Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars returns with 13 queens hungry for Ru-demption

This season of All Stars might not be ridic-dic-dic-du-du-dic-dic-dic-dic-dic-dic-du-du-diculous, but it's fun all the same

The cast of RuPaul's Drag Race All Stars season six
The cast of RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars season six
Photo: Vijat Mohindra/Paramount+

Put on your best walking-through-a-door-and-hitting-your-mark-then-posing-for-an-eternity look, because All Stars is back, babyyyyyyyyyy! It’s got everything: Queens you know and love! Queens you know, end of sentence! Coco Montrese in a wig made of Christmas tree tinsel! An abundance of testicle jokes! Delusional confidence! Miss Piggy! A large and very wobbly and stretchy pair of false breasts! The immaculate teeth of Ross Matthews! Wigs! What a bounty. What a cavern of delights. And what a perfectly acceptable but not all that thrilling premiere.

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This recap will encompass the first two episodes of season six because All Stars arrived on its new home on Paramount+ with not one but two episodes. There’s a lot of ground to cover, so let’s get into it.

“All Star Variety Extravaganza”

Drag Race premieres are always crowded. There are the introductions and entrance looks, usually some kind of special guest, and in the case of All Stars, the now-traditional All Star Variety Extravaganza. After this season’s stars all make their entrances* and attempt to set up their redemption arcs, RuKleinEpstein&ParkerPaul teases one last queen entrance (what’s up, Miss Piggy) and then kicks things promptly into high gear by asking his guest to announce the first mini-challenge. The library, it seems, is open. Some highlights:

  • Kylie, to Ginger: “Bitch, you are shaped like a deep breath.”
  • Jiggly: “When the CDC said there should be no gatherings of more than 10 people, Pandora was like, ‘my show should be fine.’”
  • Pandora: “Eureka O’Hara, from HBO’s We’re Here! We wish you weren’t.”
  • Ginger: “Jiggly Caliente! May I call you... stupid?”

The question one must ask after the library challenge is a simple one: Did anyone say anything even half as funny as Jujubee’s “Miss Tyra, was your barbecue canceled?” read? The answer, as always, is no. Ginger wins, a victory that, based on the edit, is both well-deserved and unsurprising. This lucky bitch gets a trip to a goddamn Italian villa! I remember the days when a queen would win a maxi challenge and the prize was a three-night stay at a Motel 6 in Florida and a $10 gift certificate to Boobs4Queens.com.

Ru condragulates Ginger on her win, hints at a “game-within-a-game,” and then tells the queens to get ready to share their talents with the world. So they do! And it’s... fine. But it’s hard to break past fine because the variety show challenge is a lot. The queens need to be entertaining, first and foremost, but they also need to be strategic. Should they surprise the judges? Use it as a branding opportunity? Take a risk, or play it safe?

Wait, did I just use the word “safe”? Somewhere out there, Jan’s ears just perked up.

Jan sounds like a million bucks, but there’s something just too funny about her showing up talking a big game about how now she’s not going to pout if she’s safe because she can only control what she can control and do her best... only to spend most of the episode talking about being safe. And then singing a song about being safe. And then being announced as safe and heading back to “Jan-tucked” to be quietly salty about being safe while unconvincingly pretending to be cool with safe.

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Still, it’s a surprise when neither she nor Eureka, who sings a song she wrote in honor of her late mother, winds up in the top. Joining them in the Jan zone safe zone are Jiggly (lip-syncing to her own rap track in a lackluster cheerleader look), Kylie Sonique Love (singing a jazzy tune without doing so much as a single backflip but looking stupidly hot), A’keria (another one lip-syncing to a branding track but absolutely serving while doing so), Scarlet (a really fun and sexy strip-tease with bubbles!), and Ginger (yet another personalized track, a disappointing showing). Abandon catchphrase remixes! Bring back Tati doing spoken word performance poetry!

The Jans queens head back to the Werkroom while the judges give the tops and bottoms—Pandora Boxx, Ra’Jah O’Hara, Yara Sofia, Silky Nutmeg Ganache, Trinity K. Bonet, and Serena ChaCha—their critiques. It’s reasonable to quibble about whether or not these six deserve their placements, but with the possible exception of Silky, it’s not hard to figure out who’s in which group. Silky’s performance of “This Little Light Of Mine” starts out strong. She easily involves the audience and plays the piano with some obvious skill. But as Ross says, it was less like being taken to church than it was “a church pew,” with the performance falling flat once singing and playing had to merge. Trinity ominously reminds us early in the episode that queens who do standup in the variety show always go home, then surprises no one at all by winding up in the bottom. And Serena ChaCha leans into her “I do wigs” thing with a Daft Punk-inspired number that seems promising at first but goes nowhere.

