“This program will be broadcast in HDS: High Definition Shade.”
So said hostess with the mostess RuPaul, introducing the seven queens competing on Monday’s season 6 premiere, part one. Yep. You heard that right: Seven queens, part one. In an effort to shake it up like a stiff (no longer Absolut) cocktail, Ru changed the game for this edition of Drag Race. For starters, the premiere will take place over two weeks, with one batch of queens arriving the first week and facing elimination. The process will repeat next week because, as Ru put it, “The only thing better than one big opening is two big openings.” On week three, the final 12 will merge and emerge.
Another big change this go-around: No immunity this season. At all. Ru had no saucy pun for that new rule. So I’ll leave it to the opening line of her most famous song to communicate these new high stakes.
With that business completed, let’s meet the queens!
Adore Delano, a.k.a. former American Idol top-13 finalist Danny Noriega, came out the gate with an excess of sass — if not experience: “For all the queens telling me that I’m not polished enough, I just want to tell them that I’m polish remover, b—-.”
I was going to give special accessory-themed hat-tip to fishy and fabulous Gia Gunn for her hula hoop converted into a megapurse, but then — speaking of decorative headwear — self-proclaimed “last living club kid in New York” Vivacious arrived with a teeny-tiny alien head (named Ornacia!), which she explained was part of her “Leigh Bowery abstract entity… living art” aesthetic. Now that‘s thinking outside the box, hunties — namely a box full o’ Styrofoam heads.
Unfortunately for season 6’s second-oldest queen (Vivacious gets that title, too), Kelly Mantle did not impress her competition from the jump — it was a trend that would continue through Monday’s premiere.
Laganja Estranja made the best entrance, hands down, serving up death drops like Shangela’s rent was due tomorrow.
In close second, “terminally delightful” BenDeLaCreme went full-on I-Love-Lucy camp with a scampering entrance that got some serious stinkeye from Adore.
By my reckoning, April Carrion was the least distinctive (and, coincidentally, final) queen upon first impression, but I will give her credit for styling herself as a “cross between Björk and Coco Rocha.”
With a few words from Ru, the ladies immediately embarked upon the first challenge, which was basically Top Model 101 — jumping from an elevated platform into a pile of foam chunks, all while taking a fiiiiiiiierce photo. Photographer Mike Ruiz was looking for “amazing face, dancerly body moves, and confidence.” As is par for the course in any well-crafted Drag Race challenge, there were many deliciously mocking sound effects and much punnery — my personal favorite: “Here’s to the ladies who launch!”
For the most part, the starter seven were shockingly terrible at going down with grace (Tyra Banks would be horrified… and oh so gratified if she had this on her own show). But Vivacious once again made the biggest impression — quite literally, girl went deeeeep in that foam during one dive that I will remember and cackle about for the foreseeable future:
Laganja Estranja was proclaimed the winner and gained an advantage in the main challenge: A high fashion drag take on iconic TV shows. After snatching up Dancing With the Stars for herself, Laganja doled out
Tuck Duck Dynasty to April Carrion, Keeping Up With the Kardashians to Gia Gunn, Game of Thrones to Vivacious, Here Comes Honey Boo Boo to Adore Delano, Downton Abbey to Kelly Mantle, and Golden Girls to BenDeLaCreme.
Adore and April both felt the most S.O.L. with the show-related props Ru gave them to fashion a runway look. Unfortunately for the emerging food-based fashion industry, Adore opted not to use a bag of stanky sketti. Much more jeopardizing, though, she accidentally glued her gown to her mannequin. Girl down!
But the fashion show had to go on, now with 100 percent more Adam Lambert! (Ru, Santino Rice, Michelle Visage, and Mike Ruiz were also there.)
Highlight: BenDeLaCreme rocked an actual mini-cheesecake along with her Golden Girls ensemble. It’s all in the details, really. Also credit to her for being a straight-up doppelgänger of Michelle Visage. That had to earn Ms. Creme some points.
Lowlight: Vivacious abandoned her dream of incorporating a baby dragon into her GoT look, instead opting for a crow on her wrist. This not the show for restraint, girl.
And then came the judging…
“Kardasian” Gia Gunn had the reality-star sisters’ vapid, nasal patois down, but that actually seemed to work against her in the judges’ books. What’s more, I thought the bottom half of her look — basically fringe over bloomers — was a little déclassé. Imagine that! Something less classy than a Kardashian… what?
April Carrion smartly scrapped the idea of wearing pants for her Duck Dynasty ‘do, but she didn’t spare any stuffed mallards, y’all.
Laganja embodied THE COVETED MIRRORBALL TROPHY in her Queen of the Night-esque DWTS duds, but she took some heat for tripping over her flowing skirt and overwhelming her neckline with a tornado-swept combination of black tulle that blended in with her flowing black wig. Also, the judges think she needs to tone down the shtick and just be herself.
Christine Baranski stunt double Kelly Mantle tried to work a floral bodice for her two-piece Downton Abbey frock, but the pattern just came off looking bacon-y. And don’t get Santino started on the polyester skirt.
Adore was exactly how the judges felt about the personality of struggling mini-queen Miss Delano, who described her vision as “an ’80s mermaid who got her prom done by, like, Heatherette when [they] first started, didn’t have a sewing machine, just learning how to make something out of something.” Still, they didn’t shy away from dishing out some tough love and took her to task for her “hiiiiiiideeeouuuuuus” and poorly crafted outfit. And, to be honest, I’m not sure the craftsmanship would have been that much stronger even if she hadn’t had to rip it apart seconds before hitting the runway. Baby girl can’t sew — a fact that Ru rues about today’s rising drag superstars. Still, guest judge Adam Lambert thought she had them, ahem, X Factor.
NYC girl Vivacious was serving up Mary J. Blige realness for some (Michelle Visage) and “Carol Channing meets Edgar Allan Poe” for others (Mike Ruiz). Santino was also critical of her unfinished hemline.
Finally, maje props to sewing-inept BenDeLaCreme for telling the judges her Golden Girls-inspired style was made with “hot glue and desperation” yet still whipping up a damn-close-to-couture creation.
With all that in mind, BenDeLaCreme was declared the winner and granted passage to the next round. Also safe? Gia, Laganja, April, and… Adore. Wait what?
Unsurprisingly, Downton Shabby Kelly Mantle was up for elimination. But so was the vaguely Vogue-ing Vivacious! Ru cued up Madonna’s “Express Yourself” and bid the girls to lip sync for their lives. Trust a club kid to “eat a stage,” and Vivacious destroyed Kelly (though, to be fair, Kelly was struggling with awkward dance moves and rookie mistakes like getting her heel caught in her hem).
Chantay, you stay, Vivacious; sashay away, Kelly Mantle. And we’ve all learned an important lesson tonight: Don’t wear bacon!
Bonus! A First Look tease at next week allowed us to put made-up faces to names, including insult comic Bianca Del Rio and video fish Trinity K. Bonet (“about as close you’re gon’ get to Beyoncé”) — whose initial meet-and-greet was about as crusty as the leftover cupcakes the first klatch of queens had abruptly left behind. Also making their way to Ru-in were body-reliant Joselyn Fox, “the world’s most glamorous trash queen” Magnolia Crawford, Australian Idol-approved beauty Courtney Act, and big-and-beautiful Facebook vote winner Darienne Lake.
While all those ladies had their charms, I can’t resist leaving you with this season’s WTF-iest queen of all: Milk –