The cast of ‘RuPaul’s Drag Race’ Season 12 with winner Jaida Essence-Hall
The cast of ‘RuPaul’s Drag Race’ Season 12 Credit: Courtesy VH1; Francesca Roh/Xtra
RuPaul's Drag Race
9 min

‘RuPaul’s Drag Race’ Season 12: Who are the true winners and losers of the season?

Welcome to Drag Race Power Rankings! For the last time this season, we’re here to debrief the full arc of RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 12 to determine which queens rode high in this competition, and which fell short of queen-sized expectations. Who are the real winners and losers of the season? And who just about broke even?

NOTE: As a caveat before we begin in earnest, since I know fans love and are protective of this cast: No one here is a loser. That term just refers to coming out of the season without much to hang your hat on. As Ru himself often says, these people are all heroes just for putting a pair of heels and a wig on. We’ve done this feature before, but I wanted to err on the side of caution and clarify.

LOSER: Brita (9th place)

Brita Drag Race 12
Credit: Courtesy VH1

Brita had a really rough season of RuPaul’s Drag Race. She came on as an audience favourite, beloved by those in New York City, only to underperform on the show and come across as nasty in the edit. I don’t think Brita is a villain, but I do think this show was ultimately more of a liability for her than a benefit. Compounding matters is the fact of the drag world now; while other underperformers on previous Drag Race seasons have been able to get back to work in clubs and bars and show why they were cast in the first place, Brita has been stranded at her parents’ home in Maine during the pandemic. And while she can theoretically do digital drag shows, it’s hard to draw an audience of online fans when the reception to you has been so negative.

I feel for her, because I do think Brita is a great host and a fun queen. And her reads in the reunion were the best of the cast. But judging solely by her performance on the show, I can’t possibly rank her any higher than last on this list.

LOSER: Aiden Zhane (10th place)

Aiden Zhane Drag Race 12
Credit: Courtesy VH1

Aiden did come out the better of the two in the Aiden vs. Brita fight, but not by much. Even those who defended her in the argument generally agreed that Aiden’s talents were limited. I do give her credit for a solid reunion performance—the joke about all her pussycat wigs was a good one—but that doesn’t make up for her consistent underwhelming performances in the challenges and on the runway all season. I think this should be the end of Aiden’s Drag Race journey, but I do hope she gets the chance to tour when we’re back to something resembling a normal life.

LOSER: Rock M. Sakura (12th place)

Rock M Sakura Drag Race 12
Credit: Courtesy VH1

Poor Rock, the queen featured in the least number of episodes this season (thanks to another queen’s recurring appearances). She was so beloved coming off her elimination, as a full #Justice4Rock campaign started. But then… I don’t know. This season was long, and the memory of Rock and her drag faded. She could barely get a word in edgewise at the reunion. Speaking of the reunion: Multiple friends of mine texted during the show to comment on how the shine came off Rock for them during the reunion. And these people really liked her! Anecdotal as that may be, it does seem like Rock is leaving this season in a worse position than she might earlier. I’d still love to see how she does on another season, but All Stars seems like a real stretch now.

EVEN: Nicky Doll (11th place)

Nicky Doll Drag Race 12
Credit: Courtesy VH1

Full disclosure, I had Nicky as losing until the reunion. Girl really took charge in her segments and made her voice heard. I didn’t expect that from her, and it makes me want to see more from Nicky. Also, I appreciate that she used her appearance at Roscoe’s (a Chicago bar notorious for its A+ viewing parties for Drag Race) to advocate for queens of colour to be treated better by the fandom. I’m not going to lie and say I’m the biggest fan of Nicky’s drag, because I’m not. But I really respect any queen who can use her platform to do good, and that is absolutely what Nicky does.

EVEN: Dahlia Sin (13th place)

Dahlia Sin Drag Race 12
Credit: Courtesy VH1

On the one hand, as Brita noted in the reunion, it’s pretty pitiful to come in 13th on a 12-queen season. And Dahlia’s exit was so bratty that I was initially inclined to rank her among the losing queens of the season. But on the other hand, she showed herself to be remarkably game to play, sticking around for many an episode in her Fierce Broc-ally costume. Good for her! That kind of lean into a meme can take you far—look what it did for Vanessa “Miss Vanjie” Mateo. I’m not sure Dahlia will be afforded the same fame as Vanjie got, but hey! Even a broccoli costume can be a start.

EVEN: Widow Von’Du (7th place)

Widow Von Du Drag Race 12
Credit: Courtesy VH1

There’s always one queen who can’t do right by the fandom, and this season, it felt like (after Brita left) it was Widow. Despite turning in one of the best first-episode performances ever, her subsequent work on the show—particularly on the runway—turned fans off. Being so outspoken and easily annoyed by the other queens didn’t help matters, either. I see Widow as a Kennedy Davenport type: Someone who doesn’t have the fandom’s love now, but will earn their love (and more importantly, their respect) during an All Stars season. Because make no mistake: Widow is fucking fierce. She will own her next run on the show, I’m sure of it.

EVEN: Jackie Cox (5th place)

Jackie Cox Drag Race 12
Credit: Courtesy VH1

I honestly think, had Jackie gone out around where Jan or Widow did, she’d have ended this season on a better note. She really excelled early on in the competition and got very close to winning a signature challenge, Snatch Game. Unfortunately, she was always just short of the win, and in the back half of the season, she suffered enough significant stumbles to land in the bottom three—thrice. To her credit, she proved herself a very strong lip-syncer, but it wasn’t enough to secure her a place in the top four—even with Sherry Pie’s disqualification. I think Jackie’s performance is better than her loudest critics say, and admittedly a bit worse than her biggest fans say. She wouldn’t be my first choice from this season to return for All Stars, but I wouldn’t be mad to see what she could do on another run.

