Ariel Italic joins me to discuss the All Stars finale! Ariel is a Brooklyn queen and the writer of blisteringly funny Drag Race recaps that you should read immediately (after you finish this discussion, obvs).
Chad: Ariel, what do you make of Alaska’s depiction over the last few weeks? Do you think she managed to ru-deem herself by the end of this episode?
Ariel: I’ve been thinking about this A LOT. And I think Alaska’s challenge is that she is so focused that she basically chose not to show any sincere emotion. And as a result, the only moment of truth we got from her was her outburst when she was in the bottom. Even her final speech was extremely rehearsed, and compared to the other contestants, she seemed cold. And I think that hurt her with the viewers.
Chad: I agree! She had the same issue in Season 5, right? I remember an overly rehearsed, if not entertaining, final speech from her. She’s poised and smart and sharp, but…. she was right: she didn’t come across as very likeable throughout the show. In a lot of ways, I think Alaska and Katya are very equally matched, but we’ve seen that Katya, with all of her quirky vulnerability, seems to have stolen our hearts.
Ariel: Alaska’s performance was undeniably incredible. She’s great at what she does. It’s a shame that she felt the need to keep her guard up, though, because her win, while completely, completely deserved, has left people cold.
Chad: Did she entirely deserve the apparent fan backlash? The snake emoji? Will those butthurt feelings subside fairly soon?
Ariel: Tough to say. The fans are easily swayed. It’s funny, I think the editors made a conscious decision to highlight some of Alaska’s weakness, because otherwise it would have been way too obvious that she was going to win. But they worked so hard to cast doubt on her chances that they ended up making her look somewhat undeserving or ungrateful, which isn’t necessarily the case. Alaska herself seems perfectly nice and charming, even if she’s quite collected and poised. Her behavior didn’t do her any favors, but she was also shown in perhaps too harsh a light.
Chad: Right. As she pointed out, she had never previously been in the bottom, so it was new for her. And she doesn’t deal well with that uncertainty. When she’s on top of her game, though, she’s unstoppable.
Ariel: I did think that made her look bad. “I’ve never been in the bottom” is a terrible defense for her behavior. Like, no one feels bad for you that you win all the time, girl.
Chad: What role did Rolaskatox play this season, and holy god, can we stop talking about it soon?
Ariel: I think that was another problem mostly for Alaska because of how hard she worked to deny it. When Detox saved Roxxxy, she was pretty up-front about saying that she was saving one of her best friends. It’s not fair, but it’s at least understandable. Alaska was bending over backwards to justify her choice, and it’s like, we see you, babe. Just say she’s your friend and move on. The efforts to downplay it only made her look shady.
Chad: Right. It was strange that “Rolaskatox-ism” came up so much this week. Yes, those three queens are still on the show. Yes, they are friends. But at least they didn’t seem to be actively excluding or ganging up on their competition. Except for the part where they kicked them all off. Okay, maybe I just talked myself in a circle.
Ariel: It’s clear that Roxxxy wouldn’t have made it as far as she did if her two best friends weren’t there to save her, so in that sense, the clique is still very much in play. I don’t think they were necessarily excluding anyone else, but they certainly had each others’ interests in mind.
Chad: Right. And certainly, it wasn’t a formal alliance, just… their bonds and past that held them together. Do you think it was wise to cast all three of them on the same season again?
Ariel: I don’t think it changed the outcome, and it brought its fair share of drama. I don’t think it did Alaska any favors, because it drags down her image. But that’s also how she handled it: you can blame the producers for casting all three of them, but the fact that all three of them lasted the entire competition is their own fault.
Ariel: But it seems pretty clear that Alaska had the crown in her hand from the moment she walked into the workroom.
Chad: Agreed. I don’t know whether re-casting Rolaskatox was a boon or hindrance to Alaska. Surely, given the structure of the show, having friends really helped! But there was that moment this week when Alaska saw the parallel from Season 5, and I think she had to wonder: “Have I been played?? Did the producers plan another lovable, quirky underdog??”
Ariel: It was so weird that she had that freakout right before the crowning. Like: they’ve been there the whole time. And she’s been asked about it the whole time. To come around at the last minute and decide she needs to distance herself from them was so odd. It was WAY too late.
Chad: Yeah, Detox and Roxxxy seemed especially confused. Okay, speaking of Detox and Roxxxy — how did they do this week?
Ariel: You know, I felt bad for Detox. She seemed to be a background player in a lot of this competition. At the end, she seemed so confident, and she did so well, and I was thinking, “Wow, I never realized that she’s totally killing it, but she’s never going to win.” And Roxxxy… well, she did a really good job of staying positive. She’s such a good drag queen, but even she knew that she had outstayed her welcome.
Chad: Roxxxy definitely deserves credit for maintaining grace under relentless, soul-crushing pressure all season! And yes, I agree — Detox is an amazing queen with innovative, gorgeous looks. I just think her skillset isn’t the kind that wins this show anymore. If we had seen her on Season 2 or 3, up against Raven or Raja, yes, she would have been more formidable. But I feel like the show has shifted more to comedy and acting, where she’s middle-of-the-pack.
Ariel: I mean, anyone who made it to All-Stars has incredible abilities. I would never claim to be half as good as any of those queens. Nitpicking their performance is in some ways silly because they’re all KILLING IT. I think you’re right, though, that as the show has become more of an event, and as the producers have become savvier about the importance of pleasing the audience, the show has become much more interested in performance. (Just look at the reaction to Violet vs. the reaction to Bob the Drag Queen.)
Chad: Right. And given this week’s challenge, which was stupendous, Detox really did shine.
Chad: I was very skeptical when I heard about the rap challenge, but it was a runaway success, right??
