“RuPaul’s Drag Race” Episode 1303: Will Denali Take Me Ice Skating?

I LOVE DENALI. Across Drag Race’s 13 seasons I’ve had a pattern of hyperfixating on certain queens. Raja, Jinkx, Bob, Violet, Yvie — okay, yes, I like winners — Tati, Adore, Peppermint, Shea, Jan — I also like Sags and air signs. Maybe it’s a talent crush, maybe it’s a crush crush, maybe a talent crush is a crush crush because what’s more crushable than talent?? Anyway, I think I have found my hyperfixation of season 13 because Denali is ice skating all over my heart.

But first! Part three of episode one — I mean, episode three — begins with the winners. My other number one, and last week’s champion, Symone is the winner of the winners and says that even if nothing else happens she can die happy. But also more will happen. She knows it. We all know it. Meanwhile, Kandy is relieved and fired up to have a second chance. No one went home and spirits are high — maybe a little too high for Elliott who seems to think being with the winners is contagious. Lots of consonants, lots of confidence!

Goodbye to this group until next week, time for the pork chop queens! They seem immensely grateful to walk into that work room and energized to show the scope of their talents. But to my joyous surprise they quickly get distracted as Denali points out that the other group may be winners, but they are the trade of the season. A giggly Utica confirms it’s hard to focus when everyone is so CUTE. A reminder, these queens have been in quarantine and are just as horny as the rest of us. Cannot wait to see what that brings.

Ru comes out and admits this is RuPaul’s Drag Race: Emotional Rollercoaster Edition and then gives some flowery words about motivation and kicks in the tuchus. These queens will also be starting with a two-look runway: Lady and the Vamp.

Kahmora was not initially one of my favorite queens, but this episode really endeared me to her. Denali says that Kahmora’s known in Chicago for taking five or six hours to do her makeup and we see her panicking as she tries to adjust her methods to a shortened timeframe. Putting on makeup is a spiritual process for Kahmora, she likes to focus on every little detail as she gradually paints a face. I think that’s a really beautiful sentiment. But like Joey says it’s drag race, not drag walk — she runs out of time and the runway is delayed.

The first category is Lady and everyone looks great. Denali wears an ice princess blue dress with a yellow Marie Antoinette wig. Joey shows her full P!nk-esque self with her natural hair, a fur vest, and thigh high boots. Rosé identifies herself as a Moschino-inspired paper doll with osé on her ass and an R purse to finish her name. Tamisha stuns in a stoned red dress — and reminder she makes all her own clothes. Utica combines kook and beauty with a mod dress and a bubble gun. And Kahmora eventually does make it to the runway with a white 1950s dress and a white feathered fastener, tea cup in hand.

The Vamp category is even hotter, because obviously the Vamp category is even hotter. Denali wears a silvery see-through gown over a black corset with lacy black gloves and it’s just a lot for me in a very good way. Joey wears a skintight full body suit with dragon scale sleeves and her same natural hair. Rosé really wows in an Alexander McQueen-inspired outfit I’m not going to attempt to describe when you can just look at it. Tamisha goes full Elvira but Elvira with a dress made out of hair?? Utica has an Edwardian look with a red cape and big black collar. And Kahmora feels straight out of a lesbian vampire movie with her blood-sucking glamour and slicked-back blood orange hair.

Back in the workroom Rosé shows a surprising soft side, saying she already sees the other queens as sisters. Tamisha says she’s largely there for that sisterhood and Denali quips that if they want sisterhood, she’ll take the crown. Speaking of winning, Tamisha mentions that she’s won around 95 pageants. This leads to the confession that she’s 49 and Denali has a quip about that too! Tamisha mentions she has three biological kids in addition to all of her drag children and Rosé is obsessed. I’d clocked Rosé as the bitch, but she’s being a total sweetheart and Denali is being the bitch. And you know what? I don’t care. I love all three of them.

In another mirror of last week, the queens are assigned new verses for Ru’s song “Phenomenon” along with a self-choreographed group number. Joey says she’s not a singer or a rapper but she’s gay as fuck and that’s something. It! Sure! Is! She also teaches ballroom dancing, which places her third in line to choreograph after Denali and Rosé, two professional choreographers. Tamisha is also obviously a dancer but she decides to hold back and let the children squabble. And squabble they do! Denali takes charge but there’s some major Aries vs. Gemini chaos with her and Rosé. Then Leo Joey jumps in. Is it a mess? A little! But I think it’s always better to have too much talent instead of not enough.

