Photo: RuPaul’s Drag Race/YouTube
We did it. We have come to the end of this historic, surprising and fun season of all stars, and crowned an extremely deserving winner in the process. Nominally, this episode is billed as a tournament: a lip-syncing smackdown that will once and for all determine who becomes the queen of all queens (as well as the queen of She Already Done Had Herses). But in reality, the lip-sync in this episode seemed mostly ornamental. While the lip-syncs do nothing to change the outcome that many have been predicting for weeks, they also do nothing to diminish the great affection the queens have garnered from us over these twelve episodes. Let’s go.
We’ll start with the lower-stakes (though still successful) tournament for the queen of She Already Done Had Herses consisting of Jaida, Raja, Yvie, and The Vivienne. After Yvie’s rather indisputable victory over The Vivienne on Salt-N-Pepa’s “Push It” and Raja’s much closer victory over Jaida on Deniece Williams’ “Let’s Hear It for the Boy”, we find ourselves in the first of two evening finals. While the lip-sync so far has been perfectly fine, neither notable for crashes nor memorable for defining moments, this one is different.
About a quarter of the way through Eurythmics’ “Sisters Are Doin’ It for Themselves”, Yvie’s wig begins to slip back. It’s impossible not to notice the apparent mistake, until the inevitable happens: the wig flies backwards and hits the ground as a pissed off Yvie grabs the wig cap that’s been revealed underneath. Michelle’s mouth opens wide in dismay at this. drag race sacrilege. Wigs fly off? On All Stars 7? But suddenly, Yvie rips off the wig cap revealing… another wig underneath! The same as before, only in bright orange. More than a decade after this show debuted, it’s hard to surprise audiences — let alone the judges — anymore. But one thing I’ve never seen, on drag race or off, is a wig revealed in a wig cap in another wig revealed. It’s funny, it’s smart, and it’s very Yvie Oddly.
In the rest of the lip-sync, she’s no slouch either. She comes out of the towers and separates while Raja (beautifully!) touches next to her. But when the winner is announced, it is the Raja who reigns supreme. Is it surprising? Not particularly. Raja has been a fan favorite all season long, winning challenges and creating jaw-dropping parades, while winning legions of new fans with her show-stopping attitude and indifferent demeanor. Yvie, on the other hand, had fewer standout moments and (statistically) finds herself in last place heading into the final. However, if there’s one place Yvie shines, it’s in lip-sync, and she shines. So while it’s hard to be mad at Raja for giving her flowers for her incredible run this season, ending on that note feels a bit hollow. This is the first, but not the last, dubious judgment in this episode. In the second of our two finals, we have one last decision to make.
Jinkx Monsoon is undeniably an incredible drag queen. We knew that nine years ago when she first won, and she showed it again this season by winning half of the challenges awarded. Between the roast, his trademark challenge, his improvisational skills, and his Judy Garland Snatch Game (almost certain to be referenced for time immemorial), Jinkx dominated this season from start to finish. In fact, it is incomparable in most drag race skill set with only two notable exceptions: sewing and lip-syncing. So it’s somewhat unfortunate that the very last taste we get of her this season shows a skill in which she is severely outclassed.
When she lip-syncs with Shea to Lady Gaga’s “Judas,” I understand victory. While saying she “beat” Shea in this performance, Shea’s presence in the lip-sync doesn’t make one forget that Jinkx Monsoon has undoubtedly earned her final spot this season. But when Monét and Jinkx lip-synch to Katy Perry’s “Swish Swish,” it’s just not a contest. Monét’s rhythm is perfect: interesting lyrical choices, well-timed stunts, culminating in a simply irresistible plunge. Jinkx, while certainly not bad, just can’t compete, and the contrast makes the production machinations increasingly transparent. The camera hastily cuts out Monét’s stunts that steal the scene, and his precise, intricate hand movements are shot wide to minimize their effect. But all of this hardly convinces that Jinkx has the upper hand. It is strangely reminiscent All Stars 4where Monét again found herself in a Top Two lip sync and summarily outplayed the favourite, but failed to score a victory (solo).
On the one hand, I understand. After a season-long run, is it fair to deny Jinkx the win based on lip-syncing? Probably not. But also … you [points at World of Wonder] choose the format! The final episode could have been stump speeches, highlight reels, Tic Tac lunches, a music video, character-based scenes acting with RuPaul like on seasons 5-7, or any number of formats in which Jinkx would have excelled. And of course, there was no way of knowing that Jinkx would be such a fan favorite, or that the final four would consist of her and a handful of lip-synced assassins, but drag race is also no stranger to on-the-fly improvisation (look no further than last week’s three-star twist). But alas, the hindsight is twenty-twenty; my IMDb page consists of exactly zero Emmy-winning producer credits; and (at the very least) we’re treated to one final jaw-dropping lip-sync from assassin for the ages and runner-up Monét X Change. Life could be worse.
So some congratulations are in order. Kudos to the team that made it possible for contesting eight queens at the peak of their careers and convincing them to return for one last round. Kudos to the queens themselves for spending a Congressional bailout’s worth of USD to buy some of the finest costumes known to man and create a historic and unforgettable season of drag race. And, finally, congratulations to us, for having had the privilege of witnessing all this. I had a ball.
Until next time!