It’s almost as though RuPaul knew Drag Race fans weren’t going to sit still for how All Stars 3 went down. Because we’re moving into season 10 of the main competition without so much as a week off to ruminate on Trixie Mattel’s victory. But, really, let’s take a disco nap-sized moment to unpack, because count me among the many drag justice warriors calling foul on Shangela’s behalf. Unless her reputation among queens is truly Valentina-level bad, there ain’t an edit in the world that could’ve justified her getting only one lipstick-pull at the climax of last week’s finale—and from Thorgy Thor, of all queens, the only one with a justifiable ax to grind against Shang.
That’s not to knock Trixie, whose win cements her status as the queen with the most improved record since her first appearance. Or Kennedy Davenport, whose case for being an underrated overachiever actually says a lot about the politics of the drag circuit amid radical mainstreaming. But Drag Race is first and foremost a meritocracy, or at least plays as such on TV. And in the immediate aftermath of All Stars 3’s last-minute blackballing stunt, it’s fair to question whether the series itself even remembers that.
The answer, squirrel friends, is blowing in the wind as the queens of season 10 rush through the doors of the newly refurbished workroom. Season eight’s demarcation of the 100th queen contestant came just as the series briefly looked as though it was running out of fumes, with fewer contestants and the general perception that season seven had been a comparative disappointment. (I’m still trying to figure out how a season that introduced the world to Katya, Trixie, Kennedy, Violet, Ginger, Jasmine, and Pearl, gave us a John Waters reenactment challenge, and featured the infamous conjoined twins who LSFYL Katya immortalized as “Ginger and Sasha are giving themselves a mastectomy and Tempest and Jaidyn look like Larry Bird and Raven Symone permanent butt-fuck position” could ever be called a disappointment.) So it’s no surprise that Ru, fresh off her second Emmy win, would take the opportunity to meta up her dekalog and, once again, showcase the show’s sizable cultural footprint. Marvel Universe, Schmarvel Universe. We’re living in the Ru-niverse.
As always, first episodes are all about introductions, so without further ado, a look at the playing field:
Eureka O’Hara: Oh wait, we’ve seen her before. Yes, last year’s loveable plus-size queen from the Deep South is back with Ru’s blessing. In real life there are no second chances, or second hairstyles, because Eureka’s still rocking the Big Boy coif. She started out season nine guns-a-blazin’ for drama but picks up this season where she left off: humbled, fragile, and feeling all of the emotions. She has fan favor on her side, but as her first workroom look indicates, she’s got her protective armor up for all the newness this season is bringing.
Asia O’Hara: Quote Eureka O’Hara upon meeting Asia O’Hara: “Oh, I know you.” Apparently the “pageant O’Haras” are a different family entirely. Asia may be dripping in Texas fringe, but she’s a sleepy cowpoke to start off.
Miz Cracker: Not sleepy in the slightest. The first of what ends up being five New York queens walking into season 10, Cracker gets a lot of mileage out of the double takes her name gets from, predominantly, the black queens. And the head games don’t stop there. Her performance in the main runway challenge this week is a study in, well, being well studied. “I saw myself as this tragic figure,” she explains. “What was the tragedy, a fisting accident?” Ru asks. “There are no accidents in fisting,” Cracker retorts. Salty.
Yuhua Hamasaki: Clearly, RuPaul pronouncing this Chinese (not Japanese) queen’s name on the runway will be one of the ongoing gifts (not .gifs) of the season. She doesn’t win points for originality with her play in the “drag on a dime” runway challenge, but she makes yellow caution tape look like the right balance between couture and fetish that this challenge embodies. New York queen #2.
Blair St. Clair: Is anyone checking IDs at World of Wonder? Some 12-year-old snuck onto the set. She still has some of her baby teeth.
Monét X Change: New York queen #3, and would seem a lot like Bob the Drag Queen if she hadn’t come off so thuddingly literal-minded about her runway look in the accompanying Untucked episode. Lets the world know that she’s single in her introductory video, so the thirst is real.
Kameron Michaels: And look who’s here to quench that thirst. Billed as the “first muscle queen” (girl, please!) and quick with jokes about trying out for the Pit Crew (RuPaul, please!), Kameron is so far much more fun for viewers (and competing queens) to look at out of drag than in it. Strapping, tattoo-bound, and for sure a future Ginch Gonch spokesmodel, Kameron is sure to please any Drag Race fans who thought either Milk or Pearl were the best in their respective seasons.
Mayhem Miller: From the same house that gave the world Morgan McMichaels, Raven, Detox, and Delta Work, Mayhem enters the competition pre-tenderized by all those years of not getting selected by Ru’s robotic claw, as well as the pressure of living up to the legacies of her impressive drag sisters. In a sense, she’s going to take the baton from Kennedy Davenport’s All Stars 3 run, because she needs this one bad.
Kalorie Karbdashian Williams: Not afraid to wear Big Girl-ness on her sleeve, her thigh, her name, and her one-liners. Kalorie’s already crowned herself the “twerk queen.” Cynthia Lee Fontaine’s cucu was, at press time, unavailable for comment.
Monique Heart: Monique comes in singing what sounds like Bebe’s verse from “Drag Up Your Life” and tosses off what is, by far, the best reaction to Miz Cracker’s name. So, in a nutshell, she’s my early favorite. Also, she’s probably getting set up for the same illogical “don’t let us catch you showboating, now” arc that Bob the Drag Queen suffered, because she’s absolutely in the right for questioning how her playing-card fantasy didn’t end up among the night’s top outfits.
Dusty Ray Bottoms: New York queen #4, and from the same house as Alexis Michelle. Gets read pretty quickly on her fondness for beating her mug with the drag equivalent of chicken pox. Also, Sharon Needles called and wants her witch’s hat back.
The Vixen: Drag queens that begin their names with a definite article don’t usually last terribly long on Drag Race. And is there a law somewhere that says Chicago queens have to literally wear their city’s name as a costume? She says she’s known for wearing “political art,” but she’s serving tourism-board realness today.
Vanessa Vanjie Mateo: A true question mark. She’s a descendent of Alexis Mateo, one of the show’s all-time sweethearts, but marches into the room sounding like Vivacious leaving an angry voicemail. Why so mad? We’ll never find out, unfortunately, because she ends up the first queen to get booted after losing the LSFYL to Kalorie Karbdashian Williams.
Aquaria: “Five New York girls!” Apparently Miz Cracker and Aquaria’s names get jokingly interchanged in New York, which seems racist but whatever.
It’s too soon yet to tell whether this year’s crop is a bumper or a bust, but in the wake of All Stars 3 and the recent, format-shaking move to VH1, season 10’s first episode spends most of its time going back to its roots, and double-underlining it. “Drag on a Dime” was the show’s very first challenge, and this episode’s mini challenge tasks the girls with stomping the runway amid an audience entirely made up of past Drag Race participants. (That there’s a mini challenge at all is in itself a return to the show’s roots, from which recent seasons have strayed.) But truly, the only way to let season 10’s contestants embody the show’s legacy is to respect it by playing the game and respecting the rules. Halfway through the workroom footage, Miz Cracker is shown looking through a book she keeps of all her make-up looks. “So that I remember who I have been, when I don’t remember who I am going to be,” she explains, and at this point in the season, at least, the show is doing the exact same thing.
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