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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

RuPaul's Drag Race: “Scent Of A Drag Queen”

Illustration for article titled iRuPauls Drag Race/i: “Scent Of A Drag Queen”
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Being a drag queen is a multidisciplinary lifestyle, and RuPaul’s Drag Race has done exceptional work making it clear to America just how difficult it is to be a female impersonator of the highest caliber. Contestants need to have a firm knowledge of not only fashion, but comedy and pop culture, and the more well-rounded the queen, the more likely she is to go far in the competition. A drag queen needs to be able to market herself and establish her brand if she’s going to book club gigs, and RuPaul tests the contestants ability to do this with a perfume challenge where they have to create a scent, name, and package for their product and film a commercial. It’s a variation on last season’s magazine challenge, and like that episode, the queens who approach the commercial with a comedic point of view have the best showing.

Before diving into the stench, this episode thanks the straight women and gay men of America for their loyalty with a mouthwatering mini-challenge featuring the hunky models of Andrew Christian. The queens play a game of “Whatcha Packin’?” with the 22 models, which is basically a memory game using pairs of underwear on really attractive men. It’s adorable watching the sex-starved contestants get flustered in front of the group of 300 extras; this mini-challenge doesn’t really test any drag queen skills, it’s just a chance to put the queens in an awkward position that leads to some hilarious TV. There are few things gayer than a gang of underwear models dropping trou in front of seven drag queens so that they can have their junk ogled, and that’s why I love this show so much.


Ivy wins the challenge because it doesn’t require any sort of personality, earning a phone call home as her reward. Ivy is a queen who doesn’t have much of a character or a story this season, getting by on talent more than anything else. That would be enough for a lot of reality competitions, but on this show you need that extra spark if you’re going to grab the judges’ attention. Ivy gets her first storyline this week in the form of a budding relationship with Jinkx Monsoon, and they are just the cutest little couple of drag queens. Unfortunately, it’s too little too late, and when RuPaul criticizes Ivy’s Poisoned Rosebud fragrance, she changes her entire product and ends up with something rushed and uninteresting.

Michelle Visage directs the queens for their commercial with help from Danity Kane’s Aubrey O’Day, and while Michelle offers some constructive criticism, Aubrey doesn’t seem to understand the purpose of this competition. She acts like this is a serious perfume commercial, not realizing that most of the queens are coming with some form of schtick planned because that’s the entire point. Nobody wants to see a straight perfume ad on Drag Race. Nobody wants to see straight anything on Drag Race. Aubrey doesn’t understand Jinkx’s campiness or Detox’s wit, but at least she’s equally bitchy to messes like Coco and Ivy. Coco’s leopard-on-leopard concept makes her commercial for Ru Animal look like a Tim And Eric sketch, and Ivy’s Dress Code is concentrated bland with an extra shot of dumb when she confuses a Tokyo backdrop for New York City.

Alyssa and Roxxxy were both in the bottom last week, but that doesn’t stop them from doing poorly on this week’s challenge. Alyssa is completely clueless about everything, and she thinks a veiled allusion to her tucked-away penis is the best plan for her commercial. Beyond that, she’s got nothing. Roxxxy goes with the “perfume fat queens can eat” angle, combining it with a skimpy costume change that is the same old shit we’ve been getting from her all season. I’m glad that the judges are starting to see through Roxxxy’s strategy, and she deserves to be read for repeating herself when other queens are pushing their boundaries. Alyssa has a dorky charm that makes it entertaining even when she’s messing up horribly, whereas Roxxxy always thinks that she’s doing fabulously, giving her a cockiness that clashes with her lackluster performance.

The real star of this episode is the queen who is quickly becoming a favorite to win it all, the mighty Alaska, who thunderfucks the competition with her ingenious Red For Filth campaign. She comes in with a strong concept and takes direction marvelously, delivering a hilarious commercial that even gains the Aubrey O’Day seal of approval. Michelle’s choice to have Alaska constantly spinning Wonder Woman style while giving quick facial expressions is a great decision, and Alaska’s “overpriced” face demands a GIF immediately. Alaska knows she might have a win coming her way, and she turns it out on the runway, bringing a new silhouette and wig that show a brand new side of her to the judges. Compare Alaska’s chic, modern businesswoman-turned-hooker runway look with Alyssa’s similar yet way tackier Dynasty inspired outfit and it’s clear that one of the queens is operating at a much higher taste level.


