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‘RuPaul’s Drag Race’ Season 10 Episode 1 Recap: Dollar Store Make Me Holler!

Hey, Kitty Girls! Welcome to season 10 of RuPaul’s Drag Race. It seems like only a week ago that everyone was extremely upset about Shangela’s losing Drag Race All Stars 3. And that’s because it was! The Drag Race fandom barely survived the great Queer Peer Jury Wars of March 2018, and we already have to bandage our wounds, suck out the snake venom, and move on to season ten.

That being said, the quality of the contestants this season is high. I already ranked each queen’s workroom entrance, so I won’t bloviate on that. Let’s just put it this way: Major toots to Monet X Change for her reveal and catchphrase, as well as Yuhua Hamasaki and Vanessa Vanjie Mateo. It’s head scratches from me for Kameron Michaels’s off-the-rack look, Blair St. Clair’s blandness, and Aquaria’s attitude.

After a pun-filled intro video, RuPaul herself appears to introduce the new VH1-upgraded workroom. As with past seasons, the first challenge involves the queens interacting with past queens. However, rather than just winners, the girls get to runway walk while Drag Race winners and favs Katya, Detox, Manila Luzon, Kim Chi, and more are present cheer them on. (Pretty sure there was a glance of Victoria “Porkchop” Parker, too. Hey, Porkchop!) And, instead of just taking the photo, the show challenges the queens to hype up a crowd of their peers. Anybody who’s ever been to a live drag show knows that exciting the crowd is half the battle, and this challenge feels a much better test of the queens’ real-world skills than some other tests.

Most of the queens do pretty well. Only Eureka, Monique Heart, and Blair St. Clair fail to impress. Meanwhile, Mayhem Miller, Miz Cracker (who tells us her drag brand is “stupid”) and Monet X Change slay. And the judges agree she ends up winning the mini challenge.

Some other highlights from the mini challenge: Dusty Ray Bottoms had a mirrored bra under her shirt the whole time! What a reveal! The Vixen’s energy saves her where her outfit won’t. In fact, she’s whipping her body around so violently that her outfit starts coming undone. Aquaria’s accidentally side-swiping Jinkx Monsoon is a genuinely funny moment and she milks it *just* the right amount for a bit.

After the challenge, the boys de-drag in the workroom and everyone gets into a tizzy as I’m sure all the people watching in gay bars across the US will over Kameron Michaels’ chiseled physique. As Mayhem Miller says, there’s “actual trade up in here.”

Here’s what I’ll say about this. For so long, gay men have shunned drag queens or excluded them from their sexual repertoire because of some toxic masculinity bullshit. So I’m glad people can thirst over Kameron Michaels in general. But at the same time, of course it’s the most stereotypical, chiseled IG-ready body that gets the attention. (Meanwhile, I’m thirsting for the complete snack that is Kalorie Karbdashian-Williams!)

This week’s maxi challenge goes back to the beginning (back to when the sun, the earth, the stars all aligned) of Drag Race herstory for a “drag on a dime” challenge, just like the first challenge on Drag Race season 1.

Miz Cracker barters her way through the challenge, asking other queens to help supplement the lack of materials she grabbed for her dress. In the process, she gets to talk about her own mother’s artistry and relationship to garbage, which sounds weird on paper but is endearing AF.

In the name of tying up loose ends, Eureka explains to the others the drama of her torn ACL, which forced her to leave season 9 early. The moment gets Eureka emotional and is probably the second most earnest moment, after Cracker’s musings about her mother.

Vanessa Vanjie Mateo and Eureka struggle with the challenge and Dusty Ray Bottoms and Blair St. Clair have some ~drama~ over their similar looks.

Speaking of similar, get ready for the fabricated Miz Cracker and Aquaria drama! The drama in front of the mirror is welcome after an entire season of ~Very Special Moments in Front of the Mirror Hosted by Sasha Velour! ~ Honestly, season 9’s lack of workroom drama really did make the series feel like RuPaul’s Best Friends Learn Their History Race. So, even if the drama is an artifice, it’s a welcome one.

On the runway, Aquaria stuns in a Little Bo Peep look that is both high-fashion and well-executed. Asia O’Hara’s look is a little too cutesy and needs some definite editing. Alongside the literal 99-cent store basket on her head, she holds open a notebook that says “Pick me!,” which brings up far too many memories of Jennipher, the girl who wrote “ANTM” on her butt during America’s Next Top Model cycle 4. No, O’Hara didn’t show her glutes, but the moment comes off as desperate.

Kalorie Karbdashian-Williams’ money-green dress looks better than expected, even if its construction leaves a lot to be desired next to the other contestants. Blair St. Clair’s goth-inspired windshield wiper couture look underwhelms.

I’m always curious as to whether the queens really walk the runway in the same order as they’re presented on television, because if that’s the case, Dusty Ray Bottoms going over Blair St. Clair is total shade at Blair, whose look comes off pedestrian next to Dusty’s.