Tamisha’s confessionals through all of this are hilarious as she compares the other queens to kids who have eaten too much candy. She finally steps in pointing out that the choreography needs to be doable for non-dancer Kahmora and generally she seems to take all of the creative chaos and shape it into something real. Thanks, Mom!

Kahmora is once again running late on her makeup and the other queens try to help her relax and focus. She says she’s grateful for the support, because in real life her experience of drag is sort of lonely. Her boyfriend of eight years doesn’t approve so she only does drag twice a month and she tries to keep her personal life and drag life really separate. It’s one thing that her family isn’t a part of her drag life, but her boyfriend?? This has come up in past seasons, and regardless of the queen’s gender identity, this sort of anti-drag sentiment is basic transmisogny. The idea that playing with gender and expressing yourself with femininity is somehow negative is bullshit. Her boyfriend needs to get over it — or even better she should just break up with him!

ALERT. Michelle Visage still has a grey streak in her hair. What a gift!! Ru, Michelle, and Ross are joined by comedian Nicole Byer, who is wearing a recreation of Crystal Methyd’s recreation of a Michelle look. I love when the guest judges are superfans!

The queens’ performance of “Phenomenon” is phenomen-al. Last week was fine, but this was so much better!! All of the conflicting choreography talent clicks and I just loved it so much. The verses are also so good! Denali is first, but I will save her for last. Joey is a lot of fun, Rosé shows off her Broadway belt, Tamisha’s such a pro, and Utica is her weird wiggly self. Only Kahmora is a bit disappointing and she’s not terrible — she just doesn’t quite have the confidence and energy of the others. But oh my Denali. Along with her incredible dance skills, she just has a confidence and a stage presence that’s overwhelming to watch. And her lyrics were the best! Triple lutz on these sluts? I mean, come on.

The main runway category is “We’re Here, We’re Sheer, Get Used to It” and once again everyone looks good. But Tamisha is the standout with her stunning gold gown. Ru tells her that it’s one of the most beautiful dresses she’s ever seen on the show and it’s deserving of that praise. AND AGAIN Tamisha makes all her own clothes! Michelle says Tamisha felt lowkey in the performance, but I didn’t feel that at all. She’s lowkey in the work room and doesn’t have the same competitive energy as some of the other queens, but I felt her energy on stage. I think her problem is focusing too much on how she isn’t what she used to be, when she’s still remarkable?? Her fashion and her presence.

The other notes from the judges are also largely positive, but it isn’t the annoyingly positive energy of last week. They call Kahmora out on her performance and they ask Joey about her lack of wigs. Joey says when she looks in the mirror with a wig on she doesn’t feel like herself. I get that. When I was first transitioning, I had a receding hairline and curls that would take estrogen and literal years to grow in. I knew that a wig would be a nice temporary fix, but for some reason they just never felt right for me. I don’t know Joey’s gender situation but she is “gay as fuck” and I think my initial draw to her was in response to that overt gayness and possible genderqueerness. I like the judges’ response — Joey doesn’t need to be anyone but herself, but she does need to find her own version of variety.

Once again, there are no bottoms, only tops — which also happens to be a description of my dream sex life. Also my dream sex life? DENALI AND ROSÉ LIP SYNCING TO BRITNEY’S “IF U SEEK AMY.” Rosé does an excellent job and lives up to her label as fashion clown. But Denali. DENALI. You can feel her desire to win so badly?? And it’s so hot?? She’s an exceptionally good dancer and her moves are as surprising as they are precise. I’m completely smitten. She wins the lip sync and with it my undying love.

Like last week, this was another super positive episode, but thankfully the talent level was so high I didn’t feel any of the same tediousness. It was a pleasure to watch these “losers” thrive. But this can’t last forever. As the episode comes to a close, Utica gets upset thinking about someone going home next week. Babe. That’s episode four. It’ll be damn time.

Teleport Us to Mars!! Here Are Some Random Thoughts:

+ My top two picks for my Drag Race fantasy league were Symone and Denali — the first two winners. I don’t want to have lost-fourth-member-of-Stephanie’s-Child-level cockiness, but umm yeah I’m feeling good about my favorites. Told you I tend to like winners.

