Welcome to Drag Race Power Rankings! Every Sunday, we’ll debrief this week’s new episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race to determine which queens are riding high, and which need she-mergency care. A split premiere introduces us to only seven of Season 12’s 13 queens. Which among them are standing out so far, and which need to up their game to stay in the race?
7. Nicky Doll
Apologies to Ms. Doll, but I really don’t think there’s much there. She’s a gorgeous queen and has a lovely accent (which Drag Race is already milking for as many malapropisms as they can). She can turn a look, although not as well as her natural competitor Gigi Goode can. Had there been a bottom two, she very obviously would’ve been in it next to Heidi N. Closet, and the dancing diva from North Carolina would’ve sent her packing. This time around, she was saved by the format. Next time, she may not be so lucky.
6. Crystal Methyd
I want to like Crystal. I really, really do. I love a creative queen who does full makeup looks—Nina Bo’Nina Brown and Yvie Oddly were two of my favourite queens of their seasons. But there is something about Crystal that is so distinctly homemade that I can’t get past it. Worse, every one of her looks in the premiere (entrance, both mini-challenge, performance, runway) felt repetitive, with the same face painted over and over. On a premiere with only two looks, that wouldn’t be an issue. But there were five! Five of the same idea in one episode! She does seem very sweet, and I wouldn’t be surprised if she turns it out in acting challenges.
Brita’s from New York! She’s here to represent New York! Have you heard she’s a New York queen? I know everyone has their thing (hello, Persian queen Jackie Cox), but it seems strange to me to brand yourself as the New York queen when this cast has so many. No one naming her as their biggest competition in Untucked feels like a red flag, as does Michelle Visage’s complaint that her rap didn’t adequately show her personality. But the judges did love her looks, and Nicki Minaj defended her rap. I’m cautiously optimistic for Brita, but don’t be surprised if her arc is rougher than we’d expect of such a well-known queen.
4. Heidi N. Closet
Full disclosure: I am so deeply in the tank for Heidi. I think she’s a blast in a glass, a hoot and a half and all that jazz. Her actual performance in the premiere challenge was excellent, so much so that I’d personally have kept her out of any potential bottom two. Unfortunately, it seems like if there was one, she would’ve been there; her mini-challenge looks weren’t strong enough, and I agree with Nicki that her face and hair were a mess in her runway look. I also bristled at her dropping a sob story about going to the hospital for an allergic reaction on the very first episode. Heidi has the skills to thrive without the histrionics. Let’s see that.
3. Jackie Cox
She’s very clearly running with her Persian identity as her brand, and I can’t fault her for that. Queens with distinct hooks to hang their hats on often go far in modern Drag Race, be that an identity, a feud storyline or even a relationship (remember Branjie?). If that is going to be Jackie’s hook, though, I’d like to see it translated into her drag. Besides the name printed on her entrance blouse, everything so far has skewed more American-period fashion in her looks. In the episode, we heard her say, “I really started to embrace my Persian heritage…” But that thought is never finished. Is this a newer thing for her personally, and that’s why it’s not a cohesive part of her drag aesthetic yet? I’m missing that backstory right now.
That said, all of her outfits were solid, and the judges loved her rap (I did not, but I’m also not Nicki Minaj). The other contestants are clearly very impressed with her, too, as the majority of them named her as their biggest competition in Untucked. Jackie’s probably in this for the long haul.
2. Gigi Goode
It’s funny to me that Michelle and the judges raved how Gigi’s a fashion girl with personality, unlike the fashion girls without, when you could argue Drag Race gave the win to such a fashion girl without just two seasons ago. But I digress! Gigi’s got the good(e)s, as evident in both her rap performance and lip sync. She can’t really dance, but she knows how to use her body in comedic fashion. She’s also one of the smartest queens in this bunch, which should help her avoid the resting-on-pretty label (although she is very pretty).
I’m very much on the Gigi train, but the main thing I’d like to see from her this season is an argument for why she deserves to be America’s Next Drag Superstar when we already have two young fashion girls in the winners’ circle (Violet Chachki and Aquaria). She’ll need to stand out as something new to feel like a viable and valuable winner.
1. Widow Von’Du
Widow strikes me as a queen who came to Drag Race with a mission. She is here to win, and screw anybody who even tries to get in her way of making that happen. For that, I appreciate her! She’s certainly the most viable big girl the show has had in seasons, being simultaneously quite fashionable, a high-octane performer, and deeply rootable. Everyone else in recent seasons has missed some part of that: Latrice Royale wasn’t high-fashion enough in All Stars 4, Eureka was the exact opposite of rootable in Season 10, and Nina West failed when she had to lip sync in Season 11.
I could see Widow’s edit going down a villainous path, but I hope they stay away from that. She’s too fun to get that treatment. And besides, being a shady lady is all part of the experience of drag! We need more Widows on this show, not fewer.