Gentlemen, chill your Absolut, glue on your lashes, and please do kindly start your engines, because RuPaul's Drag Race is back. After eight long months of subsisting on last season's GIFs, TV's sparkliest reality show has finally returned with Season 6 — in a surprise two-part premiere, no less, with only seven of the queens revealed this week and seven still to come. Because, as Ru puts it, "The only thing better than one big opening is two." I'm inclined to agree.
But let's start at the very beginning, namely the opening Season 6 trailer. There is some stellar stuff in here — an overall horror movie theme, complete with a faux-MPAA rating of "sickening" and Khloe Kardashian trying to wield some drag slang. But, most important by far: Someone (yet unpictured) FINALLY calls Santino out on the fact that he did not win the reality show he was on! Yes! Praise be! Whoever that was deserves the crown. Or at least a truckload of sequins or something.
Then, it's back to Ye Olde Workroom, where we get to meet our first batch of queens:
… sports an outfit best described as "Christmas pinup," and is, in her own words, "a fucking Libra." She does her best to make a quip about not being polished, but stumbles and ends up calling herself "Polish remover" — like an ethnic cleanser you'd find at Duane Reade. Then, she informs the empty room of her lack of underwear. I predict that she will make for some entertaining GIFs.
…is Michelle Visage. No shade intended in either direction — that was my honest first impression. I mean, her coked-up-Doris-Day demeanor definitely sets her apart, but the black bouffant hair, the general facial shape, the 17 pairs of lashes… it's there. Too bad Sharon Needles already killed it with her Michelle impression in Season 4's Snatch Game. DeLa, as she apparently prefers, is one of those drag queens, à la Tammie Brown, who is In Goddamn Character at all times, a role she considers "terminally delightful." Adore is not having it: "Partyyyyy…" she drawls, as her eyes scream for salvation. Which comes in the form of…
Now that, children, is how you make an ENTRANCE. Shades, rhinestones, a bag big enough to hide Shangela in — and to top it off, there's a bathing suit reveal? That's it, folks — she's done for the day. We got what we needed. Gia labels herself "fishy" (which, yes, if you're Lady), and coins her moniker as "the three Cs: crazy cuckoo [Charisma-Uniqueness-Nerve-Talent]." Well, at least it's better than "Polish remover." Plus, she sets the bitchery ball rolling by slyly calling DeLa old. Ha.
WHY MUST YOU MAKE ME EAT MY WORDS, LAGANJA? Bounding in with that technicolor tartan, Oprah-yodeling something about Season 6, then immediately slamming into a death drop—! Even Gia gives three snaps of werk recognition. Apparently, Laganja likes to think of herself as "ghetto but also classy and glamorous," and while I tend to raise an eyebrow at aryan boys tossing around the word "ghetto," that intro buys her a wee judgment buffer. She is also old pals with Adore — and can I just ask, what is up with that? Where do they find these girls? Would it be that difficult to diversify the search some? She also will not stop dancing, or yodeling, or dancing some more. DeLa's reaction? "Barf." Sorry DeLa, but I get the feeling there is far too much more where that came from.
… gives me a first glimmer of hope for the camp-factor of this competition, dressed like a bedazzled soldier-boyscout hybrid with a giant backpack and, wait for it, dragging a full parachute behind her. Gia's reaction: a gasp, punctuated with the flick-open of a bejeweled fan. Because, yes. Because how else could you react to a Puerto Rican drag queen who describes herself as "a cross between Bjork and Coco Rocha." You guys, this is truly the height of television. I can already feel the glitter coursing through my veins.
Disclaimer: I am coming into this season a Kelly Mantle fan, from such YouTube ventures as her 40s-jazzy (and uncensored) cover of "My Neck, My Back (Lick It)," which I will let speak for itself. Gia's right, her initial look is nothing to gag over, per se, but her pin curls are certainly on point. Plus, given her extensive IMDb listings, Ms. Mantle will likely be more of a performer than a fashionista, and that's just fine with me.
Oh, Vivacious. Don't you know what they say about the best laid plans of mice and men dressed as glittery space creatures? Still, post-zipper-gaffe, she pulls it together and pronounces, Pepper LaBeija-style, that "Mother has arrived!" with a perfectly-timed flick of her fan. (Okay, where are all these fans coming from? Is this a thing now? Can it be, pretty please? Mental note: acquire fan for next Monday's viewing.) Vivacious is a proud alum of the New York City club kids and says her "living art" look is inspired by Leigh Bowery — AKA, she came correct. If Adore has any clue who Leigh Bowery is, I will eat my (rhinestoned alien head) hat.
