“She done already done HAD herses!”
… and we’re back. Season 8 of RuPaul’s Drag Race begins, right off the top, with acknowledgement that this is the 100th episode and, coming up, we’ll meet the 100th drag queen. I’d have been happier with a longer retrospective package but I suppose there was just so much show to get to…
Keeping with tradition, we open immediately with an introduction of each queen this season:
Naomi Smalls, who says she’s “legs all the way up to her asshole.” Her name came from Naomi Campbell and Biggie Smalls, and she's obsessed with 90s supermodels.
Cynthia Lee Fontaine. From Puerto Rico but living in Austin. It’s all about the "coocoo" apparently. She said it twice in the intro.
Dax ExclamationPoint. Inspired by superheroes, “strong bitches who don’t take crap from anybody else.”
Naysha Lopez. Super cute as a boy, if I say so myself. “The most important element of my drag has to be… appearance.” We see Naysha is also from Puerto Rico and so her and Cynthia trade hugs. About Cynthia: “you don’t really understand what she’s saying but you don’t really care.”
Acid Betty. Her drag style is “completely over the top, a drug trip without the drugs.” Referring to herself: “She’s a bitch, even Bianca [Del Rio] won’t fuck with her.” That’s the sort of thing you say only if it’s really happened. LOVE!
Robbie Turner, emulates “old classic Hollywood, Rita Hayworth hair, Jean Harlow robe. Gorgeous.”
Kim Chi. Describes herself as “crazy over-the-top pure anime fantasy.” To the camera she warned “donut come for me cuz I’ll destroy you" and held up, literally, a donut. A groaner of a joke, yes, but she found it so delightfully hilarious that I couldn't help but laugh too.
Thorgy Thor. Phyllis Diller in drag, if that's even possible. Said she's “colorful, fun, I’m a fashion clown.” Is it just me, or does he look like Skippy Handleman from Family Ties?
Bob the Drag Queen. He said: “my drag is funny, it’s irreverent. What you see is what you get. I’m hilarious, beautiful, talented, and humble.” She mimicked a butterfly stroke across an empty work table and I fell in love. Hugs all around for Thorgy and Betty, an NYC trio.
Laila McQueen. Described herself “a whorey blazè rock star, I don’t wanna say gothy but… gothy.”
Chi Chi DeVayne. “My drag is that real Southern dragged out style of drag.” The realness is real.
Derek Barry. “I’m a Britney spears impersonator. I would love to believe I’m the best Britney in the world. That’s what people say.” I saw that and thought, Michelle's gonna tear her to shreds, every single week.
The first episode mini challenge is a photo shoot with previous season winners Bebe Zahara Benet, Tyra Sanchez, Raja, Sharon Needles, Chad Michaels, Jinkx Monsoon, Violet Chachki. Added Ru in the introduction: “Bianca Del Rio couldn’t be here so we just hired a circus clown" and literally some random clown sat off to the side of every photo. You can't help but wonder if Bianca ditched them all and this is Ru's way of, you know, making things right.
Each queen took her turn individually sitting in, each one of them draping an oversize sofa, leaving space in the center for the competitor to stand. RuPaul: “We’re gonna find out if you have what it takes to stand out amongst greatness.” Added the photographer: “We’re looking for that spark of individuality to see who knows how to get their cream to rise to the top.” I fell in love more with Bob the Drag Queen, as well as Acid Betty — easily the two breakouts from this season already — and cringed a little bit watching Laila McQueen and Thorgy struggle to find their place.
For the maxi challenge on the runway: “each of you will be assigned a legendary design challenge from a past season.” For some reason Robbie Turner was ‘randomly’ chosen to assign the looks for each queen. She chose:
Naysha: Drag on a Dime
Naomi: Pride Floats
Acid Betty: Money Ball
Cynthia: Sugar Ball. The show is barely a half hour in and she’s referred to her “coocoo” five times now.
Chi Chi: Glitter Ball
Thorgy: Cake Couture
Kim Chi: Hair Ball
Dax: Hello Kitty Couture
Bob: Gone with the Window
Derek: Queen who Mopped Xmas
Robbie: ended up with Bitch Ball. “Can you believe I forget to pick a theme for myself?” he said.
No. I don’t believe it.
In the werk room…
Naomi complained about having to build a pride float, due to the weight and that it’ll obscure her legs.
Derek wanted to hold on his “Britney vibe” and add to it. “I think a lot of girls are not gonna think I can do anything else. And maybe the judges even.”
Naysha said she’s a pageant queen and has never created an outfit before. She’s a former Miss Continental, which most agree is quite prestigious.
Bob the Drag Queen: “there’s two breeds of queens. There’s Halloween queens and then there’s pride queens. I was a pride queen. Yeah, I started drag on gay pride wearing a shitty potato sack and a wig from who knows where…”
Acid Betty: “Brooklyn drag is unpolished and hairy, so I try to elevate myself and shave my beard.” The cutaways to Thorgy — a Brooklyn drag queen — appear to be clipped in out of context, but for entertainment value they totally work. Also: Thorgy is Skippy Handleman.
Laila rambled, took a stab at some cattiness, and RuPaul said, “you seem a little shy.” She acknowledged it. She’s 22 and it shows.
Kim Chi: “I’ve been doing drag for 2 and a half years. My family doesn’t know that I do drag. My mom thinks I’m a make up artist. Growing up I always felt like I could never be the model child that all Asian mothers want.”
After the runway, it appeared Acid Betty stood a chance to win this episode but in the end it was Kim Chi. Carson Kressley said to her: “you were giving me this cowardly lion anime ferociousness. It totally worked.”
Bottom two was Naysha (“this is actually the first garment I’ve ever made. I don’t really sew. I felt like it was wearable and I got the challenge down”) and Laila (Carson: [her look was] “like Wynonna Judd opened the oven too quickly and got burnt on the outside”)
To my eyes, it seemed clear Laila was on her way out. Yeah, Naysha didn’t shine but Laila consistently underperformed, from the photo shoot to the werk room and then (though not quite so much) on the runway. Until it was time to lip synch for her life.
Skippy Handleman said (in voice-over): “Laila is giving you sex on a stick, it’s awesome. She’s looking so good right now, throwing her body all over the floor.”
Naysha couldn’t stop swinging her arms around and grinning obnoxiously, like a cheerleader. Or that guy outside at the airport who directs airplanes into the gate (sans the grin, yes).
And so Naysha went home, becoming one of … well, eight, now, who we’ll all see again at the finale and think, “Oh YEAH, I remember her,” but we kinda won’t really.
RUPAUL'S DRAG RACE recap: "Keeping it 100" (season 8 episode 1)
RUPAUL'S DRAG RACE recap: "Bitch Perfect" (season 8 episode 2)
RUPAUL'S DRAG RACE recap: "RuCo's Empire" (season 8 episode 3)