Ariel: They all killed it! Everyone found a way to shine and show their strengths. Detox had great lyrics, Roxxxy had a phenomenal look, Katya had her splits, Alaska was blue… Since it was a multi-layered writing/performance challenge, it gave each contestant a chance to show off what they did well.
Chad: Yeah, and it was so refreshing to see Travis Wall (swoon) cater to their strengths, rather than just chastise the less adept ones. I have to say, my faves were Detox and Katya. Alaska was strong, but… splotchy?
Ariel: That body paint moment totally confused me. Like, if you’re not going to do it well, then maybe just don’t do it? Her rap also started out weak for me, but it found its way by the end. Detox was perhaps the challenge winner for me, but I feel bad saying that, because it seemed like Katya was forever coming in second this season. She’s such a great performer, and she won NOTHING.
Chad: Well, I mean…. I think Alaska won the crown, but Katya won the show. Katya was so endlessly likeable, funny, and adorable throughout the entire season.
Ariel: She definitely cemented herself as a fan favorite. But I’m sure she wouldn’t have minded earning a tip of “ten thousand duulahz” along the way.
Chad: After her heartfelt runway speech, I really really really thought that mayyyybe they’d give her the crown!
Ariel: My overall opinion of the season is that it was set up for Alaska to win, and then toward the end the producers realized that Katya might be the better pick, but they were already locked in with Alaska. She had won so much and so consistently that it was too late to change course.
Chad: I feel like any in-depth discussion of this show invariably digs into questions about how they actually MAKE it. In recent seasons, they would apparently film each of the final three winning the crown — do you think they did the same thing this time around?
Ariel: I’ve heard that they did, though you never know if the information on Reddit is real. But I know that in Katya’s Total RuCall series, she talked about the final episode as if she still didn’t know who won, so that lends credence to the idea that all three got a crowning moment filmed.
Chad: Haha, I was going to cite Total RuCall, too, for the exact same morsel of info! Yes, it really sounded like the finalists weren’t sure who’d win. I can’t help but wonder whether the producers waited to watch social media responses over the last few weeks to determine the winner or not.
Ariel: If they did, they didn’t use what they saw. Katya had ten times the audience support of any other contestant. I don’t even think that’s exaggeration, I think that’s a literal statistic.
Chad: Yup, I agree! I have a gut feeling that they made the decision a few weeks ago when the reunion was apparently filmed. Which, of course, would have been too early to see the fan backlash regarding Alaska. Do you have any idea when we’ll see the Reunion? I didn’t see any mention of it at the Sidetrack screening party, but I might have missed something.
Ariel: Two weeks! They’re taking next week off, and then back the following Thursday. It would have been nice to know that earlier, Logo: some of us didn’t give our bars enough advance notice and now can’t host a viewing party on the 27th.
Chad: Yeah, that… really sucks. Really really.
Ariel: I mean, it’ll be nice to be able to focus on the show for a change. Mostly I feel sad for all the people who won’t get to watch while basking in my radiance and hearing the gay gasps whenever something juicy happens. 😉
Chad: Ha! I think this has been an incredible season, and although it was fairly short, it feels like it’s been an EPIC journey through endless, endless drama.
Ariel: Definitely some of the best TV I’ve ever watched. That mirror moment is right up there with Kimberly’s wig snatch on Melrose Place.
Chad: I feel like it was most fun at the start, when we were all excited to see these queens again, and the stakes didn’t feel too high. But as the competition got more fierce and the eliminations became more contested, it got more stressful to watch each week!
Ariel: It was sad to watch some of my favorites go. And the structure of having the queens eliminate each other definitely led to some moments of blame. It was tough to see Alyssa and Tatianna go without harboring a bit of resentment for the people who sent them away, even if they were just doing their jobs.
Chad: Can you imagine what Alyssa would have done with the rap challenge and Travis Wall’s choreography??????
Ariel: I literally cannot.
You can go bask in Ariel’s radiance at Stonewall this Sunday for Erika Klash’s Invasion, and then Friday the 21st, at Catland for Nobodies Worshiping Satan (a talk show vaguely about Old Man Splitfoot himself), and then at a Halloween party at Terra Firma on the 28th.
And stay tuned for news about my All Stars 2 art book!
So, this week I had a three-way. I wanted to chat with both Pissi Myles and photographer David Ayllon, but I couldn’t pick between them! So I took ’em both. They’re a dynamic drag duo in New Jersey — Pissi Myles performs in Philly, New Jersey, and NYC, while David Ayllon has worked with TONS of amazing queens with his photography and design! (Photo by David Ayllon, obvs)
Chad: Okay, so this week we had a lot of tears, a lot of drama. My first question is: who has the coolest mom?
Pissi: Oh, definitely either Katya or Alaska. But Detox looks so much like her sister, you’d think that was the intention of all the surgery. Am I wrong!? They’re like clones!
David: I loved Roxxxy’s mom, but mostly because she reminds me of my grandma. She just seemed so sweet and totally into it, even if it was a totally different world for her (much like my grandma at Pissi’s shows).
Chad: Yeah, it was fascinating to see these queens interacting with their loved ones — clearly, Alaska and Katya inherited a TON of their mothers’ humor!
David: Oh yeah. Katya’s mom was a close second on the favorite mom scale. They almost spoke their own language, it was awesome.
Chad: It’s called a Boston accent, David.
Pissi: Hahaha! WE’RE GOIN TO GINA’SSS (I hope you’ve seen The Heat)
David: Are you, or are you not a knock???
Pissi: A fuckin’ knock!
David: Sorry, we’ve watched that movie a LOT.
Chad: Okay, okay, so back to our important discussion of reality television:
Pissi: So important.
