Tops and Bottoms: Drag Race UK Season 3, Episode 1

Only Drag Race would have the first UK Season with an ESL contestant start with a pun-based charades mini-challenge. Next year, to celebrate the first deaf Queen, this show will have a game of Telephone, mark my words.

Bottom

12. Krystal

Yeah, nah.

There’s been a lot of discourse in the Drag Race fandom about how privileged Young, Thin White Queens are and how easy they generally have it on the show, and I think Krystal is really the nadir that pushes this over the edge. I don’t think there’s anything inherently wrong with a contestant being Young, Thin, and White, and far be it from me to question the fairness of a franchise that I’ve argued was always unfair and at its best when it leans into that intelligently. I love Violet Chachki, for example, because she’s a delightful brat who wears her privilege like a badge of honor, never denying it and in fact weaponizing it whenever someone tries to condescend to her. The point is I don’t try to have preconceived notions of any Queen before I really get to know them, and as demonstrated by my about-face with Utica, I can be incredibly wrong. But with Krystal, that rule is broken, because being Thin, Pretty, and White is the only reason she’s relevant.

Did Krystal deserve to win? God no. Her looks were fine but generic, and it’s especially galling seeing the specific praise she got for both. Visage complimented her basic ass first look as just a leotard with plastic bits, and loved it despite slamming previous Queens hard for such presentation. Ru would not shut the hell up about her age, which is something that normally just fills her with contempt. It’s pretty gross the praise Krystal got for just being young and skinny and how it was comparable to the praise for Victoria (more on that later), and it’s a bad sign for what’s to be expected from her.

But who cares, what about her personality? It doesn’t exist. Krystal is a vacuous charisma void with no personality nor insightful commentary. Her confessionals are staggeringly boring and monotone, following Gigi Goode as the UK’s first robotic Queen. Krystal’s presence on the show can best be described as “tan,” and keep in mind this is an episode where she wins, lord knows the negative amount of star power she’ll add when she’s just safe. She reminds me of a less haughty Ariel Versace, a character the show dropped real god damn quick when they realized how little she had. And If what you’re giving me is Ariel without that…

Bottomline, Krystal did less than nothing for me with this premiere. I know I place high expectations, like expecting every mirror moment to be as cosmic as Monique Heart talking about realizing she was gay while working a Burger King shift. But the truth is, I know those are the exceptions, most characters aren’t going to be that amazing, and especially when it comes to inoffensive front runners, I’m much more lenient (see, Brooke Lynn Hytes). But Krystal doesn’t even offer that. She’s the one shaky part of this premiere, but considering she won, I am cautious with her going forward.

Middle

11. Elektra

I feel bad saying I saw Elektra lip syncing a mile away, but God I saw Elektra lip syncing a mile away. Elektra’s edit reminds me of how Drag Race US edits a lot of the early boots who were always going to be early boots (Frisbee, Laila, Jaymes, Kalorie), and that doesn’t bode well for her.

Spoiler, I have far less to say about most of the Queens above Krystal but below my top three, and while for most of them I chalk that up to them finding their bearings and settling in, I don’t think Elektra has that much to begin with.

10. Anubis

Like with Elektra, Anubis had “Dead Meat” written across her forehead from minute one. I do feel kinda bad for her as like… yeah, she wore a sequence dress and put a net on it and said it was shrimp. But I feel like Anubis only couldn’t get away with it because she’s overweight and not obnoxiously tan. As seen in this episode, those two changes would have secured her not just safety, but a win.

9. Scarlett

Guys this is just Blu Hydrangea, stop playing.

Can we stop having Queens named Scarlet(t)? This is the third this year! There’s other Drag names you know!

8. Kitty

Someone needs to tell Kitty “If Abba Was Around Today They’d Look Like This” Scott-Claus that all the original members of Abba are A. still alive, and B. wouldn’t wear whatever this is.

7. Ella

Ella doesn’t do a whole lot for me either, although I do really like this entrance look. Well, and her inclusion chapping the ass of one Veronica Green, which… we’ll get to that.

6. Vanity

I honestly really like this look and her paint. Vanity also didn’t have that stellar a premiere, but a good runway and makeup can get you far.

Top

5. Charity

Charity hits me in all the right places for Queens of this style. There’s a number of gawdy, conceptional Queens who fall flat on their face, either because they can’t execute it well or because they were never that deep to begin with (look at you, Milk!). Charity is neither, having a clear idea of what she is and what she’s saying.

She make rank seemingly high for someone with not a lot of premiere content, but Charity’s look speaks to me personally, so I’ll let it slide.

