As always, the season starts with a pan of the empty RuPaul You Betta Werq! Room. I feel a glow of nostalgia looking at all the hot pink worktables. This leads into an opening show ritual, an extended sequence where every queen, dressed to impress, makes her separate entrance. This gives us all a chance to meet them on their own terms.
Detox Icunt is the first, wearing a striking yellow-and-black outfit. She calls herself a Queen Bee (yellow and black, get it?) and lets us know she can act, sing, rap, and dance. Roxxy Andrews enters with very big hair. She describes herself as a pageant girl. (Note: Pageants are a large part of the drag world.) Jade Jolie says she is “serving up fish.” Which means that she can pass for a girl offstage as well as on. Serena Cha-Cha lets us know that she is just out of art school and her focus is on Drag as Art.
Alyssa Edwards sets up a dramatic storyline by calling herself the “Vanessa Williams of Drag.” Like Ms. Williams, she lost her pageant crown (Miss Gay America) in a scandal. Kooky Jinkx Monsoon follows, stressing her Seattle roots. She is quickly followed by Penny Tration (who won her spot on the show by online fan votes) and Vivienne Pinay, who is nothing right now but young and fishy.
Alaska Thunderfuck removes a horse mask upon entering. She is the S.O. of Sharon Needles, winner of Season 4. She also has the distinction of most applications to the show, having submitted her audition tape for every season (and then some). She brags about making her outfit from trash.
Honey Mahogony is stunningly tall in a white and silver pantsuit. Ivy Winters notes that she makes costumes (sewing skills are de rigueur for this competition). Monica Beverly Hillz is very reminiscent of past contestant Dida Ritz, wearing shorts and a halter top. She describes herself as “ghetto” and “banjee.” (So that’s what banjee is.) Lineysha Sparks is the requisite Puerto Rican queen. As with prior PR queens, she is gorgeous and claims to have mad sewing skills.
Finally, we have Coco Montrese, in leopard print. This is the queen who replaced Alyssa as Miss Gay America after the scandal. There is a little eye-rolling between the two, but that’s it. So far. Obviously this “feud” will unfold later. Nice of the producers to set it up in the casting instead of making the queens work to create a mid-season dramatic blowout from scratch.
The queens get their first She-Mail, which is a video message from RuPaul in full lady drag, welcoming them to the show. RuPaul then enters in boy drag to tell them about the prizes: A lifetime supply of Color Evolution cosmetics, a trip from Al and Chuck Travel.com, the headline spot on the Absolute Tour, and $100,000. Cheers all around!
Now we get the first challenge! It’s always a photo shoot under impossible conditions. This one will be done in a huge fish tank. It’s especially horrible, since the water wreaks havoc on their carefully coiffed wigs, ruins their make-up, and pushes their skirts up to reveal exactly how tight their tucks are. (Note to all contestants, you better tuck!)
Almost everyone struggles with the task. Jinkx loses her contact lenses. Alaska’s dress falls apart completely. She gets so frustrated that she leaves halfway through. But Lineysha earns marks for her dancer-like grace, and Coco’s outfit works well, even in water. Detox is amazing. Nothing on her is affected by the water, not even the feather on her hat. Not surprisingly, she wins the challenge.
The next day, the queens assemble for a bus tour of Hollywood. This becomes a video of a RuPaul song, complete with cameos from upcoming guest judges (I spotted Janet Jackson, Chaz Bono, and Aubrey O’Day). Product placement is a grand tradition of the show and nobody does it better than RuPaul. Prepare to hear a lot more RuPaul music during the season.
They stop at a fashion boutique (I think it’s Marco Marco), and are greeted by Camille Grammar (of Real Housewives fame). She directs them to a “V.I.P. entrance,” which leads to an alley filled with dumpsters. The queens are given one minute to dive through the dumpsters for fabric and accessories. (Note to producers: One minute ups the stress/drama factor, but it’s not really enough time to get good footage, is it?)
The queens tote their treasures back to the work room and get started on “Hollywood Red Carpet couture” outfits. They also remove their drag, leading to the revelation that Roxxy wears a special make-up dress, and that Alaska is… shall we say well-endowed.
Coco and Alyssa start a little drama as Coco warns Jade that Alyssa trying to score some of Jade’s red sequined fabric. Jade gamely provides her own trash talk, whispering that Alaska is “a bad Sharon (Needles).”
RuPaul enters in Tim Gunn mode. He speaks to Serena (who describes her outfit as “soft sculpture”), and blinks worriedly at Alaska (who describes her dress as plastic wrap). He admonishes Alaska for giving up on the photo challenge and urges her to go for it all every single time.
When RuPaul asks Coco about the “Alyssa situation,” Coco brushes it off. Roxxy informs RuPaul that she’s lost seventy pounds, and Penny (the other “big girl”) explains to Ru that she designs her clothes to minimize her figure flaws.
After Ru leaves, Alaska gets questioned by Alyssa on her relationship with Sharon Needles. Alaska says that they fought viciously after Sharon was cast, but that she wept with pride when to see her boyfriend on the show. Alaska admits to being insecure. She’ll be devastated if she ends up going home first.
