In last year’s RuPaul’s Drag Race “Meet the Queens” video, our first look into the season fifteen cast, Mistress Isabelle Brooks described her style as “over-the-top old school drag with a modern twist”. As much as that applies to her fashion, with her hair piled to the heavens and her gowns ever-opulent, she’s mixing the old and new in more ways than one.
Season fifteen was a mixed cast, with lots of young, bucking performers and viral TikTok creators amongst them. Mistress came in as a pageant devotee with the decorated Brooks dynasty name attached (by way of mother Chevelle Brooks, not to be confused with Shawnna Brooks’ drag family in Georgia). Her lineage stretches back to include Texas drag staples like the legendary Kelexis Davenport, former Miss Gay USofA Coco (who was also mother to the House of Edwards founder Laken Edwards), and historic Fabulous Four member Naomi Sims.
Despite the number of former Drag Race competitors who’ve descended from the queens listed above like Alyssa Edwards, Ra’Jah O’Hara, Jiggly Caliente, Kylie Sonique Love, and many more, Mistress is the first competitor to officially rep herself as a Houston queen on the show. Even with experience and name recognition under her belt, she had something to prove.
In the first episode of the season, it looked as if Mistress was going to have an issue with twin drag queens and social media stars Sugar and Spice for not taking the experience seriously and “playing in her profession”—understandable from a polished competitor with so much history behind her. Instead, by week two she saw through to the lovable goofball characters the twins were playing up and started to help them along in their Drag Race journeys.
It just feels like the last few iterations of the iconic challenge haven’t felt quite right.
Somewhere along the way, Mistress brought these two drag ingenues into the official Brooks fold, adopting them as her own drag children (even though she’s only five days older than both of them). She watched Sugar singing a song about getting “Bimbofied” and Spice taking her wig off in front of RuPaul on the first day and decided to add a new, unconventional, decidedly Gen Z branch to the illustrious Brooks/Davenport family tree.
In addition to mixing the old school and new school familially, Mistress brought elements of the classic Drag Race experience that had been long-missed back into play. Whereas many competitors today are understandably cautious about fan reaction to their onscreen behavior (which translates into some constant self-policing and self-production), the older, pre-VH1 seasons were full of big personalities and girls unabashedly speaking their minds, leading to some legendary moments.
While Mistress wasn’t having the same knockdown, drag-out arguments many of the old school seasons would feature, she absolutely wasn’t afraid to say her piece and get a little messy. When Marcia Marcia Marcia declared herself the second-best player in the Snatch Game, Mistress quickly let her know that she was not at all that girl that night. When Loosey LaDuca started to give off that modern Drag Race over-produced vibe, the Houston queen called her on it in front of the group. She was, if memory serves, the only queen bold enough to say a critical word about winner Sasha Colby and have it make it to air (nothing wild, just something about her motherly tendencies getting a little smothering when she needs to “let the kids play”).
Unfortunately, fan reaction to her old-school shade validated the trend of self-censorship that others have taken up in recent years. Within just the first few weeks of the season airing, Mistress’ Instagram account was suspended multiple times after being reported by “fans” angry at her confrontational moments. In the classic era of Drag Race, girls threw drinks, cursed each other out, screamed across the Werk Room at each other, and more. Now, God forbid a queen say another queen looks bad once! The horror!
Despite the hypersensitivity of some viewers who couldn’t identify shade and reading if their lives depended on it, Mistress served her glamorous and bluntly honest brand of Southern drag through the end of her well-done Drag Race run and beyond. While she didn’t get to advance to the final two lipsync at the season finale, she still had an impeccable record, making it an astounding thirteen challenges before landing in the bottom two — and even then, she lipsynced her way to a double shantay and stayed in the competition.
If this 24-year-old Texan titan can mother superstars, murder the competition, and weather months of reality TV fans without compromising her personality an inch, imagine what she’ll be able to do with even more experience. The dynasty is in good hands.