We are back for another deep dive into drag with the second installment of "RuPaul's Drag Race: All-Stars 3." It was a tumultuous first week, but it also started to show us some front-runners. Oh, and don't worry, the cattiness is already here and in full swing!
The elimination of Morgan McMicheals left the house a little shook, but Shangela was not buying BenDeLaCreme's "winning is like losing" speech. Girl, you took out the person who was going to take you out. That's smart gamesmanship, plain and simple. Own that! What I want to know is why did Aja reveal that she was going to send Chi Chi home had she won the final lip sync? "It's uncomfortable because Chi Chi's right there," said Trixie Mattell. Ya think?
Okay, so strategy isn't everyone's strong point. Anyway, on with the show!
Who do I think I am? you ask. Well, I spent nearly a decade of my life sweating and bleeding to the music as a dancer. From a young boy learning a shuffle-ball-change to performing with the St. Louis Ballet Company, I experienced the ups and downs of one of the most difficult physically demanding sports on the planet. During this time, I was also a member of the St. Louis Symphony Youth Orchestra, as well as a gymnast, writer and cartoonist. And I've spent the last eighteen years analyzing and critiquing reality competition shows for various media publications. I've got this.
This special tribute -- to RuPaul herself -- tasked queens with performing to some of Ru's greatest hits. And because it's "VH1 Divas," they each had to dig deep to channel not their own inner divas, but real-life classic divas like Diana Ross and Mariah Carey. They got the chance to work with "American Idol" alum and "Drag Race" judge Todrick Hall on their choreography and stage presence before the big night.
The Mini-Challenge (RuDemption Runway) for the week was a chance for the girls to redeem some past misdeeds. As these all-stars have all been on the show before, they each were able to pick an outfit fail from a previous episode and take a second chance at nailing that theme and reclaiming their pride. Let's break down both challenges together.
Milk (Celine Dion)
Confidence was in Milk's corner with this impression, as she was apparently told in the past she did the best Celine Dion impression ever. The peanut butter jar around the neck was funny, but the lip-syncing left a lot to be desired. I get you want to go big and broad on Diva's week, but the judges are like right there. Milk was performing like there was a back of the room 100 yard behind the judges. Also, that dress/leotard combo ... thing? What the hell was that? Best? Yeahno.
Mini-Challenge: Milk botched "CrazySexyCool" back in Season 6 with some kind of schoolgirl disaster. This time around she offered a sleek evening gown look with a more professional hairstyle. It was a definite improvement, as she looked quite elegant. Maybe not so much "crazy," though.
Kennedy Davenport (Janet Jackson)
Freestyle dance is Kennedy's comfort zone, so she had some trouble with the choreography during rehearsal. She nailed the look of "Rhythm Nation" Janet Jackson, even if she was a little late coming in with her lip sync. It got even worse when she started dancing, as her hips looked unnatural, and she looked exhausted as soon as she started moving. And for real, did she even know the words to this song? I loved the attempt at a Super Bowl "nipplegate" moment, but overall this was a pretty big disappointment. Janet is sharp and precise, and this was neither.
Mini-Challenge: Season 7 gave us a monochromatic "Death Becomes Her" mess, but I'm not sure Kennedy improved that with a burial shroud covering her face and body that she ripped away to reveal a jewel-encrusted leotard. Why does she love jewels on her face so much? This was more weird than wow.
Props to Aja for finding the badass diva that lived inside Amy Winehouse in a fierce performance that was bold and memorable. I could have done with a little less of the snarl, but it was a Winehouse signature look ... just not all the time. She used the male models very well throughout, and it was a lot of cheeky fun to watch. Definitely one of the stronger takes on the night.
Mini-Challenge: After Season 9's "Fairy Tale" disaster, Aja also went a little classier, choosing a full dress over a drawers-showing bustle. No more slutty princess for Aja, this was a stunning look from her gorgeous hair down to those killer shoes.
Chi Chi DeVayne (Patti LaBelle)
Chi Chi needed a win -- or at least not a loss -- tonight, and it was mostly about her fashion choices. She was a hot mess last week, but she was on fire this week. She was Patti LaBelle. Those disco moves were divine (or is that DeVayne?), and her attitude and charisma were off the charts. High energy and on point with physicality and lip sync, somebody went from the bottom to damned near the top in one week!
Mini-Challenge: Her "Neon Realness" redemption was little more than a 1980s leotard that wanted to channel some Rihanna with that hat and those boots, but this time around she went with a stewardess assaulted by a Jackson Pollock painting. I'm not sure it was better, but kudos for actually adding a woman's curves to the look this time.
Trixie Mattel (Dolly Parton)
Trixie's almost cartoonish drag style is a great fit with Dolly Parton's almost cartoonish proportions, and her self-deprecation about her bombshell figure. I would have liked a little more dynamism in her choreography and movements, but the impression was definitely a lot of fun to watch. You can't go too big with Dolly, so Trixie was actually helped in that way, but she needed to dig deep to bring a little more creativity and cheek out in her physicality. Dolly is super playful at all times, and Trixie was mostly tame after her opening boob bump.
Mini-Challenge: Season 7 asked for "The Ugliest Dress Ever," only it wasn't. It was kind of over-the-top Disney villainess, but she really outdid herself with this pink on pink on pink clown mess of a dress, so I'd say redemption ... success?
