Darienne Lake joins me this week to discuss the Drag Race! Darienne and I caught up at DragCon this past weekend, which was completely crazy and fabulous.
Darienne: People always wonder why this or that person got on the show when they know someone who is so much better. I try to explain that, for example, if you were going to cast a remake of Steel Magnolias, you wouldn’t have 8 Ouisers.
Chad: Right, and the question is: what does “better” mean? More polished? A better performer?
Darienne: There are so many facets of what makes one performer “better” in a fan’s eye. Some people live for fashion queens, some love camp. Some love the dancing divas. I think this year has a great variety of that.
Chad: It seems like a good season is all about finding the right cast of queens who will have the right amount of chemistry and drama. How do you think Season 7 fared in that regard?
Darienne: This year, I think the contestants take the competition very seriously, so it may come across as cutthroat.
Chad: Did you see this week’s Untucked? I thought that came through so much — the older queens, Ginger and Kennedy, made it clear that they would do whatever it took to win. Pearl and Violet were like, “why does this have to be a competition?” Do you think it’s naive of Violet and Pearl to think they can get away with that approach?
Darienne: No. I think it helps us see their point of view.
Chad: Who do you sympathize with? Because you’ve done pageants in the past, right?
Darienne: I have. I never liked the feelings pageants brought out in me.
Chad: Did the Drag Race bring out your competitive edge, or was that different?
Darienne: Drag Race brought out the competitive side in me, but part of my competition style is alliances. I’ve always been a lover of reality competitions, and I’ve always known that nobody gets to the end without forming an alliance.
Chad: What alliance do you think helped you make it to the final challenge?
Darienne: In my case, I knew I had to listen and watch what was working with the judges.
Chad: In terms of your fashion? Or your personality?
Darienne: My fashion is shit and always has been.
Chad: I wouldn’t agree with that, but I can see that you probably prioritize performance and comedy, right?
Darienne: As an overweight child, I never read fashion magazines because those looks were unattainable to me. I felt more importance should be in my entertainment value.
Chad: Sure, I can understand that.
Darienne: When I was picked on, it lessened when I could make the bullies laugh.
Chad: Do you see some of that same approach in Ginger Minj? Her focus on self-deprecating humor and entertainment?
Darienne: I do see that with Ginger, but I see she has such a strong desire to win.
Chad: Do you get the feeling that she’s trying TOO hard? It seemed like she was really pleading her case to the judges this week. Do you think it’s a fair point that it’s time for a bigger queen to be crowned?
Darienne: I don’t think there is ever a time for a big girl to be crowned. If you’re well rounded, motivated, entertaining, and professional, you should represent the brand of America’s next drag superstar.
Chad: Well, so there’s the question: Who do you think WILL win this season, and who SHOULD?
Darienne: The final 3 all have reasons to be there. Ginger could win, because she has the chops to make it in this business. She’s funny, engaging, talented, and direct.
Darienne: Violet could win, because she has something new and exciting for the audience. She also takes her craft very seriously and is very polished for someone who was 16 when RuPaul’s Drag Race first came on TV.
Chad: ….and Pearl?
Darienne: Pearl could win, because she is that diamond in the rough that has been polished by the machine of RuPaul’s Drag Race. She has grown emotionally on the show. She has had her spirit tested, broken, and rebuilt.
Chad: Yeah, I really have no idea who will or should win. I seriously think at the Reunion that Ru should announce “The winner of Season 7 is…… KATYA!” That would be the most surprising and rewarding ending.
Darienne: I met Katya at DragCon, and she is exactly what you want and hope for.
Chad: (Yes, I know.)
Chad: Last year, there was a TON of discussion about your “edit,” about whether you were depicted as much shadier than you really are. Do you feel like any of the top four queens got a particularly positive or negative edit this season?
Darienne: Violet may have gotten a little of the Courtney edit. Which was: fierce, but arrogant. Which, Courtney is anything but. She was and is so dear to me.
Chad: Yeah, all of my interactions with Courtney have been absolutely delightful. The same is true for you, too, which is why I’m so suspicious of those damn editors!
Darienne: I performed at Tracks in Denver on NYE, and Violet was a delight.
Chad: I feel like Pearl really got the “Adore” edit, where she’s rough and inconsistent, and she’s given second and third chances, but she fights her way to the finish line.
Darienne: Exactly my thoughts.
Chad: I don’t know WHAT to make of Ginger’s depiction on the show. I’ve had the feeling all along that she’ll win, but not necessarily from her edit. I actually prefer her in interviews and on YouTube videos to her performances on the show.
Darienne: I think Kennedy came across as too stuck in her beliefs.
Chad: Sure. I do like her, and I think she’s a complicated character. Brilliant performer, definitely knows what she’s doing. Hearing about her family and her caregiving role really struck a chord for me.
Darienne: Yes, and Kennedy entertained me out of my seat when I saw her at the premier party.
