RuPaul's Drag Race Season Premiere Recap: O Come All Ye Drag Queens!

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.

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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  1. Nick says:

    I was happy to see Venus go because she was SUCH a *ahem* witch. She really should realize that she doesn’t look a thing like Madonna, and she just needs to settle in and ONLY perform Kelly Osborn’s “One Word.” She was a wan dead ringer for her.

    All in all, I think they have a great cast this season. I don’t know if anyone stuck out as much as Raven, Juju, and Pandora from last year, but I think, as a whole, they all deserve to be there.

    I’m sure you know this Slezak, but Raja is the makeup artist from ANTM. Tyra will probably off him now because he looks better than her!

  2. david says:

    where is idoloonie??

    • yeahhh1!!! says:

      I didnt want to be the d!ck who thinks all sleazk is good for is idolatry or whatever you call it, but yeah! i mean i just want it, can we just see it already!! Slezak youre a big bench!!!

      • david says:

        slezak, perhaps it’s better if u won’t set a deadline: on monday idoloonies will be posted, and then on tuesday– “he world premiere of ‘Idoloonies’ will be posting in just a little bit” but then a few hours go by with no sign…
        if there are no expectation, there can be no disappointment…

  3. Amanda says:


  4. Mimsy says:

    Vanessa Williams is so pretty and fun. I want to like Santino but he canbe very cruel. RuPaul is so fierce and hilarious.I’m rooting for Raja because it’s hard out here for a drag queen in her mid 30’s. I also like Delta Work and the other 2 plus sized queens. Mimi needs to pull it together. I wanted to alternatively hug her and slap her silly. Shante, the show stays.

  5. oriharakaoru says:

    I’m going to have to disagree, Michael! I’m TOTALLY sold on Raja! Fierce fashion diva! Love her! She’s been there, done that, and is there to show the other girls how it’s done! Can’t wait to see more from her in the weeks to come (and win it all, of course!).

    Manila, Mariah, and Carmen are also ones to watch for sure. Delta Work could be a definite competitor as well.

  6. sam says:

    Thanks for the review Michael, but GO RAJA!!!

  7. FabK says:

    I like Raja too. Although, I loved him on ANTM so I might be a little biased. I also like Delta. I think she’d be fun to hang out with.
    Yes, Carmen has an amazing body and her tucking skills are extraordinary, but where’s the beauty face? And I agree with the judges that she hasn’t shown much personality.
    I was sorry to see Venus go home. Her look was interesting and I really wanted to see her Madonna. But, I did have to look away from the screen during lip-synch for your life. Really uncomfortable.
    Can’t wait to see Queens in Space next week. Looks fabulous!

  8. madeleine says:

    Raja is my favorite for sure. It was so clear once Venus stated that she had had plastic surgery that she couldn’t possibly win. I am surprised that she was accepted on the show at all given the extent of her plastic surgery and the reason for it. I am not knocking Venus, it is just that it makes for an uneven playing field.

  9. Maxime says:

    I’m sold on Mimi and Raja. Even if Mimi started badly with her costume, it was such a great idea and she finally made it work so well! As for Raja, she’s so natural with the whole thing that I think she’ll go all the way to the end. :)

  10. KevyB says:

    I think Ru blu it! I’m so sick of these lip-synch-offs where they keep getting in front of each other and pushing each other and ripping off their wigs and throwing things at each other. I would’ve made them both sashay away then told the other beeyotches that “If you have to hide your opponent to be seen, then you don’t deserve to be seen!”

  11. allegory says:

    “I’ve been doing Gaga before Gaga” is true. What? You don’t know Gaga is just a big ole drag queen ripoff. You can see a photo of Raja in an silver outfit with the headgear and eye covering that you’d attribute to Gaga if you didn’t know better…on his Facebook. It’s from around 1998.