Rupaul’s Drag Race Down Under recap – Episode 8 – Grand Finale

The grand finale of Rupaul’s Drag Race Down Under plays out in much the same way as any finale of the Drag Race global franchise. That is:

  • A lot of pontificating on being part of the Top 4 from the girls
  • A meaningful interview with Rupaul and Michelle Visage (or Fred, or Art Arya, or Supremme or Brooke depending on your nation)
  • An all-singing, all-dancing performance tied into a re-release of an old Rupaul club hit
  • A best drag runway
  • Two tearful soliloquys from each queen, one told to a photo of themselves as a child and another explaining why they should become the next Drag Superstar
  • A lip sync performance from the top finalists
  • A winner being crowned.

We received all of this in the Down Under finale as well, which made it a little by-the-numbers but also a comfortable and dare I say enjoyable end to a very controversial first (but hopefully not last) season.

Firstly, let’s talk about poor Karen From Finance. I can’t remember another queen on the show who dedicated her talking head to explaining why another queen should win the competition but Karen did just that to justify Art’s place in the finale. Combined with her generally middling performance and something that I really struggled to consider ‘best drag’, and she was hit with one of the two worst edits of the episode. It was clear she was not a contender from the start.

The other one who didn’t play their cards right at all was the racist one. When they used her very sad revelation about her biological father simply to give Art Simone an opportunity to talk about her own experience, I thought perhaps it was curtains for her as well. But when she answered the question “Why should you win Rupaul’s Drag Race Down Under?” with what amounted to “Because I’m better than the rest of them and have won more challenges,” I became even more certain it wasn’t going to be her either.

And then there’s Art Simone. This was a glowing episode for her. She nailed every look, I loved her verse and the aggressively Australian pronunciation of the lyrics. Her speech was also pretty great and her best drag was elegant and beautiful. But her earlier elimination and mystifying return ‘in the trash’ played against her in popular opinion and probably ruined her chances. But it was clear the producers considered this to be a top 2 with Art Simone and Kita Mean.

Lovely, gorgeous, surprising Kita Mean. Her childhood trauma is still quite raw, but from the start of the episode when she wiped off Elektra’s message about being sent home by the winner of the season, I was pretty sure that was what’s known as foreshadowing. I actually got teary when she spoke on the main stage and her wings look was like a more elevated, more dragtastic version of Courtney Act’s look way back in season six. And then there was the lip sync. This has been a season for props. Maxi Shield and her glittery microphone and now Kita Mean and a rubber glove. The versatility of using it to mimic a rectal exam, fisting and then a cow’s udder? Brilliant. Show stopping. Give her the crown and scepter already!

And so Rupaul did just that. And with a collective sigh of relief, Rupaul’s Drag Race Down Under ended on a high note, with the fan favourite winning over the queen who won the most challenges. Condragulations Kita Mean, you deserve it!

Other bits:

  • Rupaul did not grace the main stage with her presence in the crowning, lending even more weight to the conspiracy theory that she was not even there.
  • Rhys Nicholson is wonderful and should continue in season 2 (please let it continue into season 2).
  • Where were all the eliminated queens for the best drag runway? Also no reunion? We have really been left starving this season.
  • Who will host season 2? Will it be Rupaul again? Or will Art Simone step up to the plate?

Rupaul’s Drag Race Down Under recap – Episode 7 – Talent Extravaganza

I don’t think I’m alone in saying I’m left a bit flummoxed at the end of the penultimate episode of Rupaul’s Drag Race Down Under. All season long we’ve been confused, delighted, devastated, enraged. It’s been a wild ride.

This week, the queens are competing in a talent extravaganza usually reserved for the first episode of an All Stars season (season 6 of Rupaul’s Drag Race All Stars is coming 25 June). This is the third time something has happened in Down Under that is from All Stars. Snatch Game was in episode 2. Art Simone was brought back without reason (face it, there is never a reason to bring a queen back). And now a talent show. This might be part of why it’s been so hard for the Down Under queens, because All Stars relies on prior knowledge of the queens and references from past seasons which they don’t have.

But moving on to the talents.

