“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results,” is often attributed, or misattributed, to Albert Einstein, or maybe it’s just something he said on Snatch Game. In any case, the second episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race season 14 puts this axiom to the test. The second premiere episode duplicates the structure of its first with one important variable: the cast. The results of the repeated experiment don’t capture the alchemy of the original.
Before meeting the remaining cast, there is the aftermath of the first premiere as the remaining six contestants reenter the workroom after the season’s first lip sync between June and Orion. June enters, both exhausted and triumphant, to erase Orion’s mirror message. The rest congratulate June as she voices the internal turmoil sparked by lip-syncing for your life. Kornbread relishes her win as the girls discuss the inevitable appearance of their future competitors. Bosco remarks about the strength of the first seven, which is evident from the first premiere and they are left to wonder if the next seven can match that strength.
We don’t have to wait long. Hailing from Nashville, Jorgeous enters the workroom in a monochromatic feathered look. She instantly brands herself as a gorgeous tiny Latina powerhouse and proclaims herself “the YOUNG dancing queen of Texas”—cut to Alyssa Edwards backrolls and Kennedy Davenport’s “Fuck my drag” gifs—having started drag at the tender age of sixteen. Jorgeous bounces around the workroom sizing up the first half of the cast before her competition enters. DeJa Skye, clad in pink and white polka dots, bursts in proclaiming it time to get “Thickening,” proudly asserting herself as the/a big girl of the competition, encouraging us all to “embrace the curve.: Her resume lets us know she’s a campy cheerleader comfortable with choreography. What is purple, pink and covered in feathers and rhinestones? It’s Jasmine Kennedie from New York City, who lets us know that this “is just the entry look.” A self-identified “ditzy doll,” she prides herself on her polished drag and her dance ability.
Maddy Morphosis enters the workroom as perhaps this season’s most controversial contestant. She asks “Are you ready to pitch a tent, America?” staking claim to the camp queen title in a Guy Fieri-inspired look, complete with a burger purse. Maddy then reveals why her casting has proven so controversial—she’s the first “cis-gendered, heterosexual man” to enter the competition. She asserts that she doesn’t “need to clarify her sexuality,” but it’s already been mentioned two or three times, so it is clearly going to be a story point for the season. She wants to be judged by the content of her drag, which Jorgeous finds lacking.
Angeria Paris VanMichaels, or Angie if you’re nasty, leads umbrella first into the workroom in more polka dots. The “southern belle from ATL,” she defines herself as a “glamorous country bumpkin” and oozes charm. Lady Camden makes up for a lackluster entrance line with high-energy delivery before identifying as “America’s little Spice Girl.” A Brit now located in Sacramentom, she arrives in a confectionary look, literally candy-coated. Finally, Daya Betty enters, rounding out the complete cast. Exuding glam punk, she chimes “You Betty be ready” to the room. She and Maddy know each other, and other girls think she looks familiar before it’s that she is the drag daughter of Crystal Methyd, cue “Rhythm Of The Night.” It’s interesting how many of the contestants already know, or know of, each other before the competition.
Following the same setup as last week, the competition starts with a photoshoot mini-challenge. DeJa starts on a set that is deceptively lacking the drama or danger associated with past photoshoot challenges. RuPaul quickly remedies that with an overabundance of drama and a reveal to a giant bowl of Tic Tacs for the girls to pose. The setup produces humorous interactions between RuPaul and the new cast. A strange reference to Santino’s hat notwithstanding, the photoshoot, somewhat sadly, is the highpoint of the episode. After what seems like a lot of successful photos, Angeria is pronounced the winner of the mini-challenge.
RuPaul announces that the cast will also compete in the CNTs. The cast de-drags before having one-on-ones with RuPaul. There is the standard discussion of who is the trade of the season. They discuss who is a “Gold Star” gay, which feels like an antiquated term at this point, but seems like a premeditated way to discuss Maddy’s heterosexual identity. Not missing a beat, it is revealed that Daya knows Maddy’s dirty little secret.
