It was beginning to look a lot like Christmas on last night’s season premiere of RuPaul’s Drag Race, which meant one queen had mistletoe strategically stuck to her backside, another channeled Marie Osmond at her Dancing With the Stars doll-costume finest/creepiest, and fabulous guest judge Vanessa Williams showed up to shake her snowglobes with mischievous delight. Yes, reality TV fans, just when you thought Santa’s 11-month hiatus was in full effect, down the chimney he came with a sordid, ridiculous event trimmed in false eyelashes, sequins, crushed ornaments, and tears.
A few front-runners emerged during the premiere. Mariah, a self-described “six-foot-two glamazon…with legs like a racehorse” has stunning good looks, but can throw a bitchy barb with the best of ’em. Contemplating Venus’ announcement that she’d undergone plastic surgery to enhance her work as a Madonna impersonator, Mariah sniffed: “Miss Venus, you’re too young, baby, to have that much work on your face — that much wrong work.” Jersey girl Carmen Carrera, meanwhile, showed off a body that left the judges gasping, and had Ms. Williams delivering my favorite runway critique of the night: “It was an amazing tuck.” And then, of course, we had avant-garde queen Raja, who arrived on the scene looking like a pop-art Cyclops, dazzled the judges with a stunning photo shoot, and gained immunity for next week with a dazzling display of homemade couture and an enviable runway strut. Like some of her rivals, though, I’m not quite sold on Raja’s brand of drag, and her “I’ve been doing Gaga before Gaga” posturing struck me as too contrived by half. I’m taking a wait-and-see approach on her, mmkay?
Still, the star of the show (duh) was our titular diva. I’m certain the sequined gown The Lady Ru wore to the judges’ table is already the envy of Tyra, J.Lo, Heidi and every other popular lady judge working in the reality genre. And her one-liners are some of the best in the business. “Great things come in threes,” RuPaul declared at the start of the episode. “The Supremes, Destiny’s Child, Mark Wahlberg’s nipples.” And it will never, ever get old hearing Ru dramatically command the bottom two to “lipsynch…for your life!”
Speaking of which, I thought the judges got it exactly right by placing Shangela and Venus in jeopardy, and agreed that the former queen played off her precarious position with considerably more charm and finesse. When Ms. Williams noted Shangela showed too much armpit in her photo shoot, she breezily retorted, “But it’s fresh!” Venus, on the other hand, was serving sad Christmas elf, as judge Mike Ruiz correctly pointed out. I howled when new judge Michelle Visage summed it up accurately in movie-title speak: “It’s a Horrible Life!”
I was unabashedly thrilled to see the final faceoff set to Vanessa’s classic hit “The Right Stuff,” but Ru was right that Venus and Shangela should have tried to outshine — not outgun — one another. Flung wigs? Torn dresses? Humorless flailing? This ain’t fight club, ladies! Still, Shangela twinkled more brightly during the battle, and didn’t seem to miss a single lyric in the process, earning a “Chanté, stay” in the process.
And thus, it’s farewell to Venus. Did the right queen go home? How funny was the day-drag trip to the thrift shop? What did you make of Mimi’s tearful antics? (I say she’s not a good enough actress to pull off that much drama.) And who are you rooting for based on the premiere episode? Sound off below, and for all my reality TV recaps, follow me on Twitter @MichaelSlezakTV.