11
Feb
09

Sweet Low Down Tammie Brown

Episode 2 has convinced me that RuPaul’s Drag Race is one of the best shows on TV. It is not only fun and at times educational, but also surprisingly heartwarming, and ironically, very real. These guys are a few sequins and a couple of falsies away from being Barbie dolls, but they really are putting some realness back into reality TV.

OK, lame. I know that was a line from the show’s promotional campaign, but I’m seeing now why it’s also true.

Tammie Brown with an 'IE'    
“See you later, in the magazines. Wah wah wah wah.”
[www.myspace.com]

One of the benefits of watching the show online is all the extra revealing goodies to be found there. Among my favorites are the “Under the Hood,” segments shot in the green room, just the girls talking among themselves, revealing insecurities, critiquing themselves and each other — and also building each other up. (Maybe the best part of these clips is the intro and outro with the RuPaul Barbie doll, voiced by none other than Miss Ru herself!)

These guys reveal over and over what integrity they have as performers. Each one in his own way wants truly to elevate the art of drag and raise his own level of performance. (Well, all but one, so far. Akashia seems simply to want to show off and wow the judges, but doesn’t seem to think she has anything to learn.) These are not second-rate gender fuckers. These ladies are practitioners of an art form — and drag, when it’s done well, is really a nexis of several disciplines.

One of the best parts of Episode 2 was the way it allowed each of the guys to play to a strength, and it gave everyone an opportunity to learn something from one of his competitors — and, honey, every one of these guys has something to learn. It also demonstrated that the contestants who respect their peers are the ones who will succeed.

The eliminations are also very revealing. Rebecca Glasscock is one smart competitor, but by no means is she a cut-throat. Asked who she would eliminate if forced to choose, she pointed to the one she saw as her strongest competition, Shannel. In a back-handed way, it is the ultimate compliment. But she also clearly had a hard time throwing her teammate under the bus. And Shannel can certainly understand her sentiments.

Shannel, for her part, stepped beyond graciousness and called out Ongina as a brilliant team leader. These are the little gems, the little rewards, scattered throughout this show, like the size 20 rhinestones in Shannel’s make-up kit. It seriously makes me cry a little.

Shannel is smart and interesting and undeniably talented. Clearly she has put a lot of thought into her work and the philosophy of drag. But lord in heaven, she is like an earnest, wordy, overzealous honors college student at Drag U. Sometimes I just want her to shut up and apply some eye shadow or something.

Ongina, the talented captain, said she would have gone down with the ship. Nina admitted to being the weakest link and would have graciously stepped down if not for her immunity. There is real honesty here, real class and humility.

And then there is the other, uglier side of things.

I agree with 77% of the TV audience and said Akashia should have gone. This is strictly on the basis of her being such an awful team leader. Fierceness is more than an act; you have to back it up with talent, or you’re going to be found out. She was in charge of makeup in her group, but her own makeup was probably the worst on that stage. And even as the resident bitch, she is just a bore. In this week’s “Under the Hood,” Tammie is talking about positive energy, and raising up her hands with her fellow queens and swaying in unison. It;s a little Kum-Ba-Yah, a little hokey, but Akashia is sitting there insolently giving everyone the finger, and it is so not classy.

That said, I’m glad Akashia was able to redeem herself at the end, leaning pretty hard, in my opinion, on that time-honored fall-back, the lip synch.

No denying it: She brought it. Michelle Williams cried, feeling touched and rewarded by Akashia’s grasp of the lyrics. And in the end we see that, for all her theatrics and all her cuntiness, Akashia still cares about the judges’ opinions. She radiated after her life-saving lip synch and showed that she is not made of stone. We all want to succeed. And maybe now that she has come so close again to getting cut, she will wise up and play this game a little smarter and with a little more grace.

Meanwhile, for Tammie, there was nothing sadder than her half of the lip-synch showdown. “Break the Dawn” never sounded so melancholy. The girls stood downstage holding their breath. Jade held her hands to her face, seemingly on the verge of tears. Tammie did her best to move to the music, but she did not attempt a single word of that lip synch. At one point, she raised a hand up and waved, parade style, and it was clear that she was really waving good-bye to those judges. She knew it was over. Rather than exiting quietly, she was all but forced to lay down on the tracks.

I had such hopes for quirky ol’ 1940s pin-up girl fit model-cum-cracked-out glamourpuss housewife Tammie Brown. She was the clear underdog. She was from another planet. She was misunderstood and underestimated. And, again, with her departure, I think the show is missing some diversity. She stands out as a unique persona. What she does well, no one else on the show can do better. But she wanted out, and she made her exit with as much hammy dignity as she could muster.

With the specialty girls getting picked off first, I am finding that the ones who remain tend to be the most well-rounded. To win this thing, you need to bring the skills. Already we have seen that you must be able to sew, to play well with others, and to learn a song and choreography tout de suite — or at least fake it pretty damn well. Circumstances and fate led Akashia and Nina to survive this time. Poor Tammie’s weakness was exposed, and she was sent packing.

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2 Responses to “Sweet Low Down Tammie Brown”


  1. July 20, 2009 at 4:32 pm

    I totally agree on what you wrote about Tammy. I also had big hopes for her, but it was sad looking at her, being forced to lipsing a song, whose lyrics she didn´t knew about. I remember her smiling face, dancing along Akasha, who lipsang for her life. The difference between those two performances were immense. IMO the sympathy from the girls on stage was clearly on Tammys side, so it was really sad to see her losing the lipsing; especially against Akashia. Good Tammy, you did it with dignity.

  2. April 12, 2011 at 6:07 pm

    Great post! i like it, please bookmark this page in digg or mixx so that anyone could find it easily. 🙂 Thank you for sharing this info. You guys have made a splendid website


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