Photo: World of Wonder / Paramount +
The winners! They’re winner-ing, baby! In yet another very successful episode of All Stars, this week is the Realness of Fortune Ball, which means… our first design challenge! I (along with many others) have been eagerly anticipating this challenge since we have multiple iconic designers in our midst. “If I had four blocks,” says Jinkx, “there’s four people I would’ve blocked.” The camera cuts around the room, first to Shea, then to Raja, Shea, and Trinity. I would also throw The Vivienne in the mix, who once created a stunning vinyl fringe piece for a design challenge across the pond on Drag Race UK. But suffice it to say: it’s (almost) anyone’s game, and the creations gracing the runway today are ones for the books. I hope you’re as excited as I am.
Despite running away with the crown series one of Drag Race UK, The Vivienne has been flying under the radar thus far. While she’s performed admirably, Viv has yet to find herself truly in consideration for a legends star, and this week is no exception. The Vivienne begins with a perfectly nice velvet wrap dress. Her “Princess Diana Ross” runway is quite fun, too. What it lacks in specificity (besides the hair, it’s quite light on the Diana Ross), it makes up for in characterization. For her elegance, Viv whips up an off-the-shoulders turquoise gown. It’s chic, well-fitted, and would feel right at home in an eveningwear collection. However, next to the likes of Jaida, Raja, Shea, and Trinity, she just can’t compete. Perhaps it’s the strength of the competition in the colonies, perhaps it’s jet lag, but Viv will need to step up her game in the coming weeks if she wants a shot at the queen of queens title.
The directive for the judges’ panel is to “be nice” this season, I suppose, but I’m under no such obligation. This was a tough episode for Yvie. Then again, so was the last one. While The Vivienne is having trouble breaking out from the pack, Yvie is standing out for all the wrong reasons. Her Vanna White look is a perplexing failure, her “Cardi Bea Arthur” is a fun idea that falters in the execution (I don’t even understand what Cardi look she was referencing, if any!), And her elegance, which may have been safe on a standard season, is far from my favorite. While Yvie had some highs on her season (her iconic lip syncs and her unconventional materials gown), she may be the winner with the fewest. Indeed, her only win was shared with Scarlet Envy on an acting challenge, and it’s hard to imagine her recreating that success on a season with the likes of Jinkx and The Vivienne. It’s still early, of course, but at this stage, it’s difficult to imagine a top four with Yvie in it.
Coin X Change
Monét begins the ball with the sluttiest Vanna White you’ve ever done seen. She looks stunning (albeit not cable-friendly) in a white gown with a side slit all the way up to her waist. Her next category? A lovely ode to her fellow Drag Race winner and Sibling Rivalry Frenemy Bob the Drag Queen. It’s fun, she looks good, and the judges are big fans of her shaky, geriatric purse first entry onto the stage. Her elegance is yet another leg-forward, slutty addition to the Monét runway canon, capping off a perfectly respectable ball showing. But for Monét, the real fun takes place behind the scenes. As you may recall, last week Trinity and Monét cemented a “twinners” alliance, pledging never to block each other. This week, they decide to expand their alliance in the most conspicuous way possible. First, they approach Jinkx, who diplomatically informs them that while she won’t necessarily side against them, she’s unwilling to enter into a shady Werkroom pact. Not to be discouraged, Trinity approaches Shea, again explaining the deal. Shea muses to Trinity that this alliance seems to benefit Monét more than anyone else, but not before Jaida eavesdrops, therefore also getting all the deets of the Trinity / Monét pitch. At this point, half the queens know of these machinations, and the other half will probably be hearing about it at dinner an hour later. While this no longer appears to be a sound strategy for getting to the top four, I will say I am very entertained. So to Monét, I say: go forth and scheme, queen! I support you.
With the stakes of going home off the table, one might imagine these edited segments of contestants struggling might lose their meaning. But in fact, it’s kind of the opposite. Since we no longer fear for Jinkx’s place in the competition, we’re free to partake in a bit of schadenfreude at her expense this episode as the beloved, aesthetically-challenged narcoleptic queen struggles through sewing machine mishaps and hot glue fiascos. And ultimately could it could’ve been worse! Jinkx dons a lovely Vanna White garment that ends up matching Vanna herself – no better validation than that. Her “Baby Jane Fonda” look is clever and on-brand, if not particularly “pretty.” Her final elegance is… well, it’s not “good” by any means, but given the dramatic build-up, I would have imagined it to be far worse. Overall, an entertaining (and predictable) episode for Jinkx. “It’s my one weakness, y’all!” Jinkx reminds us at the end, and she’s probably right. Hope the girls are ready.
