Going into season 10 of RuPaul’s Drag Race, Monét X Change was one of the most hyped queens of the competition, or maybe that is just because the New York City queens I follow on Instagram are always posting her performances on their stories. The same goes for Mayhem Miller. Much like Monét, who is a drag progeny of former Drag Race winner Bob the Drag Queen, Mayhem is from a prestigious LA drag family that includes Detox, Delta Werk, and Morgan McMichaels. She’s one of those queens the boys in WeHo are always raving about.
So why were these two lip syncing for their lives, each for the second time? For different variations of the same reason: they’re great queens who aren’t great at Drag Race. Monét has personality to spare and is very funny. She’s also the best lip sync assassin we’ve seen in years, as evinced by her performances the last two weeks. The problem is she doesn’t quite have the full costumes and makeup like an Aquaria. Just take her “Denim and Diamonds” number from this episode. Yes, it looked great, and would probably look wonderful in a club on a dark stage. But under the bright lights of this show, it looked like an ill-fitting mess.
The other New York queens alleged that Monét has always been lazy about her drag (a criticism that Peppermint also faced, even thought that took her to the final four in season nine) and it’s starting to show. You can become a successful New York City drag queen relying on personality alone. But when that big personality didn’t show up to the improv challenge and she got outshined by the normally mute Kameron Michaels (in a surprisingly good performance), she had nothing to fall back on.
Mayhem actually had the opposite problem. Her looks are always fierce, including her “Chocolate Judd” meets JonBenét Ramsay dress on the runway, but she never really found a way to stand out in the competition. Her personality never popped, her performance never wowed, and she never brought anything more than a great face and wonderful taste. Her final lip sync was professional, but it didn’t have the flair of comedy and originality that Monét showed. Much like her drag sister Morgan McMichaels, Mayhem is one of those queens whose ample talents just don’t translate well to this particular format. Which is why she was sent home.
Speaking of which, it’s a little odd that we’re five weeks into the competition and there isn’t yet a standout star or clear favorite. Miz Cracker has done the most to get herself on the runway repeatedly for good critiques. Eureka, this week’s deserving winner for baring all as a sexy baby and giving us Reba McEntire realness, was a known quantity thanks to showing up last season. Aquaria and The Vixen, who both have wins, are differentiated more for screaming at each other than they are because of their actual drag talents. My personal favorite is Asia O’Hara, but she’s been more hit and miss than a drunk dude at an axe throwing party in a blindfold.
There are some highlights—Blair St. Clair is an underappreciated dark horse, Monique Heart gives great confessional, Kameron Michaels shocks every time he bothers to actually do something—but so far no one is like, Oh my god, she’s a star.
That’s with one exception: Vanessa Vanjie Mateo. She has been a highlight every episode, whether it is the queens just echoing her now famous “Miss Vaaanjie” exit in the work room, Blair using it as her safe word in the improv challenge, or Michelle Visage saying it to crack RuPaul up on the judging panel. That exit was instantly iconic, and I don’t know if production picked up on that or if they’ve been leaning into it since she’s become a meme, but the most delight I’ve taken from any of the queens this season is from her, and she hasn’t even been on the show for four weeks. It’s a small consolation to know that she’ll inevitably get an invitation to return and prove herself à la Cynthia Lee Fontaine. (But we all know how well that worked out for Mx. Cucu.)
This weeks’ challenge was inspired by RuPaul’s appearance on Geraldo Rivera’s talk show, where she told everyone to love themselves. She’s been on message for several decades, honey.
The queens had to pair off and improv with each other on the set of Bossy Rossy, a trashy daytime talk show hosted by Ross Matthews that I would DVR every day if it actually existed.
I’m going to let you all in on a little secret: No one likes improv. Yes, I know all of you people who want to be comedians go and take improv classes and everyone tells you how wonderful you were at your “graduation” but they are only there because of emotional blackmail. They do not actually want to be there. If there was this huge thirst for improv there would be star-studded teams that pack arenas doing it. There are not. There are just small, dark rooms on the coasts packed with people who are tricking themselves into laughing while drinking overpriced craft beers they bought from a guy with a beard in the lobby.
Drag queens do not need to know improv. Sure, they need to be able to think quickly on their feet and interact with a crowd—so why don’t we give them a show-hosting challenge? Make them go up against the undisputed queen of the genre, Bianca Del Rio. But improv? No. Never. No one wants it. Sure, each season there are a few stand outs, like Eureka throwing a temper tantrum, Monique really bringing it with a cactus, but those alone do not warrant the brutal awkwardness and humiliation of everyone else.
Just like you don’t want to sit through your accountant’s post-graduate education, no one wants to be there for some light comedic “yes, and”-ing. Make it stop, RuPaul. Please, make it stop forever.
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