Chad: Were you surprised by any of the family drama? Moved?
David: I was really shocked by Alyssa and her sister. I wasn’t expecting it to get so deep. I almost didn’t care how she did in the challenge, because I could feel how much she was going through it during the episode.
Pissi: I was really moved by Alyssa and her grieving process with her mom. My mom passed away a little less than a year ago, and every time she came on screen, I was like, “I need to go get a soda…” Lol
David: Yeah, Pissi and I didn’t get to watch it together, but whenever Alyssa came on screen, I was thinking of Pissi.
Pissi: Awwwww not because of my mom, but because I’m batshit crazy.
David: lol definitely that.
Chad: Pissi, I’m sorry to hear about your mother! Would you ever want to hash out such intense family stuff on the set of a reality show?
Pissi: Absolutely not! I am a lonely griever, I don’t like to cry in front of people lol
David: Unless it’s at a Patti LuPone concert.
David: Oh I can only imagine. Do you find that when you’re illustrating a queen you’re toggling back and forth between drawing their actual facial features and drawing the face they paint on TOP of their face?
Chad: I really struggled with that face/”face” issue a lot in my early Drag Race work!
David: I still struggle with it. I just went through it with Pissi’s t-shirt, haha [Now available here! YES GOURD!–Chad]
Chad: Now it’s not so much of an issue. I’ve come to terms with the insanity of drawing people who have painted a second face on themselves.
Chad: Were either of you impressed with the makeovers on the runway this week?
David: I loooooooved Detox and her sister’s looks. Those were Marco Marco, right?
Pissi: I thought Detox’s sister really did look amazing.
Chad: So, honestly, something about those specific looks bothered me – I’m all about neon sci-fi realness, don’t get me wrong. I just didn’t love the print or something. I prefer a more graphic approach, as you might imagine.
David: You don’t say! Lol I also thought Roxxxy and her mom looked amazing.
Pissi: Yeah! Roxxxy looked great, it was just not as great as everyone else’s, unfortunately =\
David: I actually think my least favorite makeover was Alyssa’s sister. She didn’t seem as transformed as the others, but at that point I didn’t care. I was just glad she was doing better and not crying anymore haha
Chad: When I was re-watching the runway this morning in beautiful HD on the Logo website, I actually thought Alyssa’s sister looked GREAT — at least, that amazing, enormous wig and her makeup!
Chad: I LOVED Katya’s ridiculous, campy runway. Do you think Katya’s crazy thrift-store chic is at all cheap, Pissi? Gimmicky? Or is it just… Katya?
Pissi: Well, as someone who is often criticized for being cheap, I can relate hahahaha I do think it was… simple.
Chad: That crazy macrame neck thing was so so so bizarre. It was even weirder to draw it. With the CLAM SHELL???? I mean….????
Pissi: She could do the same thing and push it a little farther. I definitely have felt that they’ve been unusually kind to her sometimes.
David: I love how wrong her outfits tend to be.
Pissi: Sometimes! Sometimes it works. But sometimes it just looks a little less than polished. It’s kind of the only reason I wouldn’t see her as a winner. That’s how I felt during Season 7.
Chad: Was Alaska’s performance as bad as everyone made it seem?
David: I don’t think it was terrible, but then again, I didn’t see the voguing part as “competition”. I saw it more as an opportunity for a fun moment on stage with your family member. Some of the moms were older, so I didn’t expect any of them to do a death drop.
Pissi: I didn’t think it was terrible, but I was generally underwhelmed by the lip syncs last night. I was like… Do something! No one ever brings the camp to the lip sync anymore.
Chad: Ha! Well, so, that brings us to the big huge, sequined elephant in the room: what was up with Alaska’s temper tantrum, and what does it mean for her on this show?
David: So many feelings.
Chad: I feel like Alaska is a tremendously talented person who DOES NOT deal well with disappointment. Does that seem fair?
David: Ultimately, her tantrum wasn’t enough to make me hate her, or like her any less. I’ve been her in that moment. I think to some extent, we all have. There’s a lot of pressure just being on that show, and I think there’s especially a lot of pressure on her (I think everyone kind of ASSUMED she’d at least be top 3).
Pissi: I love Alaska, and I know what it’s like to have bad anxiety, especially in a high pressure situation like a competition. I felt bad for her, although her words were pretty harsh. When you’re in that space, though, it’s a very indulgent place, and I’m sure she was scared for herself. It’s really hard. I was simultaneously a little turned off and felt terribly for her. It’s such a unique situation. I think she puts a lot of pressure on herself to succeed, and normally that’s what she does! But when she doesn’t, it is, to her, catastrophic.
Chad: Yeah, I mean, she just seemed upset, mostly at herself. She DIDN’T seem to direct it at anyone else, and she didn’t start any fights. But she just seemed so defeated.
Pissi: Exactly, she was defeated and desperate. I’ve felt that way on occasion. Especially when you’re going through these crazy drag competitions where the spectators are vicious!
Chad: What did you both make of her taking off all her drag at that point? Is that… unprofessional? Or do queens do that all the time?
David: Pissi usually can’t wait to get out of drag, hahaha I’m about to get real nerdy: it reminded me of the episode of Grey’s Anatomy where Christina Yang gets left at the altar and she’s clawing at her neck to get her jewelry off and get her dress off. Spoiler alert.
Pissi: Ummmm I think it was probably a panic moment. If she has true anxiety, I could see her needing to rip it off. It’s a lot. It’s a lot to be dressed like that and going through chaos lol
Pissi: Yes! It was a lot like that! You’re literally covered in something that failed you, that disappointed you. And on top of it, she probably had to pee lol
Chad: Do you think it hurts her chances to win?
