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RuPaul’s Drag Race journeys to Oz for a wonderful makeover challenge

Illustration for article titled RuPaul’s Drag Race journeys to Oz for a wonderful makeover challenge
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The queens of RuPaul’s Drag Race take a trip to Oz this week, and they’re bringing the cast of Lifetime’s Little Women: LA along for season 8’s makeover challenge. I’ll admit that I was nervous when the show used The Wonderful Wizard Of Oz as a way to introduce this season’s makeover subjects, but the word “munchkin” is never used in “Wizards Of Drag,” and the challenge gives these little women the opportunity to assume other major roles from L. Frank Baum’s classic novel. The episode manages to successfully toe the line between cheeky and offensive in the set-up of the challenge, and I can’t knock it when the women are so clearly excited to portray dragged out interpretations of these characters.

Before they tackle the book-themed makeovers, the queens take a trip to the library for this season’s #ReadingIsFundamental mini-challenge, which is the usual mixed bag of reads. Here are some of the highlights:

  • “Bob the Drag Queen: You may be from New York, honey, but those feet are still from Mississippi.”
  • “Chi Chi: Your drag is just like turkey neck. Cheap and no one wants it.”
  • “Naomi Smalls: Your wardrobe reminds me of a legendary Drag Race queen: Nicole Paige Brooks.”
  • “Bob: Please shut up.”
  • “Robbie Turner: We know you’re a vintage queen, but do you have to smell like mothballs too?”
  • “It is very hard to have an intelligent conversation with Derrick Berry. The only thing harder is Robbie Turner’s wig lines.”
  • “Robbie Turnt-her, I know you’re a huge fan of classic movies and television. May I recommend one of my favorite classic TV shows: (runs finger along top teeth) Flipper.”

Bob is the big winner of the mini-challenge, but when it comes to quick, sharp, witty reads, Kim Chi is my personal favorite. Her Chi Chi read uses their recent Untucked conversation as ammunition, and that Nicole Page Brooks burn is a fantastic joke referencing Drag Race herstory. Kim is proving to be one of this season’s smartest queens, and the combination of her intelligence plus her fierce, flawless drag is giving her a lot of momentum in this competition.

Kim also has one of the strongest looks of the night, offering her unique take on the Wicked Witch that she describes as “Isabella Blow going to a funeral realness.” She’s a high concept thinker when it comes to fashion, and the judges love the drama Kim brings to her look for Briana (Miso Chi) and their entrance on runway. Kim is the only queen that comes out carrying her little woman (because it’s not the best idea), but the impact of that first visual with Miso towering above a sea of black fabric makes up for any wobbliness in Kim bringing her partner back to the ground.


That love of fashion is probably what has brought Kim and Naomi Smalls so close together as friends, and I like to think that Kim’s influence plays a part in Naomi’s major level up this week. Coming off of a bottom two showing, Naomi desperately needs to switch up her look and give the judges something other than a bra and panties, which is exactly what she does with the “Vivienne Westwood meets Scarecrow meets Vidal Sassoon” concept she devises for herself and Jasmine (Jazzy Jems).

Naomi puts the other queens to shame with her runway showing, and she does phenomenal work interpreting a high-fashion version of her character in both the outfit and the modeling of it. Jazzy also looks great, and while she has a much simpler look, the judges love the little touches like the straw legwarmers that bring a playful sense of humor to the outfit. This is the first moment when Naomi reaches Violet Chachki levels of high-fashion drag, and if she continues to whip out imaginative looks like this one, she could potentially keep herself from ever landing in the bottom again. She’s the winner of the challenge, and her surprisingly strong work this week changes the power dynamics within the group moving forward.


Winning the mini-challenge makes Bob an even bigger threat to the rest of the queens, who are very tired of Bob’s winning streak, but she finally makes her first big mistake with her makeover time management. The episode sets Bob up for a fall, but he ends up taking more of a light tumble during the maxi-challenge, successfully making over Elena (Rob The Faux Queen) into a dramatic Glinda but dropping the ball with her own look, which she has to rush to put together when her initial outfit falls apart.

Bob is called out by Ross Matthews for being outshone by Elena, but this is a good problem to have in this situation. It shows that Bob is committed to making his makeover subject look her best, and having one standout look is better than serving up two mediocre ones like Robbie, Chi Chi, and Derrick. This is also the right time for Bob to show some flaws and get called out on them, and ideally the events of this episode will deflate her ego and take the target off her back. The queens are gunning for Bob in “Wizards of Drag,” and maybe the judges putting Bob toward the bottom (but not quite the bottom) will appease the bloodlust of the other contestants.


Chi Chi is the other queen just barely safe from elimination, and frankly it’s a bit of a mystery why Ru chooses to save her given the shabby runway look and more than half of the queens saying Chi Chi should be sent home because she’s not putting in the effort. Chi Chi absolutely could have spent more time on her look, but she admits she did what was in her range of doing. That limited range is her biggest weakness, and while Chi Chi is fun to watch and can turn it out in performance, she’s having trouble elevating her drag. (She reminds me of Joslyn Fox in how I find her very endearing, but don’t think she has what it takes to win the competition.)