Karen From Finance has been a very comfortable ‘safe’ all season long. Her talking heads have me convinced they told her she was THE frontrunner, as week after week, she singles out her ‘single biggest competition here’, which was generally Art Simone. This week, mystifyingly, it’s Kita Mean. Foreshadowing her eventual win perhaps. Karen creates a single balloon animal while dressed in a tattooed (?) nude illusion bodysuit with a bondage harness over it plus her Karen hair. It’s absurdist comedy?

Art Simone eats some stuff. If you’re not watching Art Therapy on her Instagram, you need to start. She rupologised at the start (Rupaul hates watching people eat), shoved a whole meat pie in her mouth, pretended to eat a stack of lamingtons then swallowed her own fist. It’s absurdist comedy!

Kita Mean did magic. Rupaul groaned, I groaned, the whole world groaned. Rupaul hates magic and so do I! The quick changes were very well done, but I agree with the judges that the looks (all season) were not the best.

The next queen did a pole routine. She may never have done it for a show before but I’d bet she’s been in pole classes for quite some time. We saw Shea Coulee do this same thing on All Stars 5 and she eventually won. Hopefully this isn’t portentous of the end.

And Elektra, bless her naïve dancing heart, did what every little gay boy dreams of, and just danced her socks off (literally) with all the seriousness of Natalie Portman in Black Swan. Again, we’ve seen this sort of vulnerability from Coco Montrese in All Stars 2 and it sent Coco and now Elektra home.

The runway theme was How’s your head… piece? and here all the queens excelled, which made the final decisions basically down to the talent show and their group performance. And of course my favourite question, “Who should go home tonight and why?”

Unfortunately, all the queens said Elektra and Elektra just went bananas and said Art Simone. I thought this smacked of producer intervention for a few reasons. One is that Kita Mean has been buddied up with Elektra all season long, so why now, all of a sudden throw her under the bus? Another is that Elektra was almost certain to say the racist queen. She clearly hates her. So why not? Add to this that Art Simone told The Veronicas she thought the racist queen should win and I’m completely thrown for six (or seven). Art and Etcetera were the most vocally disgusted at the blackface revelations. Why would she change her mind now?

But this cements Elektra’s place in the bottom. On the main stage, it should be noted that all the queens bar Kita Mean changed into wigs. Karen From Finance also dabbed at the end which is another strike from me. Kita Mean ended up in the bottom and sent Elektra home.

So, now we have a top four. Did I think this would be the top going in? Absolutely not. My choices would have been Art Simone, Coco Jumbo, Maxi Shield and Etcetera Etcetera. Which means I must be #TeamArtSimone.

That said, I think it might be Kita Mean who takes this out. Although the show is trying very hard to make us like the racist one.

Who are you rooting for?

Other bits:

  • When Rupaul did the workroom walkthroughs, they cut away to the same unimpressed expression for almost every queen. I wonder if she was questioning the choice of a talent show…
  • Also, Raven and Elektra had actual physical contact. Which means Raven and Rupaul must actually be there and pops the bubble of that particular conspiracy theory.
  • A couple of Australianisms I haven’t heard before on this episode, sabo for sabotage. And androdge for androgenous. Let me get the Macquarie Dictionary on the phone…

Rupaul’s Drag Race Down Under recap – Episode 4 – Ru-cycle

I’m proud to say that I caught the blatant foreshadowing last week of someone being inside the trash pile and correctly guessed it would be Art Simone. It’s not rocket surgery, but it still feels good to be correct. Now hopefully I’ll also be correct that next week, the show and Rupaul will address Scarlett Adams’ storied history of cultural appropriation and blackface. I attended a viewing party this week which featured an appearance from Coco Jumbo and Maxi Shield following and when they discussed the runway, Coco said of Scarlett, “I didn’t recognise her in whiteface” and honestly it is too perfect of a commentary not to write down.

Putting that aside for now, Art is back on Rupaul’s Drag Race Down Under (hooray and she is clearly incredibly talented and went home as a gag but also, where’s the second chance for Jojo Zaho and Coco Jumbo who I also adore?), it’s a design/sewing challenge (a.k.a. the best challenge) and the queens are blatantly reading each other all over the place.

Etcetera is becoming one of my favourite queens on the show. I love that her references are very old Hollywood and classic drag glamour, she is unafraid to tell it like it is, particularly when questioning Elektra’s taste level and Kita Mean’s design skills, and they are proudly, openly non-binary, which is incredibly important representation on any level, but particularly from someone as young and self-assured as Etcetera. I understood her 1920s reference on the runway, but agree that the skirt was a little too simple.

