Rupaul’s Drag Race Down Under recap – Episode 6 – Family Resemblance

The makeover challenge on Rupaul’s Drag Race is a crowd pleaser in the way that Snatch Game wishes it could be. And this is no exception on Down Under. But before the queens get to make some baffling choices in the maxi (how ironic) challenge, they first return to the workroom to reminisce about Etcetera Etcetera, gone too soon.

“She’s the future of drag,” says Art Simone.

“She’s the future of the human race,” says Karen From Finance.

“She should still be there!” I scream emphatically at the tv and pointing at the giant racist in the workroom.

But she isn’t, and there’s no business like show business and the show must go on and that’s just show biz ain’t it.

The mini challenge makes looking at bulging men in speedos fun and playful by making the queens guess animals and the pit crew, who it would appear are more diverse than the selection of remaining drag queens, reveal plushie underwear. I will admit, I had no idea what was going on for about half of this challenge, but I suppose it was fun?

My heart sank when Maxi won the mini challenge. I foresaw disaster for her. The show loves to sink or celebrate people in one ep, raise them just enough to make them misstep and then throw them away the next episode. At any rate, Maxi Shield, bless her heart, didn’t seem to be too concerned with sabotaging anyone. Although to be fair, aside from some beards, all of these men seemed like they would be similarly challenging.

The men themselves are from the NZ Falcons, and just like the pit crew, they are more diverse than the remaining drag queens on Rupaul’s Drag Race Down Under. Which is great, because the show isn’t a complete whitewash, but also sad to think about certain queens who remain. I won’t harp on about it any more, and indeed, the show has completely stopped referencing the bombshell revelations of last episode, as have many other recappers. I will however continue to mention it and will no longer mention the person in question.

We got everything you want from a makeover challenge. Queens bonding with people who wouldn’t normally explore their femininity in this way, faces transformed by make up, large men failing to walk in heels, beards being shaved and so on. Plus a good level of snark between the queens themselves. Having an audience is so revitalizing for the queens on any season of Drag Race and I find that their performative banter is always on point in a makeover episode.

And then they’re on stage. And the judging is confusing and we remember we’re watching the most controversial season of Drag Race yet. Some queens are praised for creating looks that are practically identical, such as Kita Mean, which others are derided for the same, such as Karen From Finance and Elektra Shock. Art Simone is read for not looking alike at all, and to be fair, aside from the Priscilla, Queen of the Desert connection, they really don’t look like family. I suppose one could argue the point of the found family, as evidenced in the film, but the show is looking for something more superficial it seems. Both the queens in the bottom have similar critiques. Lazy outfits which are identical aside from being in different colours.

Maxi, oh Maxi. How can you be so smart as to take sewing lessons and deliver a line about not being an idiot in one episode and then not read the room of the past fifteen years of Rupaul’s Drag Race and simply pack two ‘one size fits all’ sack outfits for the makeover challenge? Rupaul was correct when saying he wanted to see the great big honking badonkadonks on both of them. We’ve seen in episode after episode that this play doesn’t work. It’s with incredible sadness that she ends up in the bottom, perhaps a little defeated and a bit over it.

Maxi does her best, but without a sparkly mic, she is overshadowed when singing Better The Devil You Know by Kylie Minogue, because her combatant is literally dressed as the devil and, say it with me now, is a known racist. A friend of mine suggested that Maxi could have brought out a ‘maxi’ mic which might have edged her over, but hindsight is a painful, accurate thing, so unfortunately she didn’t, and Maxi Shield, last remaining Sydney queen and surely, Miss Congeniality, sashayed away.

So we have a top 5, two episode to go and no clear idea of who will win.

