Joining me this week is Tim “TinTim” Jones-Yelvington, a fabulous Chicago queen and popular commentator on the Drag Race!
Chad: So, I thought these two episodes told a particularly interesting and INTENSE story–most notably about Trinity, Joslyn, Dela, and Laganja. It was almost a relief to get through them in one week! I wouldn’t want to endure Dela’s rough patch any longer than I had to.
TinTim: It was like a little movie, whole storylines began and spun out all in an evening. I wouldn’t call it cathartic exactly, but it was… intense.
Chad: I was truly a nervous wreck for about three straight hours, seriously. Seeing my favorite girl Dela go through those tortuous challenges, the lip sync, the HECKLER! Wanna dish on Dela first?
TinTim: For sure, since she’s my favorite as well. I could tell in advance they were building up for a no-elimination episode, but Ru STILL had me after that lip sync, for a split second I felt pure terror in my heart.
TinTim: What do you think about the whole Michelle thing, asking to see more of the “real” Dela?
Chad: Well, I think character queens have an interesting path to take on this show. Previous queens who’ve come onto the show with a strong character (Like Jinkx, even Sharon) ended up mostly dropping the character, except for certain challenges. As Trinity put it, when Dela’s in drag, she’s Dela. Do you think Dela’s character is holding her back?
TinTim: Well… it’s super weird at first hearing Michelle say she doesn’t know how to connect with her, given that I feel a stronger emotional connection with Dela than I do with most of the other queens who have been on the show… that probably sounds crazy and stalkerish, and it kind of is. But… I think we have to remember that she isn’t privileged with the kind of information we have about Dela — she doesn’t know that her whole aesthetic is about finding truth and authenticity THROUGH artifice. I think Dela may have a different way of thinking about the distinction between self and art and character and identity and all that, which is part of what I’m attracted to. Like, to Dela, to play a character is potentially more true than his supposedly “true” self.
Chad: I agree–with Dela, it’s crucial to understand that her character has been carefully cultivated over years. Some queens in the past have been criticized for the fact that they keep the exact same voice and attitude in drag as out of it. Dela changes so much when in drag that it’s understandably unnerving, especially when, as the judges do, you largely see them when they’re “on.”
She’s clearly FAR more self-aware than Laganja, who somewhat bewilderingly demonstrated a complete and utter ignorance of how she acts on set.
TinTim: SERIOUSLY. I think with Laganja, it ultimately doesn’t really matter whether she was “putting on an act” or not, the problem was that she was immature and irritating and alienated the audience. I think Joslyn nailed it when she said, “You demand attention instead of commanding it.”
Chad: Yeah, I can’t help but feel a deep sympathy for Laganja, even though I found her affect as annoying as anyone. Some people withdraw when they’re anxious or uncomfortable, others talk fast or aggressively. Laganja does a bad Alyssa Edwards impersonation and punctuates her non-jokes with a deathdrop or two.
I was really moved when, amidst the somewhat jaw-dropping UNTUCKED after Episode 8, Adore spoke up and essentially said, “The Laganja I love is NOT the queen I see when the cameras turn on.”
Did you expect Laganja’s arc to turn out this way?
TinTim: Not at all, actually. Like a lot of people, I thought they were setting her up for a fall followed by redemption after she confessed some kind of childhood trauma, and that she was one of the young ones they were investing in. Also, like a lot of folks, I thought Trinity and Joslyn might be “cannon fodder” and not as complex and cool as they’ve turned out to be.
Chad: Yeah, I was pretty shocked–despite how much I love Joslyn, I assumed she would be the queen to leave. I didn’t expect Laganja to make it to the final 3, but I definitely expected her to make it to the top 4 or 5. And where was the inevitable lip sync against Adore that all of us expected? My one hope is that Laganja sees how she came across on the show and is able to learn from it. She’s a fiiiieeeerce queen, and I can imagine that she left the show feeling shattered and bitter from the experience.