As for Shea? There’s nary a weakness to be seen. While she only has one badge so far, Shea’s domination over the competition is plain to see. Her fellow queens view her as a front runner in almost every challenge, and for a good reason: she’s damn good at them! This week feels like déjà vu, as Shea is given all the materials to recreate her iconic bridal moment from her last All Stars run. She brainstorms numerous other less repetitive concepts, but why fight it? White fabric and sheer lace always reads bridal anyway, and if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. The end result is fantastic: a perfectly styled veil on top of a beautiful dress, with insanely detailed boned corsetry. That’s Shea for you. Her Vanna White realness is lovely as well, though as Carson correctly points out, it really doesn’t read Vanna. Rounding out the looks, Shea’s “Gold Tooth Fairy” is well-executed but perhaps not the most creative concept she’s ever come up with. Another good night for Shea: though it’s early, her top four prospects are hard to deny.
Of all the winners, Raja finds herself in the most difficult position. Back in season three, she created a legacy as THEE runway and design queen that has followed her to this day. Every fashion queen the show has produced since has been compared to Raja in some way, causing her legacy to grow beyond what anyone could have ever anticipated way back in Drag Race‘s infancy. Raja has a lot to live up to. So it makes it all the more impressive that thus far, she really has. Raja’s gold elegance is a triumph. It’s the best of the evening by a mile: a runway that feels destined to be etched in the annals of fan cams, Instagram mood boards, and TikTok compilations for years to come. The expert ruching of the sleeves, the sleek bodice, the plunging neckline, the opera glasses… it’s high camp and even higher glamor. Now more than ever, it’s clear: Raja doesn’t merely reference; she is the reference. The judges agree, so why, you might ask, isn’t Raja at the top in this episode? Well, the answer comes in the form of her Before / After runway, or lack thereof. Raja chooses “Olivia Newton-John Waters” a fun concept but one that sorely lacks in execution. Raja enters sporting leggings, a black baby tee, and a John Waters mustache so thin as to be invisible to the naked eye. It’s egregiously phoning it in, and I’m absolutely certain it cost Raja her star tonight. I understand the judges’ decision, but if it were me staring up at Raja in all her glory on that runway? I don’t think I’d have been able to resist giving her the win. A SHOOT, indeed.
I don’t think anyone, contestant or viewer, is having a better time this season than Trinity. Even after being blocked from receiving a star last week, she seems in better spirits than half the cast. And I think I’ve deduced why: Trinity isn’t intimidated by any of these girls. She wants to win, of course, but I think Trinity is more confident than anyone else in the competition in her ability to make the top four. She executed her snatch games last week exactly to her vision, and this week she makes plenty of time for story producing with Monét in between finishing up her garments. And who’s to say she isn’t right? This week she does pretty damn well. She flexes her pageant expertise with her Vanna White look, easily one of the best of the night and almost certainly the most expensive. Her RuPaul Charles II? Cute! The details are all there, even if the impetus behind the idea is still a little puzzling. And finally, her red elegance is quite a feat as well. The cutouts look mechanically measured, the styling of the hair and jewelry feels almost too perfect to have come together today, and the flare at the gown’s bottom adds the ideal amount of drama. Trinity takes her second win in two episodes and her first legends star. The other queens may be worried, but Trinity sure isn’t.
Jaida Essence Hall
As the founder and president of the Jaida Essence Hall Monitors, tonight was most pleasing to me. Gigi Goode may have edged Jaida out the last ball (contentiously, some might argue), but no such injustice occurs this time around. Jaida’s Vanna White is the best of the bunch, and her runway commentary makes it even better. (“Vanna White was the first white lady allowed in my house growing up!”) And while the other girls are busy trying to be “funny” with their Before / After looks, Jaida is busy just being beautiful. Good for her! Finally, the piece of resistance, her elegance. Jaida’s goth, devilish black dress is a strong second place (after Raja). It fits her like a glove, it’s chic but edgy, and it’s styled to perfection. She grabs this challenge by the horns and delivers. I’m overjoyed to see it.
When it comes to the final showdown of the evening against Trinity, Jaida is even better. Jaida has never lost a lip sync and tonight is no exception. It’s only right that she gets to perform to Queen Bey, and “Green Light” is the perfect track for her to show off. The multitude of fringe on her two-piece is working overtime, and it’s mesmerizing to watch. She drops into splits, plays off Trinity’s (perhaps too hammy) comedy, all the while totally nailing the song’s sexiness. She’s the clear victor and thus is given the power to “block.” She chooses… Jinkx Monsoon! Perhaps Jinkx overplayed her hand by telling the girls her stumbling days were over because Jaida believes her. Next week is a courtroom improv / acting challenge, and that might prove to have been the savviest move Jaida could have pulled. Time will tell.
Until next week!