After a season of things being labeled “hot tranny messes,” it is only fitting that PR finally embraces a drag queen challenge full-on. While some may argue the Ladies of Wrestling challenge came close, I don’t think any self-respecting drag queen would actually wear those get-ups. Plus, drag queens are family friendly enough these days for the 8/9 p.m. television hour: their campiness mitigates any threat of a 6’5” man in four inch heels and they’re used to commodify alternative sexuality at places like Lucky Cheng’s and make it more widely acceptable. It’s almost weird they haven’t done this sooner.
Meet the Drag Queens.
The morning after the last challenge we learn a very disturbing truth: Stella looks seriously rough in the a.m. Then it’s time for the magical elves to bust out the foreshadowing gnomes and we all play “guess the outcome” in the first five minutes of the show. First we have Korto telling us that it is shocking that Kelli went home last challenge and Daniel stayed; she also thinks it’s not a good idea to play it safe in all the challenges. Meanwhile, Joe and Blayne talk about Keith’s win: Joe thinks rough-edged layers of chiffon is not all that innovative and thinks Keith’s aesthetic is “strips” and “swatches” (but not the cool 80’s watches).
The designers sit anxiously along the runway at Parsons and Heidi shows up with the constant velvet bag. Then, behind the curtain at the back of the runway, someone—or some THING—casts a giant shadow of woman in a long gown with a huge helmet with horns on it. But the cackle gives him away—it’s Chris March! In drag! He’s got a long white gown on, a bustier made of disco balls cut in half, and a Germanic opera-like helmet thing that looks like it would snap my neck if I wore it. Chris tells the designers that it’s a drag queen challenge and he’s brought some ladies for the designers to work with. Terri is happy because she loves drag queens. Korto is impressed with their size and Stella thinks this will be a tough challenge.
The drag queens are introduced: Farrah Moans, a platinum blonde in a stunning red gown who is all about romance; Miss Understood, who looks to be a cross between Bette Midler and Phyllis Diller with bright pink hair and blue lipstick; Sweetie, who is known as NYC’s big-breasted honky soul momma and wears a black and silver zebra-like striped dress with red sleeve accents; Luisa Verde, who is dressed in early 60’s vintage and has the deepest voice on the show…ever; Hedda Lettuce, in green (including green in her hair) who wants to be made prettier than Heidi or the designer will face death; Sharon Needles, who is dressed in black, has seriously over-tweezed eyebrows and proclaims herself to be dangerous; LeMay, an understated girl who loves vintage fabric; Annida Greenkard, who has a huge, cascading black curly wig on, is the designer’s “South American banquet”; Sherry Vine, who says she’s NYC’s Las Vegas sex kitten and bears a remarkable resemblance to a young Jenna Jameson; Acid Betty, in the weirdest wig I’ve seen this side of ANTM, who says she’s the “fiercest hybrid drag queen in NYC”; and last but not least, Varla Jean Merman, who sports a flowing, red, fairy-tale-princess-like hair and says she’s a southern Ann-Margret on steroids.
Chris encourages the designers to be theatrical and over-the top with the designs and then Heidi lets the designers pick their clients. Keith, for his win last time, gets to pick first and chooses Sherry Vine for her legs. The rest of the selection breaks down like this: Daniel picks Annida Greenkard Blayne picks Miss Understood; Kenley picks Farrah Moans; Joe picks Varla Jean Merman; Korto picks Sweetie; Suede picks Hedda Lettuce; Leanne picks Sharon Needles; Jerell picks LeMay, Terri picks Acid Betty; and Stella picks Luisa Verde.
$50 for anyone who slaps Blayne next time he uses –licious.
Off the designers go to the workroom, where Tim tells them that each client has a very particular persona and that persona must be portrayed in the design. If there were ever a time to go over-the-top, it is now. The designers will have thirty minutes to consult with their clients, $200 to shop for fabrics, and the rest of the day and the whole next day to make the looks. Tim also adds that all of the designs will be auctioned off to benefit an AIDS charity.