TinTim: I hope she can earn her diva stripes enough to be able to get away with lines like, “I want the whole world to hold my hand.” Because truth be told, she had some of the best dialogue of the season, I feel like somebody like Alyssa could get away with saying something that ridiculous. It’s very “C.C. Bloom is a deeply feeling person.” Except unlike C.C. Bloom, Laganja hasn’t proven herself enough to talk like that.
Chad: You mentioned that Joslyn and Trinity have grown to be more complicated and capable than a lot of us had assumed. I’m totally on board, though it makes the remainder of the season excruciatingly intense. With only seven left, it only takes one blunder or misstep to land in the bottom two, and at this point, I’ll be sorry to see any of these queens leave!
What do you make of Joslyn’s growth throughout the doubleheader TV movie we saw Monday?
TinTim: Hm. I wouldn’t say she grew exactly… although I guess she became more confident in herself in relation to her idol. But mostly I thought she continued to show that she is smarter and funnier (even if her stand up was a mixed bag) than we anticipated. But I’m actually kind of worried about how quickly everyone turned against Courtney Act for her comments… I didn’t think they were that bad. She didn’t say Joslyn was unpolished, she said she thought she was less polished, and it seemed like she did it relatively honestly and without any mean-spiritedness. I get frustrated sometimes with this show’s fans, at least the ones on the internet — because while a lot of the time, they seem really smart and savvy, moreso than producers seem to give them credit for, sometimes they also, like, turn on a dime and become all about hating an individual based on one or two onscreen moments. It seems really unfortunate.
Chad: I think the dynamic between Joslyn and Courtney has been fascinating, though I agree–we should always be aware of the show’s editorial spin. Courtney’s essentially reaching out and saying, “Here, let me help you,” and Joslyn is upset that Courtney would think she needs the help.
TinTim: Which on the one hand I understand, because I am an artist and I get ego, but at the same time, she is the one saying she has idolized Courtney, so isn’t that an acknowledgment that she has something to learn from her?
Chad: Good point!
You mentioned that fans shouldn’t make too much of a single comment–but what about the simmering animosity Darienne keeps expressing toward Dela? That seemed rooted entirely in one throwaway comment Dela made after her second win!
TinTim: Yeah, that whole thing is so weird and uncomfortable to me. It seems like maybe it’s just a combination of Darienne not much liking Dela’s personality, and perhaps also seeing her as her most direct competition. But again, it seems like a lot has been made of very little, even with reference to Darienne — she has expressed her opinion, but she hasn’t DONE anything problematic, other than be mildly unpleasant, she stays semi-professional.
Chad: Yeah, I find the Darienne/Dela dynamic unsettling, too, particularly since I like both queens a lot. Darienne has had a rough go of it this season– she lip synched in her first episode, and she’s been consistently criticized on the runway. I can see why she’d be particularly sensitive toward anyone else who’s been shining on the show.
Although I hated seeing Dela stumble through both of this week’s challenges, I think it’s the best thing that could have happened to her as a contender for the crown–she was too successful too early in the season, and now this has us rooting for her! Jinkx gained the most rabid fans last year when they (and I) felt compelled to stand up and defend her!
TinTim: Yeah, but I have also really appreciated Dela’s swagger in contrast to Jinkx (not that it’s fair to compare them), it just feels… draggier, more queenly. But I have also heard that Dela has really explicitly stated that she did that deliberately to avoid getting characterized as weak and unable to stand up for herself the way Jinkx did.
Chad: So, the last queen I wanted to discuss is Trinity–she had the most startling transformation over these two hours of television. At the start of Episode 7, she was practically dragged into that workroom, hiding behind those shades. Girl was over it. Ru and Bianca coaxed her out of her shell to give a pretty good performance in the commercial challenge, but I was most impressed with her stand-up set! Besides the jokes, it was her confidence and poise that really struck me, the ease with which she interacted with the audience. I was stunned.
