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?