“Drag is not a contact sport.”—RuPaul, “Totally Leotarded”
“People watch wrestling because they want to be excited, they want to be turned on, they want beauty.”—RuPaul, “WTF!: Wrestling’s Trashiest Fighters”
No fan of RuPaul’s Drag Race could ever forget the moment last season when plus-sized Mimi Imfurst picked up India Ferrah while lip-syncing to “Don’t Leave Me This Way,” and RuPaul clearly hasn’t either. Except, in typical Drag Race fashion, Ru has completely changed her opinion since a year ago. This week, the queens are the newest luscious ladies to join the WTF! wrestling league, which means shade isn’t the only thing getting thrown this episode. It’s a physical humiliation challenge plus an acting challenge, like when they made Raven and Jessica Wild dress up like chickens to hawk Disco Extra Greasy Shortening, which means it is non-stop hilarity.
After the queens get a brief moment to adjust to Alisa’s elimination last week, the She-Mail arrives to tell them to get ready to pump it up. The mini-challenge is to make the biggest ass possible, requiring the queens to use different packing materials to pad their derrieres for maximum juiciness. This of course leads to gratuitous ass shots of the pit crew, and one unneeded close-up of Willam’s jockstrap.
It’s always fascinating to peek into the drag queen process, in this case, how much time and effort goes into creating a womanly figure. Jiggly is applauded for her “cellulite realness,” filling her spandex with Styrofoam peanuts, but Phi Phi O’Hara, Willam, and Chad Michaels win the challenge. Their reward is that they get to lead their own WTF wrestling team, which, in typical Drag Race fashion, is more of a punishment than anything else.
When Latrice learns about the wrestling challenge, she knows that she’s going to rock it. “I am a big bitch. Who is going to outwrestle me? Nobody.” The big girls are getting their share of the spotlight this season, and we may actually end up with a plus-size queen in the finals. Latrice, Jiggly, and Madame all have personality in spades, and they’re not afraid to show some skin, one of the major weaknesses of previous hefty contestants.
A past ankle injury has Madame LaQueer nervous about getting in the ring, and while that ends up being a non-issue, she does get her moment of sympathy when she talks about her relationship with her family. Madame isn’t close to her family and considers her friends all the relatives she needs, which brings tears to Chad Michaels’ eyes (her mom probably loves Cher) and spurs some surprisingly poignant words from Sharon Needles: “We’re selfish, vain creatures of beauty and isn’t it bizarre how we make the best friends in the world?”
While peeking at some of the contestants’ Facebook pages, I noticed multiple instances of queens hanging out with the girls they’re publicly bitching about on television. For the run of this show, these queens will be fierce rivals, but they’re also going to have to tour together once it’s over. Could that crazy cattiness and brutal honesty be the bizarre phenomenon that brings these people together in the end? It’s all part of the illusion, and putting on a mask gives these men freedom to speak their minds and air their grievances with other men that dress up as women. They put everything out on the table, and once the makeup goes away, so does the drama, replaced with the bond that comes from being a part of the drag-queen community.
Sharon Needles has quickly positioned herself as my favorite queen of the competition, thanks to lines like, “When making your ass, always draw the shape of Africa,” and “Come on, Madame! My damn face is tired of looking at you.” She’s quick on her feet and bursting with personality, essential talents for a successful drag queen. This week proved that she can also be feminine and glamorous, although she’s going to have to work on her girly makeup because her face looked janky on the runway.
The girls get their wrestling training from a trio of buff, scantily clad men, each with a nickname more ridiculous than the last: “Hollywood’s Own” Joey Ryan, Hector “El Chido” Canales, and “King of Submissions” Ryan Taylor. Surprisingly, none of the queen’s talk about wanting to have sex with any of them, but that’s probably because it’s only two weeks into the competition and their libidos haven’t gone crazy yet. As ridiculous as the challenge may seem, there are a lot of different elements that the queens have to balance here: creating distinct back stories and looks for their characters, writing a script for before and during the match, and learning the actual moves.
The episode doesn’t show too much footage of the girls acclimating to the wrestling routines, but when it does, it’s hilarious. During training, a series of quick cuts showing Latrice repeatedly throwing Kenya into LaShawn’s arms like a ragdoll had me cackling. Is there anything funnier than drag queens literally being thrown at each other? It’s going to be hard to top that, but I have no doubt this season will do it.
