Wow! What a premiere! The eagerly awaited 12th season of RuPaul’s Drag Race did not disappoint. A shake-up of the format, a fantastic guest judge and a fierce and fascinating cast of queens made this one of the best premieres we’ve seen in a while and left me wanting more. Let’s take a look at the top ten highlights from this episode.
As the queens enter the werk room, giving some of us our first opportunity to see and hear them (and their potential t-shirt-worthy catchphrases). From memorable to forgettable, here we go.
Brita, the self-professed “Queen of New York City,” clad in leopard print with pink accents and clutching a martini glass, asks, “Y’all thirsty?” before chugging the drink. This “Polynesian princess” is giving us a double shot of charisma, uniqueness, nerve and talent from the get-go.
The melody of an accordion, instantly evoking the streets of Paris is heard and in walks Nicky Doll in a black and white striped mini dress and a cute red hat atop her raven hair. Her entrance line: “Well, that was a long flight.” Coming to New York by way of Paris, Nicky tells us she’s serving fashion, not splits and jumps, or, as she put it, ”Glamour without breaking my hip.”
Enveloped in black sequins, lace and feathers is Widow Von’Du from Kansas City, Missouri (not Kansas, someone alert the president.) Her entrance line: “Relax your throats bitches, because you’re gagging.”
Jackie Cox comes skipping in, declaring, “Roll call! I’m Jackie. Salaam, the Persian Princes of drag has just arrived!” Jackie is a self-confessed “Middle Eastern nerd” and describes her aesthetic as the “Persian Annette Funicello (hence the greeting, the outfit and the wig which is definitely giving me 1950s Mouseketeer vibes. The front of her dress even has her name, “Jaqueline,” in Farsi.) Love.
Heidi N Closet enters and exclaims, “America, it’s time to stop hiding in the closet,” and then makes a weird, extended tongue trilling sound (it’s indescribable, really.) She also went the pastel animal print route with a pink zebra print dress. Heidi is from Ramseur, North Carolina and loves her dress’ “leprosy” print. I sense this is the second coming of Chi Chi Devayne. Anyone else?
Gigi Goode comes out in a gorgeous Colonial-era captain costume, complete with a telescope and tri-corner hat. Stunning. This fashion queens from Los Angeles greets the room with a simple “Ahoy.”
If you aren’t a fan of clowns, you’re going to hate Crystal Methyd’s entrance look. She bounds in and asks, “Who’s ready to party and play? Checkers anyone?” She’s working a bright green clown ensemble, which prompted Nicky to declare that “Michelle Visage’s nightmare just arrived.” Crystal says she’s a “devil who likes to raise hell in the Bible belt” from Springfield, Missouri. Side note: mullet alert. Widow noted that it’s no longer just the season of NY, but “the season of Missouri.”
New York, LA…North Carolina and Missouri. Interesting mix. All in all, this is a solid group of queens, and I can’t wait to see what happens.
Gigi’s Mom has got it going on
After 11 seasons, the queen should know they’re going to have to put their sewing and garment construction skills to the test. And, it appears that Gigi is the early favorite to sew up the competition. Her mother (her bio mom who is also her drag mom…technically…) is a theatrical costume designer, who taught her how to sew, so I cannot wait to see what else Gigi has up her well-tailored sleeves.
The Lucky Seven
So, there are only seven queens in the room. Ru appears on screen and tells the queens that, “Whether you’re part of the lucky seven, a baker’s dozen or a manage a trois, I’m looking for that bitch.” Boy Ru (in a fabulous red hat) tells the queens it’s a year of “life-changing choices” and that there’s a “crowded field of candidates” campaigning to be the queen who saves the world, so because of that, there’s not one, but two premieres this season and these dolls are the “lucky seven” to go up first. We will meet the remaining queens next week. I support this new format, as it really gives us a chance to get to know the queens a little better from day one.
