Welcome to Drag Race Power Rankings! Every Sunday, we’ll debrief this week’s new episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars 5 to determine which queens are riding high, and which need she-mergency care. The grand finale sees one queen earn the crown, while the runners-up make solid cases for themselves. For the last time, we break down their performances throughout this season.
3. Miz Cracker (last week: 1) — RUNNER-UP
I don’t think it’ll come as a great surprise that Cracker was my least-preferred winner. I’m a huge fan of Juju and Shea—and in a strong top three that includes two of my favourite queens in Drag Race herstory, someone is going to be the odd woman out. But I have become more fond of Cracker this season than I was in Season 10. I fell for her based on her first episode performance, but afterward was consistently disappointed—not by her work, but because it was difficult to connect with her. As queens like Asia O’Hara, Monique Heart, The Vixen and the eventual winner, Aquaria, won me over, Cracker fell further and further out of my favour.
This season, Cracker was once again not my favourite, but I enjoyed her work—particularly in the latter half of the competition. Her stand-up performance was a home run, and I appreciated both her character and couture creation during the Backyard Ball. Her lip-syncing even improved over time, though she never quite delivered an iconic performance in that arena. Still, Cracker should be very proud of her run and her improvement as a Drag Race contestant and personality. This wasn’t her crown to win, but she still embraced her chance to shine.
2. Jujubee (last week: 3) — RUNNER-UP
You can’t say much bad about Juju’s run this season. Though she was up for elimination a few times, it was always because of the everyone-in-the-bottom twist. She would never have been in danger for her excellent Eartha Kitt performance in Snatch Game, nor for her super funny monologue and country cousin character in the Backyard Ball. You could argue she deserved bottom two for the stand-up challenge, but Blair St. Clair was so obviously the worst performer in that task that trying to derive a potential bottom two feels like a fruitless exercise.
What you can say about Juju is that this was the best of her three runs on Drag Race. She finally got her first challenge win, and if this was a typical two-winner season of All Stars, she’d likely have had a couple more as well. As Ru noted in final deliberations, even the challenges she didn’t win were opportunities for Jujubee to stand out. She made the most of this All Stars season, in the competition and as a personality. I was also very happy to see who Jujubee could be on this show without being tied to Raven. I love their friendship, but Juju deserved the opportunity to stand on her own.
Jujubee really is an incredible testament to the power of Drag Race, and had she won, it would’ve made total sense; it would’ve been a culmination of the journey of the show itself . A decade-long journey! On reality TV! That’s huge, and I’d have been so thrilled for her if she won. She wasn’t my pick for the crown, at the end of the day, but she will forever be one of my all-time favourites.
1. Shea Coulée (last week: 2) — WINNER
There just wasn’t any other possible ending. Shea Coulée was the story of All Stars 5, and you could argue she’s the story of the VH1 era of Drag Race. She was on the first regular season broadcast on the network (albeit not filmed for it), and was the most notable casualty in the Lip Sync for the Crown finale format change. A four-challenge winner in a regular season—tying a record only Sharon Needles had set before, and only Gigi Goode has met since—was beaten in a flurry of rose petals. Shea won the regular season, but Sasha Velour dominated in the playoff. Her friend won the crown fair and square. But it was still a tragedy to see Shea lose.
Fast-forward to All Stars 5, the latest in VH1’s spinoff, which has expanded mightily under the new network. Rudemption is the name of the game, and Shea got the chance to make the case for herself. She patiently waited, not jumping in for All Stars 3 or 4, knowing that her time would come. And indeed it did: Shea Coulée is in the Drag Race Hall of Fame, and is the third Season 9 queen to win a crown. (Peppermint, you’re next!)
Shea is an excellent queen, impressive in her own world and as a Drag Race contestant. Week after week, she demonstrated that, as a performer, she is on a whole other level. The calibre of her lip syncs was top of the class. Her Flavor Flav Snatch Game was a tremendous risk, and it paid off beautifully. Her runways were immaculate, whether she was sewing them on the spot or had collaborated with designers before the competition. She rapped, acted, did stand-up and pole-danced. She served us so many different talents, and never let up.
Shea also showed us her heart, sharing stories about how her Season 9 loss affected her and, most emotionally for me, about the loss of her sister and father. It’s soon to be four years since I lost my own dad as well. Hearing Shea talk about wanting to win for him, and about missing having him in the audience when she won, I connected to her in a way I haven’t before with a Drag Race competitor. Much as I loved so many of the girls this season, it was with Shea that I felt a shared bond over loss, and learned the power of creating art through grief.
Shea deserved the win because she was a sickening, surprising, superior performer. I would’ve wanted her crowned no matter what. But her story gave me a whole new appreciation for her as a person as well as a performer. This is just the beginning of all the truly iconic drag she’s going to serve us. We are blessed to live in the age of Coulée.