Toronto Diary
5 min

The Drag Race Rutrospective: Queens fall down, go boom

You know the drill: let’s talk about the shit that werked and the shit that . . . well, let’s just talk about Akashia. For you see, Akashia is a mess, but she is our mess. Our dope. Our hopeless doofus whose shoulder-perched chip is outsized only by her attitude. And we love her for it. After sending home both Victoria Porkchop Parker and Tammie Brown, the editors of Drag Race have no problem telegraphing the fact that she’s running on fumes this week. The question is, who’s going to be the one to send her home?

As the twine holding the Sword of Damocles over Akashia’s head slowly splits apart strand by strand, boy Ru gives the seven remaining girls their “mini-challenge.” In all honesty, it’s not really a mini-challenge so much as it is an ersatz quiz meant to introduce this week’s real challenge: the queens have to bring out their inner Oprah, which means retracing O’s career path and delivering the larger-than-life personality she’s mostly known for.

The concept behind this is apparently delivered rather vaguely, as the queens immediately scatter to craft whatever their version of the challenge is. Jade, bless her heart, believes this to be an Oprah look-alike challenge and begs Bebe Zahara Benet to lend her some darker foundation, while Rebecca Glasscock goes to work making a dress out of the beige suede fabric previously seen on my mother’s sectional couch.

Shannel, on the other hand, has a perfect understanding of this challenge. See, Shannel praises Oprah to the point where she presumably offers human sacrifices to her. I’m a little surprised she doesn’t rip out Ongina’s heart while screaming “KALI MA! KALI MA!” but that’s neither here nor there. The problem is that Shannel is convinced her deference to the divine creator means she has this challenge in the bag, a call the editors clearly disagree with because they waste no time painting her as nothing short of delusional.

The first step in the queens’ path is to read from a teleprompter. Easy, right? Unfortunately, the Drag Race writers go all out by throwing as many big words and inscrutable names in the copy as they can, which results in a montage of drag queens mispronouncing “Ahmadinejad.” The only two who walk away (mostly) unscathed are Bebe, who manages to step over the larger pitfalls, and Rebecca, who surprisingly traipses through it with nary a stumble.

The second step involves presenting a collection of their “favourite things,” which is a nice way of saying “these are our sponsors. Plug the shit out of them.” Rebecca and Akashia immediately proceed to faceplant while trying to describe what a hairdryer does. Ongina plays to her strengths by relying on her natural wit to sell Andrew Christian undies, and despite Nina Flowers’s shaky relationship with the English language, she commits utterly to the concept and does a surprisingly good job of getting her personality across while hawking the sponsors.

The closer, an interview with Tori Spelling and Dean McDermott, quickly becomes the road on which a queen will either live or die. Bebe and Ongina are absolutely congenial with their guests, and while Nina stumbles by mistaking “Tori’s hit TV show” with “Tori’s HIV,” she still manages to charm her guests with her affable nature. Rebecca does an all-right job by stepping aside and letting her guests say what they need to, and while Jade’s discomfort with being the interviewer peeks through, it’s nowhere near as bad as our two big losers.

In a lot of ways, Akashia and Shannel are both plagued by the same setback: boundless overconfidence. Their execution may be on two entirely different ends of the spectrum, but both could stand an ego deflation. Akashia’s attitude belies the fact that she doesn’t really know what she’s doing, as evidenced by the laundry list of social faux-pas she puts on display during the interview portion (see below). While Shannel is infinitely more polished, she’s determined to make her set the Shannel show, with an outfit that drowns out everyone around her and an interview style that involves shutting up her subject so she can keep talking. Shannel’s inner monologue seems to be “ME! ME!!! MEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!” and it shows.

The ensuing runway show only heightens the queens’ respective strengths and weaknesses. The judges love Ongina’s sense of playfulness and humour, both in her performance and her furry black cocktail dress. They’re also enamoured with Nina’s chameleon-like ability to adapt to her surroundings, commending her personality and her Madonna-esque pantsuit. But ultimately, it’s Bebe’s consistency through the challenge, her poise and her Lion King–inspired bodysuit that earns her the win. Admittedly, it’s nothing new, but her execution and her ability to pull off crazy-eyes bowl them over.

Rebecca and Jade both earn safe passes, but the judges call them out on their weaknesses: Rebecca’s pretty but stiff, and Jade’s personality just doesn’t pop. If anything, the judges are mostly focused on Jade’s tuck, which pops for all the wrong reasons: turns out Jade’s packing some donkey dick, so it’s going to take a lot of tape to hold that thing back. It also doesn’t help that Jade’s wearing a bikini bottom that’s cut just below her belly button, which elongates her pubic region to a phallic degree.

It was obvious from the beginning that Akashia and Shannel are in the bottom, but they’re both still shocked when they find themselves the final stragglers onstage. The judges tear apart Shannel for bulldozing the challenge and making it about her. She only exaggerates this point by talking over the judges’ critiques when they ask her to listen, and her skimpy Medusa costume really only serves to scoop out another shovelful of dirt from her grave.

But Akashia . . . Hooooo boy. Akashia practically loads a pistol and dares RuPaul to take a shot. The judges take her to task for being painfully rude to Dean and Tori during the interview portion, and when she takes to the stage in her bedazzled brown gown, she falls flat on her ass. Yup. SHE FALLS. IN FRONT OF THE JUDGES. And no amount of butt-scooting can distract from the fact that she landed on her ass in every sense of the term.

The queens are given Whitney Houston’s “The Greatest Love of All” to work with, which is hysterically ironic since their problem stems from an overabundance of self-love, but them’s the breaks. Shannel’s Medusa look works against her enough as it is, but she’s serving such primo bitchface that her delivery of “I believe the children are our future” comes across more as a threat. Once again, Akashia looks like she’ll win by fucking up less than her competition, and then it happens . . .

Right before the final power verse, Shannel does the most transparent little bunny-hop you’ve ever seen, sending her snaky headpiece plummeting to the ground. Now free of the costume holding her back and exposed for the judges to see, she goes all in for the finale, and it’s just enough to push her over Akashia. And like that, Akashia, queen of the damned, is finally laid to rest.