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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

RuPaul's Drag Race: "Scream Queens"

Illustration for article titled iRuPauls Drag Race/i: Scream Queens
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“The majority of these younger queens have this idea that it’s all about sisterhood and being friendly. Fuck these bitches. I’m in a drag competition. Every clown for their fucking selves.”

Ladyboys and squirrelfriends, I present to you Bianca Del Rio. A costume designer turned insult comic drag queen who made a name for herself in New Orleans, Bianca is the embodiment of charisma, uniqueness, nerve, and talent, and has quickly established herself as the main reason to tune into the sixth season of RuPaul’s Drag Race. She arrives on this show a fully formed, totally natural character with overwhelming confidence and a whip-smart Rolodex of Hate, understanding just how high the stakes are for this competition and keeping everyone in her sights, but specifically targeting the young, vulnerable fish in the barrel.


That above quote from Untucked perfectly represents the ferocity of Bianca’s competitive spirit, and while her attitude can certainly come across as harsh, she incorporates a wealth of constructive criticism in her forest of shade and side-eye, asserting her dominance by telling her competitors how to get their shit together so that this can at least be a fair fight. When Adore fails miserably as a team leader for this week’s horror movie challenge and then tries to tell Bianca that she wouldn’t want to work with her, Bianca tastes the blood in the water and goes in for the kill. Bianca’s response: “Oh-uh-well…what’s your name again?”

Bianca sinks her claws in and tightens her grip whenever she gets the opportunity, like when Adore talks about how Vivacious should go home because she doesn’t have the same eccentric, loud personality as the rest of the queens in her group. Bianca chimes in by saying its funny that such over-the-top personalities wouldn’t be able to win an acting challenge. Adore gets defensive and talks about how she’s not an actress, but Bianca tells her that if she’s so full of personality in the workroom, she needs to apply it to the stage. Bianca’s right and the only thing Adore can do is sit there and take those words to heart.

As I predicted last week, the younger queens have decided that there’s safety in sisterhood, and the group from the first week suffers because of this naïve notion. They’re drawing strength from a team mentality when each person should be trying to be their best individual self, and it lowers the amount of effort they put into the challenge. Granted, the other crop of contestants also latches on to a team mentality, but they arrive prepared and ready to work. After two episodes focusing on smaller groups, it might seem too soon for a challenge that splits the queens into two teams again, but it ends up working brilliantly to increase the overall drama of this season.

After the two groups come together and make their initial judgments, they have a photo shoot challenge that shows how much fun they could have by joining forces. Partnering queens from each camp together, the beach shoot has one person as the top of a body and the other as the bottom, which leads to some hilarious images like Dela’s petite torso rocking Darienne’s very plus-sized legs and Adore struggling to keep a straight face while Milk thrusts beneath her. Adore and Milk are the winners, making them team leaders for this week’s acting challenge, which forces the two teams to perform scenes from the ’60s and ’80s versions of the forgotten horror classic Drag Race Me To Hell. Both queens decide to go with the she-devils they know and pick all the queens from their initial groups for their casts, playing right into the producer’s hands to give the split-group conceit some extra momentum.


There’s no way for RuPaul to know that the leaders would pick the people they entered the competition with, but there’s a high probability that things would unfold that way, keeping the group rivalry alive even after everyone has been introduced. All the contestants are on an even playing field at the beginning of the episode, meeting as winners because they’ve all lasted to the second week, but by the end of “Scream Queens,” one group will have bragging rights and the added confidence that comes with the winning position. Last week’s episode made it abundantly clear that Team Milk is the stronger group of queens with more distinct personalities and sharper style, so it’s no surprise when they completely wipe the floor with Team Adore.

Adore is definitely the wrong person to be in a leadership position, and she fails from the very beginning, handing out roles without considering who would actually be right for the part. For example, the effeminate April is not the person you want to cast in the butch role, and because she doesn’t know how to do butch drag, April just decides to play boy, which is very awkward on camera. The big problem with Team Adore is that most of the queens are just really bad actors: Laganja commits to a strange accent that doesn’t work, Gia doesn’t commit at all (and has lashes so thick that they block the light, making her look like a creepy doll with no eyes), and Vivacious is generally clueless about her part as a decapitated head on a platter. Adore actually has talent, but she’s the most unprepared person in her group and doesn’t know her entrance cues or lines. It’s a shitshow except for Dela, who soars above the rest of her team with her perfectly campy granny character, doing much better work in the role than Milk.