Pissi: Unfortunately, I could see this tilting the scales toward Katya. People really see her as this dark horse, it’s crazy.
David: To an extent. I think everyone has an off day, even the queens on the show. I think it was a bigger deal because Alaska had been doing SO well up until this point.
Chad: Right, it was just SO SHOCKING to see this defeated, vulnerable side of Alaska. But honestly, I think it’s had a huge effect on the fandom, at least in just the day following the episode.
David: It really has! But I think a lot of it was bubbling because she kicked off Tatianna twice. (I love Tati!)
Chad: When you look at World of Wonder’s Twitter feed to see which #team tweet is getting the most retweets and support, Katya has an OUTRAGEOUS lead on everyone else!
Pissi: Really?!?! I haven’t checked the WoW twitter, I have no idea what’s happening.
Chad: I think Katya has always shown us her “worst” sides from the start– her anxiety, insecurity, etc. Whereas Alaska has been so indomitable, and so it really shook a lot of fans to see it last night!
Pissi: Yeah, and when Katya flounders, it’s much more quiet and self deprecating, where Alaska’s came off as off-putting.
David: It actually reminded me of how far she’s come since season 5. In the very first episode, I remember being so disappointed that she kind of gave up in the dunk tank photoshoot challenge.
Pissi: Yeah, same.
David: She’s a completely different person now, and it made me think back to how far she’s come.
Chad: Oh, that’s a fascinating observation! What did you think of Katya and Alaska’s chat in the midst of the tantrum?
David: It felt like they were asked to have a conversation and all Alaska wanted to do was hyperventilate in the corner (which is probably all I would want to do in that moment).
Chad: Katya has known ALL SEASON that Alaska is her biggest competition, clearly, right?
David: There’s also the added pressure of possibly getting kicked off the show the night YOUR MOM COMES TO VISIT.
Chad: What do you think was going through Katya’s head in deciding who to send home? And why did she screw with Alaska so much with that amazing, legendary, one word response:
Pissi: Oh, “Party” was the best response!
David: I’m sure Katya would’ve broken up Rolaskatox. Whether she would’ve kicked off Alaska or Roxxxy, I’m not sure.
Pissi: I don’t think it was intentional ’cause she’s not malicious, but I think it shook Alaska. I think Katya would’ve picked Roxxxy.
David: Yeah, I’m leaning toward that also.
Pissi: She’s too smart, as good a strategy as it would be, to kick off Alaska. The fans would explode lol
Chad: Do you think the Rolaskatox bond has ruined this season?
Pissi: Honestly, no. I think there have been annoying moments, but it’s not nearly as prevalent as people have been saying it is. This last week was the most obvious it’s been, except with Alaska’s elimination of Tati.
Chad: Or not “ruined”, but dramatically altered the outcome of nearly every lip sync?
Pissie: Oh sure, it’s probably had an effect on the outcome.
David: That’s sort of the point of this season, right? With Ru and the judges not choosing, anyone could go at any time. I never took the first episode conversation of sending home the worst of the night to heart.
Pissi: It’s such a shame, though, ’cause you have to remember, there really aren’t any queens on an All Stars season that no one likes.
David: Exactly. Which is probably why Ru didn’t want to do it this time, hahaha For example, I don’t know that I’d be able to send home my really close friends if I were Alaska last week, or Detox this week.
Chad: I think it’s totally fair for a queen like Detox to say, “I’m not sending my best friend home.” But… it’s led to some undeserving queens getting the chop. What do you think of the All Stars experiment — did this system work well for the season?
David: Yes and no. I think it made a lot of people angrier at the show, at seeing their personal favorites go home. But I think it’s successful in keeping this season unpredictable, which the show needs. Otherwise it’s the same girls, in similar challenges to what we’ve seen them in, with the same judges.
Pissi: I think it works better for All Stars than a regular season. These girls already have a fanbase. Imagine this happening Season 8? Do you think there would have been one queen that didn’t send Bob home first out of fear? It would ruin the show for me, I think.
David: Agreed. I think it fits better with All Stars, where the girls have a level of respect for each other (sometimes). On a normal season, it would be anarchy.
Chad: Right, I think I liked this structure more at the beginning, when it really felt unpredictable.
Pissi: Yeah, it’s a bit predictable at this point.
Chad: But after seeing Roxxxy in the bottom SO MANY TIMES and seeing each and every queen refuse to send her home, it…. got a little big predictable, yes.
Pissi: Chad, who’s your pick for the winner???
Chad: Uhhhhhhhhhhhhh…… ermmmmm I think Alaska has DOMINATED this season. Absolutely. She will probably win, definitely.
David: I still have my money on Alaska, especially since if it’s already been filmed, the producer’s might not have foreseen the social media backlash on Alaska. (OR DID THEY)
Pissi: Hahahaha they might have! I think it’s a Chad Michaels situation – they did this for Alaska. I think she’ll win.
Chad: Agreed. I think they included her meltdown to help make it a little more uncertain, to make it SEEM like it will be a closer competition than it really is.
Pissi: True! You know this system like the back of your hand hahaha
David: Ooooo, I didn’t think of that, but you’re right!
Chad: They often struggle at the end of a season to introduce SOME uncertainty, to obscure the frontrunner just a little bit. But it might have been TOO effective in this case!
Find my latest RPDR prints on Etsy! I’ve also posted a ton of brand new posters, which are stunnnning! I’ll be selling my stuff at Chicago’s SIDETRACK this week during the All Stars screening! So be there! Book your flights now!