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The top is made up of three very different performances. Perennial bridesmaid Pandora Boxx and glorious weirdo Yara Sofia both lip-sync to their own tracks, but each adds something more to the mix, with Pandora landing more than one solid joke and some unexpected silly string, and Yara, uh:

Gif: Paramount+
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Yara jiggles those titties. It is, as Michelle puts it, “so stupid, and stupid is good on the main stage.” Rounding out the top three is Ra’Jah, who pulls a Bianca Del Rio and makes a dress on stage, but does it in a minute. Yara nabs the first win of the season, but is ultimately bested in the Legacy lip-sync (to Bruno Mars’ “Uptown Funk,” for some godless reason) by lip-sync assassin Coco Montrese. It’s revealed in Untucked that the queens overwhelmingly voted for Serena to exit, so the cash tip rolls over and Serena heads back to pack. We also see that Yara, who promises to “Manila everybody,” has picked the person she perceives as the bigger threat; had she and her undulating bosoms won the lip-sync, Trinity would have been eliminated.

But there’s a twist, of course: Serena’s exit is interrupted by the disembodied head of RuPaul, who tells her the aforementioned game-within-a-game has yet to begin. (Last Chance Kitchen?) It’s a decent premiere, with a somewhat lackluster variety show countered by an energetic and very game cast. And also by Yara’s titties.

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Grade: B

* My fave entrance looks: Scarlet, Ginger, Pandora, Ra’Jah, and (girl gasp!) A’keria, just sparkling like Tinkerbell working in Vegas.

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“The Blue Ball”

The most compelling aspects of a ball challenge are a) the creativity and resourcefulness of the queens, and b) as boring as it might sound, time management! So when you’ve committed to a 36-look runway that’s also a construction challenge, you’ve also committed to skipping much of what makes those runways so compelling. That’s not to say that construction challenges can’t be effective early in the season. Jiggly’s baked potato couture, while disastrous, is also absolutely iconic. But unconventional materials plus two other looks when there are still 12 queens in the mix? That makes for an episode that’s stretched too thin. Let’s break things down into categories.

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Storyline: If you’re a Trinity K. Bonet fan—come on in, the water’s fine—then “The Blue Ball” bodes well for your viewing pleasure this season. Despite the fact that she winds up Jan safe, TKB gets quite a lot of screentime. She’s not Ra’Jah, but she comes damn close to winning the talking head game in these first two episodes. That’s largely due to a Trinity/Yara conflict set up in the final moments of the premiere, one heightened by the revelation that all of the queens except Serena voted for Serena to leave. All but Yara, who considers Trinity the bigger threat. No higher praise, really.

Just as TKB’s screentime should encourage her fans, Jiggly and Yara’s edits make it clear from the start that they’ll both either triumph or flop. Yara keeps her constructed look a secret, so it’s hard to predict which it might be. Jiggly, on the other hand, is pretty obviously doomed, not only because of the look she’s attempting but because her friendship with Ginger gets played up so much.

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Almost no one else gets much screentime. Scarlet who? Pandora what? Silky Nutmeg Ga-where?

The judges: Big Freedia wipes the floor with Carson and Michelle, look-wise. That hair!

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Look 1: Blue Betta Work. I’d love to write about all the looks. I did, in fact, but then this recap was 3,500 words, so let’s just go with some highlights and lowlights. The good: Ra’Jah kills it in her project manager look, placing a hard hat on top of a tall beehive. Kylie’s carpentry drag is sick (Carson has it right: “Debbie Harry for Angie’s List!”). Eureka wins the battle of the crossing guards with money an expertly tailored orange gown. Ginger’s Mario drag is a delight, top to bottom. Jiggly’s best look of the night is what Ru calls “Oscar De La Grouch,” a clever look made cleverer by the presence of a trash can adorned with the names of the other queens.

The not-so-good: Yara returns to the jiggle-those-titties titties, pairing them with massive tattooed arms in a construction worker look that’s confusing the the judges. Silky wears a sexy red jacket and carries some milk bottles with her face on them, like she had a look she loved and then bought a milk carrier on Etsy and called it a day. Trinity’s crossing guard drag is aided by a fun performance, but Eureka showed her up; had this been better, TKB might have landed in the top. Jan is a tire? But also a mouse?

