RUPAUL’S DRAG RACE recap: “Born Naked”

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The wait is over! For how many months now have we known that our own Jaidynn Diore Fierce would join the cast of the world's draggiest drag race? And now it’s here. This is really quite exciting.

First, some housekeeping: a little while ago we at O&AN lined up our in-house humor columnist Amy Sulam to cover the play-by-plays for each of these episodes. Just this past weekend, though, a family emergency came up and so I want to wish Amy and her family only good things as they navigate this difficult time. We know she is a committed fan of the show so we can all rest assured that we’ll be in good hands when she returns. Until then, you’re stuck with me.

Let me start here. I LOVE me a drag show. I can still remember wasting time just outside the doors to the showroom at The Chute because the music was far too loud inside, waiting for the show to start.  Y’all remember the Rainbow Room, right? How it sat dormant an hour before the show started, so much that you’d wonder if maybe it was canceled or postponed or something until, not five minutes before showtime, everyone – EVERYONE – raced in there. Let’s all take a moment now and consider how awesome Bianca Paige would’ve been on RuPaul’s Drag Race. *sigh*

Okay, let’s begin.

The premiere episode opened with introductions from each of the contestants. It’s not entirely clear just who they’re talking to when they enter the WERK room, throw out a one-liner and join the others. If I was in charge, I’d have had them look straight into the camera and talk directly to all of us at home so we can see for ourselves immediately who’s the real deal.

Nobody really turned my crank with those intros — Jaidynn notwithstanding, of course — but I will say that Kandy Ho’s introductory line to Tempest DuJour (“How old are you?”) did immediately put Tempest in an underdog situation. Jasmine Masters adulation of Kennedy Davenport was really sweet and genuine. In fact, it got me wondering if Drag Race producers were trying to stack the deck the same way it appears they’re doing on The Voice with the country singers these past couple seasons. You know what I mean: where they bring in someone who’s already been performing professionally for years and make them act like they’re not as well-groomed.

For season 7 they did away with the mini-challenge, at least on this episode, and went straight to the runway where each queen had to look into their own closet and come back with one piece of drag from their “spring collection” and one from their “fall collection.” This was around the time my partner, Derek, sat down beside me on the couch. He’s not much a drag fan, having spent nearly all his life out in the country where the drag shows are — believe it or not — a bit difficult to come by, and so I figured he’d be worth a few good non sequiturs.

“No one’s better than RuPaul,” he said, acting as though he’s familiar with any other drag queens anywhere ever. “When she’s all done up, she’s HAWT.”

I will say this right now. I don’t understand Max. Throughout this entire episode, I think she wore one thing that I could comprehend, but otherwise I was completely in the dark. That get-up with the crutches near the end of the episode? What the hell was that?! I mean, I’m all about art and making the audience work a little bit to figure things out, but I just didn’t find a point of connection.

Jaidynn's really got quite a smile. It just sweeps you away. So does Jasmine Masters. That tiny little waist and enormous, toothy smile. By the time they were done modeling their spring outfits, I was firmly on Team Jasmine. But my lover wasn’t.

“Problem is, she looks like a man,” he said.

And then the Fall outfits came out. Lover was particularly vocal during this part. Some highlights:

On Trixie: “I don’t like her make-up.” Trixie, you’ll note, is one of those whose drag is more comical, more performance than anything else. Derek clearly lives in a world where, if you’re doing drag, you’re doing it ONLY to look as passable as a woman as possible. Don’t’ worry, though. We have an entire season to train him.

On Pearl: “I do like that look.” It was a straight black sweeping number, if you’ll recall, and she was wearing that large headset, too.  It was the one where the judges said, “she looks like a lady DJ.”

On Kennedy Davenport: “Lover, she’s the only one that… there’s no man there. Like, with every other one you can see some man but that Davenport… whoo! She’s all woman.”

I suppose now is as good a time as ever to point this out. Are Kennedy Davenport and Phaedra Parks from Real Housewives of Atlanta the same person?!

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After the runway, back in the WERK room, the queens all got to meet with RuPaul and learn about the second challenge of the episode, which is to create a resort-wear look that tears away to reveal a nude illusion. This is when the buck naked Pit Crew arrived. Let me admit this now: I’m not a seasoned Drag Race fan, so I don’t know if the Pit Crew is a common thing, but I do know that if they brought these guys back every single episode, at least shirtless, I’d immediately be a diehard fan. My lover, too.

