Order in the workroom, hunty! It’s time for RuPaul’s Drag Race, season 11. Since there is no such thing as off-season anymore, Drag Race fans can go from the All Stars 4 finale (we’re not going to talk about that, by the way) to a completely new fleet of queens. Starting this week, we will be re-capping the new season of the Emmy-award-winning reality show. The premiere is titled “Watcha Unpackin'” and the main challenge was creating a look from a box of items and fabric inspired by previous Drag Race contestants.
This episode starts like the first episode of season 10 ended, with Miss Vanjie. (Yes, even a year later, we can’t write that without going “Vaaaaanjie” in our heads.) Miss Vanessa Mateo gets to come back for a revenge, after she sashayed away after just one episode. She promises to bring fun one-liners. Her opening look was very red and very glittery. (Although she impressively got rid of most of the glitter for her later runway look, since we all know glitter truly is the herpes of crafting.) Vanjie was all about red, red, red – and she wears it well. It’s great to see a queen making a comeback and showing that she’s ready to fight this time, we can’t wait to see and hear more from her!
After Vanjie, it was now time to meet the new queens. The new rooster has it all: pageant, comedy, Instagram queens and those that don’t fit into any of the categories (although these are the ones the others to keep on our radar). From the comedy corner, we have Nina West – she is a classic comedy queen, whose style might be a bit dated for this modern world of drag which lives in fast-paced, marketable catchphrases, Instagram followers and performance skills that go beyond classic comedy.
Although it seemed like Nina would be very skilled in costume making, her runway look didn’t impress and was criticized by the judges. If she doesn’t pick up the pace and use the critiques, she might be the next to go.
There might be one more comedy queen with Silky Nutmeg Ganache (with one of the best drag names ever!) who stood out with being a bit too loud and not invested enough in the competition. While her first look was definitely cute, her runway seemed a bit lackluster and she needs to step it up, especially if the other queens continue to be as annoyed with her as they were in this episode. Her loudness is reminiscent of Eureka, who lost a lot of sympathy points last season for being too over-the-top a lot.
Next category is: pageant queens – and it’s a big category that mostly consists of members of one drag family – Davenport in a storm! There are three queens joining the race this year from the legendary Haus of Davenport: Honey, A’keria C. Davenport, and Ra’Jah O’Hara. A’keria and Ra’Jah are both strong contenders in the pageant and dancing field. Honey Davenport gained a fan the moment she walked through those doors with her bee-themed outfit, and her runway look was solid, showing one of her undoubtedly many talents. A’keria C. Davenport’s first look wasn’t show stopping, but her runway was truly impressive. She channeled Bebe perfectly and still managed to execute and present her unique style.
Joining the pageant queens is Ra’Jah O’Hara (yet another Haus of Davenport member, but she’s also part of the O’Hara family). While her first look was strong, she got lost along the way in this episode and didn’t manage to stand out during the main challenge either.
Drag today not only happens in pageants and on stages; it also happens on social media, namely on Instagram. Visually pleasing, look-turning queens with a big following have been big contenders in the past few seasons, with some successful (Aquaria), and some not making it far but still being successful outside of the show (Farrah Moan). This season, the main “Instagram queen” is probably Ariel Versace. She looked like a real-life Disney princess when she walked through the door with her perfect make-up, some cheeky freckles and ballgown. Her runway was one of the strongest this week, turning her homage to Laganja Estranja into an outfit reminiscent of a Poison Ivy cosplay. Her attitude might become a problem for her in the remainder of the competition, but she still has the chance to show some character development.
Another beauty queen is Alyssa Edwards’ drag daughter, Princess Tiara, who started doing drag at age 18 and is now joining the show at 21. She’s a gorgeous, ethereal queen who showed two stunning looks and furthermore, her drag family promises she is more than just a beautiful face – hopefully she’ll excel in dancing and comedy challenges as well.
Joining the group of descendants from famous drag families is Kahanna Montrese, who thankfully shows better make-up skills than her drag mother did in her season. Kahanna is another case of strong first look and disappointing runway, with mismatched tights and an outfit that gave off unfinished vibes.
Shuga Cain not only has an amazing drag name and history – she actually quit her job to do drag full time roughly two years ago and is one of the oldest contestants of this season. The fact that she only had a short amount of time to learn and polish her skills should be impressive, but she didn’t manage to stand out in this episode.
Adding to the pool of stunning queens, Mercedes Iman Diamond made a lasting impression with her yell and her outfit. She was wonderful in the mini-challenge (which was a photo shoot with former contestants), but didn’t manage to convince the judges or viewers with her main challenge look. With her abilities, she might come back stronger in the coming weeks.
Now, let us move the the category that isn’t really a category, because these queens won’t fit into one. First and most weird is Yvvie Oddly (a very fitting name). She showed with reptile-like make-up, a boa tied to a toy car (I couldn’t make this up if I tried) in her first look and a holographic, plastic-inspired look on the runway. It’s definitely exciting to see a queen who is more along the Boulet Brothers “Dragula” on the show – her tribute to another “misfit” and most successful queens this show has produced, Alaska 5000, was a great nod to not fitting in and not having to do that.
Similarly, Scarlet Envy can’t be put in any particular box. From an interestingly contoured chest for her introductory look, to NYC-typical comedy and odd make-up, she showed versatility throughout the whole episode. Out of drag, she’s definitely a looker, too.
One of the strongest queens this episode was Brook Lynne Hytes, another hilarious drag name and another “exotic” location, represented by her Canadian Mountie-inspired outfit. Her final outfit however was an absolute winner. She alluded to fashionista Detoxx (who has repeatedly called Brook her identical twin) with her vinyl look and her strong make-up skills. The first winner is always one to watch out for, and Brook is no exception.
Last but not least, the queen that was so promising in the teasers for this season, Korean-born Soju. Well-known for her YouTube series, she promised to show unique, K-pop inspired looks that would have brought great diversity to the competition. She definitely had the skills to go far, but sadly she didn’t use them in her final look, which landed her in the bottom. After 11 seasons one would think that queens had learned to not come to the show without sewing-skills. Sadly, Soju had to be the first to leave.
All in all, this was a great premiere that holds a lot of promise of drama, comedy and strong looks as well as some twists and turns. One of the best moments was when the new queens met their predecessors during the photo shoot, because for some of the younger queens, these people have been their inspiration to start drag in the first place. Moreover, these are moments in which long-time fans get a glimpse at their favorites and see them interact with the new queens.
Not to be forgotten was the guest judge of the week, Miley Cyrus, who went undercover as a staff member and surprised the queens. Miley has been a long-time supporter and fan of the show, so it was great to see her become part of herstory.
Check back next week for our recap of the second episode!