Brooklyn’s Sasha Velour joins me this week to discuss All Stars! (Photo by David Ayllon)
Chad: Sasha! You’re a designer, a cartoonist, an illustrator, a magazine editor — I’m not sure how you describe yourself and what scene you consider yourself in, but my impression is that you’re on the avant garde of drag, largely active in the Brooklyn scene, is that right? How do you approach and respond to the Drag Race — as a fanboy? As a critic? Eager to be on the show yourself? All of the above?
Sasha: I’m definitely in the weirder art-meets-horror-meets-fashion-meets-club-kid part of the drag spectrum… but one of the things I care most about is that drag keeps getting more and more varied. I think Drag Race is a wonderful show, but its focus is purposefully kind of narrow when it comes to the world of drag. And that’s okay. For me, the question isn’t “does Drag Race do a good job of representing the drag world?” (because it can’t possibly… it’s a brilliant and fun tv show) but rather “how else are we going to represent ourselves”. It’s our job to create new platforms to showcase different/weirder/queerer types of drag. And maybe, in response, the show will evolve, too. So my short answer is that I LOVE DRAG RACE. It’s fun, it’s informative, it makes the careers of so many new talents…. but we need more! Other! Different!
Chad: Cool, I think that’s a really smart and productive approach to the show. It evokes such strong and varied responses in its fans, and I wanted to get a feel for your thoughts on it as a place to start off our discussion.
Sasha: Awesome! Yes! I know a lot of people who are really critical of the show… there’s definitely a place for that, too 🙂
Chad: I’m someone who also, clearly, loves the show, even if I find myself criticizing aspects of it every week.
Sasha: I’m ultimately the same. I think we have to celebrate it for what it is, not expect it to be something different!
Chad: Regardless of my feelings about the production of the show, its diversity and representation, what keeps me drawing every episode is my unabiding love for these queens.
Sasha: I feel like one of the show’s greatest strengths is that it helps us as audience members fall in love with these weirdo geniuses! I feel really attached to these queens I’ve never met!!
Chad: This week’s “merchandising” challenge was pretty brilliant, and a fabulous callback to season 5’s perfume challenge. I love seeing these queens’ creativity at work.
Sasha: I think some of the most exciting Drag Race challenges are ones where the queens have to be creative from start to finish because we get a better sense of what they are going to be like outside of the show, how their minds work.
Chad: And truly, for a successful Drag Race queen, merchandising is FUNDAMENTAL! I think the whole point of this challenge was seeing the queens display some cunning and self awareness, figuring out how to capitalize on their image and cater to their fans. But were there any remotely marketable products, or were all the queens basically just orienting their items to make a good commercial?
Sasha: In the end, it wasn’t really about the items (because none of them are REALLY marketable, aside from being gag gifts), it was about humorous videos…. and it really wasn’t surprising that Alaska, Katya, and Alyssa put together the most successful videos, because they are the three that have already successfully used videos to brand themselves as queens.
Chad: Right, you can’t discount the ease and comfort that those three queens must have in front of the camera! I thought Katya’s was an absurd masterpiece, and I’m so glad she completely ignored the criticism of her product in the workroom. It’s gratifying to see her operating with a grounded sense of confidence this season — she seems to be in a much healthier and less frantic place this time around!
Sasha: Katya’s was my favorite, actually. I still can’t get over that her product’s initials read KKK though…
Chad: Oh god, I didn’t even notice that!
Sasha: But I’m an anxious person and I have stress-treatment sprays in every room…. so I would fully support her Krisis Kontrol product. I wonder what it smells like?
Chad: Wait, wait, wait, are stress treatment sprays a thing????
Sasha: YES!!! Aromatherapy, darling!!!! I love lavender and sandalwood, myself.
Chad: Okay, I think my gay card has just been revoked, I don’t know if I can continue this conversation. What did you think of Katya’s runway look?
Sasha: I LOVED THE RUNWAY! The yellow brown and gray late soviet depression-tracksuit was all so twisted and weirdly glamorous.
Chad: I was kind of waiting for a reveal under that tracksuit, but I thought she looked stunning. At least, from the neck up.
Sasha: For me…it was innovative. I’ve never seen a drag queen do a look like that! Katya often does pretty out-there stuff with silhouettes and textiles. She’s not a classic fashion queen, but for me she’s a true original…and that’s what fashion needs to be about.
Chad: Yes, very very true.
Sasha: I agree with RuPaul. It was so wrong…it was right
Chad: What are your thoughts about Detox? I feel like she consistently comes down the runway with stunning looks, but she’s typically middle-of-the-road in the challenges. I don’t know what’s holding her back!
Sasha: I was surprised she wasn’t in the bottom on this one. The video just really didn’t make a strong impression, and the product makes no sense. I LOVE Detox, and I think she has the most brilliant VISUAL eye of the bunch.
Chad: I think her fashion speaks directly to both of us — extremely sleek, graphic, bold. She’s stunning on the runway!
Sasha: The Thierry Mugler pointy red/white fashion vacation look was sooooo pleasing.
Chad: I thought her commercial was FINE, but not… exceptional. I may giving her the benefit of the doubt, though, because her trash talkin’ trash receptacle bore a STRONG resemblance to one of my favorite Chicago queens, Imp Queen.
Sasha: Big PAPER eyelashes? Iconic. Chicago drag is so top notch. And there’s some strong love between Brooklyn and Chicago queens, especially.
Chad: Yes, I’ve definitely been getting that impression! I feel like Detox excels at both the runway and in her stage performances, but she just isn’t displaying the same creativity as Katya and Alaska in the challenges. I guess everyone has their strengths and weaknesses, eh?
Sasha: I kind of have the same complaint about all these commercials, though… which is that we’ve seen a lot of the jokes before. All these videos were REALLY self-referential. I think they are all equally guilty of that. Maybe that’s the curse of “marketing”.