Meanwhile, Serena is getting on everyone’s nerves by singing loudly and bragging about her age (21).
Suddenly, we’re on the runway. RuPaul appears in a stunning gown the color of an Icy-cold mint. Regular judges Michelle Visage (astonishingly not a drag queen) and Santino Rice are joined by guest judges Mike Ruiz and Camille Grammar.
The standouts of the runway are Roxxy (with daring hip cutouts in her costume), Ivy Winters (a vision in hand-sewn red chiffon), Alaska (in tropical blue-green), and Lineysha (who has fashioned an extremely structured purple-brown ballgown).
The bottom three queens are Jade, who covered her standard red sheath with the NBC Peacock logo (Girl, don’t you know what network you’re on?); Penny Tration, who has padded herself into a very awkward silhouette; and Serena, who, frankly, looks like a hot mess. The “soft sculpture” skirt just is a powder-blue barrel around her hips and the top looks like a ladder made out of glittery-green duct tape. Santino is disturbed by her make-up and tells her she looks someone took her head and placed it on a different body.
Roxxy wins. She receives a gown from Marco Marco and immunity on the next elimination.
Jade is called safe, but with a warning. “Edit!” thunders RuPaul in her best schoolmarm voice.
Serena and Penny lip-sync to “Party in the U.S.A.” Serena has an obvious advantage, as it’s a young person’s song. But it gets worse. Penny keeps turning her back on the judges, a trick to hide the fact that she doesn’t know the words to the song. That sort of dodge will not fool RuPaul.
Come back tomorrow to find out who stays and who sashays! In the meantime, post your reactions to the show below!
Link to the online episode: RuPaul’s Drag Race: Episode One
RuPaul decides to send Penny Tration home. The fan favorite fall early, alas for democracy! But Penny is upbeat and knows her family is proud of her. You are ALL stars she writes on the make-up mirror as she leaves the Werk Room.
Link to the online episode: Untucked: Episode One
RuPaul introduces the backstage show, calling himself “Laura Linney” in a funny Masterpiece Theater parody. He calls it literature and proceeds to make a lot of “reading” jokes. (Note: In the Dragverse, to “read” someone is to blatantly insult them.)
In the Interior Illusions Lounge, the “safe” queens start out with a round of cocktails and dish on those remaining on the runway. They decide Alaska must be one of the bottom queens. Alyssa thinks Serena will join her there. They all gossip about Serena’s “tuck-chasing” during the past couple of days. Alyssa calls it “clown (bleep)ing.” Apparently, that’s a Texas term.
They all predict that Roxxy will win the night. Monica credits Roxxy for getting her through the runway, by advising Monica to “own” her admittedly lame outfit. Monica admits to being insecure, saying “I’m my worst enemy and that’s how I ended up on drugs.” The queens immediately flip from snark mode to support mode and give her a pep talk.
One note: Coco is killing me with her sitcom faces!
A video from RuPaul directs them to move into the Gold Lounge, where they find more drinks and a “big furry pink box.” This leads in a video peek at their fish tank photos. Laughter and snarking ensues. Alyssa headtalks that Coco’s picture is the worst she ever saw. Jinkx called herself “straight up dead prostitute in the Hudson River.” They toast themselves as the “fishiest season ever!”
Meanwhile, the top and bottom finishers enter the IIL. Serena whines about her critiques. As she does so, she brushes a lock of hair out of her face, nearly knocking off her wig in the process. Yeah. Busted.
Cut to the Gold Lounge, where Alyssa tries to dish on Alaska. Detox speaks up for the absent Alaska and calls Alyssa out as an asshole.
Back to IIL. All three bottom queens know they’re in danger. Roxxy (who is not only the winner, but extremely winning in her headtalking dish interviews) calls Penny and Serena as those up for the lip-sync. Jade agrees, claiming that she could at least defend her look to the judges.
“What is> your look?” she asks Serena. “I’m still trying to figure it out.”
Serena spits out a few unrelated concepts: “pouffy, big side hips, crinoline… not necessarily Victorian… spookish, whitish hair…. you know what I mean?” Roxxy hides a laugh behind her glove. Lineysha just looks bored. (She may be missing the conversation– PR queens often admit late-season that they are seriously handicapped working in an English-language environment.)
Roxxy read Alyssa for copying others when putting together her outfit (which I have already dubbed “Raven-lite”). Alaska says that Alyssa does that because she lacks vision and needs to get inspiration from others.
“That’s why she’s safe,” Penny declares. “I’d much rather be read the house down and be lip-syncing for my life, than be mediocre!” Like a magic word, this summons the safe queens to the lounge.
“So I’m mediocre!” huff Jinkx, as though that’s something actually worth fighting about. Dramatic music plays us into the commercial as everyone shuffles to a seat and arranges her red carpet train.
After commercial, Penny repeats the copying charge against Alyssa. Coco joins in and Alyssa alllllmost mix it up, letting us know that this tension will boil over… later in the season.
And with that, we get a mini-recap of the lip-sync and put down our vodka cocktails for the night.