Hey… sorry about the lack of recaps this season. Word to the wise, don’t plan on doing recaps during the same time as your senior thesis. Anyway…
The ninth season of RuPaul’s Drag Race had a considerable amount of buzz going around it. With All Stars 2 just before it, there was a lot of hype as to which Queens would rise to become the next big characters. Who would be our next Alyssa Edwards? Our next Katya? Our next Alaska? While I can’t say for certain who will take these places, I can say one thing for sure.
It aint going to be any of these hoes.
There’s a multitude of reasons why season 9 just didn’t work: boring challenges, lack of originality, and an overall sense of trying way too hard, and yet not trying enough. That being said, like in most reality shows, the real killer to this season was the cast. While in theory everyone on this cast fits a typical season, the lack of conflict and delivery was what sent what should be a good cast of Queens spiraling in mediocrity. With no where else to go, it’s time to rank these Queens, and see how they stack up overall.
And speaking of mediocrity.
14. Sasha Velour (Winner)
Without a doubt. no one brought down the joy of season 9 more than Sasha Velour, the biggest wet blanket in Drag Race history.
The first three episodes are the best episodes of Sasha (because she hardly appears in them), but the raging monster of milquetoast got her first true moment soon afterwards. When Eureka made a joke about her not having an eating disorder, the behemoth of bland came out and said arguably her most iconic line.
Now, of course, I’m not trying to deny Sasha’s eating disorder, or say that it wasn’t a struggle. I believe her when she says she still struggles with that. What’s shady, however, is how she weaponized it.
Sasha isn’t stupid, she knew talking about her issues this way would get her not only air time, but that said air time would be positive. She deliberately framed herself as a wounded gazelle, taking surely the 90th joke Eureka told that hour, and used it to ensure that she would get some werk room air time.
This line, and the following conversation afterwards, are a perfect cornerstone of Sasha Velour as a character. Everything needs to be nice, neat, and unconfrontational. Sasha took the tried and true tropes of Drag Race, and used them to her advantage.
When I started this list, I wanted to ensure to emphasize at least one notable, awesome moment for each Queen, to show that I’m not trying to be bitter. With Sasha, however, I couldn’t. Ask yourself, aside for killing fun that one episode, can you think of a single noteworthy line Sasha has all season? Can you think of any of her catchphrases? Can you think of any moment during the entire season where Sasha wasn’t just a background character?
Sasha is lame, but more than that, she’s unoriginal. As much as she may brag about her signature style being “Art”, none of her runway looks were impressive or amazing. Everything felt like it was just edgy enough. Sasha’s looks weren’t just constructed in the literal sense, but also the metaphoric: how could she make a costume that could be called art but wouldn’t ruffle any feathers?
And this is where we come to the main issue with Sasha Velour: she has no character. Sasha is basically what would happen if a group of marketing execs came together to create a Drag Race contestant.
“Well, team, we have this typical look inspired by the rainbow pride flag. However, fans might consider this boring? What can we do to ‘jazz’ it up without going too wild?”
“Let’s add a house underneath the hat!”
This kind of logic can apply to any look she wore this season. Sasha is just “kooky” and “edgy” and “art” enough to be seen, but to still be digestible for the typical American viewer.
Sasha Velour fans are quite content with the contrived and the mediocre.
My ass watching Sasha Velour.
And yet, despite everything, Sasha Velour is probably the best representative of season 9.
I’ll get more into this at the end, but needless to say, season 9 was an absolute bore. Most of the season felt like it was going through the motions, trying to be as predictable as possible. The first real, amazing moment of the season didn’t happen until over half way in.
Trust me, we’ll get there.
So how appropriate, then, for Sasha Velour to win. A season that shows Drag Race without any bite, any gull, and left it as a meandering, brainless zombie should be won by the Drag Queen embodiment of Styrofoam. If it was up to Sasha Velour, werk room scenes would be everyone shutting up while she talks about obscure gay culture.
The thing is, I understand where Sasha is coming from. Sasha is nervous of being presented as a villain. As we saw with Phi Phi, this can have lasting repercussions on your career. In theory, I get it, Sasha didn’t want to be hated. The problem is she overcompensated so much she dragged the rest of the season down. I can’t blame anyone but her for why this season was so damn lame.
13. Cynthia Lee Fontaine (10th Place)
Hey guys, Cynthia is back! Aren’t you excited?! No….
