Surely, by now, we should be used to all the twists and turns and gags and goops that come with Broom’s Drag Race? Fourteen years in, the Emmy Award-winning series is still making us Joslyn Fox “gasp!” the house down; whether that’s through the introduction of a jury with a Shangela complex, RuPaul deciding not to eliminate any of the queens or a Willy Wonka-inspired chocolate candy bar with the ability to resurrect a queen’s chances of winning a crown and a few doollahz from the dead. Still, we are gagging.
On the most recent episode of All Stars 7, which collects some of the fiercest champions from the show’s herstory, RuPaul continued to confuddle viewers as he revealed that the winners of the final maxi-challenge will be awarded three Legendary Legend Stars. Three! Up until this point, each queen had been distributed one star per challenge win, although a minor twist in episode five saw the top two All Stars receive two: one for themselves and another to a queen of their choice.
Three stars guaranteed that, no matter how many Legendary Legandaric Star Legends or maxi-challenge wins the queens collected throughout the competition, they would secure a pass to the finale’s lip-sync smackdown for the crown. Although All Stars 7 has been hailed, by many, as one of the best seasons in the entire franchise due to the sheer amount of charisma, uniqueness, nerve and talent of the eight winners, the new twist was met with polarising reactions on social media. Here, we dive into why the three star twist did and didn’t work.
Here’s why it worked:
Look, if a trio of new stars weren’t introduced, then three of the queens heading to the final would’ve been too obvious: Jinkx Monsoon, because she’s obliterating the competition with five challenge wins and four stars; Jaida Essence Hall, who – thanks to Jinkx’s donation – became the first winner of the season to receive three stars; and Trinity the Tuck, who boasts the second amount of wins after the aforementioned internationally tolerated drag queen. With only one more position to be filled, most of the tension would’ve vanished. And we love the tension! Love it!
Also, Monét X Change, Raja, The Vivienne and Yvie Oddly all had a chance to sashay to the finale if they acquired another star, while Shea Couleé had no chance in hell. Three stars was a massive incentive for the queens, particularly Shea, to go full throttle in the final challenge. And she did exactly that: the All Stars 5 winner arguably provided viewers with the most spectacular (solo) pop extravaganza the show has ever seen with her choreo-heavy, Janet Jackson-inspired number Your Name. (Stream now, it’s deliciously addictive.) If Shea didn’t make it to the final after that… riots. Not only that, Monét went viral with a breathtaking display of her operatic abilities for a rendition of La Sonnambula by Vincenzo Bellini, which has been praised as one of the all-time best talent show performances.
While we have no qualms whatsoever over whether Shea or Monét would’ve delivered to this calibre without the three star incentive, it undeniably gave them that extra push to succeed. “[Shea] and [Monet] ate them bitches up in that talent show,” said one fan. “Everybody had a chance to snatch three stars. They just slayed it.” One viewer who was in favour of the twist said it was “great reality TV storytelling” due to the huge “stakes” involved. “It was an underwhelming twist, but at least it added some stakes,” tweeted another. “That’s what modern [Drag Race] is about anyway, the twist and turns. Track records stopped mattering a long time ago.”
On a side note, awarding three stars for a challenge that requires the queens to slay with a routine that they’re internationally known for – rather than for starring as a lewd fairytale creature or Santa groupie – seems… correct?
Here’s why it didn’t work:
In similar vein to RuPaul’s decision to bring back Art Simone, it just didn’t make any sense. (Art was my Drag Race Down Under season one fave, please don’t come for me!) Honestly, viewers (probably) would’ve been much more content if the twist was met with an actual explanation. We’re putting on our producer hat and throwing it out there: Ru should’ve told the queens that, due to three stars not being distributed as a result of the Platinum Plunger, this was their chance to earn them back for – dramatic sound alert – themselves. The drama! The conflama! Give us an Emmy!
Back to what we were saying at the start: three stars makes the entire competition irrelevant if a place in the final comes down to just one performance. With no eliminations, a contestant could have – theoretically – flopped every single challenge until the talent show and, depending on their lip-sync abilities, defeated their opponents in the lip-sync showdown and taken the crown from a queen who demolished the entire competition. (Thankfully, this was not the case as all eight queens have slain this season.) “That twist alone just doesn’t make sense! Why did we have 11 weeks of maxi challenges if the top 4 will be decided by this one episode?! Ugh,” said one viewer. Another, who liked the twist because it gave all the contestants a chance to be in the top four, said it could’ve been utilised better if they announced it in the first episode, “so it didn’t look like it was created to save a fan-favourite”.
Our final issue with the twist is the undeserved backlash it invites towards the queens. As we’ve witnessed over the years, the Drag Race fanbase can be incredibly toxic and, anytime they are slightly inconvenienced by the show, they flock to the social media channels of one of their least favoured performers – particularly queens of colour – and bombard them with hate. Although both entertainers have slain this season, and cemented their status as two of the fiercest queens in herstory, Monet and Shea have been inundated with racist comments from so-called ‘fans’. In an ideal world, the producers should be able to introduce twists and turns and not be concerned about the repercussions on the cast.
But, alas, that is not the world we live in: after Bebe Zahara Benet sent Aja home on All Stars 3, the season one champion’s social media pages were flooded with racist emojis and comments. Naomi Smalls was met with similar antagonism for sending Manila Luzon home on All Stars 4, as well as Pangina Heals for chopping Lemon and Jimbo on UK vs the World. This needs to be taken into account. Removing this twist doesn’t eliminate social media hate, of course, but introducing twists such as this places our queens in the line of fire. So, is it worth it?
The seventh season of Drag Race All Stars will come to a gag-worthy end this Friday (29 July) with a lip-sync smackdown for the crown between Jinkx Monsoon, Monét X Change, Shea Couleé and Trinity the Tuck. The winner will receive $200,000 and the title of “Queen of All Queens”.
A second lip-sync tournament will be held amongst Jaida Essence Hall, Raja, The Vivienne and Yvie Oddly to determine the “Queen of She Done Already Had Herses,” who will earn a $50,000 cash prize.
RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars 7 is now available to watch in the UK exclusively on the streamer of all things drag, WOW Presents Plus. Subscribe now via https://uk.wowpresentsplus.com/