Hey there, squirrelfriends! Hope you brought your Lisa Frank Trapper Keeper and fiercest first day of school outfit, because RuPaul’s Drag U is back in session. Part Drag Race, part What Not To Wear, Drag U brings back past Drag Race contestants to give women a physical, emotional, and mental makeover. It’s an imperfect mix of inspirational talk show segments and campy comedy bits between the queens, but the drag edutainment element makes this a good show for novice drag queens (and fans) to watch.
This episode features three recent divorcees who were left by their husbands. In case you have not had any experience with divorcees who have been left by their husbands, they’re an extremely emotionally volatile group, as we see from this season’s first crop of Drag U students. Hilary, 43, lost 165 pounds, and then her husband left her for a bigger woman; Faith, 48, put her dreams on hold for her ex, and is now a single mother of two; Shana, 41, lost her husband to hook-ups on porn sites. These three women are paired up with Jujubee, Latrice Royale, and Manila Luzon, respectively, and they make surprising transformations, even if the road there is a little rocky.
The women are graded on their DPA: Drag Transformation, Performance, and Attitude Adjustment. The woman with the highest Drag Point Average takes home the prize of cosmetics, clothes, and $3,166.22 cash, but more importantly, she takes home a new sense of confidence and self worth. If it sounds goofy as hell, that’s because it is, but it’s hard to argue with the results. It helps that the three professors chosen for this episode are three of Drag Race’s most charismatic contestants, who show off some impressive makeover abilities in the attitude department. They all create an instant rapport with their students, and the queens become a source of comfort and strength as the women prepare to break out of their comfort zone.
The pairs’ first challenge is to create a quick drag look in under five minutes, to be presented to RuPaul in front of the Dragulator. The results are all horrible, especially in the wig department, making the Dragulator’s photoshopped results look even stronger in comparison. The Dragulator turns out each woman’s Rupproved drag persona, and the more I type “Dragulator,” the more ridiculous it sounds. Most of this show is ridiculous, and everything is over-the-top, from the costumes to the characters to the emotional reactions. When Shana sees her Callie Tropicale makeover, she bursts into tears, and it’s just the start of this episode’s waterworks.
After seeing their drag looks, the women are shown two everyday drag outfits, but they only get to take home one because this show’s on a budget. The clothes are definitely a step up from their previous “flirty” looks, although Shana makes the wrong choice picking the salmon dress with the beige blazer. That’s not cute. This is when the show is in full-on What Not To Wear mode, and it’s the least interesting part because the drag queens don’t get that much to do. We’re really here to see Jujubee, Manilla, and Latrice, so give them as much to do as possible.
Performance prep is next, and the group is taught a routine to “I Will Survive” (duh) by Beyonce choreographer Flex, who takes his work very seriously. This is how he breaks down their dance: “The choreography I’ve chosen for you, it’s meaningful. What it means is when I’m here, I’m punching. I’m O.K., and I’m stomping away my husband. He’s no longer existing.” He’s very silly.
The next day is when the women start to crack, and Hilary has a mini mental breakdown. To calm their nerves, RuPaul talks to each of the women one-one-one and shares his drag philosophy, and it’s some fascinating stuff. RuPaul stresses how a drag persona is the Superman to the regular person’s Clark Kent, and he tells each of them to find strength and confidence in their characters. This ability to escape into another person, someone who is bigger than life, becomes deeply comforting. When something is getting you down, you flip the switch and become another person, which sounds a lot like disassociative identity disorder, but it’s actually a good thing.
When the women take to the runway, they channel the essence of their drag professors in their demeanor, and it creates some very interesting impressions of drag queens done by women. Hilary’s Tatiana D’Amore has the same vocal inflection and poise as Jujubee, Faith’s Elantra Sizzle exudes Latrice’s warmth and compassion, and Callie Tropicale has all the youthful freshness of Manila. When they give their inspirational speeches at the end of their runway walks, you can see how much confidence putting on this mask gives them, especially in Tatiana and Callie.
Tatiana appears comfortable for the very first time when she’s on the runway, and Callie glows when she gets in front of the camera. Elantra has a very Dida Ritz look, but she lacks the extra spirit of the other two women. The final test is choreography, and Callie wipes out the competition, taking over the stage and really feeling the music. Not to get too serious about all of this absurdity, but it seems like these women have all had real breakthroughs by coming on this show, even if they’re just walking away with a single outfit and a new drag name. Callie may graduate from RuPaul’s Drag U with highest honors, but all the women walk away with new degrees in charisma, uniqueness, nerve, and talent.
- Manila is serving up Happy Meal realness with red and white-striped tights and arm warmers, French fry leotard, and hamburger earrings. I love it.
- Faith’s son called his mom sexy way too enthusiastically. Lets hope none of the kids at school were watching or tomorrow’s gonna be hell for that guy.
- The editors really love that clip of Sharon blowing kisses.
- Raja’s “Drag Queen Tip” for cheating cleavage is fascinating. I don’t know much about the technical side of drag and am always eager to learn.
- Donna Mills from Knot’s Landing was this episode’s guest judge. That happened.
- “I’m about to take you to a higher court, where you’ll get a restraining order on negativity and get full custody of everything that makes you fabulous.”
- “Do I have a wonky eye?” “Girl, it’s just your face.”
- “Don’t flunk it up.”
- “When my ex-husband watches Drag U, he’s going to be so sorry that he ever let this go.”
- “My banana! It fell off!”
- This show’s a little too light to merit a weekly recap, but I hope you'll all join me for Drag Race All-Stars in the fall.