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Look 2: Blue Jean Baby. Again, Ra’Jah and Kylie are standouts, with Ra’Jah taking inspiration from Mary J. Blige and Kylie turning to Britney and Xtina and incorporating the trans pride flag. Jan wears an impressive patchwork bodysuit with exaggerated shoulders and a star butt, definitely her best look of the three. A’keria’s lace-up bodysuit and Bantu knots are incredible and no one can tell me otherwise. Pandora’s Dolly Parton-inspired look is reminiscent of her season-two country realness look, but a huge improvement. (And also Santino’s not there to tell her she’s creepy. SEE YA NEVER, BUTTHOLE!)

Jiggly’s Betty drag did more for me than the judges, though it’s definitely simple compared to some of the others. Carson says Yara’s two-piece denim look is a blue bandana print, but I think it’s actually meant to be pockets? It’s not denim, but it’s a print of denim. Not great, but not a disaster. Ginger’s jumpsuit underwhelms, but her thigh-high boots (“I think they’re knee-high on most people”) are A+.

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Look 3: Blue Ball Bonanza. In a world before Utica’s sleeping bag dress, this look would have been even more impressive, but Ra’Jah’s structured mini and bolero are still striking and cement her win. Yara’s “FEMA tent realness” is pretty great, making it seem all the more producer-y when she winds up in the bottom two. Scarlet’s blue-sequinsed mermaid gown fits beautifully, and Trinity serves us fairy godmother meets Lily James in Cinderella and it is lovely.

Gif: Paramount+
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Silky impressively makes a pair of pants from a quilt and then doesn’t know when to stop; the workmanship and the “what?” cancel each other out a bit, but combined they manage to distract from per 30-minutes-or-less paint job. And Jiggly is not dressed like a baked potato and I think that’s a win!

Deliberation and lip-sync: The Jans all head backstage as eventual winner Ra’Jah, Kylie, and Eureka get high marks from the judges. A’keria’s mixed reviews make it clear she’ll be safe. Jiggly gets the critique she was always going to get, and Yara’s missteps coupled with her “I’m gonna be the evil one and also I am definitely overconfident right now” edit secures her place in the bottom.

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Jiggly breaks hearts by talking about how she wants to show the world someone other than the “broken girl” she was in season four. And she succeeds in that! But it’s not enough to get her through to the next episode. After a killer lip-sync between Ra’Jah and assassin Brooke Lynn Hytes, Ru announces a tie, and it’s revealed that both Ra’Jah and the group are sending Jiggly home. Well, back to the hotel until the game-within-a-game starts.

Seriously, that lip-sync! Despite the total bummer of Jiggly, a longtime fave of many a Drag Race viewer, heading home early, the episode ends on a high note thanks to the verve and vigor of Ra’Jah and Brooke Lynn’s “Miss You Much.” It’s not “Shut Up And Drive,” but it’s a classic in the making all the same. And that’s what we want from All Stars—some of the show’s greatest queens pushing themselves to new heights while Janet Jackson blares in the background.

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Grade: B-.

Stray observations

  • Hey y’all, I’m Allison, subbing for your pal and mine Kate Kulzick while she’s on maternity leave. I’ll do my best to fill her shoes, but luckily she’s also going to share some brief thoughts from time to time in a segment we like to call...
  • Kate’s corner: “Thanks for covering All Stars, Allison! I can’t wait to read your reviews. My quick take: The variety show was a step up from recent entries, but there are still too many queens lip-syncing and not enough getting creative, like Ra’Jah and Scarlet. I was impressed with the overall level for the ball. This is a talented cast and the votes are only going to get tougher (still #TeamJiggly). Before the premiere I would have said All Stars 6 was Ginger’s to lose, but now, I have my eyes on Ra’Jah and Kylie and my fingers crossed for more lip-sync battles as memorable as Ra’Jah and Brooke Lynn’s.”
  • Since she’s quoted in this episode, I simply must ask the question I’ve been asking for seasons now: Jessica Wild on All Stars when?
  • Untucked: Lots of feelings, little meanness! Love to see it. Best soundbite goes to Kylie: “My strategy is to not tell the whole room what my strategy is.”
  • I’m a huuuuge Muppets fan but I’ve gotta say the Miss Piggy segments were a little underwhelming. It might have worked better in the studio, but you know. Covid. (Yes she’s a puppet but she’s operated by a human. Sorry if that’s a spoiler.)
  • “It’s very Saint-Tropez.” “Did you spend your whole childhood watching Drag Race?”
  • “I’m congenial!”
  • “I look like Anna Faris got stung by a bunch of bees in the shower, grabbed the shower curtain, wrapped herself up, and stumbled to safety.”
  • My gif-t to you for the week: just perfect.
Gif: Paramount+
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