I’ve said it before, I want Maxi to win this competition. She’s far and away the funniest, most grounded cast member. Her quips in the workroom were hilarious, about not being an idiot and getting sewing lessons, about Scarlett being really lovely and that “she must just not like you, Elektra,” I just adore her. And her runway was glorious. I’m a sucker for any kind of graffiti print, and I love a Vivienne Westwood namedrop/reference, so as I slurred at Maxi later in the evening, “you were robbed!”

I thought all the queens did a pretty good job of creating an outfit out of rubbish, and while we have seen iterations of most of these before, that’s also due to the raw material being provided. If you don’t want to see pages and video tapes, don’t provide them, Rupaul’s producers. Similarly for ball pit paraphernalia, picnic rugs and those bags I don’t know the name of that Maxi used.

Elektra and Kita were deemed safe, which I suppose is fine but I found their colour schemes pretty repellent. The primaries of Kita’s and that umbrella hat that Etcetera rightly lampooned, were pretty unpleasant on the eye. And while Elektra looked sleek and glamorous (if not glam-diculous), the mustard browns of the ties was again fairly repellant. But while safe is good because you survive the week, it’s also boring because you were just not good enough and not bad enough to be a top or a bottom.

And then we have Karen From Finance. I must admit, they’re not giving Karen a lot of screen time. Since she won the first episode, she’s faded into the background a little, and she was literally in the background glowering at Art Simone while Kita Mean explained the rivalry between them in her talking head. Based on this week’s baffling decision to poorly recreate Schapelle Corby and her boogie board (this is somehow acceptable to make fun of a woman who spent nine years in a Balinese prison for smuggling, while making fun of Lindy Chamberlain is not? I’m not saying either is ok or not, we can make up our own minds, but I’m wondering where Karen’s line in the sand is…) and her safe status over the past few weeks, plus Art’s now glaring favouritism, I’d be a little concerned if I was Karen as well.

But Karen did somehow win the rather pedestrian lip sync, and poor, lovely, beautiful, kind even when she was being quite shady, Anita Wigl’it is sent home. I actually really loved her VHS and book pages dress and thought it was done in a high-fashion way, but she shouldn’t have told Rupaul she’d be doing it with a glue gun, because that’s probably what elicited such negative critiques.

Other bits:

  • I watched this episode at Ginger’s at The Oxford Hotel in Sydney, hosted by the wonderful Felicity Frockaccino and featuring performances from Coco Jumbo, Carmen Geddit and Maxi Shield afterwards and it was absolutely fantastic.
  • I was very happy to see Elz Carrad, star of the New Zealand film Rūrangi, part of the Queer Screen Mardi Gras Film Festival this year, on the judging panel this week.
  • What will Ru need to ‘address’ on the main stage next week? Hopefully the Scarlett Adams controversy.
  • Rhys Nicholson is proving himself every week to be absolutely filthy and hilarious, I loved the repetition and changing emphasis of ‘I didn’t peg her, period’ and ‘You didn’t peg her period?’ Beautiful.
  • Glam-diculous. Patent it, put it on T-shirts. Also looking forward to Maxi Shield’s fair suck of the sav, which Ru openly stole, making its way to Drag Race US.

Rupaul’s Drag Race Down Under recap – Episode 3 – Queens Down Under

An Australian girl group episode and not a Bardot member in sight? I hate to see it. Did our Aussie (and Kiwi) girls give us the next Frock Destroyers? No. But did they do a pretty great job all around? I guess it depends on your opinion. For me there were definitely some standouts but it seems I was not aligned with the judges at all this week.

I’ve been reading recently some conspiracy theories that say that Rupaul Charles actually never went to New Zealand to shoot Rupaul’s Drag Race Down Under. And it’s been a fascinating ride that forced me to evaluate every moment he was on screen and mentally compare it to other seasons. And I’ve come up with a big, I have no idea. Ru doesn’t normally get physically close to anyone in a normal series, so it all seems above board to me. So perhaps he’s never really there.

