An ending that tried to please everyone but instead left them all pissed. Drag Race truly doesn’t discriminate.
I did not go into All Stars 4 wanting to hate Trinity. Yes, I wasn’t looking forward to her inevitable win (and she did end up winning), but I thought, now that we’re three seasons deep into this format, Trinity would see the mistakes past obvious winners made and correct on them. I was wrong. Of the entire cast, Trinity is one of the two people who had no story line, took part in no conflict, and had no drama surrounding her. The other? Jasmine Masters, the first boot. In her entire time, there was no need to ever cut to Trinity. At her very best, Trinity was a vacuous, uninteresting waste of time, who never proved to me why she should be the winner.
At her worst? Downright fucking awful. I’m hard pressed to remember any winner who had a single worst episode than Trinity had in episode 3, where she rudely denied Gia her preferred pick in Snatch Game (which reads as super uncomfortable given that Gia wanted to portray another trans woman), and then had to gall to be a sanctimonious, condescending ass to her, claiming she was a shit stirrer while simultaneously talking about her behind her back. Trinity was rude, hateful, bitchy, and stank in all the worst possible ways.
Our fucking winner, ladies and gentlemen.
Trinity combined the holier-than-thou attitude of All Stars 1 Chad, the pretentious, victim-playing habit of All Stars 2 Alaska, and the boring, self-centered dread of All Stars 3 Brian. Trinity didn’t correct from the past mistakes; if anything, she mastered them.
God damn, did Latrice flounder this time around.
What I think both helps and hurts Latrice in All Stars 4 is the fact that this is probably the most honest portrayal of Latrice Royale as a person we have seen. On the one hand, it makes what little drama there is unique, and it’s fun to see the usual composed, level-headed Latrice indulge in some petty revenge and shit-talking. There’s something fun and amusing about a Drag Queen whose brand is about Professionalism getting to partake in some romper-room fuckery.
That being said, however, her third episode is terrible. Like with Trinity, her treatment of Gia Gunn does not sit well with me, as it was clear Gia was just over-correcting after being denied her first pick, and kicking her while she was done isn’t doing you any favors. Add to that the fact that Latrice bombed the very next challenge, and it’s obvious that her anger at Gia was incorrectly placed. Her first exit left a terrible taste, and I was not thrilled to see her come back.
Things did get better one she came back and got a win under her belt, though, and she has some fun moments, even if it was at the expense of everyone else. While these bright moments don’t totally make up for Latrice’s terrible first exit in All Stars 4, it’s at least more nuanced and understandable than anything Tuckbot v3.5 was doing.
I guess this is the rewards you get for kissing RuPaul’s ass.
Monet’s win doesn’t sit right with me, not because of Monet herself, but what she had to do to get it. Let’s not forget, Monet was the one Black Queen to fully and vocally side with RuPaul at the Season 10 reunion. So the fact that less than a year later, Monet is seemingly gifted a win because of that feels gross.
Still, Monet herself was fine, if a bit lacking compared to her contemporaries. There’s a funny, charming Queen in there somewhere, but she can’t fully commit to it and make herself a standout, already enough of a problem in Season 10, now exacerbated as she has to compete for screen time against the likes of Valentina. I guess I do like her win in theory, if only to dramatically lessens Trinity’s own win, which you know had to chap her ass. I just wish I could care about Monet more.
Of all the things I thought I would say about Naomi, I never imagined one of them was “best lip syncer of the season.” Seriously, in both in battles with Gia and Monet, Naomi killed her lip syncs.
Aside for that, and the amazing, heartless way she eliminated Manila, Naomi was pretty boring this season. Like Monet, I think Naomi is one of those contestants who would be a blast in real life, but it just doesn’t translate to the show. Naomi is certainly not unlikable or stank, and kudos to her for actually listening to Gia and not being an asshole like seemingly everyone else, but she’s just a hair above “okay.”
Part of me thinks Jasmine should have been around longer, and yet I think we got all we could from her.