+ There’s a lot of talk in this episode about Tamisha’s late drag daughter Tandi Iman Dupree and if you haven’t seen her Wonder Woman performance you should watch that now.

+ Denali may at times be bitchy but in Untucked she goes out of her way to be nice to Kahmora, who received the harshest critiques. To me that shows a good heart — she’s just competitive (which, again, is hot).

+ During Untucked, Joey shaves her mustache again because it’s grown back throughout the day and that, my loves, is the representation I’m here for.

+ Queen I’m rooting for: Denali

+ Queen I have the biggest crush on: Denali

+ Queen I have sexual feelings for I don’t need to unpack because being horny for a mean hyperconfident Aries is totally normal: Denali

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Drew Burnett Gregory

Drew is a Brooklyn-based writer, filmmaker, and theatremaker. She is a Senior Editor at Autostraddle with a focus in film and television, sex and dating, and politics. Her writing can also be found at Bright Wall/Dark Room, Cosmopolitan UK, Refinery29, Into, them, and Knock LA. She was a 2022 Outfest Screenwriting Lab Notable Writer and a 2023 Lambda Literary Screenwriting Fellow. She is currently working on a million film and TV projects mostly about queer trans women. Find her on Twitter and Instagram.

Drew Burnett has written 521 articles for us.


    • Me too! My theory is that the first episode lip syncs were rigged as to who would win. Because the showrunners had to know they were going to have one episode focused on each group, so it’s almost like they had to have two mini-casts within the full cast. They would want to have a good mixture of personalities in each group to make for good TV. And they would want there to be some stellar lip-syncers (Denali and Rose) in the “losers” group for episode 3.

      Or it’s all happenstance! Who knows!

  1. Okay but this episode was so much better to me than last episode it’s not even funny. The other group got too comfortable too fast in episode 2. The energy this group had was just so much more fun! Denali’s so competent and secure in her skills, Utica’s always got something new to show, and Tamisha is just an all around treasure. Their performance was soooo good. It’s interesting that all the trained dancers were in the porkchop team. That preview makes me a little nervous, I hope this winners vs loser thing doesn’t go on for the whole season because that’d be so tedious. I hope the first out is from the winners team so we can nip that in the bud real quick (so long as the first out isn’t Olivia, Gottmik, or Symone, but we all know that’s impossible).

    Also can we talk about how Michelle wore green and looked great in it this episode?? Maybe now the queens can finally wear it without fear.

  2. Tamisha had me cackling at her commentary on the choreography, I hope she gets to stick about for a while.

    I was kind of expecting someone to be twist eliminated this episode and probably for it to be Khamora as she nearly missed the mini-challenge? But they didn’t even give her a telling off.

    And I’m glad Denali won partly just cause she looked so dejected and over it all in the pork chop loading dock!

  3. I had a lot of feelings about Kahmora this ep;
    I was wondering how many of the queens who are Asian are “pretty” queens because of the objectification they encounter. And thinking about the idea that in life they get “rewarded” by being “allowed” in spaces by being pretty and shutting up, but then they get slammed for that survival skill in Drag Race. Kahmora is fighting against an astonishing amount of odds, because to try and follow your heart when everything is pushing back against you takes so much courage.

    Kahmora evidently has a ton of talent, and guts. However long she makes it through the season, I hope the experience also brings her love and support and recognition of her full self, in all its wonder.

    • I felt so sad for Khamora when she spoke about her partner disapproving of drag. Having to suppress a part of yourself in close relationships does put a damper on your whole personality and I wouldn’t be surprised if that showed in her performances. I’m sure many of us can relate. She seems like an amazing queen and a sweet person, I’m rooting for her <3

    • I noticed a trend with a lot of the “pretty queens.” And by pretty queens, I mean the girls whose main motivation was to be a beautiful lady.

      Carmen, Gia, Courtney, Yuha.

      They’re all not cis. If that is also the case for Kahmora, it makes her boyfriend’s rejection so much worse.

  4. Did you notice that during her lipsync Denali’s facial movements looked like she’s actually singing in a very nasal Britney voice? As a trained singer I find that attention to detail astonishing and I’m here. For. It.

    I agree that Tamisha’s performance was great IMO. She looked incredible too. I was sure she was going to be in the top! Her dynamic with the “children” was sooo good, what a sweetheart.

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