… And then, just when one of the producers prompted — I mean, when Gia naturally starts voicing excitement about the arrival of the other queens — PSYCH! It's time for She-Mail! Adore plum falls off her chair at the sound of the notifying siren, because she is apparently a walking composite of reaction shots held together with eyelash glue. GIF number one, in the bag.
Hello, Mother Ru! According to her pun-littered video message, the theme of the day is television (or, "#AllTVAllShade," if you're nasty). The producers also take a moment to cut to a reaction shot of Vivacious's hat. File under: reasons I love this show. And, hello Tim Gunn-style Ru! This plaid-bedecked gent informs the queens of the 2-premiere split (the gasps! the bewilderment!), reminds them of the high stakes (a heap of make-up! $100,000!), and, faster than you can say "Nothing from BoobsForQueens.com?" it's time for a photo shoot with Mike Ruiz. Yes, Mike is great (see: The A-List: New York), but I'm in this one for the pit crew. Shawn Morales, it has been far too long.
Today's mini-challenge involves the queens jumping across a giant backdrop of TV color bars into a foam pit, partially to see if they can deliver both body and face, mostly because Ru likes to laugh at people. DeLa, Laganja, and April are good at this; Gia, Adore, and Kelly are not. And Vivacious is regretting her headpiece even more. (Meanwhile, the producers give it another cutaway and a namecard: "Ornacia." Ornacia is currently my frontrunner.)
Next, it's time to see the queens out of drag for the first time — and already the traditional party lines are forming: butch (April) vs. fish (Gia), old (Vivacious/Kelly) vs. young (also Gia). Meanwhile, Adore apparently only brought four gowns — yes, four — which is fine, because I don't expect her to last more than four episodes anyhow. Ru returns to announce that Laganja won the mini-challenge with her perfectly pointed toes — and maybe it's the dancerly flair, but she's starting to give me some Alyssa Edwards vibes. She also "dresses down" with black lipstick, a high-collar pleather jacket, and a neon yellow muppet scarf. Ornacia'd better watch her back.
Moments later, this week's main challenge drives up in the form of a RuHaul (b-dum-chhhh!) labeled "RuPaul's Storage Wars" (a spin-off, P.S., that I would watch in a heartbeat — the rumpled wigs! The stray sequins! The boxes overflowing with Polaroids of dancing at Limelight!). Inside are boxes containing fabrics and tchotchkes related to seven popular TV shows, from which the queens must craft a "high fashion" (pfft) look. Laganja takes Dancing With the Stars for herself (because of course she does), then doles out the following admirably:
April — Duck Dynasty
Gia — Keeping Up With the Kardashians
Vivacious — Game of Thrones
Adore — Here Comes Honey BooBoo
Kelly — Downton Abbey
DeLa — Golden Girls
Adore tries to stir up some drama by whisper-requesting Golden Girls then bitching when she doesn't get her way — but I'm with Laganja on this one. Hyper pageant kid is far more her thing, I can just tell.
The workrooms proceed workroomily: Kelly's giant flower corset seems promising; Ru's afraid April's hillbilly look will be too butch; Vivacious wants to put a dragon on her head; Adore was on American Idol— Wait, WHAT?! Really? I'll admit, my heart softens a smidge when she (accurately) describes herself — AKA, Danny Noriega — as looking like "a lesbian Jonas brother" at the time. Ever on topic, Ru gathers the queens to announce that everyone's favorite guyliner model and fellow former Idol-ee Adam Lambert will be this week's guest judge. Squeals of delight, all around.
In the blink of a shadowed eye, we're minutes from the runway — brushes to faces, dresses off dressforms. All, that is, except one: "I MAY OR MAY NOT HAVE GLUED MY GARMENT TO MY MANNEQUIN." Guess who? Oh, yes she did. My sweet, simple Adore. Not even Gia can pry it off. "FUUUUUUUUUCK," she wails. It's okay, honey. Can someone get her some water? Maybe a blanket or something? Clearly this many straight hours of conscious thought have tuckered her out.
Come runway time, "Cover Girl" pumps up through the speakers, Ru performs her customary strut, Glambert delivers his one-liner, and it's time to judge:
The Look: Gia has pieced together a grey, glittering figure-skating outfit, complete with a fringe skirt, which she augments with confusedly fluttering arm sweeps.
The Critique: "Flawless" is an adjective that Santino uses — why, I'm not sure. Michelle disagrees and offers advice about "booty." Gia responds to each comment with a grating "Absolutely!" which is somehow even worse than Tatianna's "think you."