The actual wrestling match is gleefully trashy, with the queens performing short scenes to set up their fights. Stories about rapid hair growth, sleeping with the coach, and pubic itching lead into hectic brawls where the smack talk is sharper than the actual wrestling. I personally think Phi Phi’s team had the best showing, with the help of Latrice and Kenya as two heels that won’t back down. Phi Phi, Latrice, and Kenya bring it, slap-fighting and attacking each other with makeup brushes, but LaShawn can’t break out of her quiet persona and fades into the background.
Willam’s team has a lackluster showing, hurt by Willam’s overacting (you know it’s bad when you get called out for being too fake while wrestling) and a lack of personality from Dida Ritz and the Princess. The team’s saving grace is Jiggly Caliente, who serves up fistfuls of hood, trying very hard to be more than just a “plus-sized Jujubee.” Chad Michaels’ team is ultimately the winner, thanks to Chad and Madame’s slave-and-master shtick, but the real highlight of that match is seeing Sharon do swimsuit sexy and actually pulling it off.
The judges ask the queens to show off their best girly girl attire after the wrestling matches, and the runway show is a mixed bag. LaShawn serves up “bubblegum yum yum” that the judges have trouble swallowing, while Dida Ritz throws on a white sack and calls it Carrie Bradshaw couture. Milan lets her crush on John Salley get the best of her and frantically runs down the runway like a star-struck fan, not a fierce diva. Madame LaQueer turns out another short dress to show off her legs, Latrice goes for a conservative pink number, and Jiggly dusts off her homecoming dress. Willam has trouble walking in her heels, and the judges appropriately call her out for smarming the show up with her Toddlers & Tiaras schtick.
Ru looks fabulous this week, with a modest blonde afro and a vibrant, form-fitting floor-length dress. NBA champions Rick Fox and John Salley are joined by Drag Race veterans Billy B and Michelle on the panel, and the straight athletes are surprisingly good judges of the girls. There are too many great quotes from the judges to put in stray observations, so here’s a rundown of my favorites:
- RuPaul: “Where there’s smoke, there’s a pussy on fire.” Rick Fox: “This is why I love this show.”
- “Kimora Lee Simmons has put on some weight.”—Billy B
- “Your hair and your makeup, you look like a backup singer for Luther Vandross in 1988.”—Billy B
- “She was going for Sex And The City, it was more like sex in the alley.”—Rick Fox
- “You had me at splat.”—Billy B
- “It was like it was Biggie Smalls and Lil’ Kim all over again.” — John Salley
Chad and Madame are the runway winners, earning a prize package of wigs, but no immunity for either of them. Princess and LaShawn Beyond are in the bottom two, making the lip sync a battle of nonpersonalities, but Princess has the edge and experience that make her a more captivating performer. It’s a lame lip sync with no crazy acts of desperation, making me wonder why either of them are in the competition if they’re not going to go balls-out in the final moments. I mean, it’s frickin’ “Bad Girls” by Donna Summer! LaShawn takes off her shoes immediately, a drag no-no according to the ever-catty Willam, and then just walks around the stage moving her arms. If you take your shoes off, there better be a back flip or the splits or something, because shoes aren’t just part of the costume—they’re part of the queen.
Princess gets to stay to flirt another week with Sharon (yay!), while LaShawn Begone. This week’s lesson: you can’t be a quiet drag queen. It’s not enough to be able to design clothes and walk down a runway, you have to be able to throw shade, rock a lip sync, and have the showmanship that will convince a crowd to throw down those tips.
- When RuPaul says, “I’ve come to pump you up, and I don’t mean your lips,” Chad Michaels awkwardly covers her own pumped-up mug.
- So there’s a RuPaul mix-tape, and it is amazing. “Eye Of The Champion” might be one of the best mashups ever.
- Latrice is absolutely terrifying mid-paint.
- Michelle is rocking a “Werk!” necklace and one helluva push-up bra. She knows she can’t outshine Ru, but she’s going to try nonetheless.
- “Mess with these nasty girls and you’ll end up with a bad taste in your mouth.” RuPaul’s mastery of the double entendre is truly impressive.
- How great would “Snatch Scratch Fever” be as a band name?
- Ever wonder what the different types of drag are? Here’s an educational video explaining what terms like “fishy” mean: