Critical and fan consensus on RuPaul’s Drag Race‘s Holi-slay Spectacular that aired Friday night has been, shall we say, mixed. Were I diagnosing the problem, I’d say it was trying too hard to fit into the format of a regular Drag Race episode and should’ve just given up that particular ghost. If you wanna make a musical advertisement for RuPaul’s latest Christmas album, just do that. (Also, save the delightful return of Sonique and Mayhem Miller’s surprisingly strong showing, the cast was pretty underwhelming.)
Despite the largely negative reception to the special, though, I’m hopeful Drag Race won’t abandon the idea of one-off episodes entirely. There’s value in a format that gives us little tastes of veteran queens without them having to compete in a full season.
Sonique is a great example of that, actually; she’s not who I’d call “All Stars material” in the most traditional sense, having gone out on episode 4 of season 2 and not broken out in a big way since. But she showed she’s really evolved in her drag during the special; in a more competitive format, she might be able to prove that she is ready for All Stars.
For example: Have an episode that’s one long ball. Collect six queens, some of the most fashionable to ever compete on Drag Race. Roxxxy Andrews. Detox. Kim Chi. Even throw in some winners, like Violet Chachki, Aquaria, and Raja. The limited commitment makes it easier to get bigger names back, and will inspire them to bring out the big guns immediately, instead of saving them for later in the game. Put a $10,000 prize on the line for a winner. Drag Race meets Chopped.
You could do similar episodes for acting, comedy, singing, lip-syncing, dancing — what’s amazing about the Drag Race universe is how many skills it involves. And there are over 100 queens who each excel at different things. Showcase specials make sense in a way a holiday special, especially one as scripted as this one, doesn’t.
I doubt last night was the last Holi-slay Spectacular we’ll be getting, to be frank. While fans and critics may have rolled their eyes, it’s likely that the special did actually boost sales of Ru’s music. My only request is this: If we’re going to get more of that, Drag Race, at least give us some real, competitive specials, too.