I question the choice to bring Cynthia Lee Fontaine back for this season. Despite being a third boot, she was still popular enough to win Miss Congeniality, and overall, she left season 8 with a high.
She had no where to go but down.
Unlike Sasha, I don’t think I’ll need to justify my distaste for Cynthia this season. A little bit of cucu goes a long way, but unfortunately she gave us way too much. Cynthia exploded in a million cucus, making sure you knew damn well what her catchphrase was.
If anything, this season did show us that, unfortunately, Cynthia isn’t this hidden gem gone too soon like some thought she was in season 8. As sweet as she is, Cynthia can be on a hundred seasons of Drag Race, and she’ll always be an early boot.
Cynthia seems like an incredibly sweet person, but she also was clearly someone not made for reality TV.
12. Shea Couleé (3rd/4th Place)
Remember what I said about Sasha? How she was a boring Queen who dragged the season into mediocrity?
Well, put the same thing here for Shea.
AAAHHHH!!! THE EVIL TWO HEADED GIANT!!! THEY’RE GONNA BORE US TO DEATH!!!
I’ll at least give Shea that her outfits are better constructed, her confessionals are overall better, and she didn’t feel the need to have a pretentious pick for Snatch Game.
However, saying you’re less boring than Sasha Velour is not really an accomplishment.
Shea is in the same boat as Sasha: both boring, overtly positive Queens who stole the show with their own brand of bland Drag.
And sadly, I fear she’s going to win the inevitable All Stars 3.
11. Kimora Blac (13th Place)
Kimora Blac is the dumbest contestant in Drag Race history.
Thank god for her not knowing basic grammar, because otherwise, Kimora Blac is your typical, Serena Cha Cha-esque early boot. She’s bitchy and makes shady comments, all of which are great in theory, but you can tell she didn’t have the longevity smarter, shadier Queens had before her.
And hell, she didn’t even call anyone “ghetto.”
Of course, I know what people are going to say, “Kimora isn’t that dumb, it was all an act.” To which I say, why would you want this as an act? In the long run, you’re going to just be remembered as that one early boot who made dumb comments. I mean, if Kimora put on a character for the TV, I’m fine with that, but my point is, how much smarter is it to pretend to be this dumb than actually being this dumb? I’m just saying, Kimora made a complete ass of herself.
No matter how you slice it, Kimora Lee Kardashian sets the benchmark for how dumb someone on the show can be, a benchmark I don’t see being surpassed anytime soon.
10. Jaymes Mansfield (14th Place)
This show is so shady with how they edited Jaymes.
Jaymes is a new breed of Drag Race contestant. One that has been around for a few years, but has been fully solidified by her.
The early boot in over her head.
Ten bonus points if you can name either of these Queens.
Jaymes was too weird for Drag Race, plain and simple. With the show’s continued focus on big city Queens, including casting over a fourth of the cast from New York, it’s natural a small town girl like her wasn’t in it for the long haul.
The worst part is that now these kind of Queens won’t apply. We may never get a new Stacy Layne Matthews because of this.
Here’s hoping season 10 gives us one of these who defies all the odds.
9. Charlie Hides (12th Place)
As if the shadiness ended with Jaymes’s edit. I don’t know about you all, but I wouldn’t want to dance either if I had a broken rib.
Much like Jaymes, Charlie was also a victim of casting. There was no way they were going to let a 52 year old advance very far into the show. She’s not… “new”, so to speak.
That being said, it was fun watching Charlie be a grumpy old grandma.
I can watch this all day.
Just like with Jaymes, I hope they keep casting grumpy old grandmas that tell other Queens to shut up.
8. Peppermint (Runner-Up)
I appreciate Peppermint for many reasons, beyond her being a legendary Queen from New York and the first out trans woman on the show. Unlike the other finalists already listed, Peppermint knew when to have fun, and how to be funny. Peppermint gave a lot of good confessionals, and always knew how to deliver a fun sound bite.
Along with that, Peppermint was the best lip sync performer of her season. True, neither one of her lip syncs were the best of the season.
We’ll get there, don’t worry.
Nevertheless, she was a talented dancer, and good lip sync with the best of them.
So why is she so low? Despite all of these positives, Peppermint never pops as a character. Peppermint is clearly charming and not afraid to call out bullshit, but we don’t see enough of it from her to make it stick.
