The Winners Take It All (Stars)
Thoughts on RuPaul's Drag Race All Stars 7
SPOILERS AHEAD /// SO MANY SPOILERS AHEAD
Let’s get something out of the way right off the bat: I’m the biggest straight fan of RuPaul’s Drag Race not named Maddy Morphosis. I’ve seen every season of every incarnation of Drag Race domestic or international. I follow several Drag Race-adjacent YouTube channels, podcasts, and Facebook groups. I even gave Drag Tots a chance. Like any devoted fan, I will tell you that Drag Race España is the best in the franchise, Shangela and Jimbo were indeed robbed, and my head is so far complaint-free.
It’s the only reality competition show I follow and I do so because it is delightfully addicting. I revel in the subversive counter-culture elements while being amazed by the artistry and craftspersonship of it all. Each contestant needs to be a model, makeup artist, designer, tailor, actor, comedian, dancer, singer, choreographer, salesperson, impressionist, and do each of those things while having their testicles tucked into their inguinal canals. It’s not easy, and it’s certainly more entertaining to follow than sports or the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Disclaimer: I aim to provide my commentary in the most respectful way possible given my genuine appreciation for queer culture and the contributions of queer people to society, history, art, politics, science, and daily life. If anything I say is out of bounds, please let me know so I may correct the error and further my education.
This week, Drag Race All Stars is back with season 7 — the much-requested All Winners season. Eight previous winners of Drag Race and Drag Race All Stars are back to fight for the title of “Queen of all Queens” and a prize of $200,000 (upped from $100,000 because I assume inflation?). If Drag Race is my equivalent to the MCU, this is Avengers: Endgame. Let’s meet our contestants and I’ll share some thoughts on each:
Shea Couleé — Winner of All Stars 5
Shea Couleé is the clear-favorite to win the title of “Queen of all Queens” for the sheer polish, poise, and determination she brings to the competition. She has proven herself to be the embodiment of drag perfection and the cat-walking paragon of black excellence. The judges love her heightened sense of style, her rapid-fire rapping ability, and her commanding presence on the main stage. Even though she’s the favorite, this is All Stars and there will be pitfalls she must watch out for. She is no stranger to an unexpected upset, having been bested in Season 9 by Sasha Velour in the most emotional lip sync in the show’s herstory to date. How many variations of “I’m Shea Couleé and I came to slay” will we hear this season? Spoiler: a lot.
Jaida Essence Hall — Winner of Season 12
Jaida Essence Hall is my selection for the dark horse of the season. Season 12 was one of the best seasons of U.S. Drag Race in recent memory thanks to a formidable and diverse slate of contestants. With the COVID-19 pandemic shuttering production, Jaida went on to win in a season finale lip-sync filmed from her own living room. As such, she missed out on many of the perks of winning Drag Race. She has a lot to prove and we haven’t seen her at her full strength yet.
Yvie Oddly - Winner of Season 11
Yvie Oddly is the self-proclaimed “queen of the queerdos” known for her horror-inspired looks, nauseating flexibility, and cartoon villain cackle. Her Drag Race track record has been marked with staggering highs and deep lows — perfect for the chaos agent she strives to be in the competition. Since her season, she has moved on to record her own music and star in the RuPaul’s Drag Race Live residency show in Las Vegas. Did the rigors of the Vegas stage polish this diamond in the rough?
Trinity the Tuck — Co-Winner of All Stars 4
Known for her many surgical cosmetic enhancements, Trinity the Tuck is in one word “ferocious.” She is a no-nonsense, professional pageant queen with natural comedic instincts. She’s the complete package with an incomplete crown — she shares her title with the next queen to walk into the werk room. In Episode 1’s confessionals, she clearly states her objective: to earn her own rank. I’m sure she’s not the only one with this goal in mind…
Monét X Change — Co-Winner of All Stars 4
I don’t follow much of the behind-the-scenes drama, but when Monét X Change and Trinity the Tuck were crowned co-winners of All Stars 4 the fandom was abuzz with speculation. Why did they do this for the first time in Drag Race herstory? How do the co-winners feel about sharing the crown? Is there bad blood?