Chad: Same with us! My boyfriend doesn’t watch the show, but he came with me, and afterward, Kennedy was his favorite.
Darienne: I would probably put my money on Ginger to win. I think that she could handle the pressure, adoration, and critiques it takes.
Chad: Aside from the cash prize, do you think the crown matters a whole lot to the queens’ careers?
Darienne: Not at all. Look at Milk and BenDela. Adore and Courtey. Katya and Trixie.
Chad: Yeah, I do think Ginger is the most grounded and professional queen to serve as the face of the show.
Darienne: Whoever it is, they have some big footsteps to follow. Bianca has been a trailblazer.
Chad: The one other thing I wanted to ask you was about internet fandom and backlash. It seems like Kennedy has gotten the brunt of it this season, without really deserving the negative attention she’s gotten. How do you shrug off the haters?
Darienne: Mind over matter. Pay them no mind, because they don’t matter. There is no way their comments will affect my life. I dealt with real bullies. With fists. I can deal with someone with an Internet connection.
Chad: Ha! Did you have any other thoughts on the Drag Race, drag in general, or on being Darienne Lake?
Darienne: RuPaul’s Drag Race continues to keep me as a fan. Bringing more people to the shows in every bar around the world. It’s children, parents, and grandparents who are coming to Battle of the Seasons tours and DragCon.
Chad: Yeah, you’re right! That’s so great to see! I had a lot of all-ages groups coming by my table at DragCon. It’s so incredible to see whole families opening up and becoming more accepting.
Darienne: I’m blessed to be part of a groundbreaking television series.
Darienne will be performing in Cleveland May 30th, Ann Arbor, MI on June 5th, and Detroit on the 6th!
And be sure to find all your favorite Drag Race prints, posters, and postcards at my Etsy Store!
This week, photographer Adam Ouahmane joins me to discuss this week’s episode of the Drag Race! Adam is a Chicago fashion photographer who has worked with a number of notable queens. He brings a strong, conceptual edge to his portraits, and I’ve already shared a number of them throughout the season!
Chad: So, Adam, I wanted to talk to you about the Drag Race because you’ve collaborated with a ton of amazing queens in your work. You’ve done an entire series of photographs of Kim Chi and Shea Coulee, two of my favorite Chicago queens, and I believe you’ve worked with Trixie and Pearl, right?
Chad: You create some really stunning conceptual pieces with the queens — how does that collaboration work? And what do you find interesting about working with drag queens?
Adam: I originally started out as a fashion photographer. While in college I enjoyed shooting crazy avant grade looks, and once I moved to Chicago, I realized that the market here for fashion is more toned down, clean, and commercial. All the new young models start here, so they like to keep them fresh. At the time, I was working at Beatnix on Halsted and noticed Kim Chi. I stumbled upon her Facebook, and she had that fashion look I like. So I approached her, and it all began from that. I am picky about who I approach to work with because I want the queens to have that high fashion edge. Sissy Spastik, Ruby Dee, Pearl, all the girls I’ve worked with have that fashion I like, and I have the freedom to work with them instead of agency models. As far as collaboration, we just text ideas, and I usually like for them to do make up in my studio so I can be hands-on and make sure it’s perfect. And sometimes I sketch out the vision.
Chad: What did you think of the “Hello Kitty” theme of this week’s challenge? Not exactly avant garde, is it?
Adam: To me it was. FINALLY! A non-acting challenge. It was avant garde in the sense that it is a fantasy. Something you won’t wear everyday. I loved it.
Chad: Ha! Okay, that’s good to hear. I agree that it was nice to see an unconventional fashion challenge — FINALLY! The tie-in with Hello Kitty was a little random, but some of the queens really handled it well. And I must admit that I really liked the cartoony creations the queens came up with! Now, having worked with Pearl in the past, are you at all surprised to see her make it so far in the season?
Chad: I LOVED hearing how she’s drawn the character of Pearl since she was ten! And you’re right, she has a really cool, artful approach to her drag.
Adam: Her look last night was very Jeremy Scott for Moschino.
Chad: Your fashion references will go COMPLETELY over my head. But I admire you for knowing anything about that.
Adam: He did that Mcdonalds line, if that helps haha
Chad: I thought the minimal dress shape worked, given the crazy print she was working with. And the giant kitty head on top served as a playful, strange shape to make an unexpected silhouette.
Adam: Exactly. And I love a queen with no hair as part of the look.
Chad: What do you think of Violet? She certainly knows her fashion history, doesn’t she?
Adam: Yes. I never heard of her prior to the show, but her looks are beyond amazing. I loved her Hello Kitty look, of course, and also her bearded DIOR look. Again, it is very fashion.
Chad: And she’s never had to lip sync! I think she’s stunning, and it seems like she’s the most deserving of the crown — if not for my beloved Katya! But my fear is that winning the season would further inflate Violet’s ego. Can you imagine?