4. River

It’s always fun when RuPaul is clearly off her meds. She doesn’t even know what this is, she’s just grandpa laughing at someone doing a funny walk.

Over all, River was pretty present in this premiere, to a shocking degree. Queens rarely shine bright in premieres unless their the winner or the eliminated, so this decently embellished edit for River speaks to her potential. Not that I’ll complain, I think River is sweet and she definitely adds to the scenes she’s in. Just a fun character in a fun premiere.

Also, comparing yourself to a toxic waste dump river is going to always win me over.

3. Veronica

So here’s the thing.

This premiere wasn’t exactly kind to Veronica, which is weird. Typically when people come back from the previous season, they get a nice, generous edit and has loads of comments about how much they respect them. And yeah, people at least now seem to accept Veronica is a person, as oppose to UK2 where she was mocked by everyone not named Tia. Still, it’s a very rocky edit for her. She’s made somewhat a fool, both in her envy towards Ella and her failure at counting to six during charades. The episode doesn’t seem at all preoccupied with her, as she’s just another of the dozen UK3 Queens, no more or less special than anyone else. And while she would never admit that bugs her, it clearly bugs her.

And I kinda love it?

Veronica’s best traits stem from her eagerness and lack of guile. Like Ellie in UK2, Veronica wants to be taken seriously but isn’t given any agency or power because she’s so oft-putting. Let’s be blunt: Veronica is a square. There’s something too casually uncool and dorky about Veronica that doesn’t instill confidence. This isn’t a bad thing, I think Veronica is a great character and can be used to stellar outcomes. But those are all at her expense, as someone who so eagerly wants to be seen as a dominating, refined force of Drag but lacks neither the charisma nor the social standing to assert this.

I know it’s weird to gush about how a premiere undermined the legacy of its sole returning contestant, but I think it shows that UK3 learned from the changes of UK2: it took a hard look at its cast and realized who could do what. Frustrations with Krystal aside, everyone feels well utilized and to their fullest potential in this premiere. And part of that potential is clocking Veronica as the nerd that she is.

I mean, for God sakes, her Favorite Thing runway was video games.

2. Victoria

There’s this notion that certain Queens are cast to fit a new niche. Drag Race is always changing and expanding, both because of new trends and expectations from the franchise, and just for general self-indulgence. There’s nothing wrong with that, it’s how we finally got Drag Race to stop dragging it’s heels and cast its first Trans winner. But it is often noticeable when it happens, especially during judging. Which is a shame, because if Visage and Ru didn’t constantly harp on it, I would never remember Victoria was a woman, and I mean that in a good way.

Victoria is just insanely cool and lovable. Unlike Veronica, there’s a quiet confidence in Victoria that just oozes out of every scene she’s in. She knows exactly who she is and knows exactly why she’s here. What makes Victoria really work is that she’s clearly cognizant of why she was cast, but doesn’t let it defy her. For better or worse, a lot of Queens in a similar capacity have a difficult time crossing that threshold into being more than a token, either because they’re not actually that interesting or because of wanting to save face. Victoria lacks those inhibitions and establishes herself a Queen, just one who was born and identifies as a woman.

And yeah, I’m going to say it, she should have won the challenge. My distaste for both Krystal and how both were judged aside, Victoria came packing and firing on all cylinders. She didn’t fuck around, she took charge and never let up. Not only would this win be more correct, it would help verify the fact that Victoria isn’t just here to be your first Cis Woman contestant. Victoria is much more than your new token, she has a chance to be your new winner.

1. Choriza

“Don’t hate me because I’m beautiful, hate me because I’m an immigrant,” said Choriza May, picking up the torch of Best Premiere Character and never looking back.

Every single thing about Choriza May was incredible in this premiere, up to and including her drag name. That entrance line alone would sell me on anyone, but Choriza kept sweetening the pot with a bunch of fun moments: her disdain for the mini-challenge, her sincere mirror story about her boyfriend, saying her favorite thing about her home is her boyfriend’s cock. Choriza keeps going and going and never let’s up until we get to the runways, by which point it would be impossible for anyone to eclipse her short of a contestant murdering a judge.

And really, this is what I look for in a Drag Race contestant. Choriza isn’t always going to win, she’s not always going to succeed to challenges, but she’s clever and quick, treated with far more dignity than most ESL Drag Race experiences, and never subtracts from a scene. She’s polished, but not untouchable, and there’s a big lack of unwillingness to socialize and clown around that makes someone like Krystal so oft-putting. Choriza is here to win, but she’s also having fun. Good Drag Race lives and dies by contestants like Choriza, and I have nothing but hope that she can keep the momentum going.

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