RuPaul’s Drag Race
Henny, I Shrunk the Drag Queens!
Ladies, we’ve almost made it. We’re deep in the dénouement of season 13 and nothing can stop us from crawling over that finish line to the grand finale. No, not even Colin Jost. While this week’s acting challenge is all about shrinking, the episode itself is, ironically enough, all about growth. (Also, don’t tell me that’s not what irony is. I don’t care!) Without further ado, let’s talk about each of our lovely top five queens.
On the one hand, we have the growers of the season: Gottmik and Rosé. Gottmik came into this season, by her own admission, hiding behind her signature makeup. A few weeks ago, Gottmik explained that while drag was a powerful creative outlet for her, the idea of doing “female impersonation” has caused her a not insignificant amount of dysphoria. So, to combat that feeling, she adopted her signature clown-white face. But over the course of the season, Gottmik has realized that her drag has much more depth than she allowed herself to explore. She arrived a fashion girl, and over the course of 13 episodes, she’s become a roast girl, an improv girl, a snatch game girl, and even a dancing Russian bot girl. The competition has allowed Gottmik to flourish, and it’s been a true pleasure to watch. Gottmik hasn’t quite accumulated the trophies that Symone has this season, but she’s still quite the force and this episode is no exception. Gottmik breaks out her Paris Hilton vocal fry for one last hurrah and uses it to serve a thoroughly entertaining performance in this lengthy acting skit. Her Oscar-worthy scene comes from her pained yet sexy tickle fight with a fake giant cat paw. (Love when I get to type sentences like that.) But her most iconic moment this episode is her ode to the sundial guy from the Hercules movie on the runway. It’s campy, it’s well-executed, and, as usual, stunning. The judges love her, we love her, and Gottmik heads to the top four in a very enviable position.
Then we have Rosé, who’s had a great couple of weeks as well. When she first entered this competition, the Drag Race fan base seemed to think Rosé was all bravado and unbalanced pirouettes (which might be bizarre to New York drag fans, who know her as the silly drunk queen with unbalanced pirouettes). Rosé attributes this mindset to a fear of how she’d be perceived by fans online. (Why?? We’re so kind!) But once she began to let go of that anxiety and chip away at that perfectionist exterior, we began to see a softer Rosé. As she so eloquently puts it: “Bitch! I’m just having fun now.” In a way, this episode is the culmination of that journey. It’s notoriously easy to lose the plot in these lengthier Drag Race acting challenges. Between the high-concept, convoluted scripts, and a cast full of drag queens trying to outshine each other, the entertainment value of the piece as a whole tends to suffer. So it’s refreshing to watch Rosé weaponize that B.F.A. for the forces of good, choose not to be a scene stealer or chew the scenery, and act in service of the sketch itself. It pays off for her, of course, and she claims her second win of the season, coming into the top four episode with perhaps the most momentum of any other queen.
If Rosé and Gottmik are the growers of the season, that makes Symone and Kandy … the showers. (I’m so sorry.) Kandy came into this season a hilarious, confident, loud-mouthed diva, and Kandy ends this season … a hilarious, confident, loud-mouthed diva. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing! Kandy’s reputation as the charismatic firebrand of season 13 has earned her praise for her comedy, for her ability to read Olivia and Denali for filth on the runway, and even scored her a challenge win. But as entertaining as she’s been, this consistency is a double-edged sword. Just like most swords. When a challenge doesn’t call for the signature Kandy Muse persona or the judges just aren’t vibing with it, Kandy falls, and falls hard. Unfortunately, today’s episode falls into the latter category. Kandy has historically not been shy about pushing for the part she wants in a challenge, and usually she has a good eye for it. But in today’s challenge, Kandy pushes for the maniacal villain. It’s a plot-heavy role, and one that doesn’t play at all to Kandy’s strengths as an ad-libbing scene-stealer. The judges are disappointed, and they drag her particularly fiercely for her runway (which I did not mind nearly as much, for the record). Of course, a little criticism isn’t nearly enough to break Kandy’s spirit, and she claims a decisive victory in her third lip sync of the season, officially earning her a spot in the top four.
Next up, Symone, another queen who hasn’t seen much in the way of growth this season. Then again, where is there to “grow” when she started off the season with two challenge wins and runways that made headlines? However, Symone’s Achilles heel remains her “inner saboteur” (a French term that of course means “broken carburetor”). Symone rarely falters, but when she does, it’s always a result of escalating negative self-talk that causes her to get in her own way. Mood! In this way, tonight’s episode was quite the fake out. Before the runway, Symone has a truly heartbreaking, vulnerable moment in the confessional chair, where she explains how badly she wants to do well and make the House of Avalon proud. While moving, it also stirs up unpleasant flashbacks to last episode, where a similar meltdown resulted in Symone lip-syncing for her life. Luckily, Symone’s talent wins the day this week (as it usually does), and she actually ends up with some of the highest praise of the night. My blood pressure hasn’t yet recovered, but safe to say I’m relieved!
And finally, Olivia. Not a grower, not quite a shower, but more of … a fizzler. On the runway, Symone lays out the narrative clear as day: “Olivia has more growing to do.” Olivia peaked early by out-lip-syncing Rosé in the premiere then claiming two challenge wins in a row for the discomentary and Bossy Rossy reboot. (The latter I still disagree with, but I digress.) Since then, it’s been downhill for Olivia. She’s had negative critiques almost every episode since her last win, and tonight marks her second foray in the bottom two in three weeks. Drag Race is a marathon, not a sprint, and it seems Olivia didn’t have the stamina or experience to keep pace when the competition whittled down to this group of veteran queens. The judges are beginning to sound like a broken record when it comes to Olivia, explaining that her positivity shtick really isn’t giving what she thinks it is, and it’s time to break out of that box. But this time, it’s too late. Olivia gives an admirable lip sync this week to Cher’s “Strong Enough,” but she’s edged out by Kandy, and so her journey to the crown ends here.
Top four! Top four! After three months of consecutive Drag Race, we finally have ourselves a well-rounded quartet of queens. Personally, I will be shouting #TeamSymone from the rooftops for the next two weeks, and I encourage you all to join me. See you soon!