The mini-challenge brings it to the runway
Ru quickly goes into the mini-challenge (another thing I liked about this episode – it really moved along at a great pace and didn’t lag.) He announced that it’s Fashion Week and the queens have to walk the runway in two looks – one from the spring collection and one from the fall collection. On the faux Fashion Week runway, our spectators are Michelle Visage, Carson Kressley, Kim K and Kayne impersonators (played by Kimora Blac and Mayhem Miller!) and the wonderful Raven, who is completely wasted here. I guess you can’t have it all.
For the Spring collection, Brita was gorgeous in an aquamarine gown with a tulle train. Nicky wore a violet fantasy, to which Michelle quipped, “she’s Lilac-tating.” Widow was in a Missy Elliot-esque neon, neoprene track suit with a chartreuse bikini top underneath. Jackie Cox (or “Emilio Hoochie”) had dark Barbara Eden as Jeannie-esque hair and a Pucci print mini dress with sparkles. She said she was serving “retro glam, Jackie-a-go-go.”
Heidi glides down the runway in a pink top and diaphanous watercolor pastel print skirt with a towering hat that escapes her head before she can leave the runway, but Heidi, showing what a trouper she is, continues without missing a beat.
Gigi rocked a pastel motorcycle jacket and pants combo with a matching helmet and a yellow wig. She described her look as “Easter Sunday at the trailer park,” adding, “I just joined a lesbian motorcycle gang.” Crystal came out in a red floral print, flared leg jumpsuit and a huge purple wig, pointing out that she was “intentionally overaccessorized.”
On the fall runway, Brita worked an Ursula-inspired wig and “oil spill realness” with a dark blue corset/half black latex creation, accessorizing with a single opera glove. Nicky gave us a fierce Gautier/Lagerfeld tailored menswear look. Widow came out in a beige gown with a huge red wig. She had our first reveal of the season, as she removed the skirt to reveal pants and a peplum corset top. Her outfit wasn’t all that, but it did inspire the best (Pose-inspired) comments from the judges…well, from Ru. He said Widow was “Mother of the House of La Beige-a” and gave her “Tans, tans, tans across the board!”
Jackie came out in another fabulous 60s-inspired “old school” look with brown pants, a print top and yellow coat with sparkling accents. Her hair was in a stylish bouffant with a yellow head wrap. Heidi wore a bodysuit in a colorful peacock-ish print with some extra wide hip bustles
Gigi, all legs and a cinched waist that rivals Violet Chachki’s, gave us a look described as an “average, everyday BDSM horse jockey.” OMG. love it. That waist. Crystal’s look is “Freddy Kreuger but make it fashion” – and it works. She created the look with a cool, asymmetrical striped sweater and bandages for hair, complete with a trick or treat basket.
Good start, dolls. Good start.
Parlez vous Nicky?
The queen who is most likely to give the best confessionals is Nicky. She says Heidi is a combination of “Mayhem Miller and a ‘lemurian’”(she meant lemur.) Later, when talking about Jackie’s quite lovey physique, Nicky said she now knows where all of that “hoomas“ goes…she means “hummus.” I love her already.
** Fun random fact: We discover that Crystal has a tattoo that says One Direction in Arabic, because she didn’t just want everyone to know she’s a 1D fan.**
Over the last few seasons of Drag Race, Ru has brought diva power to the premiere episode with the likes of Lady Gaga and Christina Aguilera. This season, Mama upped the ante with Nicki Minaj – and she made an unforgettable entrance. As Ru’s entrance music kicked in, instead of Mama Ru, Nicki sashays down the runway in a lacy, skintight red gown and a flowing red wig. She announces, “Welcome to the main stage of RuPaul’s Drag Race” and then is told by Michelle that she came in through the wrong door. Nicki demurred, “Did I? I mean, I came in where the queen was supposed to come in through.” After being corrected, she joked, “Please don’t tell me I did something wrong. I don’t want to get in trouble by Ru!” (Side note: Ru hit the runway looking breathtaking, as always.)