Chad: I agree, but don’t you think that a queen inevitably capitalizes on their most popular catchphrases and memorable moments when creating merch?
Sasha: I guess you’re right! It’s the curse of All Stars then, that we get a more “branded” contestant.
Chad: Honestly, that’s part of what appealed to me about this challenge, and about this All Stars season in general — how do you as a performer maintain a certain level of consistency and fan service without stagnating?
Sasha: Do you feel like some are doing better than others?
Chad: Well, I think Tati and Alaska are both very skilled at surprising us.
Sasha: Tatianna has been one of my favorite parts of the season because she really is giving us something new. Her drag is so different from what it was on season 2. And the show—really the whole audience of drag—has changed. I thought she has been nailing it.
Chad: I really felt like Tati was going to be a dark horse this season — I mean, certainly, I think she came across very well on the show, but I wanted to see so much more of her!
Sasha: Everyone’s jaws dropped at the bar where I was watching. We all wanted more Tati.
Chad: She’s not the kind of queen I normally find myself rooting for — exceedingly fishy and beautiful, but delightfully bitchy when called for.
Sasha: She’s really smart, though… it gives her such an interesting edge.
Chad: Yes, she displays an intelligence that should serve her well outside of the show. I hope she takes advantage of her increased visibility and runs with it!
Sasha: Me too! I want to see more content from her! Videos! Spoken word album!! Bring it on! See me with them hands!
Chad: In all this discussion about branding, about expectations, and about playing the Drag Race game, we have to get around to Alaska. I think she’s such an amazingly, hilariously, endlessly surprisingly contestant on this show. I think it must be profoundly difficult not only to operate within the confines of the shooting environment on this show and create anything remotely original and creative, but to create something that feels so edgy, strange, and stunning. I absolutely loved her commercial.
Sasha: She is SLAYING this competition every week. She clearly understands herself and her “brand” really really well… and that is the ticket to having success in ANYTHING, especially drag. I could tell that she was really organized and purposeful about designing her commercial–the shots, the voiceover… it was all really well planned out at a totally different level than the other girls. It was still quite simple… but just brilliantly and carefully conceived. Alaska is creative AND professional/business-minded…which is so intoxicating to watch. I was so inspired.
Chad: Yeah, I think Alaska is just wildly intelligent, creative, and focused. And she’s so Thunderfucking fun to draw!!!!! Something about her weird, edgy looks pushes me in strange, strange directions.
Sasha: That makes me want to make some art of her!! Yours are always AMAZING!
Chad: Oh, thank you! I find myself using a rough, almost jagged and sparse technique when drawing her this season, more so than with any other queen! It suits her much more than the usually clean, simple style that works with the others.
Sasha: That totally fits! Alaska makes drag look really really fun and wild. That’s so important. I think that’s why drag queens love her so much, because it’s a reminder of that passion and creativity that took us to drag in the first place.
Chad: Right, I think that’s a great way of describing her appeal! Frankly, I think you bring a similar creativity and innovative edge to your performances, which is why I react so strongly to them!
Sasha: THANK YOU CHAD!!! <3<3 That really matters to me—to do something different, to be myself, to have fun. I always try to “say something” with drag… even if it’s crazy or doesn’t totally make sense or looks a little ugly. And I’m drawn to queens and kings with the same philosophy:)
Chad: I think it’s that experimentation with the form that pushes it forward and explodes its boundaries!
Sasha: YES! DRAG REVOLUTION NOW!
Chad: What are you hoping to see the rest of this All Stars season? I think there are only a few episodes left!
Sasha: Gladiator-style combat with Ru dressed as Nero? Esther Williams-style synchronized swimming challenge? Write minimalist operas based on your life and perform them with only the help of the pit crew? Create your own religion and try to get converts on the street? Pitch and teach a 300-level seminar at UCLA on the meaning and history of drag?
Chad: HA! Yes, please, ALL OF THEM. I think next week is a makeover episode, which is always fun. I have this feeling that a lot of the drama may be over for the season, or at least, I hope so.
Sasha: That’s right! We haven’t had a makeover, yet!
Chad: My guess is that the principal source of tension between the queens will be the question of Rolaskatox — will one of them be forced to send another home? I think there will be some grueling, difficult decisions to make, but it will be some delicious drama!
Sasha: That storyline wasn’t the most interesting the first time we got it.
Chad: Ha! True, but now that the queens’ fates are in each others hands, it’s interesting to see play out.
Sasha: But it’s easy to forget when you are home watching through a screen just how intense and personal these decisions are! I have to remind myself how hard it would be if I was with my Brooklyn sisters, trying to make decisions like these.
Chad: Right, these are queens that care about each other and respect each other, so despite all the exciting drama surrounding it, this structure must be excruciating. I saw Willam speculating on Twitter that, at the finale, the queens will have to pick the winner! Which would be a lovely, affirming way to end the season, wouldn’t it?
Sasha: All the eliminated queens? That’s kind of beautiful.
Sasha Velour is on Instagram, and she also has a shockingly beautiful website. I beg each and every one of you to watch this tour de force performance where Sasha unleashes a stunning multimedia extravaganza — please, for the love of drag! Sasha’s monthly show “NIGHTGOWNS” will be Thursday, October 13 at Bizarre Bushwick in Brooklyn! She’s also currently exhibiting 6 new art pieces in a group show Coney Island Babies curated by Patti Spliff and Chris Bogia at the Bureau of General Services Queer Division (in the Manhattan LGBT Center). The second issue of VELOUR: The Drag Magazine (formerly VYM) debuts on October 21 (including a drawing by me!). (Photo by Marloes Haarmans)
Okay, so scheduling didn’t work out with the queen I had been planning to interview about this week’s ALL STARS, so I was going to host this gig alone. How hard could that be, right? But then this weird woman in green showed up, insisting I needed help, spewing salad based puns at me in a nearly indecipherable lisp.