Chi Chi’s makeover subject Tonya tries to get Chi Chi to think beyond the limits she’s placed on herself (“Don’t think small”), but Chi Chi is also pretty lazy and not taking full advantage of the time she has to step her game up. She has the extra time to address Michelle’s concerns about her masculine figure bleeding into her drag, but she doesn’t use that time in a constructive way, which pisses off everyone else who is working hard to satisfy the judges.


Thorgy is the person most annoyed by Chi Chi, but annoyance is also Thorgy’s general feeling for the entire episode. She’s tired of being in second place to Bob, and of the season’s top performers, Thorgy is the one that hasn’t gotten a win yet. Her runway look for herself and Brittney (Thorgeous) is a good example of why, and while it’s fun and shiny, it’s also a bit basic. The garments are well constructed, but not bold in the way Naomi and Kim’s are, and the wigs are, to borrow a phrase from Marc Jacobs, a “St. Patrick’s day markdown situation.”

I do think Thorgy’s big moment is coming, but at this point, it can either be a good big moment or a bad big moment. She’s still a stronger queen than Derrick Berry and Robbie Turner, though, and her look is leagues better than what they put on the runway. Derrick and Terra Barry come out in grey leotards with a piece of fabric wrapped around their waists and silver cones (“horse penises,” as Michelle calls them) protruding from their shoulders, and there’s no intent behind these random visual elements, which don’t read as Tin Woodsman beyond their silver color. Robbie and Christy’s (Hedda Turner) look suffers from a similarly random assortment of shapes and fabrics, and it looks even worse when compared to Kim’s winning Cowardly Lioness look from the season premiere.


The judges read both of these queens last week, and their underwhelming showings land them in the bottom to lip sync for their lives to Icona Pop’s “I Love It.” Derrick has been told over and over to stop relying on that Britney, but she also knows that it’s her biggest strength, so she switches into Britney Spears performance mode to take control of the stage during the lip sync. You can see the charisma that has endeared Ru so strongly to Derrick, and while Derrick could make a stronger emotional connection to the lyrics, the sharpness of her choreography keeps the spotlight on her.

Robbie’s intense, manic energy is appropriate for the song, but she gets swept up in the song’s message of apathy too heavily. She doesn’t care that throwing her wig off her head will all but guarantee that she’s going home, but the judges do, and it’s an especially bad move after the judges have just called her out on her hair. Robbie doesn’t fare well without the benefit of roller skates and the focus they require to operate, and the impressive control of her previous lip sync is replaced by desperation this week. She ends up sashaying away, but at least Robbie can take comfort in knowing that her roller skate lip sync makes her one of a kind in Drag Race herstory.


Stray observations

  • There’s an interpretive dance element of this week’s challenge, and I am so grateful that it’s edited into one montage of key moments instead of making us sit through all of them. It does make it difficult to gauge the queens’ individual performances and determine if the judges’ critiques hold weight, but I’d rather have this situation instead of lackluster dance numbers taking time from the runway.
  • One of the biggest laughs of this episode is when Marc Jacobs and Ru describe Kim and Miso Chi’s “out there” dance routine: the laying of the brooms, the collecting of the brooms, the trading of the brooms, the returning of the brooms. Kim knows her weaknesses and is really smart about working around them, and confusion is a much better emotion to evoke than boredom or embarrassment.
  • Chi Chi wants Chipotle and Clueless. She seems like the kind of person I’d have a lot of fun with.
  • Todrick Hall looks amazing in his Emerald City jacket. I also really like the color combo of his jacket and Ru’s lavender gown. So pretty!
  • Naomi Smalls reads fashion magazines in Barnes & Noble instead of buying them. Thrifty queen!
  • Thorgy: “Was everything else you brought here a bra and panties?” Kim: “Two piece…and a biscuit?”
  • Elena: “You know how in MasterChef competition they always give each other mustard and honey.” Bob: “Girl, this ain’t MasterChef, honey. They hate me. They’re not gonna give me their stuff. These hoes are evil.”
  • “The lesson in The Wonderful Wizard Of Oz for Dorothy is that she’s searching for something that she already has, so maybe I have everything I need and I’m a real-life Dorothy.”
  • Terra: “I don’t handle losing very well so I will give this 120.” Ru: “Well, you say that while you have a hatchet in your hand. That kind of scares me.”
  • “Let’s throw this hideous purse away.”
  • “I refuse to be on somebody’s talk show saying my kid is whooping my ass.” Tonya is wonderful.
  • Todrick: “Ru, my life has been black and white until now and now all I see is amazing color.” Ru: “Oh, you’re gonna play the race card?”