This is a recap of Rupaul’s Drag Race episode 1403. Spoilers below.
RuPaul may have just RuPauled more than he’s ever RuPauled. Last week I wrote my recap with Covid and was admittedly harsh. This week I still have Covid but am feeling way better, so I’m still in a bad mood but sharp enough to be even more pointed in my bitchiness. Let’s dive in, shall we?
Soon after the B queens return to the workroom, Alicia Keys pops back up behind the mirror to announce new arrivals. The A team is back and spirits are mostly high. Jasmine is excited to see Kerri — as a fan. DeJa is excited to see Kornbread — as her friend and seamstress. And overall the vibes are good.
Enter RuPaul Charles. He has a few announcements. First of all, the last two episodes were just a trial run apparently. Orion Story and Daya Betty are back for a second chance. Generally I’d be okay with seeing more of all the queens, but these eliminations felt very deserved? Orion needs more time to develop her drag and Betty is just insufferable.
Ru’s second twist is this season each of the queens gets a chocolate bar. One of them has a golden bar and upon elimination she will be saved. Ru jumped the shark a long time ago, but this just feels so, so silly. When all the queens are choosing their chocolates, Betty makes a quip about Maddy being straight. Betty’s obsession with Maddy is even more annoying than Maddy herself.
This week we have a design challenge in an oft-joked about pair of balls. The week one queens will have an animal print theme while the week two queens will do red, white, and blue. Both groups will have to design their third look which is wedding gown eleganza.
The split queens means we have another round of “Maddy is straight” reveals. The best part of this is when Kerri says, “You’re straight? Hiiiiii!” I don’t know if she was implying “me too!” or making a joke that any straight man in the world would obviously be into her, but either way it was a nice reminder that the show has had straight queens if we include trans people.
I’ve thought a lot about Maddy the past week and reflected on my position regarding her inclusion. Something about what I wrote last week wasn’t sitting with me right — or at least felt incomplete. Creating strict rules around identity is pretty antithetical to who I am, as is creating a clear demarcation between straight and gay, cis and trans. But I think that’s exactly why Maddy’s inclusion bothers me. Let’s do a thought experiment. Imagine if instead of identifying as cis and straight Maddy said something along the lines of: “I have a girlfriend of four years, I’m only interested in women, and I feel like a man. But drag is really important to me artistically and in how I express my gender.” I’ll tell you one thing — she would not be on the show.
She wouldn’t be on the show because without the cis straight angle, she’s simply not talented enough to warrant inclusion. But she also wouldn’t be on the show because this statement would not only evoke transness, it would evoke the exact kind of transness that has long been equated with perversion. For decades, trans women had to be “gay” (meaning straight) in order to obtain medical transition. They were seen as true transsexuals due to their desire for men. “Straight men” who cross-dressed were just perverts. Now I’m not saying Maddy is a trans woman — trans lesbian Maddy for All Stars 9! — but I am saying that if we expand transness beyond our narrow contemporary definition then she is absolutely not cis. It’s just so much more beneficial for her to claim cisness — and beneficial for RuPaul to use that hook as a gimmick. Maddy bothers me because in a way she’s more similar to me than any of the other queens — and not just because we’re both bad at doing make up.
Anyway, enough about Maddy. Let’s move onto some queens with talent. DeJa says she’s been sewing for other queens for years and she’s excited to show off. Jasmine says she makes herself a new outfit every week so this is the challenge she came to destroy. June, well, June can’t sew and neither can Kerri. But Jasmine is quick to help Kerri because Kerri’s drag mom is one of Jasmine’s idols and I’d imagine, regardless of sexuality, any human would do literally anything for Kerri Colby.
Kornbread continues to be my absolute favorite. First of all, she offers Betty a thousand dollars to eat a dragon fly, which Betty does like a tall faggoty child desperate to impress people on the playground. And then Kornbread helps Willow with her outfit because Willow’s hands are hurting due to her disability. Kornbread and Willow have already developed such a nice friendship and they’re both so talented. I love it!!
RuPaul’s Trauma Race kicks in this week with Orion revealing that her mom committed suicide and that her drag is largely inspired by her. Then Kerri talks about getting kicked out at a young age and this gets Kornbread upset because she left home in high school too. Kornbread gets really emotional and leaves the work room and it made me very sad! Ru loves to have family reunions, but I liked that Kornbread specified that she’s already had that family reunion — that doesn’t mean some of the scars remain unhealed.
