Tops and Bottoms: A Final Look at 2022, Part 3

Honestly I’m shocked Danny Beard made it this long.

56. Starlet (UK Season 4)

Starlet is an actual pod person. The countless jokes I made about Krystal Versace last year, that she was incubated in a futuristic egg-shaped chamber over the span of six weeks and fled her confines only a few days ago, applies doubly so for Starlet. Starlet’s entire presentation makes me uneasy. I have a hard time saying she’s beautiful, even though she objectively is, because there’s something so alien and oft-putting about her Drag. Not just her looks and how she paints, but her demeanor, personality, and way of responding to people. If her age didn’t inform you that she was a bedroom Queen who never performed on stage, her inability to speak in contractions would.

Obviously her most famous moment was her stonewalling the show and leaving without any send-off zinger, which falls in sharp contrast with her tearful good-bye and mirror message. And as much as I adore that moment as further confirmation of Starlet’s status as a fey creature impersonating a human, for me her best moment was her entrance where she dropped the gem of wisdom that, “Drag is all about the look for me, if you do drag and dance, but remove the drag, you’re just a dancer.” Which… yeah, Starlet. You’re right. You have a reason of saying that? And if we remove you’re drag, you’re just Jamiroquai. What logic are you trying for here, alien baby?

55. Pixie Polite (UK Season 4)

I’m a little shocked I vibe with Pixie as much as I do.

I think what makes Pixie work compared to similar contestants of her peer group is, ironically, that there’s two of them between her and Danny. I think UK Drag Race is too overly keen on having their broad bitch Queen also serve as someone frustrated at the show for presumably not taking them seriously. When you have actual winner The Vivienne spending her press time for All Stars 7 insecurely insisting she should have won so-and-so challenge, it gives this impression of a conceded, spoiled brat who is impossible to satisfy. In UK Season 4, the arc is much more tolerable, both because Danny and Cheddar never attack and undermine one another, but also because the victim of the season is Pixie. Granted, she’s not the biggest victim (that’s Jonbers), but you more feel for Pixie because the show is clearly in love with Danny far more than her, despite the textual similarities.

I still don’t think Pixie is that compelling, especially compared to both her ex Tia Kofi and the person she eliminates, Dakota Schiffer. I think we could have used one less episode of Pixie, as by the time her arc starts in earnest the final two of Cheddar and Danny can be seen from space, making Pixie feel redundant. Still, there’s nothing that bad about Pixie. As a reminder, last year’s chubby comedy Queen who was frustrated she was overlooked for wins used Kate Bush as a pejorative, so Pixie is an improvement over that.

54. Danny Beard (UK Season 4)

And speaking of Queens who surprised me by not being wholly terrible.

I want to be cynical of Danny Beard, because lord knows the show is. UK Drag Race has found itself in a hole where who they crown is determined at casting, and it’s near unanimously the same type of Queen. Like I said before, Drag Queens in the UK can seemingly get away with simply evoking brassy women, delivering the broadest, most pedestrian comedy possible, comedy that would have felt at home on a 1960’s variety show. It’s not that these Queens lack talent, some are very talented and have a variety of abilities, but the vast skillset of a Lawrence Cheney is undermined by both a senile host cackling at her Shrek-adjacent accent and the BBC implicitly lumping her in the same category as the terminally talentless Baga Chipz. Danny Beard falls directly in that category, someone who was always going to win and who the show made sure you knew was going to win by contrasting her with Cheddar Gorgeous in the most overt redux of Vivienne vs Divina. Like I said, it’s hard not to be cynical of Danny Beard because her role in the show didn’t challenge her to tap into her skills.