Milk is actually the weakest link on her team, playing a character that reads more masculine than the rest of her costars. That seems to be Milk’s big issue at this point, and if she doesn’t come out with a very feminine look next week, it’s very likely she will be in the bottom. Trinity is worried about being on camera and having a lot of lines, but she ends up doing fine once she actually takes RuPaul’s direction and stops turning away from the camera. In an interesting moment of race politics during rehearsal, Bianca tells Trinity that instead of reading her lines with an ingénue character, she should have more attitude, which Trinity interprets as being asked to black it up and make it more ghetto. She thinks that’s not original, but the first personality she’s going for would not read as clearly on camera and sounds like it’s something Trinity has to try hard to manufacture. Bianca’s tip ends up being the correct choice, and if Trinity accepts the criticism from her teammates and applies it, she could get far. Unfortunately, I don’t think Bianca’s teasing will stop Trinity from being Beyoncé if she makes it to The Snatch Game, which sounds like a disaster in the making.

While Joslyn Fox is a pleasant surprise this week as she displays unexpected skill in front of the camera (both during the screen test and cutaway interviews, where she’s developing a very “Karen from Mean Girls” ditziness), it’s Bianca, Courtney, and Darienne who give the strongest performances, with the first two showing the power of professionalism in their flawless first scene. They look completely comfortable in front of the camera and understand just how much exaggeration is required to make the scene work (answer: a lot), and they have a natural chemistry that makes it seem like they’ve been performing together for years. Darienne has a small part so she knows she needs to take it way over-the-top if she’s going to get attention, and her head is so wildly expressive that she ends up being named the winner on the runway.


After they finish filming, the queens take to the stage in their best drag for the judges’ panel, which includes guests Lena Headey and Linda Blair, who are both clearly happy to be there but also nowhere near as entertaining or critical as Khloe Kardashian. (Lena Headey does have one outstanding moment of isolated applause that demands a .gif.) Overall, the looks are much stronger than what appeared in the first two challenges, and they better be considering this isn’t random shit the queens make themselves (although Bianca probably did make hers). Bianca looks like a Disney villain with her dramatic old Hollywood collar and hat, and her frenemy Courtney looks like she could be Miss Australia with her patriotic gown and impeccable hair and makeup. Darienne also rocks the hair and makeup, and the addition of a cape keeps her shimmering silver number from making her look like a walking disco ball.

Joslyn steps up her game to deliver fish with more taste than last week, and Trinity tones down the Phantom Menace influence to go for a more conservative, generic look that reads especially like Tyra Sanchez: The Sequel. Team leader Milk has the most questionable runway look as she embraces androgyny too heavily with a Pinnochio-inspired ensemble; doing a boyish look once is bold, twice in a row is foolish. This is still a competition for drag queens, so Milk needs to show the judges some serious female impersonation if she wants to stick around.


It’s very interesting to see Milk’s interpretation of club drag compared to Vivacious’ approach, which is inspired by Amanda Lepore, Lady Bunny, and Lavinia Co-Op and still stuck in a bygone era. In a red bodysuit covered in black spikes, Vivacious is the naval mine to Darienne’s disco ball, and while it’s definitely an eye-catching look, the judges also think that its dated and not very feminine. The combination of the runway outfit, a horrible performance on screen, and a lack of personality on stage ultimately lands Vivacious in the bottom.

In one of the episode’s funniest moments, Vivacious tries to defend her acting by saying, “In my defense, I have no theatrical background whatsoever.” Staring at a man dressed like he’s about to be used in a game of jacks, Michelle replies: “Uh…look at yourself. What you do for a living is theater!” Some of the queens aren’t aware that it’s a small step between playing a drag character and acting with scripted lines, and too many contestants on Team Adore decide that a lack of theater background means they’ll be able to get away with less that impressive material. As the epic silence from the judges after their video shows, they can’t.