I’m a fan of Pep off the show. Just wish she brought more on.
7. Eureka (11th Place)
I have… complicated thoughts on Eureka.
On one hand, I think it’s great we have someone who can be funny. Clearly Eureka is a funny Queen, and one who knows how to work a crowd. Eureka seems like a perfect balance: snarky when she has to be, nice when someone needs to be.
But then there’s her jokes. Specifically, their frequency.
Eureka seems to try way too hard to be funny and memorable. Instead of letting one great joke land, she goes for eighty of them in hopes something sticks. I appreciate it, but it quickly became an issue for the show.
We’ll see next season if Eureka will be able to present herself better. She has all the tools she needs, just needs to better execute them.
6. Aja (9th Place)
Aja was the villain we got, but not the villain we needed.
I was wrong for initially writing Aja off as just a pretty Instagram girl who can’t do make up in real life. I mean, yes, that’s what she is, but unlike Queens like that before her, she has her moments.
Specifically, one moment.
I’m gonna be upset if there isn’t a challenge based on this next season.
Aja gave us our first truly amazing Untucked moment. Sure, Charlie told Eureka to shut up, but Aja had a full meltdown against Valentina. And it was fantastic.
Sadly, it wasn’t a sign of more things to come, and Aja quickly puffed away after this like her fart cloud sidekick.
You can’t tell me that’s not what that is.
5. Alexis Michelle (5th Place)
Drag Race needs more Queens like Alexis.
Queens who think they are way hotter shit than they are.
It’s hard to say where all of this confidence Alexis has comes from, but it’s hilarious. Anyone who goes out on the runway dressed like a homeless lady and is shocked that people call it ugly is amazing.
Asking for charity from RuPaul is a… different move.
Alexis was the correct kind of clueness. Clueness we need more of.
4. Farrah Moan (8th Place)
Nothing was more infectious than watching how over everything Farrah Moan was this season.
“Who comes up with these challenges?”
Well, that and Farrah crying.
Seen here: Farrah, every episode.
Honestly, watching Farrah Moan cry and mope was the best running joke of the season, instantly making what be a middle of the road Queen that much better.
Then of course came… well…
Which only helped that much more.
I usually wouldn’t rank her this high, but in this lackluster season, Farrah Moan does shine.
3. Trinity Taylor (3rd/4th Place)
I desperately wanted Trinity to win season 9.
Unlike Shea and Sasha, the two headed, fun killing giant, and Peppermint, who was nice but boring, Trinity added substance to every scene she was in.
Right off the bat, we get conflict with her and Eureka, only ending prematurely with Eureka being removed.
And even after this conflict, we get more great reaction shots from her.
And when she wasn’t doing that, she was killing every challenge.
She should have totally won this.
Trinity was too good for season 9. The one reason why I would ever want an All Stars 3 is to see her win it. Trinity deserves so much better than to loss to someone like Sasha.
2. Valentina (7th Place)
WE’RE FINALLY HERE!
And now, the star of season 9.
If there’s one thing season 9 can hold on to, one feather it can put in its cap, its that it had the legendary story of the rise and fall of Valentina.
When Valentina started out, she came in like a classic positive, bland, middle-of-the-road character. Her wedding dress was stunning, sure, but after that, she just came out as an above average contestant. Always doing fairly well, but never excelling incredibly.
Then came episode 9.
Nina and Valentina were paired together, on the grounds that no one else wanted them (a harbinger for what was to come soon). Naturally, their team lost, and the two were sent to lip sync for their lives. And despite every other problem with this season, this scene is pure gold.
For the first time all season, something terrible happened. The season briefly dropped the facade, and revealed how imperfect it really was.
It was a long time coming, and sadly didn’t happen much afterwards, but man was it satisfying.
Now, Valentina’s story would be fine if it ended there, but then we get the reunion. Due to her massive fanbase, Valentine won Miss Congeniality, something many Queens didn’t agree with.
Valentina has, in one fell swoop, gone from beloved fan favorite to the most hated Queen by the entire cast. When RuPaul told her to remove her mask, she also removed the nice girl facade she had. Valentina was clearly over everything by the end of the reunion.
The rise and fall of Villaintina is the oddest story line the show has ever had. And frankly, it should have continued. If Sasha represented what season 9 was, Valentina represented what it should be: overly nice and phony until it was forced to remove its mask and reveal the ugly truth.
