For the second year in a row, I attended the taping of RuPaul’s Drag Race’s season finale. And now that this lengthy affair is over, I can share what I saw on site that didn’t make it to your TV screens. Here’s everything you missed at the Drag Race Season 11 finale.
An early spoiler
Because the finale was shot before the final five episode even aired, Michelle Visage had to come onstage and spoil the result for attendees. To say that the crowd was furious to hear Vanessa Vanjie Mateo would not be competing that night would be an understatement. The roar was one of the loudest audience reactions of the evening.
Variations in applause
Speaking of differing levels of audience reaction: Silky Nutmeg Ganache clearly got the most indifferent reaction of the final four. I read some reports on Reddit in the immediate aftermath of the filming that she was booed, but from the front balcony where I was seated, I didn’t hear any jeers. That said, compared to Brooke Lynn Hytes and A’keria Chanel Davenport’s reactions, hers was definitely tepid.
But no one got applause like Yvie Oddly did. We’re talking a massive standing ovation, one that actually delayed her interview segment with Ru. Again, this was before the final five episode aired, so I was pretty certain Yvie was a non-factor walking into this finale. To hear that she was the fan favourite by several lengths shocked me, and the rest of the finale would only make her win seem more and more viable.
During the runway walk for the other 11 finalists, Plastique Tiara, Nina West and Scarlet Envy got the most organic applause immediately after walking out. Shuga Cain’s several reveals quickly won the crowd over, though, and she had some of the heartiest applause by the end.
The Instagram leaker
Drag Race production was clearly invested in preventing leaks this year — which, as you can imagine, is near-impossible. They only have so much security for so many attendees. But they did introduce a new strategy: using the angle of photos posted on Reddit and Instagram to identify where the leaker was seated. One, known as “Gisele,” was called out repeatedly by the announcers, and threatened with being escorted out. (Though I heard reports of someone being escorted out, I don’t know if it was Gisele, and didn’t see it myself.)
Rather hilariously, my friend overheard one member of security saying that one of the leakers apparently moved seats to avoid detection. That’s dedication.
Kennedy Davenport vs Eureka
As with last year, production staged a couple of fake lip syncs to get RuPaul’s reaction shots (since they can’t have cameras onstage while the lip syncs are actually going on). Last year, it was just a couple of production assistants; this year, Kennedy Davenport and Eureka took the stage, the former lip syncing in some bejewelled house shoes. (Michelle called out the slippers right quick!) They did small sections of all three songs; I’d say Eureka handily won the “Bootylicious” re-do, as Kennedy wasn’t even trying, while Kennedy turned up the heat and impressed on “SOS.”
“Happy birthday, Spongebob henny!”
One of my favourite parts of the finale tapings is when Ru has to shoot a lot of promos at once. He’ll do the finale promos for “next week,” “Friday,” “tomorrow,” and “tonight” all in one fell swoop. It’s hypnotizing, and fun to see Ru so in his element as a host. This year brought some other elements: Ru recording birthday messages to cartoon characters. Seriously. At first, when he said “Happy birthday Blue!” I genuinely thought he was recording a message for Blue Ivy Carter. But then he followed it up with a “Happy birthday, Spongebob henny!” and Nickelodeon and VH1’s Viacom connection came through. Can’t wait for kid Nick Jr watchers to meet RuPaul on Blue’s Clues!
Before the taping, I asked folks on Twitter if they had any particular questions about it. To answer a few here:
- A’keria and Silky were off-stage after losing their lip syncs until the Miss Congeniality presentation, so they had time to process their losses.
- If there were any predestined matches for the lip-sync songs and queens, it didn’t work out in production’s favour; “Bootylicious,” which would seemingly be a perfect fit for the twerking A’keria, went to Brooke Lynn and Silky.
- Filming started around 6pm and went until nearly midnight.
- Brooke Lynn’s victory speech was ultimately pretty unremarkable (yet another declaration that she’s the “Queen of the North”), but Yvie actually had to redo hers. She initially asked if anyone has a baby to eat, referring back to a runway joke of hers earlier this season. Production asked her to re-record it, claiming an audio issue, but RuPaul admitted it was because of Yvie’s baby-eating joke.
It was a strong finale that, for all its length, ran pretty efficiently — especially in contrast to last year’s. And hey, no butterflies died onstage this time, so no complaints from me.