Dela is the sole bright spot in Team Adore’s video, and the judges say that she would have won the challenge if she wasn’t in the losing group. Dela also impresses with her runway look, going for a much more sexy getup that shows more of her range as a drag queen while also maintaining her signature character. (Fanning the coochie on the runway is a great touch.) Adore gets ripped apart by the judges for dropping the ball as team leader by not thinking through the casting and not being prepared for the shoot, but her character on screen is strong enough that she ends up being safe. Gia and Laganja are also safe, although Ru makes sure Gia remembers that she had no technique on set and that her success is all because of the direction she was given.

The best runway showing from Team Adore comes from April, whose gorgeous ensemble makes excellent use of an umbrella with long blue tassels to create a high-impact visual. She’s a queen with a sophisticated fashion sense that beautifully balances campy audaciousness with beautiful feminine silhouettes, and it would be a shame if she went home tonight without showing off her full wardrobe. Her outfit isn’t enough to make the judges excuse her poor performance on camera and she ends up in the bottom with Vivacious, but she’s prepared for that scenario and comes prepared to fight when “Shake It Up” by Selena Gomez starts playing.


In Untucked, it’s revealed that both queens have the feeling they will be in the bottom, which explains why their lip sync has the intensity and passion that has been missing from the last two eliminations. April comes out on top by stripping down and turning up the sexiness, but Vivacious at least gets to leave the competition with a lip sync and a final look that embody who she is rather than the depressing performance she gave in the season premiere. There are no hard feelings with this elimination, and Vivacious leaves the show genuinely grateful for the experience to share her aesthetic with the world. She’s definitely a character, but she doesn’t know how to translate that character outside of a club environment beyond dressing the part. That’s not going to cut it on a show that has personalities like Bianca and Courtney and Dela, who don’t just have a look, but a natural charisma that makes them the center of attention.

Stray observations:

  • This week in Untucked: Exclusive clips of Milk getting called out for being one note and all the queens throwing Vivacious under the bus on the runaway. “Right now, I’m making my father very proud by sticking by hand in a big pink box.” Bianca thinks it is creamed corn in a diaper, and it is! #ShadyApes Trinity wants to kai kai with April and Courtney. Darienne doesn’t kai kai with other drag queens. “Apply it. Apply it to the fucking challenge, bitch. Don’t tell me about it.”
  • Drag Race fans need to do themselves a favor and listen to this week’s episode of NPR Monkey See’s Pop Culture Happy Hour, which features a revelatory segment about this show. I didn’t know these episodes are uncensored if you buy them online, and the quote, “This is a show you watch while you’re drinking, never when you’re hungover,” is basically the perfect tagline for this series.
  • Courtney having a joke ready when Ru asks about being the top or bottom shows how sharp she is.
  • Michelle stole Laganja’s collar from the first runway show and made it even more ridiculous.
  • Laganja’s runway hair is serving up Grease 2 Lorna Luft realness.
  • Alyssa makes her second commercial appearance this season in an Orbitz ad with Manila and it is a whole bit with lines and a story and everything. You go, girls!
  • “Laganja: Irritating. Young. Foolish.”
  • “I just got to hand this shit out like it was candy out of a piñata. Catch it bitch, ‘cause you’re getting the role.” Bad strategy.
  • “You bitches have been slain before.”
  • “Well just be sassy ghetto facing your camera.”
  • “I may actually pass out in this box. If Trinity continues to fuck up, I may end up punching her in her box. If she doesn’t stop. Fucking. Up.”
  • “I’m a good leader! I’m a libra!”
  • “When I walk into a club, all eyes are on me. You’re still that little girl in the corner, still trying to look like a lady.”
  • “Really bitch. Beyoncé is a hard one to do. You can dance it, you can lip sync it, but if you don’t really look like her…hmm. And let’s face it. Trinity looks more like Sammy Davis Jr. in a Beyoncé wig.”
  • “Oh I forgot, you’re not sensitive. You’re Beyoncé.”
  • “My best drag is Old Hollywood and I’m giving like a bitch that just buried her third husband.”
  • RuPaul: “Pinoochi-ho.” Michelle: “I don’t know, daddy. Geppet-ho.”
  • “Raggedy Ann sure grew up to be a slut.”
  • “Very ‘Game Of Cones.’”
  • “Do you think maybe it was in black and white because…it was the ’60s?” The producer is just great this season.
  • “So…you might want to think about things. Because there’s a game being played here.”
  • “Thank you, but I’m worried about you sitting so close to Michelle’s earring.”

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