New year! New Ru! New year! New Ru! New year! New Ru! Okay every year is a new year and a new Ru or several new Rus depending on the number of spinoffs and the number of facelifts. But this year the marketing has really underlined the point and it’s easy to see why — we’re all more than ready to say goodbye to 2020.
But despite Covid interruptions — and having to edit around an abusive finalist — RuPaul’s Drag Race actually had a sort of remarkable 2020. Jaida Essence Hall was the deserving winner of one of the main show’s strongest casts, all-time great Shea Couleé got the redemption story she deserved on All Stars 5, and — what’s her name? — PRIYANKA won all of our hearts and the first season of Canada’s Drag Race. Pick a country and a concept and you can now find Drag Race year round — it will outlive RuPaul herself.
And so the year begins and with it the premiere of season 13. Of course, every season is different, and before we get to the premiere TWIST there are some other changes worth noting. First of all, the show welcomes Gottmik, the first transmasculine queen to compete, and one of the few trans queens to come on the show already out. Ru has also changed her catchphrase from “Gentlemen start your engines and may the best woman win” to “Racers start your engines and may the best drag queen win.” Good for you, Ru! I wave my trains flag proudly.
The episode starts with Kandy Muse — who self-identifies as loud — bursting into the work room in a denim get up. She describes herself as “took a sex doll and threw her in the Bronx” and she immediately carves out her place as the personality of the season. It’s easy to imagine Kandy following a similar trajectory to other loud queens and being a memorable 5th runner up — but wouldn’t it be fun if she defied those expectations and won?? I’m rooting for her.
She’s met in the work room by Joey Jay who calls herself a filler queen. Joey only does one show a week because she has a day job working for a software company and she proudly wears red chicken feathers, which Kandy notes is the cheapest feather. Self-deprecation doesn’t usually do it for me but I found something about Joey charming — even if I was unable to explain what to my group chat.
The twist! With only two girls in the work room, Ru appears on the screen and calls them to the main stage. The judges are six feet apart, separated by plexiglass — Covid safe! — and there are no guests, just Ru, mean mommi Michelle Visage, the hilarious Ross Matthews, and… Carson Kressley. A few quick getting to know you questions, and then the time has already come for them to lip sync for their lives. Kandy clearly wins “Call Me Maybe.” We love to start a year with Carly Rae Jepsen.
Ru says Joey is getting the Pork Chop — a reference to Porkchop, the first eliminated queen of season one. Given all the Porkchop jokes Ru has gotten over the years, Victoria Parker better be on All Stars 6. Ru tells Joey to sashay away and while the producers try to make it seem like Joey is actually leaving I think she knows and we all know that half the cast isn’t actually going to go home episode one.
The next pair of queens to lip sync are Denali and LaLa Ri. Denali is an ice skater and comes out as full ice princess — skates included. She’s quick to judge LaLa’s bodysuit and blazer but I immediately grew concerned for Denali’s ability to lip sync in those skates. Their song is “When I Grow Up” by The Pussycat Dolls and Denali sort of pulls it off? But while she’s doing flips and having nip slips, LaLa just sort of crushes it in a more casual way. LaLa wins and Denali looks very displeased. I agree that LaLa deserved to win, but the part of me that got very stoned during several nights of quarantine and watched gay ice skating videos is really hoping Denali sticks around for a while too.
Denali joins Joey back stage and we get out first glimpse of the Porkchop Loading Dock, a lounge with photos of each season’s first eliminated queen. I always feel so devastated for the first queen to go home, but as someone will point out later, Shangela and Vanjie are both on that wall so your loss is really what you make of it.
Symone comes out next!! Full disclosure, Symone is who I’m rooting for most because Capricorns have traditionally done sort of poorly on Drag Race and I cannot stand for that. She enters the work room in a dress made of polaroids and my love for her was confirmed. She’s up against Tamisha Iman, who has been doing drag for thirty years — which means she started at 12 (!) because she’s only 42. She is a PRO and we find out that she was originally cast on season 12, but had to drop out because she was diagnosed with colon cancer. She clearly has earned her spot on the show — and then some — so it’s great that she’s back. But after losing the Janet Jackson’s “The Pleasure Principle” lip sync she seems to give up so quickly! She can’t possibly think this is really the end? Maybe she’s just acting to heighten the drama, a choice I can surely appreciate. I hope we get to see more of her, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t happy to see my Capricorn Queen take the win.