Jerell consults with LeMay, who says she doesn’t go too costume-y. Korto’s client, Sweetie, says she likes fire colors—red, orange, and gold. Blayne is happy with Miss Understood, because she also likes bright, crazy colors. Suede finds Hedda Lettuce to want a wild, yet tasteful outfit. Stella, as usual, promises an outfit with grommets. Leanne plans on making a futuristic, fashion-forward look out of the Jetsons. Joe admits he’s pretty much out of his depth and is approaching the challenge like he’s making a Halloween costume for one of his daughters. Yes, Joe, we get it—you’re straight. Daniel finds his client, Annida, to be a bit of a glamazon with tastes tending toward the bold, but he wants to make something with a couture edge.
Of course, there’s the usual rush through Mood; Terri has to buy a lot of fabric for her 7-foot tall client, Acid Betty. Stella promises a combination of the lady-like look her client wants but with her usual “slick” design aesthetic. Kenley sees Farrah Moan as Marilyn Monroe-like, so she’s going for an over-the-top old Hollywood look. Soon enough, Tim calls time and it’s back to Parson’s.
There are still 12 hours on the clock for this first day of work. Tim says the winner will have immunity and Keith grouses a bit that he deserved immunity for winning the last challenge. The first task is to make the men’s mannequins look like drag queens, and luckily Joe’s client left her bra and inserts behind to help him. Korto says she’s out of her comfort zone because not only is this a drag queen challenge, her client is plus-sized. Joe decides not to stress about the weirdness of the challenge and just have fun with it. However, everyone’s fun is quickly dampened by an onslaught of “–licious” comments spewing from Blayne’s mouth. Everyone, including me, just wants him to shut the hell up.
A whole lot of feathers, sequins, and drama.
The second day of sewing dawns and Jerell is making a big collar for LeMay. We get a bit of background on Jerell as well: he says he comes from a lower middle class family and was brought up with a survival instinct. He says he has to really go for it in the challenge to stay in the competition. If it were up to Leanne, he’d do well; she thinks his outfit is beautiful.
Just to mix it up a bit, we also get a bit of background about Suede. He tells us that he was day-dreaming while working on his garment and suddenly his dead grandfather came to him. He says that his grandfather was a gardener and that made him think of bibb lettuce. So he sews on all these tiny bibb lettuce heads on the long gloves for Hedda. Jerell comments that it looks good and Suede gets a bit misty thinking about his grandfather. Now, this is some serious foreshadowing mojo—both somewhat sad back stories on Jerell and Suede. What does this mean?!?!
Kenley, despite her sometimes annoying habit of not using an internal filter, says what everyone is thinking about Keith’s outfit. He’s doing fringe again, and it is the same thing every week; making it worse, the dress has no color and no sequins. Keith says that he’s going to sculpt the black, grey and white fringe into something and he has several other fringe techniques up his sleeves. This smacks of pointless bragging to me, kind of like when Axl Rose professed he had seven different singing voices: it may be the case, but all of them suck.
Tim then sends in the clients for an early fitting. Well, they do come in, but all of the flamboyant drag queens show up dressed as ordinary, and kind of shlubby, dudes. LeMay isn’t thrilled with Jerell’s collar—it’s a bit too closed up. Varla, Joe’s client, thinks the outfit looks a bit “pink Elvis” and suggests some changes to make it a more nautical look. Joe likes the idea and will make changes. Luisa says she’ll crack a rib to fit into Stella’s design. But not nearly as supportive as the rest is Hedda Lettuce. She thinks Suede’s outfit is a bit Godzilla-ish and calls him lazy for making gloves and not sleeves. She also thinks the little bibb lettuce things look like barnacles. Suede becomes understandably nervous about being thrown under the proverbial bus by Hedda.
With six hours left to go, Tim and Chris March come in to check on the designers. They check out Korto’s “Woman in Heat” outfit for Sweetie. It has sequined “flames” coming out of the collar and it is a pretty wild look. Chris likes the sculptural flames a lot; Korto worries about the skirt and the tulle that she may add to it. Chris suggests making the tulle removable.
