Posts Tagged ‘RuPaul's Drag Race


Foxy Boxx Really Rocks

Pandora Boxx, Miss May

Pandora Boxx, Miss May

It’s always May in my house, because my RuPaul’s Drag Race wall calendar is forever turned to Pandora Boxx‘s page. She is my drag obsession. I might even have a crush on her.

A recent visit to Chicago last month coincided with an appearance by La Boxx at a local gay bar. The night of the performance, my husband and I were sitting around with some friends, contemplating going out. I looked at the clock. 9 p.m. I looked at my husband. I looked at my friends. I looked at the six packs and the chilled bottle of white wine waiting for us. I heard the gentle hum of the air conditioner. And I decided: I am too tired to deal with a dance bar full of screaming gay boys, flashing lights, and ka-thunk ka-thunk ka-thunk — even to see my favorite fake lady. Heaven forgive me, but I am staying in tonight.

Sometimes getting old is no bloody fun.

I never felt good about the decision, and since then I’ve been looking for a chance to make up for it. It came last week. Pandora Boxx was in New York for a Gay Pride kick-off party at the Gramercy Theater, and I was able to get on the VIP list because my company had something to do with the event. This was it. I was going to meet the Pandora Boxx! Get a picture with her! Shake her hand and tell her I love her and that she was robbed on season 2 of RuPaul’s Drag Race — robbed, I tell you!
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Mission Accomplished

The dirty little “secret” about RuPaul’s Drag Race is it doesn’t matter who wins this competition. RuPaul is not passing on any crown. Are you kidding me? She’s just gettin’ started! This entire season has been all about one person: RuPaul.

And I’m not saying that’s a bad thing.

Fittingly, Season One closed on one more example of the contestants acting as co-stars warming their hands on RuPaul’s fire. The girls had to learn new choreography for a guest role on RuPaul’s new video and they had to record a rap for inclusion in her single. However, I think what we saw this week firmly placed Nina and Bebe among the fiercest of the fierce.

Bebe Zahara Benet

Tonight Bebe won the crown and our hearts. I had always hoped Nina would win. She’s the only one who has never had to lip-synch for her life, and her heart and charisma enriched the experience for everyone. But I would have been satisfied with either of her or Bebe. And Bebe’s plans to start a charity for kids in Camaroon with HIV/AIDS is, frankly, one of the highest marks of a true champion.

Rebecca’s lucky star, on the other hand, seemed to have faded this week. From the start of this episode (and frankly before), the race was down to Nina and Bebe. Through every step this week, Rebecca just couldn’t cut it. She didn’t hit the choreography, she had half as much rap as she needed, she couldn’t pull herself (or her wig) together for the video shoot, and she had no capacity for taking direction from Mike Ruiz.

Either she’s finally feeling the pressure, or it’s just a bad day. Or maybe it’s because she shouldn’t have gotten this far in the first place. “You never, ever rush a queen,” she says. But the other two seemed to manage just fine. She’s full of excuses this week, but even she knows her time is up.

In this week’s “Under the Hood,” Nina confronts Rebecca with a few things. It’s a classy moment: Rather than part ways with bad blood, she calls out Rebecca’s shadiness and makes peace with her. Nina and Bebe bend over backward to give her the benefit of the doubt: “You probably don’t know you’re doing it” and “you probably don’t do this intentionally.” But it was a real barrier to her ability to make any friends on this show, and it did a lot to keep people from trusting her. It’s nothing personal, but it’s an important lesson for them to impart.

And they seal it with a kiss. Mwah, mwah.Ay, Loca. Work it out.”

Rebecca concedes a few times this season that she probably appears standoffish to the others, but it’s not intentional. “It’s just the way I am.”

But when asked about the others’ reactions to her, she always says something like, “I’m used to it.” In other words: I am a victim, those bitches don’t like me, they’re jealous of me, and I’m used to it, so whatever. She recognizes she’s improving her look or her performance, but she’s not improving herself or her professionalism: witness her Viva Glam breakdown, tonight’s disastrous video shoot tardiness.

