Welcome to Drag Race UK Power Rankings! Every Saturday, we’ll debrief this week’s new episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race UK to determine which queens are riding high, and which need she-mergency care. A new series brings a new crop of 10 queens angling to become the U.K.’s next drag superstar. Who looks like a contender after week 1?
10. Gothy Kendoll—ELIMINATED
As I said in this week’s recap, Gothy isn’t to blame for not being at the level of the other queens in this competition, nor for not being ready for television. It’s just puzzling that the show would cast someone so obviously out of their depth. What did we get from Gothy’s appearance on Drag Race UK? What did she? She’ll get some exposure, sure, but her drag needs more time in the oven before she’ll really be able to make a career as a queen. So any new following she grows is a double-edged sword. I do hope she improves. I also hope she learns that calling older queens “battle axes” is not a way to make important connections with veterans who know far more than you and can help you grow.
9. Vinegar Strokes
Vinegar seems like a blast in a glass, with skills that can’t quite match her personality. Though I believe Michelle Visage didn’t help her Everybody’s Talking About Jamie co-star get cast, I do believe her visibility in the West End is what got her considered. So give her an acting or singing challenge, and I think she’ll do great. (Lucky for her, one is set for next week!) Fashion challenges, though, I think will always prove difficult for her. Great job in the lip sync, though. I’d have given the younger queen the edge on Dua Lipa’s “New Rules,” but Vinegar had plenty of tricks to spare (and interpreted the song well, too).
I couldn’t remember anything Crystal said this episode my first run through. On rewatch, I understand why: She’s very soft-spoken, even if the things she’s saying are actually pretty funny. Fun fact: She’s originally Canadian! So her accent stands out. But I fear she’s way too quiet for this group, and although she had a couple of strong looks—particularly her royal guard drag for Queen Elizabeth—it wasn’t enough to make an impression. I had to specifically pay attention to her on rewatch to take anything away, and most viewers aren’t going to be watching twice.
7. Cheryl Hole
Cheryl’s smart Essex look made sure she didn’t have to face the bottom two for her lazy, purse-exclusionary Queen Elizabeth drag, and I’m glad for that. But she should be careful moving forward: the judges tend to care a lot about the details, and get fixated on them easily. If she forgets something else in another signature look—I’m thinking about forgetting a prop for Snatch Game, for instance—it could cost her. All that said, we know Cheryl Cole is a guest judge this season, and I’d bet good money, after Cheryl Hole admitted they’ve never met, we’ll have her around until Cheryl Cole makes her appearance.
6. Scaredy Kat
Yes, she won the photoshoot mini-challenge, although as always, I think mini wins are somewhat arbitrary. And yes, Scaredy Kat’s runway offerings were more polished than I expected of a 19-year-old look queen who’s only done drag for 11 months in her room. But I don’t know, y’all. Something stinks about Scaredy’s presence in this competition. You’re telling me, after over a decade of waiting for a U.K. Drag Race, the show is going to make a bedroom queen who’s never seen a live drag show one of their 10 first-season competitors? And make her a viable threat to win? I smell a stunt.
Regarding Scaredy being bisexual: I love that! I love that her girlfriend is a bio queen! That’s an entire subculture of drag that exists in the world now, particularly as Drag Race has popularized the art form beyond gay men and trans women even though the American Drag Race never really touches on it. I hope Scaredy is only the first in that regard, and inspires further casting beyond merely groups we’ve seen plenty of times before.
5. Divina de Campo
At first, it looked like Divina would be a Willam type, what with her long list of TV credits and quietly adversarial relationship with a younger queen. But Divina surprised me by the end of the episode. She’s more humble and self-reflective than I’d have expected. I think not scoring well this first episode will be good for her in the long run. No one likes a queen who comes in strong-headed and is promptly rewarded for her hubris. The underdog narrative wins out nine times out of 10. Just look at Yvie Oddly’s victory over masterful technician Brooke Lynn Hytes in the Season 11 finale! Coming from behind is a winning Drag Race strategy, and Divina is well-positioned to take advantage.
4. Baga Chipz
I’d rather forget the whole mess with Baga Chipz’s support of Theresa May, although I understand why many online fan communities cannot. Long story short: She claims she’s been a lifelong Labour voter, but supported May because she didn’t like Jeremy Corbyn. Others have accused her of being a Tory. It’s all very British politics, which I claim to only minimally understand, and the show doesn’t seem interested in getting into it. If another queen comes for her over it, that’s when we’ll talk about it at length.
Politics aside, Baga’s a whole lot to deal with—she literally starts the episode declaring herself “infamous.” I personally never respond to a reality TV villain who comes in trying to be the villain: 99 percent of the time, it feels fake. (This is why I didn’t respond to Gia Gunn’s attempts to be an antagonist in All Stars 4, and found her genuine moments with Manila Luzon much more compelling.) I don’t need Baga to play to the cameras; I need Baga to show us who she is as a drag queen and an artist. I didn’t get that in this premiere.
Anyway, Baga’s outfits were nothing special, and it’s absurd she was in the top three. The fact that she was, though, indicates the show has big plans for her.
3. Blu Hydrangea
Genuinely confused as to why Blu wasn’t in the top this week. It’s possible the judges thought her coin look for the Queen was too similar to Sum Ting Wong’s stamp look, but I thought it was a similar concept rendered entirely different ways. Blu went much more high-fashion with hers, while the craft of the coin itself wasn’t as stellar (there was a noticeable gap in the headpiece). Her crane look to represent her hometown, while somewhat crafty, was also high-impact. She’d have taken second place, if I had a scorecard of my own.
Side note: Blu is just about the twinkiest queen I’ve ever seen out of drag. She makes Blair St. Clair look positively mature! In a season of young queens, I see Blu as the most viable of them all. Also, as a man as Irish in descent as I (my full name is Kevin Patrick O’Keeffe), I’m happy to have some representation from Northern Ireland.
2. The Vivienne
I didn’t mind The Vivienne’s shoe choices the way the judges did. I did mind that her looks were so low-key. There was a lot of great drag on that runway, and while I can admit the disparity between The Vivienne’s looks were great, that wasn’t the challenge. The queens weren’t tasked with “come up with two entirely different looks,” it was to fulfill two very specific prompts. I think the judges are excited about The Vivienne, and saw an opportunity to give her a win, so they went with it.
I like The Vivienne, and her entrance look was one of my favourites. I think she has the potential to go very far, especially considering, as Drag Race’s U.K. Ambassador, she’s a known entity. She just wouldn’t have been my winner this week.
1. Sum Ting Wong
A robbery, and it’s only our very first episode! Again, I get that The Vivienne managed a major transformation, but I found both of Sum Ting’s looks to be more creative. She’s a high-impact queen, using costume elements in otherwise solid looks (the horns on her hometown look, the stamp box on her Elizabeth look) to up the volume. I was pretty shocked when she was merely called safe, particularly after the judges harangued The Vivienne over her flats. Usually, when they get hung up on an issue like that, it spells doom for the queen in question. (See: Alexis Michelle’s bad fur drag on the Kardashian: The Musical challenge in Season 9.)
It’s a tough break for Sum Ting, who really impressed me this week. In a way, though, it’s comforting to know that wherever a Drag Race season is set, there will always be judging decisions that frustrate confuse, and madden us. Here’s to another wild ride.