Time will tell how Valentina will bounce back from this, but there’s no denying she’s the breakout character of the season.
1. Nina Bo’nina Brown (6th Place)
Nina Bo’nina Brown is the most misunderstood Queen in Drag Race history.
Before we get to why she’s my favorite Queen of the season, we have to understand where Nina is coming from. From the get-go, it’s clear Nina suffers from some variant of depression. I’m not a psychologist, but as a man myself who suffers from a cocktail of depression, OCD, and anxiety, I see all the same trappings in Nina.
First of all, Nina admits to feeling like a failure in the very first Untucked because she lives at home. She tries to reassure everyone she’s fine with it, but it’s clearly an issue that still weighs on her mind.
Secondly, how she reacts to help from other Queens. Nina instantly assumes everyone else is against her, especially as this is a competition. Despite what others may hear, she clearly feels trapped in her own mental state, unable to stop her brain from assuming everyone hates her, or at least finds her annoying.
How the other Queens react to Nina is also a clear sign of her mental disorder. While initially willing to help, they soon become over her “debbie downer” behavior.
“Nina needs to get over it and help herself.”
Now you may be thinking, isn’t it hypocritical for Sasha to basically tell Nina to get over it while she still struggles with an eating disorder?
Yes. Yes it is. Fuck you Sasha.
But you can sort of see where she’s coming from.
Sasha has been able, through help with a professional, tone down her eating disorder so that, instead of being a crippling disease, it’s more an occasional worry, one that can easily be turned into a positive for a TV show.
Sasha has been able to turn her issue into a positive. Nina has not.
And it’s not as if having a mental illness like her’s into something you can bank on and make a story line isn’t possible. Katya did.
Seen here: mental instability under control.
But again, the difference between Katya and Nina is that Katya has been treated. She’s in a much better place with her disorder than Nina is. For whatever reason, Nina hasn’t had the chance to get herself treated, and because of this, is probably too mentally unstable to even be cast on the show.
And because of all of this, Nina is the best character of the season.
In a season full of fake congratulatory cheers, multiples Queens putting on a facade for the cameras, and a sense of fakeness (in the bad way) from everyone, Nina Bo’nina Brown was the one source of earnestness in the show. Nothing about her character was forced or meticulously planned by her months before the season started. Nina was raw, unhinged, and over everyone.
In her ten episodes, Nina was the soul source of honest conflict, and while it wasn’t enough to make the season good, god damn did she try.
Post Season Wrap-Up:
I truly believe season 9 will go down as the worst non-All Star season of Drag Race history.
Such a claim, I’m aware, needs reasoning, to which I ask, which season is season 9 most like?
In theory, it’s season 7, a similarly boring, drawn out season that needed a shot in the arm that it never got. But in practice, the two are very different. Season 7’s big problem was the lack of real conflict. Without any good, nasty, argumentative Queens, season 7 ended up being just the Queens making passive aggressive comments against each other.
Season 9, meanwhile, got in its own way trying to look polished. This is the eventuality of every contestant trying to be civil and trying desperately not to be the villain. In a post Phi Phi O’Hara world, all Drag Race contestants are scared of what a bad edit can do to their career, so instead opt for safe, heroic, and most damning, boring.
So which season is season 9 most like? Well I couldn’t answer that until the very end. And then it hit me. Season 9 is a warped version of season 2.
Clearly Photoshopped. Because all these Queens still hate each other.
How is the bland season 9 like the bitchy season 2? Remember the reunion.
Season 9 spent most of the time wearing a false facade. It wanted to be presented as perfectly and unflappable. So season 9 wore this facade everywhere. A cover. A… mask, if you will.
NO I WILL NOT STOP USING THIS IMAGE!
Finally, at the very last moments of the reunion, season 9 ripped its mask off, exposing the bitter, bitchy, imperfect mess underneath.
Season 9 is basically what would happen is season 2 somehow happened after Phi Phi O’Hara: everyone tries to be so nice and sweet to each other, and it comes off obviously fake, to the point that when something real like this happens, it’s the greatest moment of the season.
Season 9 was a mess of a season, full of lame challenges and lamer rewards. That being said, these weren’t the actual deal breakers. What truly made season 9 bad was the phony personas everyone donned up until Valentina won
Miss Congeniality Fan Favorite. When the mask was gone, we saw what potential season 9 had to be amazing.
I just wish it was ripped off sooner.