The Look: Essentially, what you'd imagine if someone (who wasn't a captcha generator or a Williamsburg band frontman) said "Lumberjack couture." Best part: she's pulling a mallard stuffed animal on a string. I wonder whether dragging accessories is her signature move? If so, I'm on board.
The Critique: Blah blah, they love it, blah — then Lambert calls her gorgeous, she calls him gorgeous back, and Michelle advises they get a room. I sincerely hope they do.
The Look: Hello, Sparklemotion! I'm guessing the inspiration for this outfit was a sort of Beyoncé-ian "strut-worthy leotard with flowy bits" deal, but in order for that to work, the wearer has to, y'know, strut. Laganja, on the other hand, does an ecclectic celebration of a dance — so many flits and flails and big, big arms. Oof. She also points to where she's about to walk — classic Alyssa Edwards! Separated at birth, says I.
The Critique: Lambert says her moves were "boyish" — I guess "worrying" would have been too on point.
The Look: Oh dear. I thought the flower was going to decorate the corset, not attempt to become it. The resulting look is awkwardly 90s, complete with a peekaboo strip of stomach. And the wig? I know next to nothing about wigs, and even I can tell that one ain't right. On the plus side, one of the judges (Ru?) calls out "Christine Baranski!" Yes, yes, a thousand times yes.
The Critique: Michelle thinks the petals look like bacon, and she's right.
The Look: Apparently she was ultimately able to pry it from her mannequin, and it's actually not that bad — a toga of cerulean satin belted with some pink tulle, a giant pink bow in her hair. Adequate.
The Critique: So maybe the judges said something, but all I heard was Adore's explanation of her look: "I had a vision, if I was an 80s mermaid who got her prom done by, like, Heatherette, when he first started and didn't have a sewing machine, just learning how to make… something out of… something." I rest my case.
The Look: Important: her taxidermied crow wrist band. More important: THAT WALK. LaBeija indeed!
The Critique: Mike describes the look as "this weird combination of Carol Channing meets Edgar Allan Poe," which he seems to think is a negative. As that is my personal style ideal, I take offense. For shame, sir.
The Look: ...is the best. Hands down. The multi-layered ruffles, the paste-on kisses in a little burst below the bustline, the prop cake — all a big yes. Also, Ru and I had the same reaction: "Michelle Visage!" she coos at DeLa's entrance.
The Critique: Of course, they're gagging. "This is all just hot glue & desperation from head to toe," DeLa explains. "I wanted it to look like it was made with old, arthritic hands." Her Betty Crocker bubbliness is growing on me.
Ru shoos the girls off to the Form Decor Lounge (?!?! No more Interior Illusions? What have you done with them, Ru? Why is this not scandalizing everyone?!), so the judges can kiki in private. Lambert opens the library with his thoughts on Gia: "I'm not trying to be shady, but I don't really… like her? When she's… talking?" Nail, hit on head. Ru, ever proving her preference for fish, notes that she doesn't like April's visible buzz cut hair. Lambert says he thought it was hot, to which Ru fires back, "That's because you want to fuck her." Can we start a hashtag for those two or something? #AprilLambert, 2014!
When it comes to Laganja, Mike finds her annoying and wishes she wouldn't try so hard — which Ru counters with sympathy, noting that she acted similarly at that age, and that she wishes she could have just learned to be herself. It's insights like this that lead me to believe RuPaul would be the perfect best friend. In my dreams, she and I split a bottle of wine in our pajamas, our pedicured feet propped up to dry, while she reminds me that, if I can't love myself, how the hell can I love somebody else, and we hold hands and cry softly while listening to the Indigo Girls. (In reality, I would probably just sputter a few lines of "Glamazon" and faint.)
Alas, though, someone must go — and to spice things up even further, Ru announces that this season, there will be no immunity. Laganja and April are safe, DeLa wins (duh), and while Adore gets close to the edge, she's ultimately shantay-ed in. (The ones who make for good TV always are.) So, it's up to Vivacious and Kelly "Downton Shabby" Mantle to lipsync for their lives to — I happy-gasped aloud — Madonna's "Express Yourself." Unfortunately, neither straight-up Kills It, but Vivacious sashays sassily enough. With about 10 seconds remaining, Kelly hikes up her floor-length skirt in an attempt to do a sexy legs-spread squat — but by that point, it's already too late.
Sigh. Goodbye, Kelly. We'll always have YouTube. On to next week, then, and the next seven queens. But first, some parting advice from Ms. Mantle: "Don't wear bacon." I'm inclined to agree with that, too.