Ru asks her point-blank, “Do you think it’s this kind of behavior that alienates you from the other girls.” And her response is either ugly or just thoughtless, I’m not sure: “I think it’s maybe because they’re a little older…”

Nothing to do with her, of course.

When Nina and Bebe are talking about staying in touch and working together after the show, Rebecca says nope, I’m here to win, and “I can’t let things like friendships get in the way.” If this is just “how she is,” it sucks, and it will always hurt her.

So, while she’s fixing her wig and being friendless, Nina and Bebe are holding hands, blowing kisses, and forging a friendship that will carry them through their success in ways Rebecca can’t seem to imagine.


Mommie Draggest

octo-drag mommy
[source: Life & Style, 3/30/09, vol. 6, issue 13]


The other night, in a fit of ebullient drunkenness I declared the Oxford English Dictionary the single greatest achievement of mankind. For whatever reason, all Anglo guilt aside, English is the language of record. So, to my mind, the most comprehensive and respected volumes that record its meaning and history are a treasure for humanity. “Its more important than buildings, … fire,” I said, “and makeup.”

My friend Joey has become somewhat obsessed with this statement. I’m sure it’s because of my inclusion of makeup. And I’m sure that is the influence of RuPaul’s Drag Race. My geek-out moment is apparently one of the gayest things he’s heard in a while. It’s doesn’t rise to the level of Wildean wit, exactly, but it does my ego marvelous good to get such attention.


Shannel, No. 6

I’m beautiful, dammit!

Oh, Shannel … Say it ain’t so. A sixth contestant has been cut from RuPaul’s Drag Race. And she was wronged!

I’m a little mad at her for giving up the fight. Her “I don’t want to be here anymore!” was a major disappointment for me. Week after week, she has taken harsh, often meaningless criticism with dignity and respect. Even tonight, Santino said she’s “saying everything right,” but she’s just not connecting with him. What does that even mean? I think it says more about the judge than the contestant.

It’s hard to say how much her announcement affected the judges’ decision. I think it was honest exasperation, not a strategy. And who could blame her? You can see it in this week’s “under the hood” and, sadly, her exit interview. What more can she do?

When she got pitted against Rebecca in the lip synch, she put up a fight again. I think she saw a light at the end of the tunnel. I did. And maybe I’m no judge of these things, but I think her performance was better than Rebecca’s.

Maybe it all went wrong when she lifted up that dress and shook her little butt. That and the Hannibal Lecter-esque lip-smacking earlier on, which was met with the sound of crickets chirping, may have been just a step too far. Oh, I wish she’d just hold back a bit and let her talent carry her forward. Instead, she always resorts to a trick: snakes, juggling, those assless chaps. I picture her as a trained circus animal, with Merle Ginsberg tossing her lumps of meat after each jump through the fire hoop.

Everyone wants to ditch Rebecca this week — even 47% of the audience! I wanted her to get far, but her time has come. She was so overrated during the vogue-off. Shannel characteristically pulled a cartwheel out of her ass, but her posing was better. I thought the whole drag ball/vogue theme, a nice nod to the drag history, would have given an advantage to the more seasoned of the girls. But that Rebecca has nine lives, and I think RuPaul has a soft spot for her.

The best part of the vogue-off was RuPaul’s commentary: “Paint your face, honey!”

“Face! Face! Face!”

“Why you all gagging so? She bring it to you every ball!”

This was a tough episode: swimsuit, evening gown, and business suit. Forget about Miss America, honey. And these ladies aren’t even ladies! Plus, these colors were truly awful — more Froot Loops than mango mojito.

The inclusion of Charo was a stroke of genius on so many levels, not the least of which was a welcome lightening of the mood. I don’t know where she went, but I’m glad she’s back! (Looking strangely the same as the last time I saw her — on Pee-Wee’s Playhouse!) Who can resist her? She even got the pit crew to dance. I wish to god she had stayed on as a judge, but the flamenco diva magic ended far too soon.