Jasmine Masters can not be contained on a competition reality show. She’s unwilling to play by thee rules, so it’s not at all shocking she was first out. If Jasmine had stuck around for the whole season, I don’t think we would be able to ring much more out of her than what we got in that first episode. I mean, when your only episode features a five minute bit about eating ass, you pretty much peaked. Jasmine just doesn’t have the patience to put up with your format shenanigans, and it was probably best she left when she did.
Still, this is Jasmine Masters, and it’s never a bad thing to see her on TV.
I know, surprised the hell out of me, too.
I expected nothing from Manila. Even in the era of Season 3 and All Stars 1, it felt like Manila was little more than her corny jokes and lame costumes. She felt outdated, and I was certain her appearance in All Stars 4 would reflect how much charisma she really doesn’t have. And for her first three episodes and last two, I was right. But for that brief time Latrice was gone, Manila soared.
While it wasn’t enough to save the season, Manila’s short, emotional arc as the lone wolf was a shot in the arm the season needed, starting off with her total breakdown at Latrice being eliminated and, for the first time in her three seasons, being all alone. By both making it abundantly clear she would eliminate by emotions and continuing to be a front runner, Manila became the new chaotic element, and thus much more engaging. While similar contestants existed before, none of them had the clot and winning record Manila did, and it seemed like she was the first step in the season heading to the right direction. It sadly didn’t last long, but for her brief time alone, Manila proved her worth more here than her first two seasons combined.
I feel almost bad for laughing at how much Farrah fails no matter how hard she tries. It’s clear despite her insistence, Farrah is still a scared teenager at heart, not mature enough to handle the rigors of All Stars. It’s kind of cruel the producers would even let her on, when her biggest priority is whether two other contestants like her. Farrah’s entire arc of just wanting the pretty, popular girls to like her would fit right at home on Degrassi, and its inclusion here is almost comedic.
Naturally, I would take Farrah’s raw, unfiltered insecurities over Trinity’s unearned pride any day, but it’s clear if Farrah was forced to compete in one more episode she would leave cataleptic. Best to cut her off early before she lost her mind.
Monique should have won. That is an absolute fact. I don’t care about placements, challenges, or performance. Monique makes a far better champion than any of the two who did, by far.
Everything about Monique is inspired: she’s an amazing narrator, has most of the best jokes and confessionals of the season, her lip syncs were good by All Stars standards, and she’s just fun to watch. There’s never been anyone as well-spoken as Monique, and unlike her often pretentious and immature contemporaries, she’s incredibly insightful and smart. While she’s not my absolute favorite of the season (clearly, as she’s only number 3), she makes for the best winner, and I can not fathom why the show wouldn’t want her as a representative.
Eternally enigmatic, effortlessly enjoyable, Valentina’s time in All Stars 4 was both a redemption and an embrace of her time on Season 9. In almost every episode, Valentina served her trademark brand of crazy delusion, made better as the season progressed and she did worse and worse in the challenges. While she started off seemingly well, and even learned the words to her lip sync this time. it was only a matter of time before the mask would break and everyone saw how crazy she was. Her slow descent into madness as she got closer and closer to her elimination was a thing of beauty, only made bittersweet by her absence after the fact.
While she can’t carry a season, as she’s very much a self-contained character, All Stars 4 was done once she left. With out beautiful Latina princess gone, there was no hope the season could bounce back. Still, what we got was good, and I would gladly let Valentina take me through her insane mind anytime.
I mean, you knew this was coming.
I’m sorry to gush, but Gia’s time on All Stars 4 was less a performance and more an ascension to godhood. Every single scene of her four episodes was made better by simply her inclusion, as she added a much needed fun, chaotic energy to this stagnant season. Every single facet about Gia this season makes her a legend: her capacity to piss everyone off by existing, the way she dresses unmistakably feminine compared to the t-shirts and jeans everyone else has, and even her confessionals, dripped in the saccharine meanness of a woman who knows she doesn’t need the approval of this show, the host, or the other contestants.