As a judge, Nicki gave honest, relevant feedback on the queens’ looks and their raps. She particularly loved Gigi’s rap and particularly disliked Heidi’s hair and makeup. (And ALL of the judges hate her drag name.) When asked if she had a verse she could contribute to “I’m That Bitch”, Nicki delivered a fantastic rap that she apparently composed on her smartphone while in the studio that day. I liked Nicki’s music coming in but didn’t really have an opinion of her one way or another before this episode. Now, I am definitely a fan.
**Fun fact: Nicky Doll admitted that she named herself after Nicki Minaj.**
The Queens Rap
The mainstage challenge for the queens this time is to compose their own verse for the soon to be rap hit “I’m That Bitch” and the queens had to determine who did the choreography for the group. We don’t see much of the songwriting process and I’m totally okay with it. Gigi, who is this season’s Scarlet Envy and Brita, slowest dancer of her group the other dolls appoint Widow and Heidi as choreographers. There ends up being too many cooks in the kitchen and Widow bows out but fears she’s going to get thrown under the bus.
The end result is a little messy choreography-wise, but the raps themselves are pretty great. Brita’s was fierce, Crystal and Jackie brought the funny, Gigi added some (unexpected) comedy, Heidi did some impressive acrobatic dance moves and Widow did the splits and a backbend. Although she was a little stiff during the dancing, Nicky had an amazing voice. Every time they cut to Nicki Minaj, she either had her jaw dropped in awe, was smiling from ear to ear, or was singing and bopping along with the song. Drag Race has really upgraded its musical game. On the UK season The Frock Destroyers had an actual chart hit with “Break Up, Bye-Bye” and this version of “I’m the Bitch” as well as Mama Ru’s are now available on iTunes, so maybe we will have a stateside drag queen hit as well.
All That Glitters on the Runway
The category is Sparkle, and the queens brought some dazzling looks to the runway. Brita was dressed all in white – a mirror-covered jumpsuit with a peplum. Crystal was in a red sequined devil look, complete with horns. Gigi had a glittery lime green jacket and pants with a black latex top – and another helmet, this time covered in black stones. Heidi was in a full-length gown dripping with stones and featuring a plunging back. Her short, platinum bus driver wig was not well-received by the judges, especially Carson, who quipped that seeing it reminded him to buy some ramen noodles. Oof. Jackie was serving full Valley of the Dolls in a sparkling peignoir and 60s perfection hair. Nicky rocks a black leotard with a beautiful collar made of silver feathers and crave-able black over-the-knee boots. Widow has on a Judy Jetson-inspired white dress with pink accents that Ru equates to the architecture of the Sydney Opera House.
A Day Without a Sashay
As Ru declares one girl after the next safe, I don’t know about you, but I was worried about the fate of the lovely Gigi Goode and the lip-sync assassin, Widow Von’Du, who were the last two not declared safe. Ru pulled a stunt and declared that they were the top two of the evening and that no one was going home. I’m personally glad, as I wasn’t ready to see any of these girls go.
Lip Sync for the Heck of It
Even though there’s no elimination this week, there still needs to be a lip-sync to give us all life. And of course, when Nicki Minaj is the judge, you better believe the queens are lip-syncing to a Nicki song – her hit “Starships” (which will get into your head and never leave. Believe me.) Gigi and Widow give it their all, both with distinctly different styles, but both incredibly entertaining. While Gigi leaned into a more comic performance, Widow tore up the stage with a reveal, lots of jump splits and acrobatics and even a little contortion. Ru looked very pleased as she announced that Widow was the winner, earning a $5,000 “tip” for her efforts. Oh, and it was also nice to see an extended lip-sync performance. Let’s do this every week. Ru reminded the queens that only one queen can win the whole thing and that there are more competitors to come. Dum-dum-DUM!
**Props: At the end of the episode, there was a lovely tribute to the late Jaqueline Wilson, a producer on the show who passed away last year.**
And so, we wrap up the first week of RuPaul’s Drag Race. We meet the rest of the competitors next week – will they deliver the goods as well as the first batch of queens? Until next Friday…
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