The runway question, “Why should you win?” was a telling moment. Bebe led with a dignified answer: “There is pride and dignity in dressing up.” Nina said she wants to inspire others. Shannel answered like a politician, saying a lot without ever really answering the question: “I love myself,” essentially.

But I hate, hate, hate Rebecca’s answer. When someone asks why you should win, you need to have a real reason, something personal and meaningful. I want to make my grandma proud. Or I need the money to buy a house for my mom. But the best Rebecca can come up with is “I want this.”

That’s not a reason; it just restates the question: I want this because I want this. OK, obviously she’s working hard. This is not easy. So, let that be her reason. It would have been better if she’d said simply, “because I deserve to.” At least that speaks to the competition, not just some childish sense of entitlement.

Line of the night: RuPaul’s repeated declarations of “Extravaganza eleganza!”

Charo, on the dance: “Be careful. Spooning leads to forking.”

Charo, on the posture: “Even if you don’t breathe, nevermind. If you drop dead, you drop dead with class.”

Charo, on the walk: “Uno, dos, uno, dos. I am the biggest bitch in the world.”

Nina: “How am I gonna place a mango in an evening gown?”

RuPaul, to Shannel: “Yes… something to wash down the fava beans.”


Dress You Up

This week the girls get to play with some real live dolls. These fierce fairy queens have to drag five tomboy bruisers out of the fight and into the light — and down the runway. How hard can it be? Women wear drag all the time: Dolly … Cher … Edina and Patsy.

After last week, Rebecca is clearly public enemy Number One. Shannel, for one, can’t wait to see her go. It sets up another nice rivalry. Shannel wimps out at first, when the lady fighters lead the queens in a boxing ring workout. But then she rallies and comes back swinging, ultimately putting up the best fight against Rebecca.

But Rebecca pulls out ahead. Her reward for winning the mini-challenge is decide which boy gets paired with which girl. But all of those women look like a challenge to me. How much can she really stack the deck?

Since episode two, when Rebecca said she’d eliminate Shannel, she has shown herself to be a fiercely smart competitor. Of course, the assumption is that Rebecca is sabotaging the others. But behind the curtain, and “under the hood,” she says she tried to split them up fairly.

It’s touching to see the boys coaching the women. You get the impression that they’re giving the lady fighters real life advice, not just runway pep talk. And to their credit, the fighters are game for this challenge. They do their best, but it’s not like they’d normally be seeking this kind of “help.” It’s as much work for them as the workout was for the queens. These women are not gonna go back home and put these new skills to use.

This episode plays with the meaning of drag. In the runway show, the real women look no different from men in drag. Is this show about men teaching women how to act like women? Or is it about men teaching women how to act like men acting like women? How many layers are there?

What’s real? It’s almost as if the women have to exaggerate more than the queens do to “act like women.”

What’s natural? RuPaul says Mia has a “natural beauty” — but only after Mia has been all dolled up by Nina.

The results are impressive, and this is a tough one to judge. Clearly it’s getting hard on RuPaul. He has said many times in the press that he was surprised by how close he got to the competitors. He excuses himself before he can give his verdict this week. I just want to know where he goes. To meditate? Is there a chapel in some corner of the studio where he prays? Does he call in a life line? Does he consult the Psychic Friends Network?

The lip-synch showdown was a disappointment with Bebe practically tearing herself to pieces. Is everyone going to flip their wigs from now on? Is this what it takes to win?

What made Shannel’s performance remarkable was how she ran with an unfortunate wardrobe malfunction and turned it around. I don’t think ripping off your hair shows passion; I think it’s just kind of ugly. But someone has to go. Au revoir, Ongina.


Ryan Ong Drops a Bomb

Ongina: Good things come in small packages.

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.

the untallied hours