Photo: RuPaul’s Drag Race/YouTube
We did it. We made it to the end of this herstoric, surprising, and wicked-fun season of All Stars, and crowned an extremely serving victor in the process. Nominally, this episode is pitched as a tournament: a lip-sync smackdown that will determine once and for all who will become the Queen of All Queens (as well as the Queen of She Already Done Had Herses). But in reality, the lip syncs this episode felt mostly ornamental. While lip syncs do nothing to change the outcome many have been predicting for weeks, they also do nothing to diminish the great affection the queens have garnered from us over the course of these dozen episodes. Let’s get into it.
We’ll start off with the more low-stakes (albeit still prosperous) tournament for the Queen of She Already Done Had Herses consisting of Jaida, Raja, Yvie, and The Vivienne. After Yvie’s pretty indisputable victory over The Vivienne to Salt-N-Pepa’s “Push It,” and Raja’s much closer win over Jaida to “Let’s Hear It for the Boy” by Deniece Williams, we find ourselves at the first of two finals of the evening. While the lip syncs up until this point have been perfectly fine, neither remarkable for any mishaps nor memorable for any standout moments, this one is different.
About a quarter of the way through the Eurythmics’ “Sisters Are Doin’ It for Themselves,” Yvie’s wig starts to slide back. It’s impossible not to notice the apparent error, until the inevitable happens: The wig flies back and hits the floor as a flustered Yvie grabs at the wig cap that’s been revealed underneath. Michelle’s mouth opens wide, agost at this drag race sacrilege. Wigs flying off? We All Stars 7? But then, suddenly, Yvie rips off the wig cap revealing … another wig underneath! The same one as before, only in bright orange. Over a decade into this show, it’s hard to surprise the audience — let alone the judges — anymore. But one thing I have never seen, on drag race or off, is a wig reveal into a wig cap into another wig reveal. It’s funny, it’s smart, and it’s very Yvie Oddly.
In the rest of the lip sync, she’s no slouch either. She pulls out tricks and splits all while Raja (beautifully!) step-keys next to her. But when the winner is announced, it’s Raja who reigns supreme. Is this surprising? Not particularly. Raja has been a fan favorite all season long: winning challenges and creating breathtaking runways, all the while earning legions of new fans with her spectacular drag and give-no-fucks attitude. Yvie, on the other hand, has had fewer showstopping moments and (statistically) finds herself in last place going into the finale. However, if there’s one place Yvie shines, it’s in a lip sync, and shine she did. So while it’s hard to be mad at Raja getting her flowers for her incredible run this season, ending on this note feels a little hollow. It’s the first, but not the last, questionable judgment call in this episode. In the second of our two finales, we’re given one last decision to scratch our heads at.
Jinkx Monsoon is undeniably one incredible drag queen. We knew it nine years ago when she first won, and she demonstrated it yet again this season, winning half of the allotted challenges. Between the roast, her branding challenge, her improv skills, and her Judy Garland Snatch Game (almost certain to be referenced for time immemorial), Jinkx dominated this season from start to finish. In fact, she’s peerless in most any drag race skill set with just two notable exceptions: sewing and lip-syncing. So it’s somewhat unfortunate that the very last taste we get of her this season is showcasing a skill in which she’s severely outclassed.
When she lip-syncs against Shea to Lady Gaga’s “Judas,” I understand the victory. While saying she “beat” Shea in that performance feels like a stretch, Shea’s presence in the lip sync does little to distract from the fact that Jinkx Monsoon has undoubtedly earned her finale spot this season. But when Monét and Jinkx lip-sync to Katy Perry’s “Swish Swish,” it’s just no contest. Monét’s pacing is perfection: interesting lyric choices, well-timed stunts, culminating in a simply irresistible dip. Jinkx, while certainly not bad, simply cannot compete, and the contrast makes the production machinations feel ever more transparent. The camera hastily cuts away from Monét’s scene-stealing stunts, and her precise and intricate hand motions are shot in the wide so as to minimize their effect. But all this does little to convince that Jinkx has the upper hand. It’s eerily reminiscent of All Stars 4where Monét yet again found herself in a Top Two lip sync and summarily outperformed the front-runner, but was not awarded with a (solo) win.
On the one hand, I get it. After an utterly dominating season-long run, is it fair to rob Jinkx of the win based off of one lip sync? Probably not. But also… you [points at World of Wonder] picked the format! The final episode could have been stump speeches, highlight reels, Tic Tac lunches, a music video, character-based scenes acting with RuPaul like on seasons 5 to 7, or any number of formats in which Jinkx would have excelled. And sure, there was no way of knowing that Jinkx would be such a fan favorite, or that the final four would consist of her and a handful of lip-sync assassins, but drag race is also no stranger to improvising on the fly (look no further than last week’s three-star twist). But alas, hindsight is twenty-twenty; my IMDb page consists of exactly zero Emmy-winning producer credits; and (at the very least) we’re treated to one last showstopping lip sync from assassin-for-the-ages and runner-up Monét X Change. Life could be worse.
So some congratulations are in order. Congrats to the team that made this happen for wrangling eight queens at the top of their careers and convincing them to come back for one last go-round. Congrats to the queens themselves for spending a congressional bailout package’s worth of USD purchasing some of the most beautiful costumes known to man and creating a historic, unforgettable season of drag race. And, finally, congratulations to us, for having the privilege of bearing witness to the whole thing. I had a ball.
Until next time!