Thus far, there have been a lot of dramatic firsts on this season of RuPaul's Drag Race: the first queen ever sent home due to injury, the first time Ru had to stop a lip sync, and the first time there has ever been a final four queens heading into the finale instead of three. Yes, it was a big shock when producers decided to hold on to an extra contender on last week's penultimate episode. We're left with leotard-and-thigh-highs model Shea Couleé, human American Studies thesis Sasha Velour, Restylane spokesmodel Trinity Taylor, and the ever-thirsty Peppermint.
But in a season full of high drama, low blows and filthy reads, which of these ladies deserves to win? We asked prominent queens from the drag community to weigh in.
"For me, it's about putting points on the board. Whoever won the most things gets the sparkly shiny hat," said Alaska Thunderfuck, winner of last year's Drag Race All Stars 2. "So as far as season nine goes—I do the math. Whoever won the most challenges should win. Period." That means Alaska is squarely in Shea's camp, who has won four challenges so far, though two of them were joint wins with Sasha. Trinity only has three wins to her name, Sasha has two (shared with Shea), and poor Peppermint has won but one measly challenge this entire season. But that doesn't mean Peppermint doesn't have her fair share of support. "I'm definitely rooting for my New York girls Sasha and Peppermint," said Jiggly Caliente, a contestant on Drag Race's fourth season. Pressed further, though, and her true loyalty began to reveal itself: she's rooting for Peppermint. "I think she would bring a different vibe to the crown, and she's such a New York legend that she deserves this moment. She's an amazing performer and entertainer. And she wasn't ever at one point in the show a cunt."
Miz Cracker, a New York-based drag queen and writer who has previously written for VICE, shares Jiggly's feelings. "Peppermint falls down in clothes, but those are things that other people can make for you," she said. "If she wins she would take her charisma and confidence and the stride she hits when she's not out of her element [on the show], where she's not constrained."
While it's still anyone's game to take home the crown, one of the biggest complaints about this season from viewers is how bad it is compared to past seasons. Our veteran queens, however, have words for hard-to-please fans. "I think the fans need to stop comparing every girl to somebody else," Jiggly said. "There is only one Raja. There is only one Jiggly. There is only one Sharon [Needles]. You can't compare the girls from past seasons to the girls now. They're their own kind of monster. Everyone has their own signature, and Ru and the show are great at finding that uniqueness about each girl. I think it's crazy that fans are like, 'They're not as good, no one can lip sync.' That's not the point. These are different girls."
Miz Cracker disagreed. "To be honest, no one was really interesting at the beginning [of this season]," she said, adding that as the field narrowed down, this season's contestants got a lot more interesting. Still, she doesn't understand the hate leveled at one queen in particular: Alexis Michelle. Fans loved to hate on this mediocre theater queen, who somehow managed to make it to the top five. (You can tell I'm still peeved.) Miz, however, is above the shade of it all. "It's like a scene from Game of Thrones with her: shame, shame," she said. "I don't think any human being merits the kind of malice she's gotten."
One of this season's other major controversies involved how shabby RuPaul's hair and makeup looked compared to the other seasons of the show. Fans attributed this to the departure of longtime hair and makeup artist Mathu Andersen. Ru's new team is comprised of Raven, a season two contestant who is also a professional makeup artist, and Delta Work, a season three contestant who was put in charge of styling the wigs. That wasn't enough to please Drag Race stans. "I think she looks about the same," Miz Cracker said. "Every time she walks out on the catwalk, I always think she looks like a Chipotle Burrito in foil. She always looks like shit to me. It got better though. There were a few times this season where I was like, 'This look I'm actually here for.'"
Season nine also marked the first time the show aired on VH1, a big bump from its longtime home on Logo, Viacom's LGBTQ channel (and graveyard for old episodes of Roseanne). That meant two big things. First, its time slot shifted from Monday nights to Friday nights, pissing off plenty of fans, as well as gay bar owners, who counted on Drag Race viewing parties as a reliable source of crowds for a night that's usually otherwise dead. Considering the dire financial straits many gay bars face, it wasn't Drag Race's finest gift to the queer community.
The other big change? This season marked the first time the show was broadcast in high definition, which meant a hell of a time for girls with subpar makeup skills (*coughs* Aja *coughs*) or bad skin. "HD is unforgiving. Drag should be on a filtered basis," Jiggly said. "Not every girl could handle the high def. All tea, all shade: HD has been the shadiest queen of the season. You see every pore. I remember watching on a huge HD screen and thinking, 'Oh, no ma'am! That's rude.' You have to be a completely polished, perfected individual in your artistry because if not, then man oh man."
"But I have really good skin, so I would have been okay," Jiggly added.
Regardless of how pissy Drag Race's fans have been this season, how shitty all its queens looked, and just who takes home the crown during next Friday's final episode, one thing's for sure: this has been the show's highest-rated season yet. Hopefully it'll be just as big when it comes back next season, and the queens will find some decent cosmetics sponsors to handle a lens without Instagram filters.
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