Well-known fact incoming: the first season of RuPaul’s Drag Race Down Under was a bit of a flop. From the non-existent budget to the racist scandals and the bizarre acts of favouritism, there’s a reason why it’s often placed last in rankings and retrospective reviews. While season two of the Australasian spin-off still lacked polish in the production department, it marked a significant improvement over its predecessor thanks to the charisma, uniqueness, nerve and talent of the cast, fairer judging and powerhouse top three. It felt like a true rudemption for the series and we were optimistic that season three would continue this uptick in quality. Wrong! Season three premiered on 28 July and introduced 10 more queens, who – as per – will compete in a variety of challenges and lip-sync smackdowns to earn the title of ‘Down Under’s Next Drag Superstar’ and $50,000 cash prize. Although this cast (Down Under’s most diverse so far) gave us life with their shady antics, they were let down by various production-related injustices. Here’s what went wrong in this chaotic premiere:
It’s season three and the queens are still competing in a shed. Seriously, where is the budget? Where? We know this franchise hath the doohallz: look at the werkrooms for recent Drag Race iterations such as France, Philippines and Mexico. World of Wonder signed off on football stadiums, essentially, for each of these spin-offs in their first season, yet the cast of a RuPaul-hosted show in its third season are still confined to a cubicle. We don’t know who Roople has upset in Australasia, but the werkroom is in dire need of an upgrade. No wonder Amyl forgot her entrance line: she was insulted, dumbfounded and traumatised (too much hyperbole?) at the lack of glow-up. The werkroom isn’t the only aspect of production that viewers took issue with. One Reddit user said, “I really thought being the third season, they would’ve stepped up the production side of things. But the lighting is still so rough and inconsistent.” Another criticised the audio, saying Michelle Visage’s feedback from the panel sounded “like it was recorded in her hotel bathroom”. We don’t disagree.
For their first maxi-challenge, the queens – Amyl, Ashley Madison, Bumpa Love, Flor, Gabriella Labucci, Hollywould Star, Isis Avis Loren, Ivanna Drink, Ivory Glaze and Rita Menu – were tasked with writing and performing an original verse to a mashup of RuPaul’s ‘Super Queen’ and ‘Sissy That Walk’. A group performance in the first episode is fine… if the groups are split in two (see the season 12 premiere) or the stage has, y’know, space (All Stars 7). Ultimately, it was too damn small to accommodate 10 drag queens, the choreography was shaky and the queens had milliseconds to sell themselves and their drag. We will admit: it was camp chaos.
Men at Work’s ‘Down Under’ is a classic. But, ‘classic’ doesn’t always translate well to the art of lip-sync. In the words of one unamused viewer, the reggae anthem is “categorically the worst song to make as a lip-sync for your life. It’s already too silly to “make funny” and has no rhythmic drive to dance to, nor emotions to exaggerate”. While Ivory Glaze and Amyl did the best they could (it’s really not their fault, blame the music intern), it was one of the worst smackdowns in the herstory of the franchise – think Pearl vs Fame (yes, that lifeless). “Whoever chose Down Under as the lip-sync song needs to be sacked immediately,” tweeted another fan. What was even more peculiar was the reaction from the judges. Ru, Michelle, Rhys and special guest star Deva Mahal genuinely seemed… entertained? Fever dream vibes, honestly.
Following the aforementioned lip-sync, which could’ve gone either way (or resulted in a double sashay), Amyl became the first contestant to leave the competition. This one is difficult because, although she undeniably deserved her spot in the bottom two, Amyl was one of the premiere’s standouts. From her flubbed entrance line to her charming confessionals, she became a fan-favourite in a matter of minutes. If that much-rumoured first-outs season of Drag Race ever comes to fruition, then we will be seated for Amyl. SEATED!
Drag Race Down Under is now streaming in the UK on BBC iPlayer.