Adam: If it inflates her ego, so be it, as long as she doesn’t become a bitch lol
Chad: Ha! I thought she was pretty bitchy early in the season, but I think it’s more youthful bravado at this point.
Adam: Yeah, she’s only, what, 22?
Chad: She’s very, very young.
Adam: Now, what was your thoughts on Santino being back?
Chad: Ha! I’ve never had any problems with Santino, really. Seeing him flirt with Violet was hilaaaaarious! I think I did a spit take! As someone who’s more involved in fashion, what do you think of him?
Adam: I was glad to have them change up the judges, but kinda regret it now, because they don’t really have anything to do with the challenges, except for giving acting advice. I don’t get Violet and Ginger’s lust over him, but good for them.
Chad: Well, the queens have been holed up in those hotel rooms a lonnng time by this point in the season.
Adam: I used to get annoyed with him judging their fashion badly since (no disrespect towards him), he never had a great career in it. But now, I kind of wish he was back, since he has more of a say in it than say, Ross. They need to being Christian Siriano or Heatherette.
Chad: Now, are you the kind of fan who’s outraged by this week’s elimination? Or no?
Adam: Kind of. It’s coming off very staged. Like someone does bad in a challenge, does a great lip-sync, and stays. Whereas someone does great in a challenge, great at a lip-sync, and is sent home, cough (Trixie) cough. And I’m talking about the second time around – Pearl and Trixie should have both stayed that first time.
Chad: Yeah, this season has had really frustrating eliminations. It definitely makes me feel less emotionally attached to the outcome of the show when the decisions feel so arbitrary. I’ll say that Kennedy IS a magnificent performer, but I really hate it when queens jump off the stage and dance right in front of the judges. It just seems unfair, like LOOK AT ME DON’T LOOK AT HER NOW YOU CAN’T EVEN SEE HER
Adam: Yeah, they should have a rule about that.
Chad: I think that they should set up the lighting so that the area in front of the judges is just completely dark. So if a queen jumps down there, she’ll just be a spastic silhouette.
Adam: Or have a shark tank in front of the stage.
Adam: The winner is never the most successful with any reality competition. Trixie is traveling the most out of all the girls.
Chad: Trixie and Katya are the shit. I think the show will really, really suffer without them in the top 3. I do think Katya totally deserved to be in the top, and she’s been my favorite this season. However, I think she made the most of her time on the show, she left with grace, and I was SO glad she was able to bring in her Russian character for the challenge!
Adam: Aren’t you mad at no photo challenge this season?
Chad: I’m frankly SHOCKED that there hasn’t been a photo challenge. My guess is that the producers think acting challenges make for more lively TV? I don’t know.
Adam: That’s what bothers me, is the challenges. None of the queens act post the show, yet they all do photoshoots, sell their own products. I mean, have Betheny from NY Housewives on and judge them selling their brand. Have a photographer judge a beauty shoot where it’s just about their face and giving expression. That’s more interesting, to me, at least. They are losing the inspiration from Top Model and Project Runway, which was their original goal.
Chad: Well, I think Jinkx demonstrated that a “theater queen” can do really well and take drag into unexpected places. We’ve seen a number of queens do one woman shows, like Bianca, BenDeLaCreme, and others.
Chad: But I do agree that they should have mixed it up more this season.
Adam: But Pearl, Fame, and Violet can do magazines, fashion, something new, you know?
Chad: Right, and the challenges this season have almost NOTHING to do with their approach to drag, except for the runway themes.
Adam: Can you believe it’s almost over with?
Chad: Thank GOD! I’m sick of drawing these bitches. (I’m… mostly kidding.)
This week, they unveiled the show’s programming, and it is incredible. Be there.
Oliver Sava joins me this week to talk Drag Race! He’s been covering the show for years at The AV Club, where he’s a contributor on everything from comics to reality TV.
Chad: So, you’ve written about the Drag Race for a number of years for The AV Club, and you’ve covered So You Think You Can Dance, so I thought you would be great to chat with about this week’s challenge and what’s been going on in general this season. Even if you’re not a drag or dancing EXPERT, you know what makes good TV.
Oliver: It’s perfect, because my dance knowledge is about as extensive as most of the queens on this episode. I got to see a lot of professional dance working front of house at Harris Theater, and that combined with SYTYCD and some college dance classes has given me a pretty solid foundation.
Chad: So what did you make of this week’s performances?
Oliver: The actual dance performances were all entertaining. Nothing was a trainwreck. I absolutely agree with the judges and think Violet and Katya were the strongest, but I also think the Vogue Tango is probably the easiest of the three styles. Just because these queens probably have some basic knowledge of voguing, and tango gives them a very specific attitude to play.
Chad: Right, Katya and Violet were sleek and sexy as shit. But who the hell can pull off “country robot?”
Oliver: Country Robot and CHARLESTON TWERK
Chad: How do you think the choreography handled the double-gender aspect of their costuming?