The one-on-ones start with RuPaul. The lucky selected (or shown) contestants are Angeria, Daya, Camden, DeJa, and Maddy. We get to learn more about each of them as well as their plans for the talent show. RuPaul pushes back particularly against both Daya and Lady Camden for their talent choices. RuPaul is particularly blunt with Lady Camden, saying that she simply finds ballet boring (did anyone ever tell that to Brooke Lynn Heights?). Maddy reveals that she will be playing guitar. (Fool me once, fool me twice, Alyssa Hunter). The real point of Maddy’s one-on-one comes into focus when RuPaul outs (or maybe ins) Maddy as the first cis-gendered, heterosexual contestant in the herstory of RuPaul’s Drag Race. Shocked reactions spread across the room, oddly starting with Daya Betty, who already knew the information. Again, clearly, the producers knew that this casting would court controversy and are eager to milk it for this episode.
As the cast re-drags on elimination day, the discussion remains on Maddy’s sexual orientation—exactly what she didn’t want to happen. Maddy explains that she doesn’t want to be judged for or limited by her sexuality. This may parallel how many queer people feel, but we still live in a world where queer people are rarely afforded space or opportunity to not be defined by our sexuality. Despite the initial surprise, Maddy’s fellow contestants are supportive and seem more curious than critical of her presence. It’s not exactly a reflection of the online discourse outside the show and it misses the relevant concerns around the sanctity of queer spaces and how they may or may not be impacted by the presence of heterosexual men in particular.
There is simply no time for such discussions when Alicia Keys appears in the make-up mirror as if a conjured apparition like Bloody Mary. Alicia Keys, Alicia Keys, Alicia Keys…. The cast squeals with delight. Her motivational speech is genuine and moving, and oddly COVID-appropriate, as she is safely divided from the cast. Cut to the runway where RuPaul enters in a simple and classic glamazon look. She introduces Michelle, Carson, and Alicia. It is pointed out that, along with Frances McDormand, Alicia Keys has become a gorgeous advocate for going make-up free, which is a wonderfully camp juxtaposition for a drag competition show offering its winner a one-year supply of Anastasia Beverly Hills cosmetics.
The CNTs begin and by the time they end, I have to wonder why the producers made such lopsided talent shows. Jorgeous enters with an energetic lip-sync dance number complete with acrobatic flourishes. This is followed by Jasmine who performs an energetic lip-sync dance number complete with acrobatic flourishes. Both are great and impress the judges, but starting a talent show with such similar performances does not bode well. Daya Betty offers another lip-sync, but more conceptual. Sadly, the concept does not meet its potential. The judges are left underwhelmed and confused about what the talent says about Daya Betty, which RuPaul had warned. Lady Camden enters the stage holding a pair of red ballet shoes. Just when you think she’ll do a nod to filmmaking duo Powell and Pressburger’s 1948 cinematic classic The Red Shoes to celebrate her British heritage, she tosses them aside. Instead, she does a homage to the final dance number of the 2000 cinematic classic Center Stage, which is oddly not mentioned by anyone. Unlike Daya, Lady Camden proved RuPaul’s concerns unwarranted and was celebrated by the judges.
DeJa’s instructional cheerleading routine is met with confusion and not much laughter. The judges are more than generous in the beginning, but the skit quickly flounders. More structured than Orion Story, the performance lacked impact. A dramatic lighting change sets the mood for Maddy’s electric guitar performance, oozing blues. Looking like a cross between Joan Jett and Prince, Maddy actually plays the guitar—with her tongue, even—but the judges acutely point out that it was all hidden from the camera. The CNTs end with the best of the lip-sync dance numbers by Angeria, whose performance combines all of the above and humor, while encapsulating who she is as a performer. She nails the assignment and wows the judges.
This is a lackluster talent show compared to last week’s episode. I put the fault more on the producers, who divided the cast knowing well what each contestant had planned as a talent. In opposition to RuPaul’s song, I’m going to blame it on the edit, not the cast.