Shangela (Mariah Carey)
Maybe the rehearsal isn't the time to go method. Shangela didn't make a friend in Todrick by showing up late and acting disinterested like Mariah Carey right off the bat. But it worked. I'm not gonna lie, Shangela had me screaming with her take on modern-day Mariah who just doesn't have time for much of anything, including actually singing or moving herself during her performance. The playfulness of this take was refreshing and delightful.
Mini-Challenge: For her original "Christmas Eleganza," Shangela turned her skirt into a round ornament, which ruined her shape and made for a clunky look. This time around, she put herself in a giant ball and covered a simple pantsuit in red balls. It was a fun addition that spoke to the theme and still left her looking elegant and gorgeous.
Thorgy Thor (Stevie Nicks)
Thorgy did not like her diva selection at all, pointing out that Stevie Nicks isn't exactly a gay power-diva. She was in full conspiracy mode, thinking she was being set up for sabotage, and even noting that Todrick wasn't selecting her to cameo in other queens' solos. I think she nailed the look of Stevie Nicks, but she stayed too true to Nicks' actual stage performance style, which doesn't work at all in a drag show. If your makeup is going to be exaggerated, then why isn't everything else? The spinning worked, but it didn't seem to get the laughs she was looking for. Probably because the panel was pretty bored by that point.
Mini-Challenge: Just like Chi Chi, Thorgy's "Neon Realness" from Season 8 was just so boring and plain and unflattering. She really spiced it up with some dynamic linework in the bodice, plenty of body shape and a fun flare to the dress. I'm not loving the hat or the eyebrows, though; just keeping it real.
BenDeLaCreme (Julie Andrews)
The footwork proved challenging for DeLa in choreograpy, and she had the added challenge of trying to modernize one of the original divas in Julie Andrews. But, oh my queen, her body language was perfect in channeling the innocence of another era. She was like a Disney Princess stepped off of the screen and onto the stage. The rap was a little odd, but I can't take anything away from what DeLa brought to it. She won last week, and she'll surely be at least safe again this week, if not a double winner after that performance.
Mini-Challenge: Season 6's "Dripping in Jewels" saw DeLa take that name quite literally. This version seems to be largely the same, but she added more flare by making the jewels into fringe. Her makeup was on point, too, but I imagine that look was pretty noisy to walk around in.
BeBe Zahara Benet (Diana Ross)
BeBe kept it simple, but it still worked because she had so much attitude in her face throughout. Diana Ross has a classic stank face that she utilizes when she's singing, and BeBe brought every bit of it. She played with and bounced that big hair and was larger than life, over-dramatizing even the simple act of walking. That's how you make a non-dancing performance still dynamic and memorable. It's all about presence and attitude. There's a reason BeBe is a former winner. She can make a lot out of very little.
Mini-Challenge: BeBe took it all the way back to her "Entrance Look" from Season 1, and you can see how far she's come. That look was like the lost Braxton sister trying to get past the receptionist to see Toni. This look is the woman who's already conquered the fashion world and she'll wear leather everything if she wants to, ohkay dahling!
Shangela, DeLa and BeBe earned Top 3 status for the week, while Chi Chi, Thorgy and Kennedy were put in the Bottom 3. Not gonna like, I think Milk and Trixie were both more deserving of that bottom position than Chi Chi, who really stepped up her game in a redemptive lip sync.
The judges and I did agree completely on Kennedy, who was criticized for failing to channel Janet in her movements and missing the vocals. Did they not see how tired she looked? No wonder she had no Rhythm Nation. And while the judges agreed with me that Chi Chi's Patti was on fire, her "Neon" redux left them underwhelmed, as well. It seems that wardrobe is Chi Chi's biggest downfall over and over again.
Thorgy was criticized for using her usual makeup, rather than channeling Stevie's style, and for mostly just being herself in a Stevie Nick's costume. I thought she looked great in the costume; she just didn't do much outside of mimicry. Of course, she couldn't help herself and had to sound off -- even cutting Vanessa off twice -- to go all conspiracy theory on them. Thorg is her own worst enemy.
The judges were not impressed. And after all was said and done, DeLa was Top 2 again, along with Shangela, while Thorgy and Kennedy dropped into the bottom. Some justice for Chi Chi!
LIP-SYNC FOR YOUR LEGACY
Shangela's friendship with Kennedy was weighing heavy on her, and especially after Kennedy basically told her she'd never send Shangela home. Meanwhile, both tops were a little put off by Thorgy's growing angst and figure it's going to probably derail her completely sooner rather than later.
Both of the girls were on point for their elimination performance of the Pointer Sisters "Jump (For My Love)," but I have to admit when Shangela brought out the jump rope prop, she really commanded my attention. DeLa went a little diva in her approach, but I felt Shangela's more energetic and playful presentation captured the tone of the song better. DeLa must have picked up on this, as she started comedically trying to follow Shangela's lead.
DeLa followed in the dance, and she had to follow her in the results as well, for it was Shangela's energy that stole the show, and the $10k bonus for winning.
For the second week in a row, a girl went home because of her mouth. Morgan McMichaels was a little too vocal about her strategy, while Thorgy Thor was just mouthy, and bitchy, and petulant, and whiny ... I could go on. Her RuDemption look lacked cohesion (and that head work was just awful). Sorry, girl, you brought this on yourself. Positivity is where it's at.
But ... that may not be all for Thorgy, as the "Handmaid's" twist struck and suggested a second chance may be coming.