Let’s set this aside for a moment. Monét is an accomplished queen who is a true team player in the RuPaul universe. She hosts The Pit Stop recap show on the Drag Race YouTube channel and several of her own podcasts and other media ventures with Drag Race alumni. Will her relationship with Trinity be an asset for Monét or material for on-camera drama? There can only be one winner this season…right?
Jinkx Monsoon - Winner of Season 5
Jinkx Monsoon is a drag race legend known to everyone except RuPaul. The original dark horse, the narcoleptic queen from Seattle bested the Rolaskatox alliance and snatched the crown thanks to her old Hollywood aesthetic and genre-defining Snatch Game performance as Little Edie from Grey Gardens. She’s a swamp witch with arguably the most quantifiable talent in the roster, but will her time away from the competition affect her ability to play the very specific game Drag Race has become?
Raja — Winner of Season 3
If I were competing in Drag Race, “Roger” would frighten me the most. She is the original fashion queen with one of the strongest runway resumes in the biz. She is the face that launched a thousand drag queens but few come close to her level of power. It’s been a decade since her original season but, based on her entrance look alone, she has nothing to prove to anyone. I give her a “shoot.”
The Vivienne — Winner of Drag Race UK 1
The Vivienne is the only representative of Drag Race UK and perhaps the best suited for the task. In my opinion, she is the most polished media personality of the group, an easy selection to host the UK franchise should the vacancy ever arise. She’s also a gifted impressionist with a refined fashion sense worthy of her name. Since winners of Drag Race UK don’t win a cash prize, I’m secretly rooting for her to win it all and get what she deserved in the first place.
That’s all eight contesta…but wait, there’s one more? It’s part of an elaborate bit, but let’s highlight Raven anyway. Raven is the spiritual winner of Season 2 and co-host of Fashion Photo Ruview with Raja. Since Season 2’s winner Tyra Sanchez is persona non grata in the drag race world thanks to a combination of cyber-bullying fans, threatening other contestants, and sparking an FBI investigation with ominous messages about the safety of Drag Con, everyone is content to let Raven have the crown in our collective head-canon. While she would’ve been a strong contender, alas she is not part of the roster. I imagine she’s too busy being RuPaul’s personal makeup artist for such frivolities.
Because it’s All Stars and especially because it’s an all winners season, there’s bound to be a twist. No queen will be eliminated this season (how would they get them to sign up otherwise?). Instead, the top two queens of the week will each get a “Legendary Legends” star badge. The two will then lip-sync for a cash tip and the ability to block a queen from receiving a star the following week. At the end, the four queens with the most stars will compete in a lip-sync LollapaRuza smackdown for the crown. Confusing enough?
The first mini-challenge of the season is the fan-favorite Reading Challenge. At this point, I must insist that reading my Substack is also fundamental. You can subscribe for oodles of interesting writing every week with the click of the button below:
And now back to the program. The Reading Challenge is as great as you might expect given the caliber of the queens in this season and the familiarity each queen has with one another. While Jinkx is declared the winner, I remain partial to Raja’s minimalist approach that put all seven of her challengers in their place with one word — B-O-O-G-E-R-S.
Next, the queens are brought to the main stage where, like a deity descending from a purple cloud, Naomi Campbell appears and in turn each queen has a stroke. The queens are tasked with showcasing their own runway abilities for Naomi Campbell who will provide them with her expert critique.
It’s no surprise that Shea Couleé, the most Naomi Campbell drag queen not named Naomi or Tynomi, performs best in this exercise, but props are given to The Vivienne from her fellow countrywoman for the smoothness of her movements. It’s a fun challenge with a lot of tears and a lot of swagger, always a winning combination for Drag Race.
The maxi challenge of the episode is a choreographed routine to RuPaul’s song “Legendary” complete with original verses from each queen. Unlike other fans, I tend to dislike the musical challenges because they tend to descend into autotune hell. This one was no different, but the queens were able to deliver a professional product in a short amount of time (no small thanks to Shea Couleé taking the reins on the choreography).
