RuPaul’s Drag Race: “Queens Of Talk”
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RuPaul’s Drag Race: “Queens Of Talk”

Talk shows, animal couture, and Cher’s relatives

B+

RuPaul's Drag Race

“Queens Of Talk”

Season 6, Episode 9

On RuPaul’s Drag Race, ignorance is your worst enemy. This is a series all about expanding the horizons of viewers and making them comfortable with a profession that is strange and alien on the surface, proving that drag is a form of artistic expression for very real and relatable emotional needs. It’s a progressive show that embraces both the masculine and feminine in a society that prefers to keep them separate, and heightens the established reality TV format to produce a truly dragged out competition. There is a lot of thought that goes into the creation of this series, and it requires a lot of thought to succeed in it. (Granted, it’s easy to forget the complexity of this show when there’s a mini-challenge that involves hairy men in underwear spelling out words with letters on their butts.)

Ignorance takes many forms in tonight’s episode, which casts the queens as talk show hosts interviewing Chaz Bono and Cher’s mother Georgia Holt, and just because a queen is wise in some areas doesn’t mean she can’t be ignorant in others. Bianca is smart and professional, but doesn’t realize that a talk show host also needs to be relaxed, personable, and have strong time management skills, all qualities that she could easily learn with some experience. Everyone has weak spots where they can grow, and after coming out on top in nearly every previous challenge, Bianca is just safe this week, although she’s still in the upper echelon of hosts.

A performer who usually deals with loud drunk people in nightclubs, Bianca doesn’t quite understand the behavior of a talk show host, but at least she shows up prepared and doesn’t offend anyone with her questions (although Georgia might have been offended by being ignored). Darienne joins Bianca in the middle ground, struggling to mask her anxiety in front of the camera and putting on an awkward, flustered persona that doesn’t connect with her guests, but she still fares better than Joslyn, Trinity, and Adore.

Joslyn’s aloof personality was endearing for a while, but her inability to listen to criticism seriously diminishes her charm this week. When she tells RuPaul about her vagina-heavy introduction, she’s told to take a different approach and doesn’t follow the direction, starting her segment off with an even clunkier version of her already bad line: “Please welcome someone who has come out twice since coming out of Cher. And someone whose came back 66 years after Cher came out of her.” Her interview actually isn’t going that badly until she completely loses all sense of tact and asks Georgia Holt about her views on abortion, setting up her question with a comment about Cher being alive thanks to a last minute decision at the abortion clinic.

Joslyn’s bizarre abortion detour would have landed her in the bottom two if she didn’t deliver an honest apology expressing the immense shame she feels over her choice, and she’s lucky she was able to fool the judges with a display of emotional vulnerability because she delivers another messy runway look this week. She interprets Animal Kingdom realness as Glamazonian Warrior Woman, but incorporating some animal-inspired cosmetic elements like feathers in an ensemble that looks like it came off the rack in the Juniors department isn’t going to cut it when there are queens coming out in elaborate costumes that embody a specific animal.

As someone that has had the opportunity to interview quite a few people, I can directly relate to the interview anxieties of these queens, and understanding their situation makes it even more awkward when they completely fuck up. (Is this what seasoned drag queens feel when they watch contestants screw up on this show?) At this point, I know how to research a subject and create questions and follow-ups, but a lot of those skills I honed by doing shoddy phone interviews that forced me to get comfortable talking to other people and engaging with them in a conversation. It can be difficult to overcome the pressure of an interview, and some queens like Darienne can’t hide their nerves once they start chatting with their guests. The best way to overcome nerves is by being prepared, and that’s Adore and Trinity’s biggest problem.

Preparedness is Adore’s major struggle in this competition, and while she definitely has the talent and the wit to make it to the final three, she doesn’t have a strong work ethic so she falls apart in challenges that are outside her comfort zone. When she faces something that is new to her, she needs to really buckle down and figure out what she needs to do to succeed. The girls have a valuable resource when RuPaul enters the workroom, but they rarely take advantage of the opportunity to ask Ru for specific advice and usually wait for the host’s opinions first. Courtney is proactive and decides to ask Ru what exactly the judges are looking for to make her performance more worthwhile, and that’s the kind of attitude someone like Adore should have when getting accustomed to different aspects of the industry.

Adore’s interview is awkward and sloppy as hell, but at least she gets everyone’s name right. Trinity commits one of the cardinal sins of interviews by not knowing Chaz Bono’s name, and she calls him Chad throughout the entire interview. She’s also not particularly charismatic as a host, fumbling through her questions and failing to create a comfortable atmosphere for her guests. Trinity’s phoenix-inspired runway look is far superior to both Joslyn and Adore, who disappoints the judges with an ensemble that combines Hannibal Lecter, Catwoman, and Kitana from Mortal Kombat, but Trinity’s abysmal performance in the main challenge puts her in the bottom two, facing off against Adore in a lip sync to Paula Abdul’s “Vibeology.”