“Oh!” he said. “What’s going on here?! Are they naked?”

“Yes, Lover,” I said. “They’re naked.”

“That. Is. Nice,” he said. “Especially that red-headed guy. Whoo! Is there an unedited version of this show online somewhere?!”

In the WERK room we learned that Tempest is a costume designer who auditioned a few years ago when he was “just under” 400 lbs. At this point, you get the feeling the producers want you to develop some emotion toward this person, that he/she’s gonna be a fixture this season. If you haven’t watched the episode, don’t hold your breath.

RuPaul chats up a couple other people: we learn that Trixie’s partner’s family doesn’t like him doing drag, there’s a montage of them all putting on makeup, and then we’re off to commercial.

“I can’t believe they didn’t show the wieners,” my lover said. It took me a moment to realize what he was talking about. By this point it had been at least 15 minutes since the naked Pit Crew exited the scene and everyone moved on. “I want to see their wieners.” Yes, he was still talking about the Pit Crew.

Here we meet the judges: Michelle Visage, Carson Kressley, Ross Mathews and, as a guest judge, Kathy Griffin. We’d spent the previous weekend during the Oscar preshow discussing Ross’ fluctuating neckline – I think you know what I mean – and by now we’re all used to seeing Carson’s lips, so we were about ready to immediately get to business.

A quick summary:

Tempest’s nude revealed some sort of golden crab belt that was just dumb. The judges noted that everything she wore throughout the entire episode was ill-fitting, especially given she’s a costume designer

Trixie Mattel wore a tennis outfit that, given her schtick was really great.

Max walked around holding in each hand crutches, these arm braces that made absolutely no sense to me. It must have completely flown over my head but nobody called her on it.

Jasmine envisioned herself a butterfly stepping out of a cocoon, an idea that really must’ve worked in her head when she dreamed it up. On the runway, it made no sense. She looked like she shed a life-sized tie dyed condom.

My lover regarding Sasha Belle: “so far I’d vote for that one to go home”

Kandy Ho: there’s something about that tear-away that I loved. I mean, I blinked and looked again. It was working.

Jaidynn: that was quite a cape. The smile was magic. Clearly this wasn’t going to be her stand-out episode. She didn’t do anything wrong, mind you. Aside from the tittie-bounce (see photo, above), she didn’t really stand out much this episode.

Chachki looked like Katy Perry. It made me uncomfortable. That’s probably a good thing.

During the commercial I turned to my lover. “So…” I said, “You have a favorite new show?” He grimaced. “We’re gonna shower together tonight,” he said. “Just so you know.” I still have no idea what he meant by that.

The judges identified Katy Perry… uh, Violet Chachki the winner and narrowed the losers down to two: Tempest (who lost 200 lbs but can’t make good clothes even though he’s a costume designer) and Kandy Ho (the can’t-sew Puerto Rican who, according to Michelle Visage, “looks like you literally contoured on a beard”). It was time for them to lip synch for their LIFE!!!

As they danced, I got to wondering if Kandy’s attitude had been an issue all along. Yes, the beard was abrasive, and it couldn’t possibly have been intentional, but I didn’t think her runway was all that bad. Her attitude could’ve been better, I suppose.

You remember that season of Celebrity Apprentice where Arsenio Hall won? And how much he hated Aubrey O’Day? Aubrey was awesome on that show but, we all came to find out later, she was really quite insulting toward Arsenio off-camera. I wonder if that’s how Kandy came across to the editors of Drag Race (the editors, by the way, deserve Emmys. This show is tight!).

Lover looked at me and said, “When they lip synch … for their LIFE … do they all just happen to know the song, or are they given it to rehearse in advance?” Clearly we were both pre-occupied by more important things.

When they finished dancing, RuPaul said, “Ladies I’ve made my decision” and, under his breath, my lover said, “… it wasn’t even close.” Ru told Tempest it was time to go and Kandy ran to the other queens, safe for another week.

And right before RuPaul was about to say it, my lover — who’d convinced me he’d never watched this show before — whispered, “Sash-uh away.”

I blinked and looked over.

“It’s sashAY, Lover,” I said. “SashAY away.”

It’s gonna be a long season.

 

 

See also:

RUPAUL'S DRAG RACE recap: "Glamazonian Airways" (season 7 episode 2)