I wrote this as part of an application to a pop-culture website to be their television writer. The brief was to write” a reaction, not a recap” of a recent TV show episode.
I, naturally, chose to talk about RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars.
With BenDelaChrist’s Sacrifice, The All Stars Are Left Wanting More
What does it mean to be a contestant on RuPaul’s Drag Race? The hit reality show has had an undeniable effect on drag culture, becoming less a fun stage to strut one’s stuff than a necessary career move. To be on Drag Race is now a right of passage for queens who do drag professionally, a promise of, if not fortune, almost certainly fame.
What does it mean to be a contestant on RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars, then? In the wake of BenDelaCreme’s self-sacrificial exit last episode (which has already earned her the nickname “BenDelaChrist”), that question hung heavy in the workroom. The remaining queens are shook. What does mean when the front-runner decides the race isn’t worth it? BenDelaCreme left saying that she had proven everything she needed to prove, and was leaving happy. If not winning was good enough for the presumptive winner, why is everyone else still here?
At first, no one seems to have any good answers. BeBe Zahara Benet and Morgan McMichaels just don’t want to be made fools of (y’all picked the wrong show for that). Shangela and Trixie Mattel have no problem making fools of themselves, but then, that’s always been their brand.
In the middle of all of this, no one was expecting to Kennedy Davenport to throw down the most honest moment this reality show literally built around artifice has ever had.
Perhaps we should have. Kennedy has made a name for herself as a speaker of wisdom and truth—no matter how bad it may make her look on camera. Her make-up half-applied, Kennedy admits that she’s there because she wants more fans. She doesn’t have the following of some of the other queens, and was hoping a victory lap of Drag Race would give her the audience she feels she deserves.
The narrative of Drag Race All Stars has always been one of a coronation, whether that’s the reality or not. Chad Michaels and Alaska were talented performers who happened to have the bad luck to be in seasons with Sharon Needles and Jinx Monsoon, queens with singular senses of style that overwhelmed the competition. It was clear many of the contestants in this current season of Drag Race All Stars came with this in mind, expecting to finally be recognized for their genius that previous seasons have denied them.
This was possibly the most true with Kennedy, who made it to 4th place in Season 7. Looking at a workroom filled with contestants who had been told to sashay away in the middle of their seasons, can we blame Kennedy for believing that her time had come? Any more than we can blame Morgan, praying to that Biscuit Jesus in the sky that maybe—MAYBE—this would be the one time that she didn’t look like a jerk on camera?
Morgan’s dreams are for naught, and possibly Kennedy’s too, as she seems to be languishing in the end of the competition. Like it or not, BenDelaCreme set the bar for this season of All Stars, and then promptly took it with her when she left. The remaining queens have little to measure up against beyond their own desperation. Perhaps no contestant exemplified that as much as Shangela at the end of the episode, sweating and heaving in her fat suit after lip-syncing for her legacy (was there ever a truer expression in all of Drag Race herstory?), hoping against hope that the third time is indeed the charm.
If Drag Raceoriginal flavor has mutated into a job interview for future drag gigs, then All Starshas become the last bastion of a strange, poisoned dream. A dream of just desserts. And its not just this season—who could forget Alaska’s petulant meltdown that she might once again lose to a “lovable weirdo” last season? Uneasy lies the head that almost wears the crown.
But, let’s give props to Kennedy and the girls of Season 3 for finally death-dropping into the truth. Drag has always subscribed to the credo that too much is never enough, but now we see how much—and how little—more everyone wants.
Please, RuPaul. They want some more. More fans, more fame, more crowns, more screentime. Please.
They ultimately decided my style of television commentary was not what they were looking for, but at least I can say they did not make this decision without understanding what I would do.