Ru walks down the runway in a wild and very short gold dress. There are lots of ball jokes and then Christine Chiu from Bling Empire is introduced as the guest judge.
Now much like the queens who can’t sew, I’ve always felt like my recap weakness is in the fashion. I know what I like but I’m not an expert when it comes to the lingo. I’m not sure how enjoyable it would be for me to stumble through describing all forty-two (42!!!) looks but I will talk about the balls more broadly.
I really like in past seasons when the first episode would have a fashion show where each queen could show off two looks. It let us get to know their fashion personalities and personalities more broadly. But three looks for all fourteen queens is A LOT and especially with the very specific themes of animal print and red, white, and blue I found these balls overwhelming to watch.
Many of the queens still managed to show off their personalities within the limitations. Willow says she likes pedestrian outfits because you can put a character into it and really all three looks feel so well-paired with a persona that is both separate from Willow and part of Willow. Angeria is another queen with three distinct looks that are all gorgeous and feel representative of her pageantry with a twist personal style.
My third favorite was DeJa. Her looks may not have been as distinct as Willow and Angeria but the last one especially had such a sharp attention to detail. I preferred her overall to Jorgeous and Bosco who both admittedly were very true to themselves but didn’t feel varied enough to stand out like the first two. Most of the other queens ranged from messy to fine. I love that Kerri is basically just draped in fabric but she’s so stunning that she pulls it off.
The judges agree with my top two but add Jorgeous to the top over DeJa. Jorgeous was good so this isn’t egregious. I just felt like DeJa showed off so much more skill. The bottom three are Orion, June, and Maddy.
Willow wins! Orion is safe. June and Maddy are lip syncing to Kylie Minogue’s “I Love It.” When this lip sync began I really thought we’d seen the last of our token straight. June was dancing all around the stage while Maddy was really pulling a go girl give us nothing. But then June’s energy went from energetic to… well, to taking her shoes off?? This was really a case of June losing rather than Maddy winning.
And yet! I’d still rather have a chaotic performance than a dull one! I’d still rather have June than Maddy! Giving two mediocre white queens a second chance in the same episode a white self-identified cishet queen wins over a Black queen is just so painfully Drag Race. At the very least, Ru could’ve sent them both home.
June unwraps her chocolate bar — yup I forgot about that whole thing too — and it’s just chocolate. June is technically our first queen eliminated and it just feels wrong. But, hey, in Untucked she says she’s only been doing drag for two years. So maybe she’ll be back to win All Stars someday — she can beat trans Maddy as revenge.
Teleport Us to Mars!! Here Are Some Random Thoughts:
+ Angeria asks who’s Sharon Stone and Kerri says a famous white lady and Angeria asks if she’s a friend of hers. Week three and this group is already so fun and funny! I love so many of them!
+ A friend of mine called Daya Betty a John Early character and now I cannot get that out of my head.
+ Shout out to last year when I lived in Gaby Dunn and Mal Blum’s Jenny Schecter/Ryan Atwood shed and would spend every Drag Race episode asking Gaby to clarify the various materials queens were wearing. You know what? Season 15 goal is I learn more about fashion.
+ Orion references Fran Drescher with one of her looks. I’ve been slowly making my way through The Nanny and I have never wanted two straight people to have sex more than Maxwell Sheffield and Fran Fine.
+ Ru was so weird this episode! They kept joking that he’d had too much caffeine but I feel like it must be something stronger, right??
+ Queen I’m rooting for: Kornbread
+ Queen I have the biggest crush on: Kerri
+ Queen I want to sashay: Maddy or Betty (that’s right, baby, a new and bitchy category!)
I love Kornbread, Ingeria, and Willow so much. Strongly agree that 42 looks was way too frickin many. I started to zone out during the runway portion, and not just because of the tired puns and quips from the judges panel.
“Giving two mediocre white queens a second chance in the same episode a white self-identified cishet queen wins over a Black queen is just so painfully Drag Race.” Couldn’t have said it better myself. I swear there’s some internal metric on Drag Race where Black queens can’t make up more than 30% of the contestants. Annoying.