EVEN: Jan (8th place)

Jan Drag Race 12
Credit: Courtesy VH1

Jan effectively took Rock’s spot as the robbed queen of the season upon her elimination. The general feeling among the audience—though not a unanimous one—was that Jan should’ve won the Madonna Rusical challenge, and her elimination the very next episode was unjust. Personally, I think the issue is a bit deeper than that; I think Jan was cast to be a filler queen, and her performances could not and did not shake RuPaul from that plan. It also seemed like Jan realized she was cast as filler at some point, and repeatedly drew attention to her doomed fate (like pointing out lip-syncing against Widow to a Chaka Khan song would make her dead on arrival) without outright questioning production.

Still, I actually think Jan is ending this season in as good a spot as a filler queen could hope for: She’s got a loud and proud fanbase who insist she was too good to be treated as filler, and she’s high on everyone’s wish list (including mine!) for All Stars returnees from this cast. I think she’s a star—she just needs a season in which she’s allowed to be one.

EVEN: Gigi Goode (Runner-Up)

Gigi Goode Drag Race 12
Credit: Courtesy VH1

This was not a great week for Gigi on the internet. She endured some significant controversy over a now-deleted tweet (as well as filming a collaboration with the polarizing beauty influencer Jeffree Star) and responded with a long thread about her apolitical nature that drew a sharp rebuke from Season 8 winner Bob the Drag Queen. That all this happened in the days before the finale, amid a heated political atmosphere in the wake of George Floyd’s killing by police in Minneapolis, only made the situation for Gigi, worse. Her lack of political understanding, first mentioned in the debate challenge episode, became an even greater liability. RuPaul’s politics may not be in line with the audience’s (cue Bob saying “Oh, the fracking?”), but he does tend to prefer queens who are political in some fashion.

So it’s fitting, after a season that strived to put politics first, that Gigi did not win. For Gigi to win would feel inappropriate in this climate, not to mention repetitive after the (far more politically active!) Aquaria won just two years ago. Jaida represented something we haven’t seen in the winners’ circle in some time, while Gigi represented where we’ve been just recently. I do think Gigi will weather these controversies, and her work with Voss Events on the Werq the World Live broadcasts indicates she’ll be a huge hit on tour. But for the moment, Gigi’s on her backfoot. This season once seemed like hers to lose—and indeed, she lost.

WINNER: Heidi N. Closet (6th place, Miss Congeniality)

Heidi N Closet Drag Race 12
Credit: Courtesy VH1

As Ru told Heidi when she was eliminated, she is a star. She’s got charisma out the wazoo. I’ve compared her to Vanessa Vanjie Mateo, Alyssa Edwards and Monique Heart, but I actually think her potential is in an entirely different class. She’s someone who can come back to All Stars and win, plus be brought back for guest appearances on series like Secret Celebrity Drag Race, plus hold down her own WOW Presents Plus show. The sky’s truly the limit here—I just hope she doesn’t get hampered by the pandemic. Because Drag Race as a franchise would be much worse off without Heidi as part of their infrastructure going forward.

And you know what? I’m really damn proud of her for sticking by Heidi N. Closet as a name. While we may all laugh off Ru’s insistence that she change it, I’m sure it’s intimidating as hell to have the most famous drag queen in the world tell you that your drag name sucks. If I had one criticism of Heidi this season, it’s that she was too conciliatory toward Ru at times. But her sticking with the Closet—and thus sticking by her Closet Case fans—indicates she’s ready to forge her own path forward. And I for one can’t wait to see what she does.

WINNER: Jaida Essence Hall (Winner)

Jaida Essence Hall Drag Race 12
Credit: Courtesy VH1

No matter what happened in the finale, Jaida was always going to walk out of it a winner. She had arguably the best season overall of the final three, staying consistent from beginning to end (as opposed to the early favourite Gigi and late-breaking Crystal). She earned the lion’s share of alumni support, and an increasing amount of fan support as well. She’s the kind of queen who will get booked and work forever—I’ve no doubt we’ll be seeing plenty of Miss Hall in the future.

But I’ll admit, even with that knowledge in mind, I would’ve been pretty devastated if Jaida didn’t win. She was the star of the season in my eyes, so poised and graceful while also lowering her guard and showing us her vulnerable side. No other ending would’ve felt as right—and in the case of a Gigi win, might’ve damaged the season as a whole. (A Crystal win would’ve felt right narratively, but her less impressive track record would’ve felt like an asterisk weighing down her victory.) Jaida is the right queen for right now, and I know that no matter how long her reign lasts—which, yes, will likely be longer than typical thanks to COVID-19 shutting down productions—she will reign with grace and dignity.

WINNER: Crystal Methyd (Runner-Up)

Crystal Methyd Drag Race 12
Credit: Courtesy VH1

As Trinity Taylor, Not Yet The Tuck once said on the Season 9 reunion, in many ways the fan favourite is the real winner of Drag Race. She was talking about Miss Congeniality, back when the fans voted on that prize, but it works when talking about the über-popular Crystal Methyd. She absolutely dominated the fan vote on Twitter, and even the most cursory glance at social media shows Crystal fans are plentiful and passionate. She is set up to be the Katya of this season: A lovable weirdo with a unique approach to drag who becomes far more popular than the winner herself.

Crystal is a star, of that there is no doubt. World of Wonder would be wise to get her on a WOW Presents Plus show ASAP, and she should get on tour when the queens start touring once again. There’s nowhere to go but up for Crystal; the sky’s the limit on just how popular she can be. And once she inevitably comes back for All Stars, watch out. She may just be the one to beat.