Oliver: I don’t think it took advantage of that very well. I didn’t see the correlation between the look and the dance beyond that they both combined different things. But I would have liked to see a stronger connection drawn between the two.
Chad: I thought there were moments of wit — during Katya and Violet’s routine, when one pushes the other down as “the man,” and then they switch roles. But yeah, I felt like the divided drag looks were more distracting than anything. Wouldn’t that concept have worked better in a photo shoot, where it could be more precisely arranged?
Oliver: Maybe something even bigger than a photoshoot. Something that really forces the viewer to look at the relationship between the male and female halves. It’s a visual that speaks so directly to the dynamic at the center of the show that I wanted it to get more attention
Chad: Maybe a segment like Stephen Colbert used to do: “Formidable Opponent!” Where he literally argues with himself over some topic, with just the camera orientation (and tie color) switching with each “side.”
Chad: But it sounds like, overall, you enjoyed this week’s challenge, right?
Oliver: I thought it was solid, but far from my favorite this season. It tries to do too much. And I don’t necessarily mean in terms of the work the queens have to do.
Chad: I feel like that’s a recurring theme this season. The producers get so caught up in their own clever concepts and shove the queens along to get it all shot for the episode. My general feeling about this season is that the challenges are just too heavily scripted, where the comedy is baked into the challenge, rather than forcing the queens to bring their own inventiveness to it.
Oliver: I totally agree with that.
Chad: Just let Ginger, Katya, or Trixie riff in front of a crowd, and you’ll get comedy gold! Or even give them a talk show challenge, like Season 1 and Season 6! We’re not getting enough improvisation challenges, and we’re not getting fashion challenges. So we’re not able to see the queens’ wit (a la Trixie, Ginger, and Katya) or their visual creativity (Pearl, Violet, and Max.) That’s the end of my rant, sorry. I was annoyed by this week’s challenge.
Oliver: I think you’re totally right, though. Lots of the queens reading lines. Or singing lyrics. Or dancing choreography. That is given to them by someone else.
Chad: I would have loved a more thoughtful “split gender” runway theme that wasn’t catering to the challenges of dancing in the outfit.
Oliver: I agree. How would they interpret the male half if they didn’t have to wear a tux?
Chad: Well, if you noticed, pretty much all the tuxes were actually just spandex bodysuits. I’m guessing that was for convenience and versatility. And what if they didn’t have to divide the drag looks right down the middle? What kind of edgier, androgynous looks would we have gotten?
Oliver: The costuming confused me. I wrote about it in my review, but I just didn’t know what the queens had to sew, and if they had to sew, what they were using.
Chad: I heard on reddit that Trixie said at a viewing party that they did, in fact, have to construct the garments in the workroom. Which sounds correct, given that each queen had a look catering to their dance style. In your review, you also had some interesting thoughts on Ginger and Trixie’s issues on the show. You think Ginger is playing a pretty nuanced game, don’t you?
Oliver: I get the impression that her struggles aren’t as real as she makes them out to be. I went to the Season 7 premiere party and got to talk to Ginger, and she explicitly mentioned being a musical theater performer, and doing a little digging online revealed that she’s also a costume designer. You’ve gotta dance and sew to do those things. You don’t have to be an expert at them, but you need to have a basic knowledge to excel.
Chad: Yeah, she’s been in the game a LONG time! She had this fabulous interview on Feast of Fun where she describes acting in a Broadway production of Beauty and the Beast for more than a year when she was 19! So right, when she says, “I’m not a dancer,” that’s not exactly true. She may feel insecure about dancing, it might not be her strength, but she makes a living as a musical theater performer and drag queen. You think she’s playing up her vulnerability to be more likable to the judges and the viewership?
Oliver: I definitely think she’s exaggerating her weaknesses. But I also just get a performative vibe from her in general.
Chad: I’m still pretty sure she’s being set up to win the season, but I’m not rooting for her, yet.
Oliver: I’m all about Katya.
Chad: The issue is that Ginger comes across incredibly well in interviews and in her performances on Youtube. But something about her depiction on the show just isn’t sticking with me.
Oliver: I don’t really have a great idea of who the Ginger Minj character is. But a lot of the queens this season don’t necessarily project a strong personality in drag.
Chad: The feeling I get is that the show has been depicting her as folksier and shadier than she really is. In interviews, she comes across as very well-grounded, smart, sweet, and hilarious.
Oliver: Is it the show, or is it her, though? They can’t edit it if you don’t do it. If you’ve been watching a show for six seasons, you know what works and what doesn’t.
Chad: Well, right, I really have no idea. I do know that Trixie and Katya both LOVE Ginger, which is good enough for me. Because, yes, I love Katya, too, and I was very sorry and frustrated to see Trixie go. It felt like a very arbitrary decision. Like they just didn’t know what to do with Trixie after they brought her back!
