Possibly the best season since season 6 (spoilers ahead)
On Saturday I sat down to watch the finale of this season’s Rupaul’s Drag Race (RPDR for those in the know). Jaida Essence Hall was a deserving winner, although I would honestly have been happy if any of the top three won Rupaul’s one hundred thousand doulahs. Gigi Goode, Crystal Methyd and Jaida were some of the strongest finalists the competition has ever seen, all providing the charisma, uniqueness, nerve and talent needed to be America’s next drag superstar. During this season I laughed, cried and gagged at the drama, runways and confessionals. Was this the strongest season of RPDR to date? Let’s take a closer look.
Each year it seems like the queens are more and more prepared for the runways, and this year was no different. Apart from Aiden Zhane and her ever present pussycat wig, the queens showed versatility and creativity in all of the runways. The fact that “look” queens such as Dahlia Sin and Nicki Doll left the competition so early showed the strength of the runway this year. While there were some questionable looks (pretty much all of Brita’s runways), some of my all-time favourite looks from RPDR were from this season. Crystal turning Bert and Ernie into lesbians? Iconic.
Not only did the queens come prepared with looks this season, they also came with singing, dancing and acting abilities which would have made them strong competitors in any of the previous seasons. Throughout this entire season it often seemed like we were having to choose the least best to eliminate, with challenges like Gay’s Anatomy – which could have been excruciatingly long and painful – pulled off with relative ease by the cast. As always Snatch Game and the makeover challenge were my personal favourite challenges of the season. During the Snatch Game, Jackie Cox gave an amazing performance as Lisa Rinna and Aiden Zhane was an amazingly bad Patricia Quinn. As seen above, the makeover challenge was particularly strong, with all the queens making their superfans stunning. Previously this challenge has caused some queens to fall flat, resulting in some truly terrifying drag families. The fact that Heidi N Closet was in the bottom because her daughter actually looked better than Heidi herself shows the high standard of the season.
Nicki Minaj. Whoopi Goldberg. Robyn. All icons. All judges this season. The extra special judges this season really were extra special! From Jeff Goldblum crying watching two drag queens lip sync to Katy Perry’s Firework to a very confused Chaka Khan learning what a merkin is, the judges this year really brought an extra wow factor to an already strong season – providing a genuine enthusiasm for drag culture, insightful commentary and advice.
All three finalists were incredibly talented this year and it was hard picking a favourite to win. With Crystal bringing her avant-garde charm, Gigi being an all-round perfectionist and Jaida bringing all the elegance and beauty you would expect from a seasoned pageant queen, they really took the virtual finale in their stride. Despite having to lip sync from their own homes, the finale didn’t feel as awkward as I was expecting – due to the exceptional skills of RPDR’s editors, and the charisma of the cast. The new lip sync format which allowed each queen to choose a song themselves and create their own backdrop was fantastic. While I think we can keep the close-up lip sync in quarantine, I would like to see future finalists being given the opportunity to choose their own songs, as this format really showcased the queen’s individual drag styles.
This season has been heavily involved in politics, both intentionally and unintentionally. Before the season started, a dark cloud hung over the cast due to the actions of disqualified contestant Sherry Pie. However, instead of letting the actions of one queen take away from the achievements of the rest of the cast, the editors did a great job of quickly reducing her airtime within the show – even if it did mean that the narrative for some episodes did feel a bit confusing at times. The show also matched Sherry Pie’s prize money with donations to The Trevor Project, a confidential free 24-hour suicide hotline for LGBTQ youth.
Drag Race also intentionally launched itself into politics, ending every episode with a reminder to register for the election, and a song in the finale telling American viewers to vote. It featured Democratic politician Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez as a guest judge, and brought back the debate challenge, where contestants competed to be the first ever Drag President of the United States. The Stars and Stripes runway also brought up political debate and controversy, with Widow Von Du in a gown inspired by the Black Panthers and Jackie Cox in a hijab based on the American flag. This led to a controversial exchange between Jackie and Jeff Goldblum when he asked if Islam was inherently sexist and homophobic. However, this question did allow Jackie to explain that while Islam and drag culture is “a complex issue”, the outfit was important as it “really represents the importance that visibility for people of religious minorities need to have in this country”.
While RPDR has always been political by its very nature and has never shied away from sensitive topics, this season felt increasingly aware of its own political nature due to the upcoming Presidential election. Not only did the contestants use the platform to raise issues around race, religion, nationality, sexuality and gender, the format of the show itself actively encouraged its viewers to think critically about the American administration and to mobilise its young viewers into voting. By not hiding its political agenda, this season has been particularly interesting for viewers as we watched the show navigate cancel culture, Trump’s administration and, of course, coronavirus.
This season has been a bumpy yet thoroughly enjoyable ride, complete with a talented cast who would have all placed highly in any other season. With Ru herself declaring the top 6 queens some of the best the show had ever seen, its not hard to see why I fell in love with this season. All of the queens brought their own charisma, uniqueness, nerve and talent to the competition and left us with some stunning looks, relatable memes and an unexplainable aversion to broccoli. In the words of our reigning queen…
LOOK OVER THERE!