24
Feb
09

Ryan Ong Drops a Bomb

Ongina    
Ongina: Good things come in small packages.
[tv.yahoo.com]

What a shocker this week! Not the win, but the reaction. And the drama is kicking up a notch.

The “dolls” are competing to a be a spokesperson for M.A.C Cosmetics. It’s a pretty cool deal. She’ll be the public face of the M.A.C AIDS Fund. Each queen has to demonstrate in a screen test what makes her a Viva Glam girl.

We start with a round of constructive criticism. The self-analysis is a bit tedious, so thank goodness it doesn’t last long. The take-away is that Rebecca is feeling isolated, partly out of shyness, partly because she thinks the other girls are hogging the spotlight. Everyone wants to see more Rebecca. Quien es esta niña?

The focus on Rebecca and Jade is interesting, because it begins to bring out the conflict. I’ve always thought of them together as the dark horses, because they are always the safest: not bad enough to go home, not good enough to win. They are probably competing with each other more than with the other queens. And now that their group of rivals is shrinking, they are more and more exposed. Some shit is gonna hit.

The girls pair off to do each other’s makeup. You know Shannel thinks it’s in the bag, just because she does good makeup all the time. The importance here, however, is not the skills but the results. Jade wins the mini-challenge, but all it gets her is five more minutes for her screen test.

For the screen test, Nina pulls out another pants suit, but she works a sort of exotic, regal glamour. This looks a little to me like her audition video. When she gets the words down, she’s a real charmer.

Meanwhile, whatever Rebecca has done to her face is not working. Has she been out in the sun too long with her oversize D&G sunglasses? Even worse is her breakdown.

Apparently, like many of us, she has a friend with HIV. But in her case, it’s so emotionally overwhelming that she can’t even finish her screen test. I have a hard time believing it’s real. Look at how sensitive I am! Look how in-touch I am! Whatever. She’s taking someone else’s tragedy and making it about herself. So not “viva.” So not “glam.” So not winning.

Jade’s screen test is a worthy effort, but a little too “Welcome to my Home.” It’s well-prepared, but the words don’t match the whip.

Bebe’s grande dame Africana is gorgeous. I thought she might win this week. But even this could not match the effervescent Ongina, who I thought looked like a boy in mom’s makeup. But her tone and her optimism wins me over. She stages the shoot red balloons, an empty picture frame, a silver tea tray. Where’s the party? And, OMG, I want learn how to write backwards, too!

Shannel, once again, is all talk. Even the models are rolling their eyes. “You might want to try something that actually fits into 30 seconds,” RuPaul says. It’s like pouring your soul out in a phone conversation after the person on the other end has hung up. I’m so glad you understand me. No one else listens like you do. Hello? … Hello?

In the runway show, many are clearly safe. Bebe is glorious as Cameroonian Ascot Gavotte. Ongina looks to me like she did in the first episode. Nina, winging it literally this time, is an exotic bird in a punk-rock pants suit and feathered gauntlets. But she is not very womanly. Merl complains about the arms, but it’s the chest that kills it for me. And I wonder which intern’s head rolled over the slippage on the stage. (Maybe it was from Rebecca’s hysterics.)

I still think Jade looks manly, too. He’s going for dominatrix, but all I saw was permed lion-tamer. By the way, what is it with RuPaul’s obsession with his junk? “There’s still a lot of snakes on this motha-fuckin’ plane!” she shouts.

The runway’s more dramatic changes are born of desperation. Rebecca takes a risk as a glam-rock KISS roadie. And we see that her screen test didn’t go nearly as badly as we were led to believe, though it is rather artless.

Shannel moves on from last week’s huge jugs to juggling. The circus has come to town! She teeters between supreme overconfidence and abject failure every week. I wish she’d stop talking so damn much and just see what’s happening around her. Again, the screen test was not awful, but she is lucky to escape the bottom two.

Jade and Rebecca face off for the lip sync elimination. Jade is a little too precise, not enough Annie Lennox, but Rebecca is all rock ‘n’ roll. And she gets a little ruthless, pushing Jade down to her knees &#8212 a little too harshly. Jade walks out of the show full of piss and steam, and Rebecca stays on to feel the survivor’s guilt another day.

The most dramatic moment is the announcement of Ongina as the winner. He breaks down and confesses to the world (and his parents) that he is HIV positive. It immediately changes the tone. Ru’s shoulders drop, and she melts into an icon of compassion. Merl is crying. Santino is shaking his head. But Ru brings it back with a simple acknowledgement: Ongina is an inspiration, and these kids are all sisters.

Ongina’s screen test and personal philosophy seem all the more remarkable and meaningful in this light. And it makes Rebecca’s freak-out moment all the more bizarre and insincere. Rebecca says, “It’s not a challenge. It’s personal.” That may be true. But while others may witness the disease, Ongina is living it full of happiness and energy and strength.

This is why I love this show, these surprises. I am continually amazed that a competition ostensibly about surface and image is so revealing of inner beauty. When these girls bounce back, they are not just picking themselves off the floor. They are elevating themselves six inches higher — and further.

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