Oliver: Ginj beat Trixie in that lip sync, though.
Chad: Yeah, I dunno. I hate the way they edit those lip syncs. I just want a split screen that shows both queens in a medium shot. Because I am a boring old man who wants to see his queens.
Oliver: They should do that as an online exclusive thing.
Oliver: Lip Sync Split-Screen, sponsored by SquareSpace.
Chad: Ha! So, speaking of SquareSpace…. What do you think of Untucked this year?
Oliver: I’m a few episodes behind, which should tell you how high of a priority Untucked is now that it’s online
Chad: What, really??
Oliver: Yeah, I don’t love it. I get what they’re going for, but it doesn’t have the same energy as before.
Chad: Okay, I think that’s fair. I’m sure the response to its stylistic change has been divided. But I LOVE it. So much. Here’s my take on it: I think they had barely any budget for it this year. So they tried a ballsy approach, tried something different.
Oliver: I miss the tight space. It was like putting animals in a cage, sticking tired drag queens in the Interior Illusions lounge with alcohol and watching them claw at each other.
Chad: But I think it’s so intimate, crazy, and unstructured. There are moments of hilarity, of poignance, and of Katya just twerking in the parking lot.
Oliver: It does feel more real, which is fun.
Chad: I just think it’s shot in such a fresh way, where you really get the feel for what it’s like to spend twelve hours with a bunch of tired queens, and honestly, I wish they’d approach the whole show the same way. I don’t think they WILL, but I can wish for it.
Oliver: There have been some solid moments. I really liked Violet’s “I get it, I’m a bitch” moment. But I don’t think I want a raw, grounded RuPaul’s Drag Race. I like it silly and overblown. I just think this episode lacked focus.
Chad: Yeah, and you’re probably in the majority with the rest of this show’s fans. I just feel like most of the episodes this season have felt too rushed, too arbitrary, without any room for the queens to breathe and to shine.
Oliver: Is Violet the only queen that hasn’t lip synced?
Chad: Hm. Seems so! What do you think of Violet?
Oliver: There’s also not much interpersonal drama this season. I appreciate Violet because she was stirring shit up! That makes for interesting TV.
Chad: Although we’ve seen her deal with the “bitch” characterization, we know next to nothing about her personal life or her history. Where are her childhood tales of adversity? Parental acceptance?
Oliver: Maybe she didn’t have to struggle.
Chad: Right, maybe there’s no drama to mine. Do you have any other thoughts on this season, this episode, or any particular queens?
Oliver: 1) Two thumbs up for boy-Pearl with facial hair. 2) Flassez-da. 3) Rachael Harris’ face when RuPaul pulled off her skirt. That is how I would look the entire time if I was a guest judge on this show.
Chad: Agreed, I love a scruffy Pearl. Too bad it was painted on!
Oliver: It was a good week for Pearl, who I’m shocked is still in the competition.
Chad: Why are you shocked Pearl is still in the game? Because she lives her life in slow motion?
Oliver: It definitely feels like she’s coasting her way through, but it’s not bad. That’s just her personality
Chad: That it is.
Oliver: She’s managed to keep that aloofness, but there’s more energy behind her performance now. She’s starting to have fun, and it’s making a big improvement.
If you like this week’s art, check out the posters, prints, and postcards available on my Etsy store!
Joining me this week is Joan Waters, a young queen who’s relatively new to the Chicago drag scene, but she’s awesome and funny and she’s John Waters’ biggest stalker or something.
Chad: I’m excited to talk with you this week! If I’m not mistaken, you’re quite a fan of John Waters, right Or, wait, is he your dad?
Joan: My dad actually does look like John Waters. Now I’m having a serious Oedipal or Electrical problem.
Chad: Is he half of your namesake?
Joan: Yes! My mom used to let me watch anything — which was bad judgment on her part, because I had inherently bad taste and went straight for Pink Flamingos. I love trashy queens, and I love campy queens, and you don’t get trashier or campier than John. Or Divine!
Chad: So what did you think of his involvement with this episode? What does it mean for John Waters to be on RuPaul’s Drag Race?
Joan: It’s a validation in part of his significance in drag history. He helped craft the original drag superstar in Divine, so it’s only appropriate that he should visit to help find the Next Drag Superstar! Divine and John really moved drag in a new direction. It was always counterculture, but it was never as shocking or funny until they rubbed their filthy hands all over it.
Chad: Do you see any parallels between John Waters and Ru? Both are known for being quite transgressive in their early work, but they’ve both grown their respective empires in more mainstream directions.
Joan: Yes! John and Ru started as far underground as you can (six feet under or closer to the Kelly Mantle of the Earth). But both were such bright, hot commodities that it was only natural that mainstream straight culture would want a fucking piece of that action. Their points of view are unique and even their mainstream work has been badass.