Because we aim to keep this high-brow: didn’t Monét look like Scorpion in this challenge?! I can’t get that out of my head. Moving on.
Our very special guest judge of the episode is Cameron Diaz who has left retirement just long enough to introduce yet another RuPaul song complete with an animatronic replica of RuPaul (I think).
The runway theme is “She’s Crowning” and once again Shea Couleé demonstrates her mastery of the art form with Maison Valentino haute couture complete with prosthetic gauged earlobes. If there was any doubt she was a drag demigod, it quickly evaporated.
Shea faces off against Scorpion in a fever dream of a lip-sync to Ella Fitzgerald’s “Old MacDonald.” It was bizarre. It was camp. It was a little frightening. It was Drag Race operating in high gear which we haven’t seen stateside in a long time.
Shea wins and chooses to block Trinity the Tuck from winning a star next week. Like a chess player playing white, Shea’s first move on the board puts her at a clear advantage. Everyone else is now playing her game, unless they can turn over the board à la Bergman.
Paramount+ dropped two episodes of Drag Race All Stars on Friday because we apparently all needed 4 hours of drag. It would’ve been quite the slog if the next episode wasn’t “Snatch Game,” everyone’s favorite episode each season.
Snatch Game separates the drag wheat from the drag chaff. The queens who are able to deliver original impersonations that highlight their own talents while simultaneously making RuPaul laugh are set on the path toward the crown while those who falter inevitably crash and burn.
All Stars 7 is unique in that it has several previous Snatch Game superstars, including the previously-mentioned Jinkx Monsoon who was the first to take an obscure character and transform them into an icon. This time around, each queen must deliver two characters which is an intriguing test of their endurance and an opportunity to adjust should their first choice fall flat.
It’s no surprise that Jinkx dominates this challenge, delivering a Snatch masterclass with Natasha Lyonne and Judy Garland. Judy in particular commanded the camera and seemed to take the wind out of everyone else’s sails.
Judy also revived an interesting piece of Drag Race esoterica. In Jinkx’s original season, we met Dave, a gay Navy veteran entrusted to Jinkx in the makeover challenge. He reveals to RuPaul and the world that he believes he is responsible for killing Judy Garland as he provided her a bottle of military-grade sleeping pills prior to her death. While Jinkx’s Judy absolves Dave eight years later to thunderous laughter, I, for one, believe the issue needs further investigation. You’re not off the hook yet in my book, Dave.
I have a few more thoughts about the evolution of the Snatch Game format. First of all, I don’t believe TikTok stars are viable choices, at least not yet. Shea falters a bit with her first choice of Elsa Majimbo not because the character wasn’t funny, but because the TikTok format doesn’t completely mesh with the long-form improvisation that is Snatch Game. It’s easy to be funny for 15 seconds — can you keep octogenarian RuPaul entertained for a lot longer?
Also, I think that straight male character selections should be few and far between. Kennedy Davenport was the first to select a male character in Season 7 with her episode-winning Little Richard, the rock’n’roll pioneer who was as drag as they come. Since then we’ve seen a variety of unmodified straight male impressions including Bob Ross, Ozzy Osbourne, Lil Jon, and now Monét’s Mike Tyson/Martin Lawrence. While The Vivienne earned high marks for her tour de force Former President #45 and Shea with her woke-feminist Flava Flav, there’s just something amiss when that much testosterone is brought into the formula.
Speaking of unwelcome straight males, I should wrap this up. Jinkx and Trinity are the tops and Jinkx secures the platinum plunger, delivering it to Shea and blocking her from a potential star next week. The race is still in its early stages but Shea, Jinkx, Raja, and Monét are starting to pull ahead. How will this dynamic play out over the rest of the season? We’ll just have to wait and see.
That’s it from me! I don’t anticipate doing more of these or many more “recap” style posts in the future. It’s fun for me as it’s something that I spend an inordinate amount of time thinking about, but I imagine it would wear thin with you, the reader, very quickly.
If you want to see more Drag Race-related pieces or have your own thoughts about these two episodes, let me know in the comments. I would love to strike up a conversation.
Let the music play!