Chad: So, I guess I’m being joined today by Tasha Salad? Um, welcome? Do you actually exist, or are you just a fictional character created by Roxxxy Andrews?
Tasha: Resht Ashurred Chad, Tasha’s here to shave the day, jusht like I helped Roxxxy in her time of need.
Chad: Oh great, because that worked out well. So do you always magically appear when the desperate and humorless need hosting help?
Tasha: That’sh right, and I often appear before dinner as a light asshortment of greensh and veggiesh and dresshing.
Chad: Right… because… salad. Cool. So, uh, Tasha… this week it felt like we spent a decade or so discussing who was under the bus, who had thrown someone under the bus, who was driving the bus, and where that bus was going.
Tasha: They chopped up that shalad ’til it was cabbage shoup!
Chad: Wait, Alaska??? Did you show up just to punctuate that terrible salad pun? All of you, quiet down and let me talk, because this is my shitty blog. Okay? Now, as I was saying, I have this theory: Alyssa and Phi Phi are like matter and anti-matter, fundamentally opposites, and when they come together, the results are explosive. Phi Phi is super talented, particularly with her cosplay and her more cartoony, creative looks. But she just can’t get a break. She works and works, and she wants that steely determination to win her accolades and acclaim. But that’s not how this game WORKS. Her scheming and quibbling and defensiveness just make her unlikable, with the gleeful assistance of the producers and editors of this show.
Chad: Oh good, I’m so glad you agree. Now, Alyssa is painfully likable. She can’t help it. None of Phi Phi’s colorful cartoon cosplay can ever make her as much of a cartoon character as Alyssa already is. She keeps “coasting” through this season because she’s entertaining and makes for good TV, and this is a TELEVISION SHOW. And most crucially, Alyssa learned an important lesson from her season, whereas Phi Phi has not – ditch the drama. During the fifth season, quite frankly, I didn’t like Alyssa very much. She was tied up in this feud with Coco that didn’t do either of them any favors. Their fighting kicked up such a cloud of Dorito dust that it was hard to see either clearly. But this time around, Alyssa doesn’t let that shit stick – when Phi Phi pulled her aside in the workroom, eager to argue her case, Alyssa, was all, “Girl, I respect you, I love you, there’s no drama, let’s hug.”
Alyssa looks like she’s having the time of her life on this show, living her gig, and the season has been better for it. But you see Phi Phi struggling every minute she’s on the show, second-guessing herself and the other queens. Frankly, I don’t think she committed any grievous sins in the competition to warrant the hate she’s been getting, but she definitely didn’t play the game right. Despite her considerable talent, it was all pretty painful to watch. She wasn’t enjoying it, and neither were we. Except for that badass blue alien costume. I want that in EVERY COLOR of the rainbow every day for the rest of my life.
Tasha: Sho Chad, when are you going to show us shome actual art? Shometime thish week?
Chad: Well, gee, that’s surprisingly hostile. This season, the format of the show seems to have been shifted around to allow the maximum time for drama. Mini-challenges? Nearly none of them. Runways? Not this week! An episode of Untucked tucked right back into the episode proper? Sure, yes, bottom queens, explain to all the tops why you’re the better bottom.
All of that makes for FABULOUS television. But it sometimes leaves this poor drag illustrator without much material. During each commercial break, I kept wondering, “What will the runway theme be? Whose looks will I draw this week? Wow, All Stars has been great!” And then, a good 55 minutes into the episode, I realized, “This is an amazing episode and I have nothing to draw.” HOW COULD THE SHOW DO THIS TO ME????
Tasha: Keep crying into your shalad, asshole, and your croutonsh won’t shtay dry.
Chad: What? I wasn’t, I…. fine, let’s talk about the challenge. I thought it was amazingly put together — how it paired the kicked off queens with the remaining ones, how it gave such amazing drama at the end for the chance to return. It was all tossed together like some perfect, tasty… salad?
Tasha: Don’t pander to me, nerd.
Chad: Okay, I’m just going to hurry along, because I’m feeling really uncomfortable, and you’re looking at me with those hungry, hungry eyes. So, I think Alaska and Alyssa made an amazing team, despite their uneven performance last week. As Baby JJ, Alaska got all the good stuff in that scene, and Alyssa was stuck playing the straight, serious one (more or less). But this time, Alaska has perfectly utilized Alyssa’s “off the cuff buffoonery” and structured it to give herself those perfect, punctuating punchlines, which was, frankly, genius.
Tasha: What did you think of Roxxxshy’s hoshting, Shad?
Chad: Um, I mean, I think Roxxxy said it, herself: “I’m just here to look pretty.” What did you think of Phi Phi and Coco’s surreal fever dream of an SNL skit?
Tasha: It wash an awkward mish-mash of problematic shtereotypes and sheriously unfunny.
Chad: Well said. Detox and Tati made a surprisingly good team, even though I didn’t like that weird, lispy old lady voice Detox was using.
Chad: Ginger and Katya were criminally under-appreciated this episode. I think it’s because Ru didn’t want Ginger back on the show, and she didn’t expect that Ginger would offer a lip sync that could have come close to the legendary, orgiastic one that Tatianna and Alyssa birthed out on that stage.
Tasha: The matching outfitsh! Those shexy movesh! It wash shtupendous!
