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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

RuPaul's Drag Race: "Casting Extravaganza"

Illustration for article titled RuPaul's Drag Race: "Casting Extravaganza"
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Ooh, girl.  RuPaul’s Drag Race is back, and even I wasn’t ready for all the jelly that it brought tonight (by the way, this is not how I normally write, but it’s pretty contagious after two-and-a-half hours of the show, and I didn’t even have time to watch Untucked).  But seriously, the show is a welcome addition to the Monday night lineup, since Mondays are usually a drag (no pun intended, seriously), and some lipsynching and wig-tossing is usually what the dreaded day needs.

I have tried to avoid writing about the show to a certain extent because it’s such wonderfully mindless (yet secretly smart) entertainment that I was worried that writing about it would temper the silly enjoyment a little bit, but Drag Race is too enjoyable to leave alone any more. Take the best of Project Runway and America’s Next Top Model, only instead of same-ol’ same ol’ challenges and clichés, add some actual parody, old-fashioned dirty humor and about 5,000 pounds of makeup and sequins, and there you go.

The new crop of girls was introduced to us in the audition extravaganza, which was most noteworthy because the season features three plus-sized girls, Delta Work, Stacy Layne Mathews (who looks the most like a woman out of drag of anyone I’ve seen on this show), and Mimi Imfurst.  Mimi talked a lot of game in the audition episode about being “sick and tired of messy fat girls” on the show. She ended up being practically as messy as they come, but more on her later. I was mostly excited to meet Raja, the drag alter ego of Sutan, the makeup artist on America’s Next Top Model, whom I’ve always loved for his eye-rolling, sarcastic comments and walking-stick-like physique.

In the season premiere, the girls all met each other. My main bitchy first impressions were that Carmen makes a cuter boy than girl, and Alexis Mateo has a bit of the same mannish qualities as Jessica Wild from Season 2. Meanwhile, Phoenix hated India for wearing the same costume (“It’s so nice to see someone still doing that same old-school drag,”) and Mariah, who’s absolutely gorgeous, decided she didn’t like Mimi. Raja sauntered in wearing a big hat that looked like a flirty eyeball (I have one, too, but in a different color), and some girls threw shade on her for her lean build and minimal hair and makeup.

RuPaul arrived to announce that the girl with the most Charisma, Uniqueness, Nerve, and Talent would win the makeup and Absolut contracts, of course, but $75,000 as well (which is probably more than the budget for the entire first season of the show.)  The challenge for the episode was “Christmastime in RuPaul’s Drag Race,” but before it was fully revealed, Shangela from Season 2 popped out of a huge box, to no one’s excitement. (I have to admit I don’t remember too much about her myself, so while there’s novelty in bringing someone back from the last season, I think wistfully of Jujubee, for instance.)

The first part of the challenge involved the girls shooting a sexy Christmas card by jumping on a trampoline and pretending to hump a candy cane while the Pit Crew, in furry underwear, threw snow on them. (Hi, I love this show.) What was not sexy were the little white socks some of the queens decided to wear while they tramped it up on the tramp. Raja, with her fashion background, killed the shoot and won the challenge. I also thought Delta did a really cute job, too, especially being a big girl who couldn’t get that much air on the trampoline.

For the second part of the challenge, the girls all had a bit of money to spend at a thrift store to make holiday outfits for the fashion show (for the shopping trip, I really liked Manila’s outfit, with the big flowy pink top and even bigger black beehive; Manila, by the way, when not in drag, wears an adorable little bow tie and dates season two’s Zahara). The girls got to work, crushing up Christmas ornaments and making it work with the glue gun (this show serves as a good public service message that glue guns are really hot).  Shangela Laquifa decided to dress up a snowman (“This show is dirty,” my husband noted at this point as he passed through). Phoenix, who has a serious case of bitchface, and Venus both made sparkly blazer-type things. Ru described Raja’s outfit as “Christmas pudding at Vivienne Westwood’s on Boxing Day” (again: I love this show). Then, Mimi had a big fat messy crying jag because she was worried her Madonna costume wouldn’t fly, and she was so worried that she’d fail that she blubbered about it.“GIRLL! Pull yourself together darling,” mused Yara. My thoughts exactly. At this point, everyone figured Mimi’d be heading home.


It’s the little moments that make this show great to me, like when Venus revealed that she’s had plastic surgery to look more like Madonna. “Where is it?” asked one of the girls, poking at her cheek. (I wish we could have seen before and after pics.) I sort of agree with Mimi that when the girls get plastic surgery, it feels a bit like cheating. I was bummed when we learned that Raven from last season got lip injections.  

It was time for the runway, and the guest judges, along with Santino Rice and RuPaul’s talk show co-host Michelle Visage, were Bruce Vilanch and Vanessa Williams (so no more Merle Ginsberg).  By the way, I wish there was a drag star named “Vanessa William.”  

It goes without saying that none of the girls looked as resplendent as Ru did in her gold and black gown, but some looked pretty good. Carmen and Yara both opted to show a lot of body with their bikini-type costumes. Delta Work, in green, brought Kwanzaa realness (I need to remember to use that phrase next holiday season).  Alexis Mateo had a fun, flirty red dress complemented by a good walk. I thought Mimi’s outfit was actually a clever idea (and she looked a bit like Bette Midler onstage, although in drag she looks probably 20 years older than out). Mariah looked beautiful and bitchy in gray, and Raja made an impression with a huge bow and cute skirt and then performed a runway flop on the ground to make a snow angel.

Raja won the second competition of the night (I have a feeling she’ll be around for a while, for her personality and relative fame), while Shangela and Venus were up for looking kind of rough and unready. Frankly I was ready for Shangela to go home a second time: If she couldn’t transcend the bottom two after season two, then maybe she didn’t deserve to be there; plus I’d like to see more of Venus vs. Phoenix.


Then came one of the worst lip-synchs I’ve ever seen on this show, as Shangela and Venus basically elbowed each other around the stage to Vanessa Williams’ “The Right Stuff” and tore each others’ costumes off. There was no glamour or showmanship, and I thought it was pretty poor that they both triumphantly flung their wigs at the end, when there was nothing to triumphantly fling their wig about. To me, it’s sort of like a mortarboard: you can’t just throw it into the air for no reason. You have to graduate, first. Ru did not seem impressed.

At this point, I wanted Shangela to go home, because I didn’t want to look at her nipples, but she got to shontay while Venus sashayed. Away.


I’m looking forward to seeing what the rest of the season brings and seeing which of the queens deliver the most quotable moments of the show. Last season had some terrific challenges as well, so if it can bring something along the lines of the Drag Mama challenge, it will be a great season (and honestly, even just an okay version of Drag Race is still more entertaining than most other reality competitions out there).

Can I get an amen?

Stray observations:

  • I love it when Ru shouts “Silence!!” when everyone’s already pretty quiet.
  • What do we think about the new Absolut Cocktail Cabaret ads?  (Like last year’s, I find them weird and captivating.  Camptivating, you could say.)