by Todd O'Dowd
Last week, during my post on the Steel Magnolias remake, I hinted that I would be announcing the latest show to get my jaundiced-eye take. And after the slow march that was Project Runway, I figured that we all needed a palate cleanser. And what better way to cleanse our palates than with a huge shot of opulence.
And so, I say to you all… Gentlemen, start your engines!
Yes ladies, lady boys, and gentlemen, boys and girls and gurls of all ages, the most glamorous show in the history of television is back! And (to quote dear Shangela) I for one am saying “Halleloo!” For those who have never seen RuPaul’s Drag Race before, the concept is pretty simple. It is a search for “America’s Next Drag Superstar” that is equal parts America’s Next Top Model (with RuPaul as Tyra Banks) and Project Runway (with RuPaul as both Heidi Klum and Tim Gunn). It’s a yeasty mix of glamour, drama, camp, shade, and fabulousity that is fun for the whole family (GLBT or otherwise)!
But do not get it twisted folks; this is not the official fifth season of Drag Race. This is a one-off special event. And what an event it is! Of late, most all star seasons of reality TV shows don’t live up to the hype in the casting (I’m looking at you Project Runway All Stars). But this cast is stuffed from top to bottom with Charisma Uniqueness Nerve and Talent. And while there are some casting choices that make me scratch my head (see below) and while there are some queens that I wish were cast (Ongina and Dida Ritz being just two), you can not deny the talent among this cast. I mean, just look at this group:
Included in this gathering are all four of the queens that came in second in their seasons, all four “Miss Congeniality” winners, and with three exceptions everyone cast either came in second, third, or fourth place in their seasons (as for the other three – two are considered some of the most talented of the comedic queens the show has seen and the third is probably the single most popular queen in the show’s history).
So to gear up for Monday Night’s premiere, let’s take a look at the ladies in question, and assess their chances of being crowned Queen of All Queens…
Starting from the upper left then:
•Tammie Brown (Season 1, 8th Place): One of the most original (and weird) queens in the show’s history, Miss Tammie (with an I. E.) never really got her due on the show, nor did she get to show off her impressive comedy chops. An odd choice to come back but a welcome one. In fact, one of the great shames of the first season was that the legendary “Snatch Game” challenge wasn’t around for poor Tammie to kill on.
•Alexis Mateo (Season 3, 3rd Place): The Puerto Rican Barbie showgirl has returned. I’ve always had a soft spot for Alexis and thought that the judges (Michelle Visage in particular) rode her pretty hard. Here’s hoping she gets the respect she deserves.
•Pandora Boxx (Season 2, 5th Place, Miss Congeniality Winner): Of all the queens in the show’s history, no queen is more beloved – or got screwed over the most on the show – than Pandora Boxx. The best of the comedy queens (her Carol Channing impersonation during the first “Snatch Game” is really what made the challenge so popular), Pandy was also ridden hard by the judges for her fashion sense (Santino Rice in particular). That said, if anyone got hosed more on the show (and deserves a chance to win), it’s our girl.
•Yara Sofia (Season 3, 4th Place, Miss Congeniality Winner): Yara’s looks are often way out there but you have to give the girl credit for putting strong looks together. It will be interesting to see how she handles some of the other girls.
•Shanel (Season 1, 4th Place): Speaking of strong looks, the original showgirl from Season 1 is back and here’s hoping she’s not as full of herself as she was during her season. That said, she has a lot to offer having talents beyond her amazing make up and costuming skills (you will all recall that the bitch juggled while walking the runway without missing a step).
•Raven (Season 2, 2nd Place): An understandable choice. Raven is one of the most polished queens in the show’s history with amazing transformative skills and real stage presence. In fact there are many people who thought that Raven should have won her season. The fact that she can be an utter pain in the ass is merely a side note.
•Chad Michaels (Season 4, 2nd Place): Polished, Poised, Professional… Chad is a legendary queen (her Cher impersonation alone during Season 4′s “Snatch Game” is enough to earn her a place in the history books) with strong looks and a winning stage presence. There are many who feel that she would have won her season had the winner not been in her way (then again, losing to Sharon Needles is nothing to be ashamed about).
•Mimi Imfurst (Season 3, 11th Place): Can we say “cannon fodder?” Yes, Mimi is a funny queen and was in the top three in the challenges before she was eliminated, but there’s no subtlety or nuance to her drag, and her sense of humor is more of the “late night at a bar” kind and not as evolved as say Pandora or Tammie.
•Manila Luzon (Season 3, 2nd Place): An “of course” choice. Ms. Luzon, originally from Minneapolis, has great looks that manage to combine glam and camp, and a great stage presence, but she’s not as funny as she thinks she is. Her attempts at comedy can fall flat, and her attempts at throwing shade often devolve into cruelness. I wonder how she will fare against truly witty queens like Tammie, Pandora and two others coming up.
(Side note: My heartfelt condolences to Manila on the passing of her partner (and fellow Drag Race alumna) Sahara Davenport, one of the top lip syncers in the show’s history. In fact when I heard the show was announced, I had hoped both Manila and Sahara would have been on as it would have provided a very interesting dynamic to the show as they both would be competing against each other.)
•Jujubee (Season 2, 3rd Place): Another “of course” choice for many reasons; not only is she talented, not only can she throw shade for days on end (it was her performance in the reading mini-challenge that cemented it in the show’s history as one of the most eagerly awaited challenges), but she is arguably the single best lip syncer in the show’s history. (This isn’t hyperbole, she proved it when she came to town to perform at the Saloon last March.)
•Nina Flowers (Season 1, 2nd Place, Miss Congeniality Winner): Not only the best of the genderfuck queens but one of the most versatile queens in the show’s history, Nina is extremely well-rounded with amazing looks, absolute charm, and a sly sense of humor. No other queen is more admired and revered by Drag Race fandom than Nina.
•Latrice Royale (Season 4, 4th Place, Miss Congeniality Winner): Hands down the most glamorous and most charismatic of all the bigger girls in the show’s history, Latrice has a fantastic sense of humor, a true sense of elegance, and true star presence. Many people felt that she deserved to be in the final three of her season. Hopefully this season will rectify that.
Again, this cast is filled top to bottom with the four tenants of a true Drag Race star: “charisma, uniqueness, nerve and talent.” For once, it literally could be anyone’s game. This could be one of the best seasons of the show’s history.
RuPaul’s All Stars Drag Race debuts tonight on Logo at 8 pm! And of course, I will be watching and covering it for The Idiot Box. So let’s gather around the television for the opulence, the eleganza, and the extravaganza! Not a bad way to spend a Monday night, no?