*And another thing* — the constant way the cishet white guy gets teased by Ru and the other racers, like the questioning of his sexuality/identity is so tired. I don’t know his he’ll be cishet in a year (and tbh, he probably doesn’t either) but if you’re going to bring on this boring person, let him be that.
For the record I think any bitchiness from last week was justified, it WAS a slog of an episode.
As usual you’ve captured all of my feelings about this episode beautifully. I feel like the judges aren’t quite getting that the missing umph from maddy is the fact that she doesn’t have queer taste. And I am also annoyed that two just ok white queens came back into the competition and now a Black queen has gone home first. If an (out) trans queen goes home before Maddy I will scream.
Hi! I love these recaps and I keep coming back FOR the bitchiness!
-I was wondering if Angeria and the British One were flirting! Love it when there’s a showmance 😍
-I also thought Willow Pill and Kornbread were so cute being buddies!
-it always takes me at least a couple weeks to learn who all the girls are so for most of the fashion show I was letting the looks just wash over me like an ocean of tulle and chiffon. I think there were lobster claws?
Oooo maybe that WAS flirting between Angeria and Lady Camden!
Lol yes I also remember lobster claws and was just reminded on Twitter that Alyssa Hunter referenced classic film Racing Stripes (2005).
Stay bitchy, Drew!
Loved to read your thoughts about transness re: Maddy. I’m Finnish and the American Maddy discussion has been interesting to follow. In my country cross-dressers (in Finnish transvestiitit or tiitit), even “straight” ones, are absolutely under the LGBTQ umbrella and are welcome in queer women’s spaces when they present as female. An AMAB person who dates women and is happy to live a large chunk of their day-to-day life as a man but also sometimes goes out as a woman would not be considered cishet.
-This- *pointy upwards finger*
I also think it really depends on affiliation. There are professional straight drag queens/female impersonators who are aggressively straight and super annoying. But if the person is expressing a part of themselves through drag and are also identifying with queer culture, then they shouldn’t be seen as just cishet.
I remember a time when trans women, and especially lesbian trans women were kicked out from queer and transgender places. This got better but then they had to prove that they were REALLY!! trans, much more than the straight trans women, who were easily admitted (which is strange when you think about it). For example lesbian trans women had to be super feminine, and adhere to the complete physical transition protocol etc. before they were accepted. Which also makes absolutely NO SENSE, when you think about it (butch dykes, anyone? feminist body autonomy?).
I’m shouting a bit, because I have a friend who IDs as trans lesbian, lives in the queer community since decades, but still gets so much shit for being butch and not medically transitioning for personal reasons.
I’m not saying that Maddy is trans or needs to be trans to be accepted. I think I read somewhere that drag is connected to her gender identity but she doesn’t ID as trans. In her home town queer community she seems to be well integrated, so she’s a bit surprised that people get so emotional about about her presence.
I agree that she is not very good, but I liked some of her more extreme outfits. Ah well, let’s see how this goes.
Also @Drew – I missed that you have covid. Sending you best wishes and cookies. Get well soon!
May have been commented before but on Dragula, I think the other most popular drag show in the US right now, they did have a queen who identified as “heteroflexible”, Disasterina in the second season, but it didn’t feel gimmicky and she was talented enough to hold her own without that being her identity. I think Dragula has also just been miles ahead in terms of inclusion with a drag kings, cisgender women, trans women performers so it feels like the message that drag is for everyone is
actually coming from a place of authenticity. Just a thought that it can be done right and still feel like a show by and for queer people.
Who is wearing the frothy pink dress on the title image and does anyone know where I can get it? (I don’t watch RPDR lol but saw that dress and needed it)
Has Maddy actually said she identifies as cis? I thought her insta post here was really interesting: https://www.instagram.com/p/CXHreEBMMUb/. She says drag was a safe space for her to “explore her gender identity” and criticizes binaries of masculinity and femininity. I think you’re absolutely right that the show is positioning her this way for marketing purposes, but I really am not sure she is cis even if she lives her life as a man right now!
I don’t understand what you mean when you say that Maddy bothers you because she’s more similar to you than any of the other queens. Is it because you both date women or is there something else here I’m missing?