But that aside, this episode was fairly by-the-numbers. Just after Art’s elimination, reading her mirror message, we get to see that Coco’s ‘soz bitch’ from last week was in fact meant in a cruel way. I love Art, but I also love a villain and Coco’s complete lack of respect for and joy at sending Art home must be celebrated for that, regardless of the pettiness. It was interesting that Art chose to name Karen From Finance as the winner of the season (hearkening all the way back to US season 3 when Mariah Paris Balenciaga said ‘Condragulations Raja’) and also that Karen seemed so visibly miffed by this. It’s hard to argue with the fact that Karen is getting a winner’s edit but I can see her not wanting this pointed out.

The mini challenge was a stupid (as Michelle Visage says later in the episode, ‘the highest compliment on this show’) Baywatch-themed, slo-mo advertisement for Manscaper. I guess rampant sponsorship and product placement has made the leap from the United States, even if Ru herself may not have.

Arbitrarily, Elektra and Scarlett are chosen as winners, setting them up for their storylines nicely. They select queens with very little fuss, saving the gorgeous Maxi Shield for last, but she dgaf so it’s fine.

In fact it’s all done with little fuss. Even the drama teased last week was a fake-out. Which made me pretty annoyed. But moving on to the all-singing, all-dancing maxi challenge.

There was a strange rivalry between Scarlett Adams and Etcetera Etcetera, with the latter giving a great many notes to everyone on the team and seeming to be oblivious to causing any irritation, and Scarlett being determined to showcase herself and win win win.

Coco Jumbo is a confusing character to me. In her confessionals, she appears to be a brutally direct, villainous queen who is confident in her performance ability. Having seen her perform live prior to the show, I’d agree with this. However the performer on the runway is much more watered down. It’s a dissonance that ultimately lands her in the bottom again, which I can’t say I disagree with.

Kita and Anita, the two New Zealand queens with experience and money for looks (and the hosts of the television show House of Drag in New Zealand) are the rivalry I want them to exploit. Kita seems to be getting a fairly good edit as a strong contender, with Anita getting an underdog edit, so I have faith Anita will prevail.

Maxi Shield has my heart. After this episode, I’m rooting for her to win. Her ‘get it done’ attitude and willingness to try even far out of her comfort zone as she was singing and dancing is a joy to watch. In the performance itself, I was hysterical watching her totter around the other girls with her giant breastplate swinging around. I also loved how much time she spent on the floor as well and don’t know what Michelle was talking about.

The runway gave us two things I didn’t even know I wanted. Rupaul saying bogan, our Aussie word du jour for this week. And Rupaul saying ‘look at moi, look at moi’, just like the glorious Kath Day-Knight from Kath and Kim. Spectacular.

The looks for the Bogan Formal Prom Realness were a very mixed bag. Some went down an 80s route, which is fine but not particularly bogan, and others were just baffling, such as Anita and Kita. I will admit that I was loving the goon bag dress concept from Scarlett Adams, but have now seen Art Simone’s look for the episode and well, I think it speaks for itself. Other than the goon, I was mostly enamoured with Maxi Shield and her glorious chaperone. Yes, it was 80s, but this also fits today and was incredible.

It also gave us a golden untucked moment with Scarlett frothing over being told she was a star by Michelle and Maxi cutting her down to say ‘well, I got that from Rupaul, didn’t I.’ And that was the moment I decided Maxi should win season one of Rupaul’s Drag Race Down Under.

The lip sync was fairly inevitable, though from Maxi’s snub of Coco on the runway to Coco not even knowing Elektra’s name (I’ve really enjoyed getting to know Alexis) and her clear joy in sending Art home, it’s a bit of a shame this simmering villain has now gone. We’re still trimming the fat, but with only seven queens left, it won’t be long until the top four, here’s hoping it includes Maxi Shield.

Other bits:

  • Just a personal shout out, I watched this episode at a viewing party at the Imperial in Erskineville Sydney, hosted by Etcetera Etcetera, and it was a lot of fun. Etcetera performed upstairs later with her ‘amateur’ colleagues Ruby Slippers and Riot, so I got a bit of local drag in too.
  • Karen and Etcetera were both pretty background this episode, and both safe. Hopefully this changes next week.
  • Scarlett’s wibbly wobbly prosthetics in the mini challenge were pretty hilarious.
  • Rhys Nicholson making old jokes about Michelle Visage and her girl group Seduction being from the 1960s was perfection.
  • Next week is a design challenge which is my favourite challenge. I can’t wait to see what disasters end up walking down the runway.