This would be all well and good by itself, as Gia makes the perfect early episodes villain, but what makes her remarkable is how honest and often times correct she is regardless. Despite her edge, Gia is incredibly sympathetic (I argue more than anyone else this season), and it’s not just because of her gender identity. Yes, being a trans woman is a big part of her arc, and every confessional about it felt infinity more heartfelt and sincere than the millions of times Trinity talked about “fairness.” But beyond that, nothing Gia ever said was incorrect. I totally believe that her friendship with Farrah ended sour because of Farrah. Her putdowns of everyone else are mean, yes, but never false. In her ostentatious way, Gia stands as both a fun villain who will try to burn everything, but also as a misunderstood, newly reborn woman trying to find her way. It’s a fantastic, multi-layered edit that could only be done by someone like Gia, and there’s not a doubt in my mind she is the best part of the season.
So, let’s talk about that double win.
A brief synopsis of what happened that is still plausibly deniable but we all know better: Trinity was the clear predestined winner of All Stars 4, but after the massive backlash from both the Brian win and RuPaul’s drama with The Vixen, the show knew how much worse it would look for yet another Caucasian winner, so forced a shared win with her and Monet. Why Monet? Again, look at Season 10. Her brown nosing did her a huge favor. But, hey, we already knew this. This ending was so transparent, and I don’t know a soul who takes the split-win at face value. For me, the ending isn’t nearly as interesting as the ripples that will come from it
First, the bad. I don’t like what Monet’s win implies in the long term. Whether or not her siding with RuPaul had an actual factor into her win doesn’t matter; what matters is what people perceive, and everyone is going to read this moment as, “wow, if I don’t win the first time, and I’m not White, I better kiss RuPaul’s ass to have a chance to win an All Stars.” The show has been notoriously petty for awhile, but this is the first time we’ve seen tangible proof of it. And while I don’t usually care about placements, the fact that there is a cash prize means that future Queens who are sick of the bullshit but need the monetary gain are going to censor themselves. It’s a sad fact, but Drag Race unfortunately still has a grip on how much future contestants can make.
That grip is slipping, however, which brings me to the positives. No one likes this win. No one. Trinity-stans see it as bullshit and limp, while sane people see it as them just crowning another White person. In a desperate, Sean Kennith-like attempt of trying to have its cake and eat it too, Drag Race tried to be accepted by all parties, only to just piss everyone off. Everyone sees right through it, and feels insulted by Drag Race thinking we were dumb enough to fall for this.
And this is all why… I kinda like this ending. While I would have greatly preferred a Monique win on principle, this lame, playing-both-sides finale is really the ending All Stars 4 deserves. Beyond being unsatisfying and lame, it’s transparent as hell. RuPaul has been a weak bitch for a very long time, clearly wanting to sell-out the easiest and quickest way possible. And while he definitely succeeded, it has come at the cost of being the ridicule of every queer person over the age of 20. After years of being a terrible representative of our community, allowing racism in the fandom, and the blatant transphobia, all of his bullshit is finally coming in to roost on him. This finale wanted to unite everyone. And it succeeded.
Can we stop lip syncing for our legacies already? Because it doesn’t work.
Much to no one’s surprise, All Stars 4 was just as boring and weak as the two All Stars before it. Its clear by now that no matter who is in the cast, how many twists you throw in, and what other stunts you try to pull, the format of the top two lip syncing and the winner sending someone home just doesn’t work. The show wants to pretend like this turns it into a social game like it’s Survivor, but there’s far too few people here, and succeeding only makes you a bigger target. It’s just a bad idea, and it makes the ending lip syncs way less important because 90% of the time they pick the same person anyway.
All Stars 2 at least had Phi Phi O’hara having a panic attack over the mere existence of Alyssa, and All Stars 3 had the complicated arc of Dela. Those things didn’t save those seasons, but they were something. Nothing in All Stars 4 made it worth sitting through ten episodes of nothing. Despite the efforts of solo-Manila, Gia, and Valentina to drum up some sort of drama, nothing could save this unsatisfying ending, and it just further proves how much this format fails.
During her cameo, Brian said that All Star rules are suspended permanently. I hope she was right.