Chad: Yeah, that’s a fair point of view. I think they’ve both maintained their visibility and ensured their longevity by commercializing their creative empires like that. For better or worse, perhaps, it’s a necessary evil.
Joan: John Waters exemplifies a “make it work” temperament with all of his films. He and his team would break laws and film with barely any funds, get arrested, and it was all in good fun.
Chad: So what did you think of this week’s challenge? Did it capture that same spirit?
Joan: This week’s challenge was exciting and frustrating for me because it was definitely a “watered” down version of his most subversive films through the lens of his more palatable and commercial films and musicals like Hairspray and Cry Baby. It was a little sweet and not as shitty as I had hoped. I just pray that the children look at his work for themselves. And honestly, the only one that was offensively bad in a John Waters way was Pearl, Violet and Fame… and they lost!
Chad: Yeah, I felt the same way. I LOVED seeing the queens adopt crazier makeup, and even the “pretty” queens like Fame and Violet embraced a really ugly, fun expressivity.
Joan: Yes! I thought Fame got the shit end of the dog.
Chad: But it felt like they were largely IMITATING a subversive queen from 30 years ago rather than being transgressive in their own right.
Joan: Totally. Lightning doesn’t strike twice, and neither did Divine (unless provoked).
Chad: I would have preferred to see the queens’ own take on the material — how would they have interpreted their own script based on an iconic John Waters scene?
Joan: I think Katya is doing well in spite of the writing.
Chad: She brought a zany physicality to it that was just magnificent. Katya is everything.
Joan: She has been fighting through the generic and giving me spastic hooker burned by John Waters and morphasized into a comedy legend Glamazon. I love how the girls in Untucked this week were happy with the idea of Katya winning the whole competition. (She should.)
Chad: Yeah, like I’ve said before, I think she’s this season’s Alaska — not necessarily the most vulnerable, not really an underdog, not the showstopper. But the one who’s consistently hilarious, bizarre, and surprising.
Joan: Chad, all will be lost if you don’t draw Edith Massey this week. I didn’t even know she was still alive. Oh that was Ginger? Edith was as much of a John Waters staple as Divine, and it was honestly so refreshing to see Ginger nail it. That was the best casting since me in that group scene I did last week.
Chad: Ha! Ginger was great. She’s a consistently solid performer, and I still think she’s getting the “winner’s edit” this season.
Joan: Oh, definitely. I wouldn’t mind it so much if only her runway was a little better.
Chad: Yeah, she feels like the “safe” pick as the winner — she’s funny as hell, she’s reliable, and she’s lovable. But she’s not as much “out of the box” as Katya and Trixie are with their humor, or as Violet and Pearl are with their deranged fashion.
Joan: And I think that her “ugly” runway looked suspiciously like something she could’ve worn almost any other week.
Chad: Yeah, I would have liked to see something crazier from her on the runway. This week was a really mixed bag for that.
Joan: I can’t tell if the runway was successful because I hated it, or if I was supposed to hate it. I’m just confused.
Chad: I wanted to see more diabolically ugly shit walk down that runway.
Joan: When I think of ugly, I don’t think of a church lady or a teenage schoolgirl from Japan.
Chad: Violet was going in the right direction, definitely. I liked Katya’s ragged hair and ridiculous color scheme. Kennedy at least had a character that worked in that context. Pearl’s choice was especially odd.
Joan: Theyre drag queens! They should hear “ugly” and run to Jiggly Caliente’s closet.
Chad: I thought Fame looked pretty magnificent, especially from the neck up. That makeup That wig!
Joan: I love Fame. Her head is fine, and her fashion is fabulous.
Chad: I thought her performance was *fine* this week. Like, she’s not one of those pretty queens who gets stuck in her head, unable to let loose. She gave an expressive and fun performance, if not a nuanced or varied one.
Joan: It was a tough outfit to do a lip sync in. She looked like a fashionable Humpty Dumpty.
Chad: I wanted to see her do some better spin moves, like Detox in her amazing “jellyfish” outfit from Season 5.
Joan: Yes! That’s one of my all time favorites lip syncs. I think it’s confusing that they didn’t use a Divine song, but whatever. Someone on reddit brilliantly pointed out that they should’ve used “I’m So Beautiful,” which would’ve been a better song to contrast with the ugly fashion.
Chad: Ha! Agreed. The last two weeks have presented some really offbeat, unexpected challenges in an otherwise slightly underwhelming season. What are you hoping for next?
Joan: I would love for them to have an actual sewing challenge. An individual fashion challenge. Or something challenging like the Presidential Debate was in Season Four. Right now, I’m lacking chances for the girls to shine individually. I don’t need any more acting challenges.
Chad: If you could present a truly transgressive challenge to the show to really push boundaries and mess shit up, what would you want to see?
Joan: Good question. I’d love to get them out of the studio like they did a while back. Get those queens on the street during the day or in a Walmart. Make them create something for real on a dime, or actually make them walk children in nature like Shelly Long in Troop Beverly Hills. That I’d live for.