Enter Gottmik. The professional make up artist’s make up does not disappoint as she explains that her looks are often inspired by Picasso. She says she was “born a girl, transitioned to a man, and dresses like a girl for money.” And I’m here to remind you all that if a trans person wants to speak with that sort of flip language it is his right to do so! Also his right to immediately make a Buffalo Bill reference. Now is it worth noting that Gottmik is 23 years old and about to have A LOT of attention paid to his 23-year-old words and thoughts? Absolutely. But, personally, that makes me want to be kinder towards him instead of harsher. I’m sure some of you will disagree!
Gottmik is joined by Utica Queen, who sneezes and says “sickening!” because Utica is what? Kooky! She says she is kooky over and over and I love that for her. When the judges ask why she has a strawberry on her head she says it’s because she is allergic to strawberries. Fun fact: my crush in 6th grade was allergic to strawberries and still ate them and I thought this made her edgy but it probably just made her break out into hives. Anyway these two very different brands of clowns lip sync to the one and only Lindsay Lohan’s masterpiece of a song “Rumors” and while neither queen is the most polished dancer it’s hard not to find them endearing. Gottmik wins!
The next two queens are Rosé, a New York staple who is a part of Jan’s girl group “Stephanie’s Child”, and Olivia Lux, a newbie who has only been doing drag for a year and a half. Seasoned queens feeling resentful towards newer ones goes all the way back to the Raja/Shangela drama of season three. But this time around, how can you not root for Olivia?? Even Rosé admits her smile is stunning — before joking that she’ll knock out each of her teeth. Olivia Lux gets her name from Olivia Pope and the literal concept of light so enough said there. Rosé clearly knows what she’s doing and if she makes it to the next episodes I could see her going all the way. But when it’s just one moment to shine in a lip sync to Elle King’s “Ex’s and Oh’s” Lux shines brighter and wins it. Unlike some of the other losers, Rosé isn’t buying that this is really the end. Jan felt the Jantasy, Rosé sees her world through Rosé colored glasses. I hope she’s right.
I know Tina Burner is another New York staple and I’m not trying to start my first review off by making enemies, but I’m sort of rooting against her! Then again, who knows! Sometimes my first impressions are wrong. Tina is joined by Elliott with 2 Ts — fully thought Ts was a transsexual joke but apparently she’s just clarifying her name — and Kahmora Hall — emphasis on the kah. Despite this trio singing “Lady Marmalade”, a very important song to me sexually as someone born in 1993, I didn’t latch onto these three like I did some of the other queens. Elliott was clearly the best dancer, but Tina wins, and I shrugged. To be fair, in Untucked Tina was immediately trying to get people to hook up with each other, which is what I also yell at my screen during Untucked, so maybe she’ll win me over yet.
The queens are now split between the winners and the Porkchop Loading Dock. Ru jokingly announces they’re all leaving before saying that actually only one of them is leaving and they get to choose who. Another twist!! They just met!! Who will they pick!! Chaos!!
And that, racers, is how RuPaul does a cliffhanger.
Teleport Us to Mars!! Here Are Some Random Thoughts:
+ Thanks for reading my first recap! This is the first time I’ve ever recapped a show that I couldn’t pause and rewatch so I’m just taking notes in the moment and hoping for the best. Also I’m sick right now — probs not Covid? Anyway, thanks for bearing with me if I missed anything major. That’s what the comments are for!
+ You KNOW I wasn’t going to tell you Symone was a Cap and then not provide everyone else’s signs. Here’s the full list:
- Denali — Aries
- Elliott with 2 Ts — Leo
- Gottmik — Leo
- Joey Jay — Leo
- Kahmora Hall — Virgo
- Kandy Muse — Scorpio
- LaLa Ri — Virgo
- Olivia Lux — Pisces
- Rosé — Gemini
- Symone — Capricorn
- Tamisha Iman — Libra
- Tina Burner — Scorpio
- Utica Queen — Gemini
+ Ru promising the eliminated queens a copy of her album “You’re a Winner, Baby” is the exact kind of funny product placement cruelty I expect from that double Scorpio.
+ I want to know more about Kandy and former house mom Aja’s drama!
+ Brooke and Vanjie/Gigi and Crystal have spoiled me. I want a romance this season, even if it’s as messy as those pairs. Who could it be??
+ Queen I’m rooting for: Symone
+ Queen I have the biggest crush on: Olivia Lux and Denali
+ Queen I have weird sexual feelings for that I need to unpack: Joey Jay