Rupaul’s Drag Race Down Under recap – Episode 2 – Snatch Game

Straight out the gate with another Aussie slang lesson (last week we learned not here to f*ck spiders), this time the disgusting shoey. I was gagged literally watching them drink from old heels. Hard pass.

This week, earlier than usual (though the same time as All Stars 2), the queens of Rupaul’s Drag Race Down Under are playing Snatch Game! While it may have worked on an All Stars season, I don’t think having this so early in a normal season is as beneficial for the queens. We barely know their names at this point, let alone their performance quirks, so having them pivot to celebrity impersonations and in-character improv at this stage is a lot to take in.

First, they prepare with various conversations and secrets being kept (for some reason, looking at you Maxi Shield) in the workroom. We even get a Bindi Irwin stand-off when Art Simone – who receives a delusional villain edit this episode, something I may never recover from the audacity of – clashes with Scarlett Bobo O’Hara who also wants to do the same. Art wins, but it’s a Pyrrhic victory for the ages.

After a message from Australia’s Pop Princess, Kylie Minogue with enough song title puns to fill a whole She Done Already Done Had Herses Rupaul intro video, we’re on to the main event.

I wrote notes during the episode, one of which was ‘Maxi didn’t even say ‘I said love, I said pet’’ even as that very specific Magda Szubanski character (incidentally, Lynne Postlethwaite is one of my favourites of all time), but after cooling my head, I realise perhaps this was simply edited out.

On the runway, Ru announced Anita Wigl’it as the winner without any fanfare and to say I was surprised is putting it lightly. Not that I don’t think she was good as Queen Elizabeth II, because she was, although we have seen the ‘lovely older woman tells dirty jokes’ act done quite a bit before, but because for me, Etcetera Etcetera and her deeply offensive and hilarious caricature of Lindy Chamberlain was the funniest and most irreverent performance. Though I imagine crowning her might set off a litany of lawsuits Ru’s simply not willing to endure.

Rupaul also announced six of the queens to be in the bottom. So let’s review them quickly. Karen From Finance gave us Dollar Store Dolly (this is a read, I don’t believe it’s what she was aiming for) which was dangerous because presumably Ru and Dolly are acquaintances if not friends.

Coco Jumbo was truly out of her league here, her place in the bottom was cemented in the first few seconds. Also I had to google the Sailor Moon connection and even now feel confused about this angle.

Scarlett and Elektra both did comedic women who are very well-known for particular characters, and both did an ok job emulating but not embellishing on these.

And then we have Art Simone. Oh my heart, Art. There were, in hindsight, so many red flags. Ru laughing uproariously at everything she said in the walkthrough, Art’s cocky confidence, Art being bitter about not winning the first episode. I didn’t hate her impression, who doesn’t love a slutty Bindi Irwin talking about blowies, but the editing did her no favours (as perhaps it also did for Maxi Shield) and she landed in the bottom.

Somewhere I believe would have been better suited for Kita Mean. Her Dr Seuss somehow managed to come up with rhymes each time, but were they funny? No. And I just feel if you’re going to impersonate women as a profession, you should know how to spell VULVA.

Long before this season began, I said to anyone that would listen that if Coco Jumbo ever ended up in the bottom, she would send whoever it was she was up against home. My heart sank before this had even begun because I had never seen Art Simone lip sync before I my own prophecy was looming ahead. Did I want to be correct and send a favourite home? Or did I want to be wrong and send my other favourite home? A real Sophie’s choice that I had no control over.

I slept on it, and awoke deeply saddened by the elimination. Art’s guttural tears, the shock on the queens’ faces, her final baffling line about still having her hymen, sitting backstage with a producer and telling them ‘That means nothing’. Art Simone was an icon going in, and is even more so now.

Next week, some challenge I couldn’t see through the tears, but I’m sure it’ll be good.

Other bits:

  • Maxi Shield’s runway commentary is wonderful. I also forgot to mention her amazing off the cuff ‘they’re big aren’t they’ in reference to her earrings when Ru was talking about her breastplate in episode one.
  • Coco Jumbo winning the lip sync and saying ‘soz bitch’ to Art Simone is pretty effing epic.
  • These queens love talking about each other behind their backs, and to their faces, and I love it. More, please.
  • I guess it’s Karen From Finance’s game to lose now?