Tim and Chris then check out Blayne’s look for Miss Understood; it has these weird pointy things that come out of the back and look like freaky wings with streamers. Tim aptly describes the look as a pterodactyl out of a gay Jurassic Park and says Blayne has a lot of work to do. Checking in on Joe, Chris sees Varla right away in the look; both he and Tim like it.
Tim and Chris make their way over to see Suede; he recounts Hedda’s comments and Tim says she was too mean. Suede shows them the gloves he made and Chris likes them; Tim says Suede should make her wear them and tell her that he’s “been to a different rodeo!” Clearly I’m missing all the good rodeos, where long satin gloves are the rage. They move on to check out Keith’s fringe thing; Keith says he plans on sculpting the fringe while the dress is on Sherry Vine. No one is that excited by the dress but both Tim and Chris agree it needs some shape. Tim and Chris then briefly check in on Daniel; Chris likes the skirt—it is fairly flamenco-like—but the top is very plain. Tim says Daniel should do a lot of work on the top, but Daniel isn’t having any of it. Damn it, Daniel—you ought to know what happens when you don’t listen to Tim Gunn!
Finally, the day of the runway show arrives. Everyone is visibly exhausted but Jerell can’t wait to see how Keith’s “Wookiee onesie” turns out. Thank you Jerell, for the most apt description of the freaky fringe dress!
At Parsons, there is the usual last-minute sewing and then Tim comes in. He’s excited and thinks it’s going to be the best runway show ever! After hair and makeup, Sherry doesn’t want Keith to cut back the fringe so he leaves it as-is. Suede then has a talk with Hedda about her comments the day before. Hedda asks Suede, a bit sadistically, I might add, if Suede had a break-down after she critiqued the outfit. They then kinda/sorta make up, but Hedda never loses the mocking edge to her tone. It’s then time for the runway show; Korto knows that her crazy outfit of flames is not a safe choice at all and Stella worries that Jerell’s outfit is just too klassy.
Finally, some models who really know how to work a runway.
Goodie gumdrops, it’s time for the drag queen runway show! Our judges for tonight are the usual Michael Kors and Nina Garcia and RuPaul is the guest judge. As many have commented in the discussion thread, RuPaul looks off—gaunt, a bit too much pale makeup, and I want to feed her a sandwich. These looks come down the runway:
Kenley’s look for Farrah Moans is a long, liquid silver gown with black and white feathers coming out of the back like wings. It is pretty and Marilyn Monroe-ish, but not all that over the top.
Blayne’s outfit for Miss Understood is a short dress, black hem and cummerbund but there are also magenta side panels and a sparkly teal front panel insert. The back has the pink “wings” with long streamers hanging from them. It’s still a bit pterodactyl-looking.
Joe’s hot pink sequined jumpsuit for Varla Jean Merman is supposed to convey Ann-Margret on The Love Boat. It’s tight and accents all of her curves, so it works pretty well.
Stella’s dress for Luisa Verde is a long gown, made mostly of black, sparkly fabric and has a train. She’s used a bright pink plaid in down the front of the dress and in the middle of the train. It’s kind of Alexander McQueen-meets-Goth and has some grommets on it. For some reason, it’s my favorite look…probably because I spent the weekend with some Goths.
Suede’s short dress for Hedda Lettuce is sparkly and light green. The skirt is very short and satin (but with a messy hem) and the top has short sleeves and the bottom fans out over the waist. Suede convinced her to wear the gloves after all.
Daniel’s flamenco dress for Annida Greenkard is a froth of pink, yellow, and orange chiffon fabric in layers. It flows nicely and has a pretty train but there’s not a whole lot “drag” about it.
Terri’s kabuki outfit for Acid Betty is next. The middle has a sequined black and orange corset and there’s a short white skirt under it. The sleeves are long and hang long, over the arm, nearly on to the floor. They’re mostly white but with a blue and black striped fabric down the center. Something about it reminds me of church vestments.