Other bits:

  • Did you hear the new conspiracy theory about how this season is manufactured to make Art Simone the host of season 2? Yes, please.
  • Aunty who? The fact that their only ringing endorsement on the show is from a known racist must sting a bit.
  • Rupaul’s make up was amazing, her Ugg boot lewk was fantastic, her hair was an 80s extravaganza. I loved.
  • When I said out loud “Come on, Maxi,” and moved to the edge of my seat prior to the lip sync for your life, I felt like I might be experiencing what it’s like to view sports with a vested interest. Can anyone confirm?
  • Next week we get a talent show, Raven as a guest plus THE question, “Who do you think should go home tonight and why?” I can’t wait.
  • One more thing, Elektra Shock completely blanking the winner of the LSFYL when she went to the back of the stage turned me into an Elektra stan now and forever. Bravo.

Rupaul’s Drag Race Down Under recap – Episode 5 – Yeast Spread

Well this episode was quite a roller coaster. The elephant in the room since before Rupaul’s Drag Race Down Under began has been the history of racism for two of the contestants. Karen From Finance previously owned a collection of racist dolls as well as a now-covered-up tattoo of the same doll. This seemingly will not be addressed on the show.

The other person to have more serious evidence of racism in her past is Scarlett Adams (follow Felicia Foxx who is doing an amazing job of calling this out). And this episode, we got to witness it being discussed both by the queens and on the main stage. I already knew all of this information prior to watching the show, however when Scarlett was discussing it with Etcetera Etcetera in the workroom, I found myself becoming quite enraged. I agree wholeheartedly with Etcetera in believing that blackface (or any kind of cultural appropriation) simply isn’t a conceivable action to take in any circumstance, let alone to play for laughs. Scarlett’s argument that she was ignorant at the time just doesn’t stand up when you’re talking about events that took place in 2018. I don’t care how ignorant you are, if you’re at the point where you have become a figure of importance in your community, and the LGBTIQ community is nothing if not diverse, then you should know better.

And then on the main stage, Rupaul provided Scarlett with an opportunity to explain herself and then made the choice not to ‘cancel’ her right then and there. I am among the many who wish she had done that, however I believe that’s exactly what’s happened in a roundabout way.

It will be very difficult for Scarlett to recover from this professionally. She has earned the ire of many of her season one sisters (see my previous recap for Coco Jumbo’s comment), and the international audience will not be kind to her. After searching for her Instagram, it appears she has been limited on that platform as well, so her chances of growth are dwindling by the second. Rupaul may not have cancelled her officially, but in giving her the stage to give us a lukewarm apology, the work is already done.

However, now we have a situation in which Jojo Zaho and Coco Jumbo have both been sent home, Scarlett Adams is allowed to stay and Etcetera Etcetera, the rational voice in the discussion, has also been sent home. It’s a competition, sure, but the results are not looking particularly fair or woke.

There is a lot of discussion about Drag Race Down Under and it’s mishandling of race and Australian (“Down Under”) culture. It’s said by some that this is indicative of our culture and what we deserve, and it is true that there is a long history of systemic racism in Australia, starting with the genocide of Aboriginal people in the late 1700s and continuing all throughout our short colonial history. It is also a fact that the Drag Race brand, while it may have begun back in 2008 and been ostensibly for the queer community at the time, is now also manufactured for the much larger and more lucrative straight community. This isn’t a slight against straight people, for we wouldn’t have a global franchise without them, but it means that the parts of our community that aren’t as immediately palatable to that audience just won’t make the cut. Do we need a discussion about race relations in Australia? Absolutely. Should it have been done by having Jojo Zaho make a statement and get eliminated in the first episode and Scarlett be allowed to stay as a repeatedly racist performer because her looks are more polished? Absolutely not. At the end of the day, the research simply wasn’t done, and the effort wasn’t put in to make this the diverse representation of Australia it could have been.

There are so many opportunities to support diverse queer Australian culture outside of this show, which I suggest seeking out. Read about the Tiwi Island Sistergirls on Buzzfeed. Support diverse queer filmmaking with Queer Screen and the Mardi Gras Film Festival. Go to a Drag Race Down Under viewing party at the local gay bar (google it, they’re not hard to find in most cities). Find and follow some queer Aboriginal artists like Dylan Mooney. Follow Bhenji Ra, founder of the House of Slé and the Sissy Ball, a celebration of Australian queer diversity. Once again, follow Felicia Foxx, who should be on this season of Drag Race Down Under. And if you’re feeling nostalgic and need to know that it hasn’t always been a whitewash, watch performances from the incredible Samoan drag queen, Bust Op back in the 90s who I used to idolise many years ago when she performed at ARQ. Educate yourself beyond what Rupaul is showing you.