Kameron Michaels’ springtime look looks like she wore Desperate Housewives’ Wisteria Lane set on her body. It doesn’t help that she looks like Teri Hatcher in her drag! Monet X Change’s look is well-constructed on the top but lacks vision on the bottom. The Vixen’s pool noodle dress is actually fun, if a little unfinished. Mayhem Miller runs away with the challenge, giving an Alaska season 5 plastic-realness dress that impresses in its concept and execution.

While the show seemed to paint Eureka as unready for the challenge, their look is actually very pretty! Monique Hearts’ “Queen of Hearts” look is super well done. Vanessa Vanjie Mateo’s flowery look is better than Michaels’ but ultimately brought down by Barbies glued haphazardly to her face. (Side note: her look reminds me of Christina Aguilera’s 2003 Roberto Cavalli pink feather dress.) Yuhua’s caution tape dress is a little amateur compared to the amazing workroom look she served. And, finally, Miz Cracker’s “sad widow” stuns.

First, RuPaul announces those who are safe: Kameron Michaels, Aquaria, Asia O’Hara, Eureka, Monet X Change, Monique Heart, and The Vixen fall into that category.

Before RuPaul announces the tops and bottoms of the week, he announces a returning queen Farrah Moan! Just kidding, it’s Farrah Moan look-alike Christina Aguilera, who “HAAAAAAAYYYYYAYAYAYYAYAYAYAs” her way onto the stage in her best Farrah drag. Her line delivery should remind everyone of that time she showed off her acting chops as Samantha Jones in a (transphobic) Saturday Night Live sketch!

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When we get back to judging, Michelle Visage and RuPaul chide Kalorie Karbdashian-Williams for an underwhelming look that was done better by season 3’s Raja and Manila Luzon, as well as season 8’s Acid Betty. Inexplicably, the judges toot Blair St. Clair’s visor look. Bionic queen Christina Aguilera even calls it futuristic!

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While the judges like Dusty Ray Bottoms look, Michelle Visage calls out the witches’ hat on her head, which makes the look feel less fashion and more costume. Visage delivers the harshest critique of the night when she says, “Looking forward to a dot-free face, Dusty,” regarding Bottoms’ signature dotted makeup look.

The judges, especially Carson, are rightfully gagged by Mayhem’s look. The praise spurs teas from Mayhem and kind words from the judges. The judges and Christina fall deep for Vanessa’s persona, but don’t love her look, which Michelle says lacks defined lines and makes her look round. (What’s wrong with being round?!)

Speaking of personality, Yuhua’s personality saves her look, which, like Kalorie’s has been done better before (this time by season 5’s Ivy Winters). Good notes all around for Miz Cracker, as well, who reveals that her name used to be Brianna Cracker. Michelle even calls her outfit a “masterpiece!” and the back-and-forth banter even gives us perhaps the first fisting joke in Drag Race herstory.

Mayhem Miller is declared the winner of the challenge, and rightfully so! Sadly, both Latinx queens (don’t even get me started!) land in the bottom. Both Kalorie Karbdashian-Williams and Vanessa Vanjie Mateo land in the bottom and have to lip sync for their lives. As has been written before, first episode lip syncs can be a bore. The contestants’ stories haven’t ossified yet and they always seem pretty low-stakes. But given both of the contestants’ bubbly personalities, the first lip sync is a little bit tense, as both queens seem deserving to move on.

Kalorie twerks her way through the song and ups the game by taking dollar bills out of her bra and throwing them in the air while jumping into a split. Vanessa seems to mostly be standing around until the final moment, when she death drops so hard her shoe flies across the room. Ultimately, Kalorie takes the cake(s) and stays another week, meaning the House of Mateo isn’t going to get another shot at the crown.

Some thoughts!

  • Vanessa Vanjie Mateo’s commentary was the best of the episode which, considering her place in the bottom, made total sense! She needed her screen time! Her confessionals were endearing and her personality totally won me over.
  • Eureka saying, “Harlem! Where’s that?” was amazing.
  • So many Southern queens had to double take when Miz Cracker said her name. Is “cracker” an actual slur in the South? (I’m asking for real, as I haven’t spent as much time there!)
  • Miz Cracker’s “lookbook” of all her makeup looks is low-key iconic!
  • RuPaul’s runway catsuit is one of her best runway looks of all time. I hereby start my official petition to have Ru wear fewer dresses.
  • Christina Aguilera peeking through the curtain needs to be a gif right now! It’s the new Kim Kardashian peeping around a bush.
  • I’m living for the number of queens of color on the show this season.It was sad to see two Latinx queens in the bottom, but I’m happy to see Black, Latinx and Asian queens all represented.
  • I liked the ongoing “ankh” gag on the show! I wish more people knew what an ankh was!
  • Someone tell Kalorie Karbdashian-Williams I love her!
Tags: Drag, TV
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