Chad: Yeah, I love seeing them get by on only their own wit and resilience. That’s what the stand-up comedy challenge is good for, or Season 5’s Roast. I’d also LOVE to see them do something like reddit’s Lip Sync For Your Life competition. Like, here’s a video camera, now make something crazy tonight in your hotel room.
Joan: They should do that when I get on for Season 13.
Chad: What, you think just because you WON reddit’s LSFYL challenge last year, you’re something special??
Joan: Don’t call me special when you know I’m just handicapped, Chad.
Chad: What do you have going on that you’d like to plug, Joan?
Joan: As far as plugs, I’m working on my website now… which will be hosted at fat-twink.com. OUT OF SYNC, my original sitcom about drag queens starring Lucy Stoole and Trannika Rex, has wrapped principal photography and will premiere in Chicago this summer. I’m hosting the 3rd season of Reddit’s Lip Sync for Your Life competition at reddit.com/r/LSFYL. And you can find me every other Wednesday performing and checking my Grindr onstage at Fabitat in the basement bar of Double Door.
Check out all the fabulous posters, prints, and postcards available at my Etsy store!
Joining me this week to talk Drag Race is Kim Chi! She’s a phenomenal Chicago queen who performs all over. She’s amazing.
Chad: So, I’m kind of sick of all the constant discussion about this season, whether it’s any good, and “When is Trixie coming back?”. At least this week, we finally have an answer.
Kim: In a season filled with group acting challenges, this episode finally gave me everything I needed! We got to see more of the eliminated queens’ personalities and the remaining queens’ creativity and crafting skills!
Chad: I know! FINALLY! Some CRAFTING! Design! And it was really fabulous to see all those girls together again. UNTUCKED was particularly special and filled me with goodness. Now, when I heard that there would be this conjoined twin challenge, I was kind of hoping that the eliminated queen would get to make over her partner! Wouldn’t you have killed to see Trixie paint Pearl?
Kim: That would’ve been great, but that could’ve gone wrong in so many ways! This season’s queens aren’t as big of saboteurs as the previous seasons, but I can just imagine some eliminated queen painting a busted mug on a polished queen out of spite. Who wants to see Miss Fame with a beard, anyway?
Chad: Ha! Yeah, that’s very true. And I think the top 7 did a superb job. How weird is it for a queen to have someone else do their makeup? Is it uncomfortable? Fun?
Kim: I think it depends on the queen. In the pageant system, a lot of the girls get their mug painted by a make up artist or another queen whose mug they admire in order to bring up their level of polish. Some queens will never have another queen paint their mug in order to continuously improve their skills and hone their signature make up style. When I first started, Pearl and Kahmora Hall painted my face just to show me how they do their mug, and it was a great learning experience for me! I think it’s refreshing to see different products and different skills being done to yourself to expose you to a variety of techniques.
Chad: Do you think any of the queens gave their twin a particularly notable transformation? Taught them a few new tricks?
Kim: Trixie’s transformation was definitely notable! We’re so used to seeing her with cartoony, deranged make up, it was a refreshing change of pace to see her with no bottom eyeliner and white waterline. I’m sure they were on a time crunch to get everything done, so I don’t necessarily know if anyone learned new tricks, but I thought everyone looked amazing!
Chad: Agreed! I love Trixie’s usual look, but she and Pearl did such a great job of giving themselves enough of a family resemblance that it really worked!
Kim: Also, their look had a strong concept and a visual narrative that fit both of their drag personas really well.
Chad: Katya and Kasha really stole the show, too! I feel like they were a very, very close second. But Trixie’s elimination always felt very weird to me, and it seemed like a setup to her inevitable return.
Kim: Trixie hardly got a storyline before her elimination, which was very weird to me, as well. I know her very well, and she’s an extremely funny person with a sick, twisted sense of humor, and that hardly got portrayed on the show prior to her elimination. Katya/Kasha’s look had a strong visual narrative as well, but Pearl and Trixie managed to serve both glamour, camp and comedy, which is why I think they ultimately won.
Chad: Yeah, that’s a good point. Although twins, they managed to serve two very different, but related, looks. What do you think Trixie will make of her second chance?
Kim: I think Trixie will definitely make the most out of her second chance! I can’t think of another person who’s more deserving of this opportunity. For the first three years of her doing drag, lots of people in her hometown didn’t understand her look or her sense of humor, and she really had to fight for her existence. Once she started performing in Chicago, everything changed. People were responding extremely well to her numbers, and she built quite a fanbase. Even though it would cost her a lot of money to travel into the city every weekend, she would take all of her drag on a train or a bus, come down here for a booking only to head right back home with no money in her pocket. She has such a strong work ethic, it’s mind blowing to me, because I’ve never seen anyone who worked as hard as she did. One time, her bus broke down on the highway, so she got off and walked down the ramp to catch a cab so she could make it to the gig. Another time, Amtrak lost her luggage, so she whipped up a quick outfit out of things she had laying around and did her make up with cotton swabs. Which is why it broke my heart to see her go on episode four. She hustles so much and is so humble, I really want her to take this crown and showcase her talent to the world. Even though she’s so well known now, she manages to stay the exact same person she was before. Self sufficient, easy going, and always punctual.