Chad: Seriously, I’m thrilled to see both Tati and Alyssa returning! I feel like the producers of this show carefully calibrated the last few episodes so that this week’s would culminate in the absolute loudest cheering in a gay bar that is scientifically possible.
Chad: Despite my misgivings about Phi Phi’s performance and depiction on this show, I agree with my friend Melissa’s shouted assessment from the screening party: “Best Drag Race season, ever!” I have plenty of complaints about the show week by week, but I think the producers are making magic this time around.
Tasha: Are we almost done here? Becaush theesh leavesh are shtarting to wilt.
Chad: Yeah, Tasha, I’m ready for my main course, so GO BACK TO HIDDEN VALLEY RANCH WHERE YOU BELONG.
As always, you can find prints of my work at Etsy, though I’m not sure that I’ll be adding any of this week’s work to the shop, because it’s all weird and terrible. (Never stopped me before, right?) You can also support me on Patreon if you want me to keep making weird and terrible things.
Chicago’s own Valentine Addams joins me this week! She’s a colorful, cartoony confection, and she is great. (Photo by Eric Magnussen)
Chad: When I’m thinking about an episode of the Drag Race, I feel like there are three main parts that I’m evaluating: the drama, the challenge, and the runway. This week totally delivered on the drama and runway, even if the challenge was the typical, cringe-inducing acting schtick. What did you think?
Chad: As a queen, are you into the drama? Or does it feel fake, just part of the editing?
Valentine: I’m totally into the drama, but that’s what makes the show so good. The drama sometimes feels a little exaggerated, but who doesn’t love a good “rattlesnake noise”?
Chad: Does Phi Phi deserve all the hate she’s getting online?
Valentine: I don’t think anybody deserves hate like that. I’m not the biggest fan of Phi Phi’s, but I’m not going around threatening her or hating her on the internet.
Chad: What do you think a queen should do if she feels she’s been treated unfairly on the show? Try to set the record straight?
Valentine: I think actions speak louder than words, honestly.
Chad: So, you would advise against tons of angry tweets about the show, then?
Valentine: Yeah, absolutely. This show is the reason you are famous to any extent. So why are you biting the hand that feeds you?
Chad: I mean, I would be totally furious if I felt like someone took my own words out of context and turned them against me. But I guess that’s the nature of the beast!
Valentine: Yeah, I get that. But you know what you’re signing up for. Especially the second time around.
Chad: Which runway looks were your favorite?
Valentine: OMG Roxxxy!!! I literally couldn’t stop myself from just screaming like a girl!
Chad: Everything was SO RIGHT with Roxxxy’s look — the movement, the wild proportions, the fabric.
Valentine: And of course Alaska! I mean who didn’t love Alaska’s look? Katya’s was also amazing.
Chad: Katya’s was kind of simple, but the sheer insanity of her transformation was just… devilishly delightful. Who would even think of snatching their own bangs off??
Valentine: Yeah, I feel like her outfit was simple. But it was those details that just made it sooo amazing.
Chad: I asked my friends, “Wait, where did that pentagram come from? What just happened??”
Valentine: Haha, it was so good.
Chad: I didn’t see that she had snatched her own hairpiece — I thought she had stamped the pentagram on her head just then! I don’t know. Devil’s work. Phi Phi’s outfits were actually quite lovely! Just a little underwhelming.
Valentine: I liked the blue prince look, and then wasn’t as into the yellow dress, myself.
Chad: I thought Alaska’s reveal of Lil’ Poundcake was probably one of the absolute highlights of this season. It was so. Perfect. I found her makeup transfixing! The way she transformed her face to give that “don’t fuck with me” expression was EVERYTHING.
Valentine: Yeah. You couldn’t stop staring at her. And it was obvious that mama Ru couldn’t, either.
Chad: The fact that she was able to lip sync in character so perfectly was the final cherry on top. Phi Phi’s performance was fine, but it fell far short of that kind of genius.
Valentine: Yeah, I agree. It’s hard to top Lil’ Poundcake hahah
Chad: Do you feel like Alyssa had been coasting through the competition with her comedy? Did she get a free pass just because she’s Alyssa?
Valentine: No. I actually think Alyssa did really well up until this challenge. This one was a hard one. It’s getting tougher and tougher to pick out the obvious bottom Queen.
Chad: Yeah, I agree that Alyssa was entertaining and, as she said, she hadn’t been in the bottom as much as some others. I feel like this is a television show, and Alyssa makes for GREAT television, so frankly, I don’t know how I’m going to watch without her on it. But I agree — it’s just going to get more brutal from here! It seems like basically half the queens will be in danger of going home each week!
Valentine: Oh yeah. And it’s hard to say who I want to go home next. They are all really strong and giving it their all.
Chad: Well, I think it’s fairly safe to say that, if Phi Phi lands in the bottom again, she’ll be an easy pick for the others — she just hasn’t been proving as competitive a contender!
Valentine: Yeah, I agree with you there.
Chad: I mean, she’s certainly a competitive person, just not… you know…..
Chad: Of the queens who have been sent home, who are you hoping returns??
Valentine: I’m not gonna lie. I want Tati to come back.
Chad: Me tooooooo! Or Alyssa. But Tati is just really exciting, and I want to see more. Do you have any other favorite drama or T about this episode?
Valentine: Yeah, I really loved the way the had the girls on the other side of the mirror. It was just so good!
Chad: That was ICONIC!!!! I’m wondering if it was awkward for the queens behind the mirror to just stand there silently, looking pissed. Wouldn’t you want to shout something out??
Valentine: Omg yeah! I probably couldn’t help myself from giggling lol
As always, you can find most of this week’s work at my Etsy store if you want to decorate your walls with prints and postcards! If you’d like custom art or sketches, you can check out my Patreon page!