Which is a shame, because Danny Beard is a fine winner. Danny Beard’s drag is some of the best and smartest of the season. She’s surprisingly versatile in looks, going from Audrey II to a genuine glam look in the course of a single week. She’s funny and quick, her quips not rehearsed and obvious like others in her field. She can act and perform and even dance. There’s a lot that Danny Beard can do. But god damn it, it doesn’t matter, because those all feel like bonus features. Danny may be talented, but the cynical part of UK Drag Race means they feel wasted and unnecessary. She feels like someone who had a real shot of genially winning learning that it was rigged for her from the start, thus putting her abilities into question. Danny would be a better winner if the show just let her stand alone. As is, she’ll always, for me anyway, be overshadowed by the rigged nature of her season.

One final note in Danny Beard: this has nothing to do with her as a contestant, I just think I’d find Danny hot if he didn’t paint himself Trump Orange. Nothing has ever killed my interest in a man faster, holy shit.

53. Alyssa Hunter (US Season 14)

We talk a lot about the reoccurring lovable goofballs who were obvious early outs, but not enough love is given to the boring early boots cast specifically because they’re insanely hot out of Drag. Kahanna Montrese finally has a proper successor.

I think Alyssa Hunter’s elimination, and the apparent controversial there from, is a good barometer about how much Drag Race is a television show. Apparently, there are people upset that she went instead of Kerri Colby, despite clearly winning the lip sync, which just baffles me because why do these people not want more of Kerri Colby? First of all, Kerri had only just started her role as Tranos, this was before Jasmine tearfully came out and I do not think moment would work without Kerri there as the patron saint of Trans women. Secondly, Kerri Colby is just better television. By episode four, it’s pretty obvious there’s not a lot to get from Alyssa Hunter, other than being a hot man out of Drag. It’s not “fair,” but Jesus Christ guys this is Season 14. How tight is your grip on sanity if you still think this show is a sincere talent show? You can say Alyssa was robbed, but I don’t think it’s right to say keeping her around would make Season 14 better.

Alyssa Hunter seems nice, the cast all seemingly like her, but this is a TV show. Alyssa just never delivered the goods to really justify keeping her around longer than four episodes. It’s not fair, but I can’t imagine even Alyssa arguing she should have stayed given what Kerri gave the season.

52. Kaos (Canada Season 3)

Poor Kaos. Canada Season 3 really did not give her the time she needed.

More so than even Irma, I read Kaos as someone just not that secure with who she is. Kaos spends her entire time making unsure baby steps forward, seemingly eternally asking other people if what she’s doing is okay. The same kind of insecurity that has Irma Gerd over rely of hackneyed material is featured tenfold in Kaos, her response instead being uncomfortableness in if what she’s doing is valid. I think Canada Season 3, structurally, has the bones to give Kaos an amazing underdog edit, especially with pairing her up with Chelazon. There’s a potential arc, where Kaos gets the growth arc over Fiercalicious, and she becomes the star of the season. But then Canada Season 3 realizes what they have with Fierce, and cuts Chelazon at Episode 3, leaving Kaos rudderless for her own boot the following week.

Hell, if you want an example about how much Fiercalicious complete undermined Kaos, remember that the Previously On of Episode 5, which was about how Kaos leaves, is heavily abridged so that instead they can show an extended montage of everyone complaining about how awful it is to deal with Fierce. The tear Fiercalicious made through the season was vast and wide, and Kaos was the main casualty.

51. June Jambalaya (US Season 14)

First things first, big praise to June for the *perfect* execution of the very first It’s Chocolate™. The truly endless montage of her ripping it open, the music swelling to imply they’d actually keep the first boot, ending with a nonchalant “it’s chocolate,” the heavy thud of her delivery compounded by the sad trombones. It is the funniest fucking meme Drag Race has had in years, and it was all started by June.