Chad: I’m hoping that Trixie really has a chance to shine in next week’s John Waters challenge! Man, I can only imagine what Ginger, Katya, and Trixie will cook up for that! It seems like it will be perfect for their respective styles and sensibilities.
Kim: Trixie will ace the John Waters challenge! Her deranged sense of humor will be perfect for it!
Chad: Yeah, Trixie is amazing. I’m so glad I got to see her perform in Chicago before she got too famous for us! But seriously, for the record: Was that your green dress she was sent home in?
Kim: Everyone assumes that dress is mine, but it’s Trixie’s dress that I borrowed! She told me to hold onto it as long as I want, and after episode four, it all made sense. I’m assuming she doesn’t want to travel in the dress she got eliminated in! Come on, cultural sensitivity!
Chad: Well, you ARE the secret asian queen of Season 7! Has it been weird to see your name keep popping up in Drag Race forums this season? Flattering? Funny?
Kim: I was there, you never saw me because I managed to evade the camera with my secret ninja skills! It is really flattering, and I’m grateful, but it is a bit overwhelming! I can’t fly, teleport or raise anyone from the dead. I’m just an Asian man in a wig doing k-pop numbers and wearing big, crazy outfits.
Chad: Wait, you’re a MAN?
Kim: Shhh it’s a secret. Secret Asian queen full of manly secrets
Chad: So, aside from your frenemy Trixie, is there anyone else you’re rooting for this season?
Kim: With every episode, I am extremely impressed and inspired by Violet’s looks! For someone so young, her taste level and execution are impeccable! I will go as far as to say some of her looks are legendary! Miss Fame is incredibly sweet and quirky. I enjoy every moment she’s talking on the screen. Pearl’s been coming out of her shell (pun intended) and the audience is finally able to see the fun, quirky side of her.
Chad: I agree that Violet is pretty much amazing, and I love that she’s making an effort to open up and show some warmth to the other queens. She’ll clearly always have an attitude, but maybe she deserves it! I agree that Miss Fame is phenomenal. Do you think Ru is giving her a hard time with that goddamn “head” joke?
Kim: She gave me good head with the knife look last week.
Chad: I think if Ru kept asking me “How is your head?” I would just try to keep coming up with more deranged answers. Like, “Toothy.” “A little drooly.” “There may be blood.”
Kim: LOL! let’s get you on this show so you can draw yourself every week
Chad: Ugh, self portraits are so indulgent!
Kim: Aren’t all drag queens a little self-indulgent to a degree, though? Being creatures of vanity and all?
Chad: I think it’s fair to say that, yes, when one spends hours a day on their makeup, they might be a little preoccupied with their looks!
Kim: Some of us, not enough time on our make up.
Kim: Oh, and how could I forget Katya, who is basically a one-liner factory?
Chad: I’m SO glad to see that she seems to have loosened up over the last few episodes. She seems to have more fun with the judges on the runway, and she got major props from the other queens this week in Untucked! Her own neuroses are clearly her worst enemy, since everyone else loves the hell out of her.
Kim: Her humor never seems forced, and it feels authentic to her. I can’t wait to see all the other jokes she’s got in her head!
Chad: Yeah, she seems endlessly authentic. And she almost never turns her humor on the other queens – it’s pretty much always endearingly self-deprecating. She has a very weird, witty, meta sense of humor as a drag queen, almost like Alaska. And here’s hoping she ascends to super stardom like her, too!
Kim: If you can’t make fun of yourself, how in the hell are you gonna make fun of someone else, right?
Kim will be at Hysteria by the Bad Kids collective at the Metro Bar in Salt Lake City, Utah on June 4th! She’ll be hosting GayGlow at Hydrate on June 5th, Milwaukee Pride on June 6th, and then Iowa City Pride (with Trixie, Katya, and Sasha Belle) on June 18th! She’ll be hosting Neverland’s Bougie Ball on June 27th and the Chicago Pride closing party June 28th.
She’s also a regular performer at Trannika’s Most Wanted everything third Monday at Scarlet in Chicago, and at Berlin’s Drag Matinee on Sundays!
As always, you can find my art on my Etsy store! And you can find ME at C2E2 in Chicago this weekend!! I’ll be in Artist Alley, Table A-4! I’ll have my queen art and comics, and I’m dying to meet all of you.
Last week, I launched an exciting new collaborative comic project called The Cardboard Kingdom! I’m seeking your story ideas for some imaginative, fun children’s comics! Click here to find out more and submit your stories!