Entertainment

‘RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars’ Recap: Justice for Shangela

The season finale gave us a deserving winner. It also gave us a stupid twist and an unspeakable final two.
Images via VH1

This post contains spoilers for the March 15 episode of RuPaul's Drag Race All Stars.

Shangela was robbed. Here is a queen who slayed week in and week out, delivered the most memorable moments of the entire season, proved that she could master anything that was thrown at her, and absolutely annihilated the final challenge and runway—and she didn’t even rank among the final two due to a stupid twist that was totally unfair.

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The eliminated queens got to come back and decide whomst among Shangela, Trixie Mattel (who has a show on our TV channel, VICELAND), BeBe Zahara Benet, and Kennedy Davenport got to lip sync for their legacy. This is similar to how the “jury” works on many other competitive reality shows, like Survivor or Big Brother, except that those contestants know that, eventually, the eliminated will come back for their final judgment. Three of the people sitting on that couch with her fate in their hands ended up on that couch because Shangela put them there. In the end, is that what ended up punishing her? At least contestants on Survivor know going into it that there will be a jury and can plan their game according.

The voting for the final two completely baffles me. VH1 posted a video on Twitter showing which lipsticks everyone pulled and it turns out that nearly everyone voted for Kennedy. The only person who voted for Shangela was Thorgy Thor. You know we live in a crazy time when Thorgy, the Ruth Buzzi of drag, is the only one who can make the correct decision. Morgan McMichaels even voted for BeBe who hasn’t done anything except wear animal prints and stick her head in a gumball machine full of fake crystals every week.

None of this should take away from Trixie Mattel, who is certainly a deserving winner. Sure, she’s no lip sync assassin, as she would admit, but she was consistently funny, tried exciting things, and has a style of drag that no one else could imitate even if they wanted to.

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Trixie was also excellent in the final challenge, an intricate production number filmed in one take like a homosexual version of Birdman. It’s truly one of the most ambitious things this show has ever done and I had to rewind it four times to keep yelling, “Werk, bitch!” at my television. Each girl had to write and record a solo verse for RuPaul’s song “Kitty Girl” and Kennedy was up first. She was the only one who sung her solo and she actually did quite a nice job. She’s also an excellent dancer but, as always, her drag looked like something you would have found on a Tap Dancing Queen Barbie from 1982. If Stevie Nicks has “Leather and Lace,” Kennedy’s theme song would be “Velvet and Crystals”.

Shangela took over from her and killed with a flawless flow and a black sequined jumpsuit (really the uniform of hard working queens everywhere). Her energy alone stole the spotlight from all the moving parts around her.

Since BeBe can’t dance, she was stuck behind a sewing machine for most of her section. Ironic, as she can’t sew either. She wore a gold leotard to show that she’s different from the other two, but I swear that she wore the same wig as she did in the season one finale a decade ago.

Finally it was Trixie’s turn and she tentatively delivered her lines in the sadly familiar cadence of white girls rapping. Couldn’t she have busted out just a little Autoharp? She wore a purple leotard with some Dolly Party fringe on the sleeves and a purple wig and it’s probably the best that Trixie has looked in a very long time. She gave us serious drag glam while also delivering a chuckle or two, which is her patented style.

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When they came out on the finale runway, the category was basically “Just Bring It, Girl.” BeBe, as usual, gave full Cheetara realness complete with a Party City leopard mask on her head and her face sticking out of a circle of lycra that made her look like Ornacia, even though she has no clue who that is.

Kennedy wore a dress made out sequined rainbow flames. She looked like she’s the drag queen cover model for the Houston gay newspaper’s Pride edition. This, in a nutshell, is Kennedy’s drag. It’s ornate and outrageous, but it’s also tacky, uninspired, and less original than a baking soda volcano at a fifth grade science fair. Also, as Trixie pointed out, it’s just another version of the dress she wore on her original season. (Michelle Visage read her for it then, and she read her for it now.)


When Shangela stepped out from behind the curtains I actually gasped like I just dropped the last of my molly in the bathroom at Berghain. She looked absolutely stunning in a grey sparkly dress that reminded me of the ceiling of a bank in a really expensive neighborhood. She had an ombre, multi-leveled wig and she looked not even like a star, but a whole planetarium.

I think Trixie might have done her one better,. Her gown was equally gorgeous and gave us a parody of a noir bombshell—but no one could have pulled this look off but Trixie. Maybe it’s because she was wearing one of the poodles from Edward Scissorhands on her head as well. Not only was it stunning, but it was individual and, honestly, could've been the reason she won.

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Though I totally disagree with how the eliminated queens voted, I’m glad that they were back mostly because they looked amazing. Milk had on a sweater that made her look like an anatomy model with her guts spilling out everywhere. Morgan McMichaels seemed dressed as a chorus member in a movie musical about the life of Joan Crawford. Aja killed in pale makeup and horns. I wonder if these were the finale looks these queens would have pulled, because they were all immortal legends.

So why did the immaculate looking ladies vote for Kennedy over Shangela? I can only surmise it’s one of two reasons: those like ChiChi who were just voting for their best Judy and those who voted out of pity. Aja said that, of the remaining four, she could use the title the most. It wasn’t that she deserved it, but rather her career could use a boost in a way that none of the other queens could. She’s not wrong. BeBe is already a winner (but probably in need of a boost as well) and Shangela and Trixie have maximized the exposure the show gave them into profitable careers in the drag world.

Which actually made me a little bit sad for the show. The Drag Race Industrial Complex,—where the contestants on the show go on to make lots of money touring, making appearances, and selling merch—is almost more important than the competition itself. The queens don’t care whether or not they come out on top, only that they amass a big enough Instagram following that they can monetize it once they're off the show.

Kennedy saying that she needs it is the Communist Party theory of Drag Race. Many viewers expected the show to be akin to a meritocracy, where true talent eventually wins out over all the other bullshit and drama you see on most other reality shows. That is not the case anymore. And if these queens wanted to help Kennedy’s career, they should have helped her redo her LinkedIn page, not give her a spot in the final two that really belonged to Shangela.

Trixie eventually triumphed in a mediocre lip sync that neither of them slayed. What saddens me the most is that Shangela changed into her final lip sync outfit and it was a gold shimmery pom-pom which you know held about 17 million reveals. Now, thanks to the jerky jury, we’ll never get to see it.

Yes, Trixie is a worthy winner, but this whole season seemed a bit tainted by an endless number of twists that it didn’t really need. It’s like the producers were trying to get us to gag each and every week and they made us gag so much that we all finally vomited. The reason people are obsessed with this show is because of the talent and versatility of the contestants. When Drag Race lets that shine, it’s one of the best things on the television. Instead the production mucked it all up with arbitrary rule changes that not only felt completely unnecessary but also totally unfair. Trixie was right, it turns out this was RuPaul’s Best Friend Race all along, and that is the last thing that anyone wanted. Especially Shangela.

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