TinTim: Yeah, this turnaround was so startling I almost distrusted it. But at the same time, as a viewer, I was totally sucked in and full of feels, I felt legit proud of her. I always respected her, but for the first time, I felt like I would be okay if she stuck around through the top 3. But then also, looking back, I don’t think her performances in some of the early challenges were as terrible as they were made out to be. She was very uncomfortable, and voiced her discomfort too much, but in the musical challenge and the horror challenge, for instance, she pulled it together and behaved professionally. I think this is because she has discipline and is a perfectionist. So in light of that, combined with the mentorship from Bianca, the transformation wasn’t AS unbelievable to me. But I am glad that people appreciate her now, I hated how mean they were being to her on social media and such.
Chad: I agree, a lot of her earlier performances did turn out pretty well, but it was the grumbling and uncertainty that preceded each of them that was the problem. Especially since pretty much all of the challenges so far have been with teams, her attitude has kept any queen from wanting to work with her.
Aside from her stand-up set, her shining moment this week was in Episode 7’s UNTUCKED, when she stood up for the other queens who had been picked apart–Joslyn, Laganja, and Dela. She spoke to each of their strengths, bolstering their spirits. Is she… the anti-Bianca??
TinTim: That was AMAZING. She should become the Iyanla Vanzant of drag. Does anyone remember Iyanla? It was as good or better than anything Ru has done on Drag U or in the Tic Tac lunches. Yeah, she and Bianca could team up to do a great good cop-bad cop schtick, where Bianca breaks people down with her tough love, then Trinity builds them back up like a life coach.
TinTim: I’m curious what you thought of the makeup challenge in general. I feel like every season, there’s at least one of these challenges — in the past, I’ve called it the “WTF” challenge — where it’s really hard for the queens to know what to shoot for tonally — if you go too funny, you risk not taking the product seriously enough, but if you go too earnest, then it can flatline like Courtney and Joslyn’s. I always have mixed feelings about these “sell a product” challenges — on the one hand, I think it’s interesting to see them try to learn how to code switch the way Ru has had to in order to function and have a long career in mainstream media. On the other hand, it’s kind of gross and like the opposite of drag’s more underground or transgressive spirit.
Chad: Well, you’re right–it’s a tricky balance. Last year, we were treated to Alaska’s unforgettable “Red for Filth” commercial, but that commercial challenge succeeded precisely because the queens were called upon to sell their own (made-up) product, not the latest thing Ru’s hawking.
I thought that the pairing of the queens for the challenge was diabolically brilliant, and it almost seemed too easy that each team was assigned their own theme. Dela and Darienne’s commercial wasn’t terrible, but their deranged, drugged cougars were a little too offbeat to make for a good commercial, or comedy.
TinTim: I thought it was kind of like a Cecily Strong-Vanessa Bayer SNL sketch that failed.
Chad: Yeah, the skit needed a straight man. Like, Dela would be a normal cougar, and Darienne would show up swaddled in bandages from her extensive plastic surgery, trying to act as if everything’s normal. Dela makes everything better with some thoughtful application of RU’S MAKEUP NAME for COLORLOTION.
Ultimately, I was shocked that Bianca and Trinity didn’t win–the whole arc of the episode seemed predestined for it, and nothing will ever beat the image of succesful CEO Bianca Del Rio literally juggling her babies on television.
Were you surprised by any of the performances in the stand-up challenge?
TinTim: Trinity surprised me, very pleasantly, as we have discussed. I thought Dela’s delivery would be a lot stronger. Other than that — not really, I don’t think. I appreciated that they gave it to Bianca… American reality television has such a tendency to reward underdog stories and relatability over actual skills, so I always kind of like when the most truly qualified person wins, rather than the “most improved.”
Chad: I had the same feeling! I thought it would be another case of “Coco” from last year’s Roast of Ru! Bianca killed.
Tim “TinTim” Jones-Yelvington is an author and performer in Chicago, where he walks children in nature.
He posts thoughtful (and extensive!) videos on his Youtube channel about most episodes of the Drag Race.
It takes a playful look at gender in a way that any Drag Race fan will enjoy, so please take a minute and read the whole thing for free!