Ok, back to the episode. I thought the challenge and runway were a little mystifying. None of the queens really seemed to hit their strides in their ‘yeast spread’ infomercials, I think because they all made the decision to make jars of excretion instead of branding it to themselves. All a little mystifying. Personally, I really enjoyed Art Simone’s ad and wasn’t sure why they disliked it so much. I also controversially liked Etcetera’s ‘piss’ ad. I thought it was irreverent and ironic. But at the end of the day, I thought they were all a little lackluster.

And then there was the runway, ‘finest Sheila in the bush’. I honestly do not understand this came out so hodge podge. Why did the New Zealand queens, Kita Mean and Electra Shock, cosplay as animals? Why was Scarlett doing an homage to Priscilla? To add to this, Art Simone was Kath Day-Knight (who she should have been in Snatch Game…) and Maxi Shield was inspired by Picnic at Hanging Cock Rock. And then Karen and Etcetera were the bushfire and a firefighter? Once again this episode, I’m even more mystified. It’s difficult to pick a favourite runway given the dissonance, but I think for me it was Etcetera Etcetera. I loved the story and the execution.

But I’m not a judge so Etcetera turned up in the bottom with eternal favourite Maxi Shield. Two Sydney queens stood before us. I wanted them both to stay, and I think that if Etcetera had been up against anyone else, they would have, but up against the accidental perfect syzygy of Maxi Shield’s period outfit, the classic Australian Vanessa Amarosi hit ‘Absolutely Everybody’ and her spangly microphone, Etcetera stood no chance.

I thoroughly enjoyed every moment of this lip sync and at the risk of sounding like a dead horse (did I get that right?), Maxi for the win!

Other bits:

  • We once more see the great Aussie phrase, ‘not here to f*ck spiders’ return, this time from the mouth of Rupaul himself.
  • I’m still unsure if Rupaul was present for filming. The only shot they have of the queens and Ru this episode is a distant one. What do you think?
  • The reading challenge was good, not as disastrous as many American seasons have been which is a relief.
  • Next week is the makeover challenge and they’ve gone back to basics and just making over sportsmen. Can’t wait.

Rupaul’s Drag Race Down Under recap – Episode 1 – G’day, G’day, G’day

Do I have the koala-fications to recap and review a season of Rupaul’s Drag Race Down Under (now available on Stan and WOW Presents Plus)? After loving the dolls for more than half my life, being able to remember Courtney Act’s first time performing in drag in Sydney, Australia and never missing an episode of Rupaul’s Drag Race (including Untucked and all the international iterations), I believe I am more than equipped.

As an apparently quite proud queer, gay, Australian man, I felt quite nervous going into this episode, keen to see the queens do well but also stand up on the international Drag Race stage. And thankfully, this crop of queens did not disappoint.

In the interests of a fair playing field, I should go through each queen and discuss what they did but as Rupaul loves to point out ‘this is a competition’ and ‘it’s hard’, so instead, I’ll go through the episode and if the queens stand out, it’s really up to them (and the producers and editors…).

Starting with Art Simone was an excellent choice for the entrances (and an entrance line of ‘we’re not here to fuck spiders‘). With her already having her own show on WOW Presents Plus, Highway to Heel, she is arguably the most at ease in front of a camera and it shows. I could listen to her lovely Kath & Kim accent for hours, and hope to do just that. Adding to her appeal is the way she remarks on almost every queen that enters, reading dry wigs, calling out backstabbery and generally having a grand old time.

Maxi Shield, the second queen through, has been performing for long enough that I used to go and see her as a teenager in Sydney so it is fantastic to see her there, looking like she just stepped off the set of Orange is the New Black in her confessionals and immediately referring to Art with the classic Aussie term of endearment, ‘you dog’.