Adore and Paula Abdul have a history together because of American Idol, so you better believe that Adore is going to turn it out when she performs a Paula Abdul song with Paula on the judges’ panel. It’s another great lip sync with two fierce queens fighting to stay in the competition, and it only gets better when Adore and Trinity start to interact with each other. They’re going to put on the best show they possibly can, and they understand that feeding off of the other contestant’s energy and using it will make the judges’ decision all the harder. The two are just about equally matched in the lip sync, but Adore has shown more promise in the competition so she shantays to safety while Trinity shantays away. Trinity proved to be a much deeper queen than she initially appeared to be, and thanks to her performances in last week’s episodes, she gets to leave this show with a winning spirit knowing that she had a personal breakthrough that made Mama Ru get all emotional.

The two queens that do the best this week rock both the talk show and the runway, asking smart questions while maintaining a friendly attitude in their interviews and wowing the judges with distinct costumes. Courtney has considerable talk show experience in Australia, and she knows exactly how to carry herself on camera, even though Michelle thinks that her energy dips after about a minute. Courtney’s a fascinating character, someone who has already tasted stardom and is now fighting for the spotlight against queens who haven’t seen that kind of fame, but she has a bloated ego that makes it difficult to root for her.

It’s nice to see Courtney take some initiative and ask Ru what she needs to do to stand out, but then there are those moments when Courtney begs for attention and it just sours her entire personality. Her winged runway look this week is incredible, but Courtney’s voiceover dulls the impact by explicitly stating that she wants this outfit to be posted on blogs and Facebook, pushing the ensemble a little too far into fame-whore territory. Her look is pretty, but it’s also the usual Courtney Act fare with a wingspan, while Bendela delivers something totally fresh and unexpected for her Animal Kingdom couture.

Bendela has taken the judge’s critiques and dropped her exaggerated character to show a more real side, one that just happens to be dressed in a crazy fly costume this week. Moving away from the old Dela character is greatly beneficial in the interview, which goes very smoothly as Bendela takes on a far more natural persona, and there’s a notable difference in the way she carries herself on the runway, too. Her runway look will go down as one of the kookiest costumes in the history of Drag Race, and Bendela really sells it by getting on the floor and crawling around like an insect. When she’s in front of the judges, Bendela is bubbly and adorable without being grating, and while her wingspan may not compete with Courtney’s, she delivers a lot more personality with her runway appearance. Courtney ultimately wins this one, but Bendela is one bug that probably isn’t buzzing away any time soon.

Stray observations:

  • In other news: R.I.P. She-Mail. You always delivered amazing puns that put other reality TV scriptwriters to shame, but it’s time for you to sashay away. This season’s tasteless “Female Or She-Male” mini-challenge sparked accusations of transphobia, and Logo responded by cutting that episode from its airing schedule and online streaming services. If that mini-challenge hadn’t occurred, it’s very possible that the pun “She-Mail” would still be around today, but with a high-profile trans guest on the show this week, Logo has gone to extra effort to appease the trans community by cutting anything resembling “she-male” from the rest of the season (and likely the rest of the series). 
  • This week on Untucked: Adore and Trinity know that they’re going to be in the bottom. Darienne gets called out for being a shady bitch. The queens guess quotes and make fun of Magnolia Crawford. Courtney tells her sad story about the time she doubted herself and sat in a gutter and saw a rainbow halo and realized that the only thing that was wrong with her was that she thought something was wrong with her (life is so hard for Courtney Act). “There’s too many of these queens from Drag Race trying to sing. So don’t put out an album.” “That’s not Ganj, she wouldn’t say that. She’s not that good at make-up.” “I think I have a brain of an alien and no one gets it. I think very outside of the box, I’m not purple or red. I’m just like that glittery crayan that they have with selective boxes of Crayola crayons. That’s me.”
  • RuPaul and Michelle Visage have a new biweekly podcast and it’s essential listening for Drag Race fans, especially aspiring queens who want to appear on the show.
  • Bianca’s serving up Cheetara realness on the runway. Thundercat Ho!
  • Trinity’s “fall down go boom” butt-slam dance move is so wonderfully awkward. Her dance skills may be limited, but she can sell that goofy choreography.
  • Chaz says that Joslyn skinned her guests alive. Yowch.
  • “We’re gonna box each other!”
  • “Sometimes it’s two, sometimes it’s four. But this time, there are ten.”
  • “It’s like a game of hangman, but bigger and longer and a lot scruffier.”
  • Georgia: “No, darling. We were broke and it was during the depression.” Adore: “Party.”
  • “Now, if it weren’t for a last minute decision at the abortion clinic, the world wouldn’t know Cher.”
  • “She’s a fly girl.”
  • RuPaul: “Blame it on Bianca Del Rio.” Bianca: “Always blaming me.”
  • “Give me Chad Michaels or don’t waste your time.”
  • RuPaul: “You make one misstep and then—” Michelle: “Merle comes back?”
  • Michelle: “Stuck some feathers on her head and—” Santino: “And called it macaroni.”
  • “I don’t give a Friar Tuck who you are, you don’t be showing me that with no meaty tuck.”

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