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Season 12 of RuPaul Drag Race is arguably its most competitive to date. The queens gave birth throughout the season, and several returned home for missteps that would hardly have been recorded in the previous installments. Gigi and Sherry dominated the game at first, but recent stumbles leveled the playing field, paving the way for one of the remaining competitors to win a place in the final. With “Superfan Makeover”, however, the ranking becomes clear and a top four has emerged: Crystal, Gigi, Jaida and Sherry, now eliminated. Heidi and Jackie are great queens, but if they want to make their way into the finale, they need momentum and creativity, and they need it now.
The episode begins as the queens return to the workroom after The beautiful lip synchronization of Widow and Jackie to “Firework”. Jackie may have sent Widow to race, but she doesn’t climb any peaks after her victory. She has clear eyes: Crystal and Heidi are on an upward trajectory, and she slides. She must reverse the course or her days are numbered. The next day, Ru enters the workroom and announces to the queens that it is time for the metamorphosis challenge. This season they will do more Drag race superfans, women who think they’re there to watch a recording. It’s a fun twist on the challenge, and it’s nice to see the producers come back to pair the queens with complete strangers.
Ru and the queens surprise the superfans, who are shocked and delighted, and as the winner of the previous challenge, Jaida is responsible for associating the queens and their new drag daughters. She chooses Bethany for herself, Grace for Crystal, Janet the planet for Sherry, Nicole for Heidi and Shea for Gigi, leaving Tiffany associated with Jackie. Ru part and the queens get to know their partners. Everyone seems to get along – Grace loves glitter, phew! – and funnily enough, the only queen in trouble is Jaida. Her partner, Bethany, is not wearing heels. It’s going to be a problem at the House of Essence Hall. However, Bethany is determined to try and the editors have fun cutting between the reactions of the other queens and Jaida’s attempts to reassure Bethany without moving an inch.
While Bethany’s feet are in place for a few difficult days, the rest of the super-fans seem comfortable with their queens. But Nicole is not necessarily comfortable with herself. She is nervous about showing off her legs, having been bullied about her appearance since college. Heidi gives her a necessary speech of encouragement, advising her to take the difficulties she has endured and to wear it as armor. It’s poignant, and like it’s the Heidi trademark, she associates that with a joke and makes Nicole laugh and concentrates in no time. After some tips from Grace Woman on posing and managing Grace’s anxiety, another fun and relatable moment, Ru returns to the workshop for a visit.
The first are Jaida and Bethany. Ru asks Bethany to bring her daughters to DragCon, Ru’s annual drag fan convention. Bethany is passionate about the positive experience this has for her daughters and encourages other parents to take their children along. Although she may be a DragCon veteran, Bethany has never dragged or even worn false eyelashes before. Fortunately, Jaida has a lot of makeup experience on the drag racing circuit, and she is confident that she will do well with her daughter. Next are Sherry and Janet. At six feet tall, Janet used to stand out, but it took training to keep from sagging and trying to hide. The insecurity of her childhood has almost disappeared now; she became quite the character. Janet legally changed her name to Janet the planet over 20 years ago. It is ideal for theatrical Sherry.
Ru then heads to Gigi and Shea, who seem to get along well and wear matching black and white hats. Like Jackie, Gigi is very aware that she is hesitating and needs to step up her game, and her conversation with Ru highlights this. Ru moves to Heidi and Nicole, overtaking Heidi “Heidi Afrodite” and explaining their banter to Nicole. Nicole then reveals her insecurities and how she tends to hide in her wardrobe, on which Ru rushes. Ru firmly believes in drag as an inner self-revelation, and she urges Nicole to stop hiding. Grace is a bundle of nervous, chuckling energy when Ru gets closer to her and Crystal. They’re in sync and seem fine, and Ru quickly goes to Jackie and
Tiffany Snacky. Ru pushes Jackie to his lower placement in the previous episode and Jackie promises more energy and driving. Before leaving, Ru announces a twist: the super-fans will synchronize the lips for their life and will walk on the track.
After some gossip and fun in the work room, the queens take their super fans to the main stage to practice their lip synchronization. Bethany still struggles with his heels, but everyone is having fun. It’s a beautiful last moment of tension. Jaida is a fantastic makeup artist – her fast streak is ridiculous – but if Bethany stumbles on the runway, there is so much makeup that can do. The next day, the superfans are delighted and ready to kill. There is a lot of noisy energy in the room, but also some more touching moments. Jaida and Bethany bond as Jaida paints her face, Jaida opens up on how much she misses her 12-year-old boyfriend, and Jackie and Tiffany talk about their relationships with their parents. Jackie’s mother may not know she’s hanging out, but her father is a big fan.
Watching the painting of the queens is always interesting, but watching their girls’ faces slide halfway is particularly fun. There is a broad spectrum. Jackie opts for a very natural face for Tiffany and on the other hand, Crystal paints Grace in yellow. The face reveals that it’s not as transformative as usual, but they still satisfy and the editors wisely keep most of them for the track. Ru comes out in a sparkling purple dress and greets Michelle and Ross again, who is plugging in her new book, Name Drop. Guest judge Daisy Ridley is immediately on hand, joining a lightsaber joke, and it’s time for the track.
