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 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 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?