Jerell’s outfit for LeMay is a short, sparkly green and blue dress with fringe at bottom. The collar is wide and full and pops up to frame her whole head. It screams “lizard” to me.
Korto’s bold outfit for Sweetie is a red sequined dress with a short skirt. It has the flame pieces jutting up from the neckline and a tulle red, longer half-skirt over the dress that is removable. It looks just about perfect.
Keith’s look for Sherry Vine is the fringe dress outfit. The top is maybe a jacket, with white fringe fabric on one side and black on the other. It seems to tie together in the middle. The skirt is a haphazard pile of grey, black, and white fringe and is kind of short but hangs long in some areas. There’s also a shiny silver belt in there somewhere.
Leanne’s dress for Sharon Needles is mostly black with a short skirt. It has these spiky, shiny silver fabric triangles that jet out from the skirt and the top of the shoulders. It is highly-structured.
Whomever hides the candy best reaps the rewards.
After the show ends, Blayne, Kenley, Suede, Stella, and Leanne called forward—they all are safe. As usual, the remaining designers are the top three and bottom three. Out come the client/models and the questioning starts.
Terri explains her look is a super-Samurai. RuPaul loves it, Michael thinks it’s powerful, dramatic, and has an edge. Keith then says his look was supposed to be a “sex kitten” look a la Tina Turner. Where’s Tina when you need her? She should kick his ass for defamation. Heidi thinks it’s messy, RuPaul says Keith is feeding the judges a lot of excuses, Michael thinks it looks like a molting chicken, and Nina is puzzled by the design and perplexed at his continued production of messy clothes. Turning to Joe, he says that Varla came up with the Ann-Margret on The Love Boat idea and really wanted the outfit to show off her “ass”ets. Everyone loves it, and RuPaul notes the wide belt with the angled buckle appropriately hides the candy.
Jerell says he was going for a classic Hollywood look. RuPaul notes that drag is about creating an illusion and pulling focus to the best aspects of one’s body. Jerell’s dress is too long and makes LeMay’s waist look too long. Michael adds that the dress is just too normal—it’s something one of his aunts would wear to a bar mitzvah. Korto then explains her look of fire and Sweetie’s desire for an empire waist. She adds that the dress is short to accent Sweetie’s legs. RuPaul loves the look and Nina says it is clear Korto had fun with the challenge. Michael notes that the shape is very flattering. Finally, Daniel says that he wanted to go for a softer look yet still capture the flamenco design. Nina asks him why, in a challenge where he can go completely wild with fantasy, did he not do something more eye-catching or use sequins? Daniel says that sequins make him puke. Michael says the dress is exceedingly normal and RuPaul agrees that it is just not drag…at all.
The judges dismiss the clients and contestants and debate for a bit. Terri’s kabuki outfit was interesting, Joe did a good job with the shape and the belt, and Korto was exceedingly innovative. Keith’s look was messy and unpolished, Jerell’s dress didn’t fit right and was boring, and Daniel completely missed the mark and stubbornly stuck to his one-trick-pony thing of making a cocktail dress for every challenge.
The judges have their decisions made and call the designers out again. Terri is in! Joe wins out over Korto (boo! hiss!), but of course Korto is safe. Jerell is also safe, so it comes down to Daniel and Keith. Heidi delivers the verdict by noting that Daniel did not go over-the-top, played it safe, and offered nothing but excuses. She goes on to say that Keith’s outfit was random, unpolished, and they’ve seen it before and wonder if he has anything else he can do. After a few beats, Daniel, of the impeccable high-end taste, is out and Keith stays another week.
As Daniel packs up to leave, he says he is sad but he is sure that he is extremely talented and has a good taste level. If he sticks to cocktail dresses, he may be all right, but the guy certainly needs to steer clear of drag queens. They may get a bit testy concerning the “sequins are gaudy” comment.