For the past couple of months, I have been watching RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars 3 like an addict. There were times where I genuinely hated what I was seeing, there were moments where I wanted nothing more than to walk away from it. Yet every week I found myself drawn back, binging in every detail until each episode was over and all that was left were the feelings of guilt and promises of never doing it again.
Don’t get me wrong, I adore Drag Race, and as an avid drag fan I was just as gagged as everyone else to find out that we were getting another addition to the All Stars hall of fame so soon after my own personal favourite queen took her long-awaited place in the Drag Race Hall of Fame. But where All Stars 2 had fixed everything that was wrong with its first incarnation, All Stars 3 was broken beyond repair.
The although amusing were lacklustre, for every queen announced another name sprung to mind as a potentially more entertaining preference and with the promise of a previous winner in the coveted tenth spot, there was controversy before we even got going.
When the series finally began and the winner of Season 1 walked out as a competitor the game changed and not in a good way. Bebe is a fierce queen and should always be a respected member of the Hall of Fame. The mistake made here was thinking that bringing her back would showcase what she had to bring to a new audience, it’s just a shame that what she had to bring was something we’ve seen many times before from her. Recycling the same looks you used to win ten years ago, does not shout inspired queen. It shouts tired queen.
There were moments where we were truly gagged though. Aja, for instance, was never my favourite queen. Yet from the start she brought it and made sure every other queen knew that she was there to play the game. I found myself rooting for her and so it shouldn’t have surprised me when the other queens decided that she had gone far enough.
The biggest shock for me came from Ben Dela Creme. My personal favourite and if we’re honest, the only real competition in the show. Dela came back to prove to herself that she not only had it but that she could use it. And use it she did, over and over again. Proving that just because she is congenial that she is by no means a pushover. Dela left of her own volition, and some found this almost too difficult to take.
Drag Race isn’t just a completion though. It’s a job interview, you are literally competing for the right to represent the Drag Race girls not just for the year that you wear the crown, but for the rest of your career in drag. Becoming a Ru girl means that the fans love you, and demand you to be on top form at all times.
Look at Brian McCook, I use his real name as he is currently on hiatus from Drag. Brian portrays the character Katya and portrays her well. I managed to get tickets to see her in Glasgow in February, so naturally, a week after the tickets arrived and the gig was postponed for a year I was a tad upset. But not with Brian, he made that decision because it was the best thing for him. Imagine only being known for the character you play, being forced at all times to be a version of yourself that is over the top and at a 12 out of 10 at any given moment. Never getting to ‘be yourself’ Brian’s hiatus, in my opinion, shows just how hard being a Ru girl must actually be and I wish him all the best in his recovery.
Back to BenDela. Dela made a decision to walk away, rather than run to the finish line because she achieved everything she set out to achieve and more. But the cost of this decision was an open-ended race with only one clear front-runner. Shangela.
The final curveball of the season came when the eliminated queens returned to pick the top two queens of the season. The game was rigged, and every decision that had been made before, every alliance sought, every friendship tested. The returning queens made decisions based on personal opinions instead of reflecting on the efforts of the competition.
At the end of the day, only one person gets to walk away with the crown. But for the first time, it has been well and truly snatched, and the queen who now has her place in the Hall of Fame has to accept that she is a winner by proxy and not by merit.
Winner, winner, chicken dinner. Burnt and blacked, and tasting like ash.