The season that refuses to eliminate continues its trend all the way to the final challenge.
There were moments when I didn’t think this season of RuPaul’s Drag Race would ever get down to five queens. But here we are! At long long…long last.
Angeria, Bosco, Daya Betty, Lady Camden, and Willow Pill are a highly courteous and professional group. Each dedicates themselves to their craft in unique ways. Still, all share a fond appreciation for many different kinds of drag. In addition, each queen has shown heartfelt moments of self-awareness and generosity of spirit throughout this season.
This final challenge seems designed to stretch these queens to their breaking points. For their final project, the queens have to write and record verses for RuPaul’s song “Catwalk”. Additionally, they must also learn choreography and design outfits (sewn by elves elsewhere). Meanwhile, the show calls them to the runway for the traditional laugh-and-chat about their trauma with Michelle and Ru.
These challenges usually bring the inner saboteurs to the fore with the crown within sight as queens confront combined insecurities. Poor Angeria is so in her head about having difficulty with choreography that it threatens to topple her self-confidence. Willow is likewise so in her head that there’s a disconnect between her face and feet. Both have the blankness behind their eyes that queens want to avoid for the final music video.
One of the unspoken difficulties of these final challenges is that the queens are being asked to make uninteresting songs into radio hits somehow. It’s incredible to deliver something other than a one-note performance when the tune itself only has about five notes. Fortunately for these queens, “Catwalk” is safely forgettable. I doubt we will hear much of it after this season, and that’s best for all involved.
As the queens line up in their best “I’m A Winner” runway, we get to one of the most challenging parts of the competition—addressing the childhood photos. As the Ru and series have come to accept transwomen, this portion has gotten less gendered. For instance, Ru no longer drops boy/dead names and pronouns. Nevertheless, this is still a highly charged portion of the program.
It seems particularly so this season. Our queens have been through a lot. Many of them have lost loved ones early in life. All of them have experienced rejection for their queerness. Daya and Willow specifically have been very open about their journeys with chronic illness, something thankfully noticed by the judges.
We’ve had so many restarts and non-eliminations this season that it felt revolutionary two queens went home last week.
As a person with type 1 diabetes, Daya Betty smartly illuminates how part of her costumery are ways to conceal her insulin pump. It’s a beautiful example of how physical realities shape aesthetic play. Willow Pill’s living with cystinosis has taught her new ways to do her makeup that account for her hands’ atrophy. Her disability has opened her up to a Cosmic Queerness that sustains her psychologically, physically, and spiritually. We should commend these queens show a holistic relationship between body and drag.
Instead, three times–between the episode and Untucked–Willow receives commendations for not making her disability “an excuse”. This thoroughly dilutes the complexities of what she has brought to the discussion of queerness x disability. When Ru, Michelle, or a bestie say such things, they’re thanking disabled people for not making non-disabled people uncomfortable. Folks living with chronic illness should be allowed to express frustrations with their bodies without feeling “difficult” or an “inconvenience”. Their disability doesn’t make them prone to “weakness”. Even if they feel fatigued or weak, there shouldn’t be this looming association with moral failure.
Willow isn’t excellent because she never complained. Willow’s a fantastic angel because she’s vulnerable, kind, and honest. She and Daya show that drag and disability don’t need compartmentalization from each other.
Showing all this love and honesty ultimately means the lip syncs get harder as we grow attached to these queens. Fans know when two queens talk at the beginning of an episode about being besties, they’re doomed. They will face off against each other in the lip sync by episode’s end. So sure enough, confessed besties Angeria and Willow must face off for a rousing rendition of Lady Gaga’s “Telephone (feat. Beyonce).”
Two sisters doing a gayconic pop duet makes for some really exciting television, especially since one looks like a glamorous mouse. I was on the edge of my seat, preparing my heart to be ripped asunder by reality telvision’s sublime agony. Then, all was immediately deflated. Both queens “shantay.” We have a Final Five!
I don’t know why this season has refused to make the tough cuts. A surprise double save, when earned, is an elation. We’ve had so many restarts and non-eliminations this season that it felt revolutionary two queens went home last week. Sure we’ve had a lot of herstorical “firsts,” but those surprises weren’t in aid of good competition or television.
Next week the queens will reunite for the Ru-union to talk about being on this never-ending season. The following week, we will somehow crown a winner. I don’t know how. We’ve already done a lip-sync extravaganza. With this season, there’s a genuine chance Ru will bring back everyone and start the whole thing over again.