The New Zealand queens all know each other and work together, forming an odd family unit that also makes it seem like perhaps the bar they work in is down the road from the studio Drag Race Down Under was filmed in. Nonetheless aside from a dry wig on Elektra Shock (plus a performance sending her to the bottom, I guess) and some drama in the clearly unbalanced best-friendship of Anita Wigl’it and Kita Mean, they are all very polished queens.

The mini challenge featured the wonderfully charismatic Taika Waititi working his acting chops as a diva director and assisting Ru (as it should be) in directing the queens to lisp their way through some sort of sci-fi monologue from the planet Thickening. It was fun and mercifully short, with some queens receiving barely half a minute of screen time. Notably, Anita Wigl’it received the only negative feedback for being unable to convey the emotional difference between happiness and anger with her facial expressions…

The maxi challenge is the Get To Know You Ball where the queens must deliver a Born Naked look as well as a No Place Like Home look. This will be interesting and for the first time, actually make sense to me because I’ll know the places.

The safe queens really were that to me, I barely remember them aside from Maxi Shield, because if coming out in a bubble wrap dress over the most enormous prosthetic breasts known to drag-kind and a giant prawn to celebrate Ballina (Byron Bay’s awkward, unpopular little sister) makes you safe, colour me confused.

The tops of the week were mostly well deserved. Karen From Finance, who gave us a camp, in-character moment as Karen On Vacation plus a gloriously drunken Karen At The Races was glorious. Art Simone lived up to her nomenclature, showcasing high art in both her nude illusion and her Melbourne look (I am a sucker for anything graffiti-print so I stan).

And finally I get to talk about Coco Jumbo. She is my favourite of these queens. I want her to win quite badly and will be devastated if she goes home. She came in exploding with charisma, which Rupaul seems to love, and may keep her a bit longer than other queens, especially if her drag continues to be as up and down as it was this episode. The odd choice to wear a face (and calamari earrings, thanks Michelle Visage) as a nude illusion made sense with her explanation, but no-one likes being explained to. But her King Kong (on brand for someone named Coco Jumbo) for the Big Banana was incredible. I think this is what saved her from the bottom this week.

And then there was the bottom two, lip syncing to Tragedy by the Bee Gees (and tragically not by STEPS who Michelle Visage literally has a song with). I was not pleased to see Jojo Zaho in the bottom. As the only Aboriginal queen in the race, as far as we know, it’s a shame to see her and her story out so soon. Her experience of living on a mission in Western Australia, growing up facing so much racism and delivering the runway message of ‘always was, always will be’ Aboriginal land, is one we as Australians do need to hear every week.

But, this is a competition and it’s hard, and Jojo is not quite ready for television yet. She performs the song well and even attempts to use it to refer to Elektra Shock as a tragedy, which I enjoyed, but Elektra wisely utilises dip (we don’t call them death drops any longer) after dip which even though not timed well in the song, Rupaul loses her mind over every time. So, Jojo and her faboriginality are sent packing, becoming the Pork Chop of Australia.

Next week, Snatch Game already?! I’m looking forward to some iconic Aussies. Fingers crossed for Kath & Kim, Cate Blanchett and Kylie and Dannii Minogue. The only one we can be sure about at this point is Bindi Irwin.

Highlights and assorted musings:

  • Art Simone sounding like Kath Day-Knight and delivering scathing one-liners both to and about other queens and in her confessionals is to die for.
  • I don’t understand the apostrophe in Anita Wigl’it. Is it meant to be ‘wiggle it’? Wouldn’t ‘wig lit’ make more sense and ‘wiggle it’ can be implied?
  • Karen From Finance missing her mark at her entrance was comedy gold, why didn’t she stop until she hit the camera? A+
  • Rhys Nicholson was excellent on the judging panel, giving puns and graphic innuendos, a combo Rupaul adores.
  • Looking forward to seeing more from Etcetera Etcetera, but not excited to write out the name over and over again.
  • Will the Rupaul both in drag and out of drag ‘gag’ from episode one continue through the season?