The category is: Drag family resemblance. The first are Heidi Afrodite and Honey Almighty. Heidi is in a pink sequin jumpsuit with dramatic long sleeves and an afro, while Honey is in a lilac mini dress and curls. Honey looks cute and is much more confident than her reserves earlier in the episode, but there is little family resemblance. Jackie Cox and Lil ’Snacky Cox are second, which maintains the disco theme. They are in matching red and black, with Jackie in a red jumpsuit with black accents and Snacky in a black romper with red accents. There is a clear family resemblance, but compared to the others, they are not at all memorable. Jaida and Jazz Essence Hall, on the other hand, are in matching but distinct red animal print dresses with red boas, Jaida in a long evening dress and Jazz in a cocktail dress. Their hair and faces match, although Jaida is in a brown wavy bob and Jazz in a blonde, and both are painted for the gods. Despite his previous heel woes, Jazz leaves the track, making his way without dropping the name Essence Hall.
When Crystal and Opal Methyd go out under the names of Bert and Ernie, Grace’s strange painting in the workroom takes a bit of context and they both look awesome. This is one of the most daring makeover choices Drag race history and Crystal nail it. Opal is Bert, in a long colorful dress with vertical stripes and a big black bun, while Crystal is Ernie, in green pants, a shirt with horizontal stripes and a wig with black tips. The opal is crystal yellow and orange, but their makeup is still distinctly methyric, with Crystal’s standard glittery lips and eyes, and they both sport voluminous statement jewelry. Sherry Pie and Tara Misu are next, served from 1950s restaurant waitresses. Sherry is in red and Tara in yellow – ketchup and mustard – and they’re both ready to take orders. The painting is perfect, to the point where it is difficult to say who is who, and Janet is fully in her element. Finally, Gigi Goode and Bebe Bad, matching dresses and hats in black and white synthetic fur coats. Gigi has painted Shea well and they have matching blonde and black bobs, but even if they look great, it’s hard not to want more. However, they do it on the track and really sell their dynamics, improving their performance.
It’s time for judge criticism, and looking at the queens and super-fans together, the season 12 contestants have outdone themselves once again. Superfans look great. However, there is a clear delimitation. The judges read Heidi so as not to be more creative with her approach to Honey’s look and to find more ways to cement a family resemblance. As for Jackie, in a weaker season, she would sail safely. In this competition, it’s not enough. The judges are gaga for Jaida and Crystal, they really like the position of Sherry and are mixed on Gigi, Ross appreciating his chic look and Michelle wanting more. After congratulating Jaida on its excellent pairings, Ru announces lip synchronization and the superfans dive into RuPaul’s “U Wear It Well”. They all do, Snacky parting, Bebe ending in a dip, and the others strut around and make sure to get their words out. It’s a fun addition to the makeover and a more festive way to finish the track, rather than on judge’s criticism.
After deliberation, Jaida won, winning a tip of $ 5,000 for herself and a $ 5,000 gift certificate from Betsey Johnson for Jazz. Gigi, Crystal and Sherry are safe, leaving Jackie and Heidi in the background. They synchronize on the lips with Alex Newell’s “Kill The Lights” and this is where the episode lets go. After the last two lip synchronizations, “This is my night” by Jan and Widow and “Firework” by Widow and Jackie, expectations are high for Jackie and Heidi. The two have fun moments, with Heidi especially in the mood for the song, but neither performance has much progression. Heidi opts for a simple interpretation, while Jackie opts for comedy, embodying a scary and too intense woman who does not realize that they are coming too strong. Unlike “Firework”, where Jackie’s comedic debut has turned into something new, his “Kill The Lights” is static and ages quickly.
Some may prefer Jackie’s interpretation, that viewer would have given it to Heidi, but either way, it doesn’t have the energy of a double shantay performance, especially after the last two tough eliminations. Ru refuses to eliminate someone because the super-fans are there and the producers don’t want to rain on their parade. When there are two queens who deserve to be down and who don’t seem likely to move up the rankings in the next episode, and lip sync is only good, not great? Now is not the time for a double shantay. That said, it’s hard to complain about an extra week with Jackie or Heidi, both charming and talented. Hopefully one of them can knock out Sherry in the next episode. After this episode, however, it seems unlikely. It will be exciting to see them try.
- Jaida as mother of the den is adorable. His exchange with Janet has nuances of Bianca Del Rio’s reluctant season six mom, and I’m here for that.
- The shade and the jokes among the queens and superfans in the workroom are delightful. Bring people connected to Drag race, rather than individual queens, allows for the play and excitement of the show by inviting queens’ family and friends without sacrificing the energy of getting to know each other to impersonate strangers. It was a smart choice.
- Jaida’s take on Bethany’s shoe woes – if you have to cut a pink toe to fit, cut the pink toe – is Cinderella’s evil stepmother. I don’t know how Bethany did it for Jaida, although I expect the publishers to be nice, but she did.
- Only one makeover winner has ever made it to this season’s final, Miz Cracker in season 10. After his last two wins, Jaida is locked into the final. Gigi and Sherry also seem almost certain, and it will take a long time for Heidi or Jackie to oust Crystal. Someone will have to make a big mistake, and these queens don’t seem likely to slip.
- Daisy Ridley is another strong guest judge in a season full of them. She’s not at the level of Leslie, Nicki and Rachel, but it’s a treat to watch.