June is unlike pretty much every other first boot of Drag Race, but I can’t verbalize what makes her distinct. Part of it is that, for all the sins of the third arc of Drag Race, they made sure the first boots were always iconic and notable. You can say Jaymes, Vanjie, Soju, Dahlia, and Kahmora all left some piece of themselves behind when they were pushed out the door, but the same can’t be said for June. That, in fact, might end up being the calling card of future first boots: being unnoticeable. I think Drag Race has realized the mistake of getting rid of too much personality early on, the weird appeal of the Porkchop Queens, and potentially chose this season to demonstrate who future first boots look like. It’s understandable, because while June is okay, she feels redundant and doesn’t translate to TV like the rest of the LA Queens of the season. Really being the first Queen given the fake out with the chocolate is a blessing in disguised, because that will always be something notable about June.

Centuries from now, even as Drag Race enters its two hundredth season and RuPaul is wheeled out looking like Cassandra from Doctor Who, we will always remember It’s Chocolate™.

50. Vivian Vanderpuss (Canada Season 3)

As you can tell, a majority of part 3 is made up of people who have clear fanbases and whose appeal I get, but were Queens who were never going to be my particular favorites. The fandom is large and varied, with different people coming in with different views and expectations, and who seek out different types of contestants. And I don’t think any contestant shows the distance between what other people want vs what I want more than Vivian.

I will grant this, Vivian is an important part of Canada Season 3, underrated even. In a season as chaotic and messy as this, having a grounding agent who doesn’t get exhausting or hog the spotlight is crucial. Despite her cat mom schtick, Vivian is the most normal, down-to-Earth contestant after episode 2, someone who is responsible and sane enough to ground a season that featured Jada, Kimmy, and Fiercalicious. I know that sounds ludicrous considering she’s implicitly from the same convent as Utica Queen, where she learned how to churn butter and make soap with her sisterwives Mary Sue Ellen and Sue Ellen Mary, but it’s a fact that Vivian ends up the one keeping Canada Season 3 from feeling too insane.

I attribute her popularity, and her winning Miss Congeniality, to this fact, but what stops me from going completely on board is that she’s never able to successfully marry her two halves. Like as much as the show treats Jada Shada Hudson as a fun underdog, they still knew how to drop the bombshell of her recounting her experience getting fucked by a ghost. And as small of a moment as that was, it will always color any discussing of Jada. Vivian tries, but she never achieves that level of insanity. Likable, but nothing too outrageous.

49. Anita Wigl’it (Canada vs the World)

Another year, another four episodes of Anita.

I said before when I covered Down Under Season 1 that I didn’t particularly jive with Anita. I think her elimination was a bad choice, and was one of the most defining moments of that season’s lack of proper judgement, but Down Under Season 1 had far bigger issues than eliminating Anita. In a way, Anita was redundant to the season, someone who came on as Kita Mean’s plus one and whose elimination was an integral part of her win, but never stood out by herself outside of the amazing piece of slander that was her Queen Elizabeth Snatch Game.

So how is she in Canada vs the World? She’s Rita Baga’s friend. And that’s about it.

Truly, Anita could never catch a break, now appearing on a season where her role was filled better by Rita Baga, someone who has a better history of producing amazing, snotty television. If one were going to be excited for a mature Drag Queen in the cast of Canada vs the World, it was going to be the one who made smartass, rude comments every fifteen minutes and got into vicious fights with Jimbo. And while Rita never reached the amazing peak of her first season (which, to be fair, was a struggle for most of Canada vs the World), her story still had better legs and potential than Anita’s.

Maybe one day Anita would be given the chance on a season where there was no one else who did her thing, but I don’t see that happening. Anita is eternally doomed to being the second banana to a better version of herself.

48. Lady Boom Boom (Canada Season 3)

Lady Boom Boom is perhaps the most non-human contestant of the year, and while Starlet felt non-human because she’s an alien, Lady Boom Boom feels like they’re from the heavens.

