi Goode, might cake-walk to the crown with her fan-favorite runway looks and hilariously unexpected domination of Snatch Game — all skills that resulted in the then-21-year-old winning four main challenges over the course of the season. Gigi is a sweetheart, and there's no denying her performance has captivated the fans and judges alike (her aesthetic is square within the younger Drag Race audience's wheelhouse), but, as the pool of contestants narrowed, the rougher edges around Gigi's well-rounded package began to poke through the glossy veneer and well-made (but costume-leaning) runway offerings.

While she's mastered character-based challenges (Snatch Game in particular), Gigi's problem might be her youth. She lacks an intangible edge, a comfortable confidence that more seasoned queens like Crystal and Jaida possess as poised entertainers assured in their art and presentation. As evidenced by Gigi's slight faltering as the competition tightened, especially in the one-woman show challenge, Gigi needs a bit more time to come into her own. She's a treasure and an icon in her own right, but, in the context of this contest, perhaps needs a little more time honing her craft in a cocoon of inspiration. Time and molding will allow her to become a queen who isn't dressing up in character, but fully embodying her art more than simply wearing it.

First runner-up: Crystal Methyd

Charlotte Rutherford/VH1

All drag is valid. A few clowns on Twitter tried to challenge that notion in recent weeks, but pay no attention to the unsubstantiated noise: Crystal is not a gimmick, and neither is her drag.

It took a few weeks for the Missouri-based queen to find her footing in the context of Drag Race, but she's taken the judges' critiques (some more helpful than others) and molded herself to fit into the show's signature brand of expectations without sacrificing her originality, becoming one of the most versatile (and original) queens the show has ever seen. Even when she's "failing" at a challenge Drag Race sets forth, there's an unbreakable and irresistibly unique spirit radiating deep within Crystal's soul, and it doesn't feel like she's masking, hiding, or playing dress up over it — even when she's dressed like one half of a lesbian-couple version of Bert and Ernie or a velvety genie dipped in blue body paint. She's hilarious, intuitive, and does what she wants to do, almost to the point where it doesn't feel as if she's performing as much as she's just effortlessly turning herself inside-out for the world to see, like she'd do it all anyway whether we're watching or not.

Crystal is this season's face for alt-drag gems, many of whom also supported Yvie Oddly last year, and therein lies Crystal's biggest obstacle in her bid for the crown. There's a vocal online fanbase pushing her toward victory, but, those in power preside over an annual competition that needs artistic diversity from year-to-year. It's not impossible, and Crystal's drag has its own unique lane separate from Yvie's, but, given its history, it's hard to imagine the show anointing two consecutive oddballs to its foremost throne.

And then there's the issue of the revamped finale's format. Of the three finalists — strictly in terms of what we've seen on the show — Crystal has arguably done the least to prove her abilities as a lip-sync titan. Jackie Cox, who'd been in the bottom three times by the time she squared off against Crystal (making her first appearance in the bottom two) on episode 12, put on a better show, but her track record sealed her fate, no matter what she did on that stage. Jaida's two prior lip-syncs (one for her legacy, the other for her life) also felt more energetic than Crystal's performance in the bottom two, so we're not sure how well Crystal will fare when securing the crown requires her to lip-sync for the title. If the finale's lip-syncs allow for aesthetic embellishment (like, for example, the creatively directed digital drag shows we've seen online since the start of quarantine), however, Crystal might pop in the comfort of her own home, and what a treat it would be to be granted access to her fantasy world, even if she doesn't claim the prize.

Projected RuPaul's Drag Race season 12 winner: Jaida Essence Hall

Charlotte Rutherford/VH1

Miss Jaida, Miss Jaida, Miss Jaida Excellessence Hall! What a joy it has been to watch this gorgeous queen joy-ride through RuPaul's Drag Race with a poise, elegance, old-school diva attitude, and whip-smart wit of a genuine superstar. Whether she's dripping down the runway in jaw-dropping, versatile fashions, pondering who the f— Rose Nylund is, repeating the word "chile," or simply running her mouth like your best girlfriend in a confessional, Jaida has injected an irresistible burst of warm energy into a competition typically fraught with high-stakes, cutthroat tension.

Superficial attitudes would have you believe Jaida represents "pageant" rigidity, but, like all of her season 12 sisters, she's so much more than the labels we've learned to rely on through Drag Race history. Jaida's fashionable instincts and natural comedic chops (well, outside the one-woman-show challenge) have propelled her to three challenge victories since the season began, and her mastery of the lip-sync arts should produce fireworks — even broadcasting from her own home — on the finale. She's a cross-demographic celebrity in the making, one who can command a garment-focused runway, a dance-heavy main stage, or turn it out on the mic as she hosts a packed night at your favorite queer bar. Jaida can do it all, and, chile, she better get herses on the finale.

...and none for Sh*rry P*e. Bye!!!

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RuPaul — as host, mentor, and creative inspiration — decides who's in and who's out.

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