The runway category is all about signature drag again. Jorgeous nails the category in a bedazzled number, complete with a reveal that acknowledges both her pageant roots and dance skills. DeJa’s look is dramatic with a complementary yet contrasting lace design and regal head wrap. However, the look doesn’t really align with the colorful, campy identity DeJa has claimed. Jasmine gives high drag in a gold sequin gown that the judges compare to both Valley Of The Dolls and the documentary The Queen (now streaming on Netflix). From Raja to Detox and more, Marie Antoinette is probably one of the most referenced looks in Drag Race history, yet Maddy’s interpretation manages to rank as one of the best, and wows the judges.
Angeria is pageant perfection. Beyond the look itself, her attitude and walk make this one of the best runway presentations of this season. The judges agree. Despite DeJa calling herself a pastel princess, Lady Camden seems the most dedicated to the color story, presenting a ’90s rave peacock look that dazzles the judges. Daya, unfortunately, hsas a large rip in her ribbon and plaid corset-inspired look. A shame, because it’s a strong look, despite comparisons to Crystal Methyd. Isn’t the whole point of a drag family a shared aesthetic value? It was definitely one of my favorite looks and it seems unfair for the show not to mention that the rip most likely occurred right before the runway, or I’m sure she would have fixed it or changed.
Jorgeous, Jasmine, and Lady Camden find themselves in the top, while Angeria secures the win. Angeria actually enters the rarefied mini and main club, a term I believe was coined by season-four contestant Willam. Maddy is ranked low, but declared safe, leaving DeJa and Daya in the bottom two. They lip-sync for their lives to “Fallin’” by Alicia Keys in front of Alicia Keys. Daya seems to see it as a burden rather than an opportunity, which is always a bad way to start. DeJa offers some very compelling movements showcasing her choreographer background, and captures the emotion of the song. Daya draws blood in a dramatic gesture, but it doesn’t register strongly from the stage. At one point, it appears as if Daya was lip-syncing to the backtracking chorus as opposed to the main track by Keys, giving the effect that she’s a background singer to DeJa.
In the end, DeJa correctly wins the lip-sync, although RuPaul’s declaration that a lip-sync assassin has been ruvealed feels generous. The issue is that mid-tempo songs don’t work well on the main stage. No offense to DeJa, Daya, or Alicia Keys, because it is a great song and they delivered fine performances, but lip syncs just work better when they are high tempo or ballads. Daya exits the competition, meditating on the idea of knowing oneself and with a lesson about the true multiplicity of an artist.
- My Top Four: Kornbread, Willow Pill, Bosco, and Angeria.
- Favorite Confessional Look: DeJa Skye
- The funniest part of the episode was when Angeria and Lady Camden remarked on each other’s accents and Angeria suggested they get a room and just talk to each other all day.
- Obsessed with the bizarrely neutral energy of Albert, the new photographer. Also can’t help but wonder where in the world Mike Ruiz is after the mentioned former judge Santino.
- Interesting that the straight man was critiqued for their makeup and also wore FLATS. Maybe heels were impossible with the costume construction.
- The cast also seem surprised by Maddy’s “masculine” appearance out of drag, but she looks just like Trixie Mattel in season seven.
- Daya mentioning her diabetes diagnoses and warning of an “unwanted death drop” was the perfect parallel to Willow Pill’s own graceful humor regarding her own affliction. It’s too bad they won’t meet this season.
- What was with the deceptive advertising at a look at the “new All Stars” only to be revealed to be All Stars 6, which has been streaming for months.
- For deep fans, do you think Michelle’s comment about if the camera doesn’t see something then it didn’t happen was a subtle reference to the infamous off-screen interaction between RuPaul and Pearl in season seven?
- The geographic diversity of this season is great. Contestants from all over, especially smaller cities. Hopefully, it will showcase a lot of unique and regional drag.
- Trend Alert Polka Dots on Bosco, DeJa Skye and Angeria.
- It is really impressive how many C.U.N.T. jokes this show gets on air.