There’s really not a lot to say about Lady Boom Boom because there’s not much to them outside of their weird aura. They feel less like a contestant and more like a divine being from a 90’s comedy who has to impersonate a human to settle a bet with God. Every single one of their looks, whether on the runway, in the werk room, or even in confessionals, feel like a distinct non-corporeal entity forced to take a form you would fine comforting. It’s not like Lady Boom Boom is a drag on the season or negatively effects the cast, they have funny moments and have a sweet relationship with Gisèle that helps inform Gisèle’s win, but none of their moments are impactful. They sorta come in and out through the æther, never really leaving an impression other than a vague hint of a memory. They’re a being who could have only fully materialized with a Carly Rae Jepsen song, but would vanish forever upon its conclusion.

Lady Boom Boom is an enigma, and I’m fairly certain after this article is released this entry will vanish from history.

Year-End Look: All Stars 7

All Starts 7 is perhaps the biggest mess of the entire franchise. Some seasons might have been less entertaining, some seasons might have been grosser, but no season has ever been as obnoxiously messy and contrived. No season has been as blatant about favoritism. No season has ever felt less authentic. Every single aspect about All Stars 7 is shameless in its intentions. I can not even fathom a season of Drag Race that is less about talent and more about people who know how to buy shoes. It’s brazen and glaring, the reality show editor fingerprints are all over the final product, and I can’t think of any other season, Drag Race or otherwise, as shameless in its bullshit as All Stars 7.

I kinda fucking love it.

There’s really two angles to analyze All Stars 7, and the first is as a straight-forward season of Drag Race. Under that light, it’s the lamest and most nonessential season of Drag Race, even in theory. None of the episodes really pop by themselves, and the cast as a whole are pretty one-note, a note you get bored of because they never change. Which I think is what makes the season so often a frustrating watch: it doesn’t go anywhere. The lack of any eliminations, the embellished edits, the suppression of any kind of drama, and even the finale set-up make this have more in common with that cringy Drag Race Christmas special than an actual season of Drag Race. I get they had to do it like this, but it makes me question why they would even do an All Winners season if it had this many stipulations. It’s a bad idea and, at first blush, it doesn’t really do anything for the franchise.

But once you dig a bit deeper, you start to see the true value of the season: being the capper to eight arcs of Drag Race, and being ironically the show at its most pure.

As ironic as it sounds, All Stars 7 is so full of bullshit that it loops back around to being honest. It is Drag Race without any hidden agenda, a season so proud and naked in its Reality Show First nature that I have to respect it. It has no qualms being heartless, corporate, and manipulative. Even better, it uses this unashamed nature to give fitting ends to its cast. It looks at Shea, Trinity, and Monét, three of the most diligent whipping boys of the past half decade, and casts them aside, having now drained them of everything they’re worth. It presents Vivienne, Yvie, and Jaida as they are, stark contrasts to their first seasons but only because of the lack of their first season’s cast minutia, these edits feeling both more honest and more human. And it takes Jinkx and Raja, the two most seasoned winners who had the least interest kissing ass and just wanted to have fun, and calls them the true winners. The first three of decried the entire season bullshit, but to their dismay the story is too perfect to be completely unintentional: after spending years answering how high when Drag Race commanded them to jump, after years of benefitting from that same bullshit that undermined their peers, All Stars 7 looked at those three directly in the eyes, called them posers, and crowned a swamp witch from the woods of Portland. All Stars 7 may not have had eliminations, but it absolutely had winners and loser, and the choices for those roles almost makes up for that half a decade of choices.

This isn’t to say I think All Stars 7 is a good season, it’s too flighty for its own good, but this ending and the metanarrative it presents stops me from saying it’s a bad season. It’s a season that was frustrating at the time, but I appreciate it having happened as a part of the show’s history. It’s an important next step for Drag Race, a signal of it casting aside that third arc and transitioning into the fourth. Whether that makes it better or worse than Canada vs the World, I’m not sure, but it’s the season with much more to discuss. If nothing else, it’s a season that shows that Drag Race, even now, knows that it should always crown the wine-chugging Weed Aunts whenever it has the opportunity.

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