The queens who did best at the challenge have the strongest runway showings, with Jinkx continuing #MonsoonSeason as she hits the floor wearing a sassy flapper ensemble. Jinkx’s styling has gotten more focused and her makeup skills have made dramatic leaps, and her commercial is easily in the top three, a clever pit crew three-way in Paris that is the perfect Delusion. The top is rounded out by Detox’s Heroine ad, which makes great use of her vocal range for big laughs. She’s fantastic on camera, and Detox’s greatest contribution to this competition has been her delightfully catty confessionals. She has more difficulty when she’s put in a live setting, but thankfully the queens aren’t put into those situations too often. Santino criticizes her for having an unpolished runway look, but she looks far better than any of the four queens in the bottom.

Coco carries the animal-print theme of her commercial to the runway with a fugly zebra gown, and while she’s safe this week, she loses any goodwill she gathered last week with a crap product that doesn’t even succeed at kissing ass because it’s just that bad. She’s absolutely insufferable in Untucked, and I’m hoping this week’s lip sync is setting up the inevitable Coco versus Alyssa elimination this season has been building up to. The other safe queen is Roxxxy Andrews, who comes down the runway looking like sherbet scooped into a plastic bag. It’s a look that reflects the Thick And Juicy of her fragrance, but is also horrible. It’s fair to predict that the rest of the season will unfold like this episode, with Alaska, Jinkx, and Detox in the top while the rest as gradually cut. Roxxxy is probably going to make it to the top four, but if she keeps giving such poor performances, she might be packing her bags earlier.


Alyssa ends up in the bottom two against Ivy, whose boring commercial and ice-skater outfit made of pantyhose fail to impress the judges. It’s immediately clear that Alyssa is shantaying to safety because Ivy decides that she’s going to stand in one place and make sure the judges see all the words rather than moving around and taking control of the space. Gwen Guthrie’s “Ain’t Nothin’ Goin’ On But The Rent” isn’t the best lip sync song, and the queens tend to give better performances when they are more familiar with the music. Alyssa wipes the floor with Ivy, teaching the valuable lesson that sometimes face isn’t enough. I wish I could say I’m sad to see Ivy go, but she didn’t really do much in this competition. If anything, I’m sad that she left before she could kai kai with Jinkx.

Stray observations:

  • This week on Untucked: We’re expected to sympathize with Coco after she digs into Jinkx for no reason? Oh, hayll no. Coco gets a phone call from her husband, then breaks down about her dead parents before joining the rest of the queens for an Alyssa bitch-fest when they’re split into smaller groups. Coco is quickly becoming this season’s Phi Phi, starting shit with anyone she views as a threat but immediately backpedaling when the other person bites. That’s not being a good player, that’s being obnoxious.
  • Can you spot the porn star in the group of Andrew Christian models? (It’s #13.)
  • My favorite Andrew Christian models, because why not: #9, #18, #21
  • Ru sniffing the perfume bottles like they are poppers is an absolutely brilliant touch.
  • “How did we end up in the meat packing district?”
  • “It’s like the Rockettes, only a lot more dick.”
  • “I don’t know why, but I’m craving a corn dog.”
  • “The winner of this week’s mini-challenge is every straight woman and gay man in America.”
  • Roxxxy: “It smells like food and maple and jasmine at the same time…” RuPaul: “Oh my goodness, yes. It smells like IHOP! Ooh! Your country breakfast is ready! Y’all hungry?”
  • “Here’s Alyssa’s secret. Darling. The secret is she don’t know what the fuck she’s doing. Here’s a secret: You can’t tell Alyssa anything. Here’s a secret: You can’t put Alyssa in front of a mirror without it taking four hours. I’ve had it.”
  • “Her legs are really open for selling perfume.”
  • “That’s Tokyo.”
  • “A scent sophisticated for the everyday woman, but strong enough for the career lady.”
  • “I planned to say, ‘It smells so good you can eat it.’ But then I was like hold on, perfume, you can’t eat it.”
  • “Behind love and madness lies Detox. Then of course rehab.”
  • “Whether you’re getting read the house down (‘your makeup is terrible’) or just ready to go down, the exciting new fragrance Red For Filth. Are you red-y for me?”
  • “Available at the clinic.”
  • “Less is more, ’cause it almost gets a little serial killer.”
  • “Water off a duck’s back.”
  • “It wasn’t confusing, it was unprofessional.”
  • “It smells like a Kardashian sex tape.”
  • “It smells like mating time at the zoo.”
  • “Hers is the only one I would wear. Everything else smells like grandma’s vag to me.”
  • Joan: “I think it smells like something my housekeeper used yesterday in the bathroom.” Aubrey: “Or did in the bathroom.”
  • “The whole thing was tacky. The outfit tonight was tacky. The commercial was tacky. I—I can’t.”
  • “Your thick and juicy was a bit too loosey goosey.”
  • #GrandmasVag

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