Every week in Slate’s RuPaul’s All Stars Drag Race TV Club, J. Bryan Lowder will have an IM conversation with a different RuPaul fan after the losing contestant has sashayed away. This week, he kikis about the premiere episode with SlateV’s blogger/editor Jeffery Bloomer.
What makes a drag queen truly regal? That’s the question behind this special “all stars” season of RuPaul’s hit reality competition show, in which favorite female illusionists from seasons past return to demonstrate their talent for working looks, throwing shade and lip-synching for their lives. Of course, Drag Race has always valued charisma, uniqueness, and nerve as much as it valued talent, so some of the resurrected contestants (I’m looking at you, Mimi Imfurst) are back as much for their infamy as for their facility with contouring make-up. Who will be crowned grand empress of the coterie of those already deemed “America's Next Drag Superstars?” All will be revealed—but only after Ru makes you listen to a few tracks from her album, available now on iTunes.
J. Bryan Lowder: Well, well, hallelu, Mrs. Bloomer. I hope you're enjoying an Absolut cocktail in the Interior Illusions Lounge while we untuck all that. What were your first impressions of Ru's new show?
Jeffery Bloomer: Ha, I am enjoying a double, or maybe a triple. That was the sloppiest kiss to fans of this show—or format, since it's a "new series"—that I can imagine.
Lowder: Ooh, I'm intrigued. Say more—what did you find so appealing about it?
Bloomer: Well, the show started out as such a scrappy, lowest-of-the-low-rent, winking reality series, and then eventually became so bloated that I was afraid there was no more joke (see last year's never-ending finales). The crammed new team conceit and turbo lip-synching is delivering exactly what we came for—drag action. And there are only six episodes; no room for Ru to go too wild.
Lowder: I totally agree! The format of this special season seems very taut compared to all that fluff back at the end of Season 4 in May. Also, the team conceit and that lip-synch tag-out button are genius; I just hope someone actually uses it next time. Speaking of which, can you believe that Pandora didn't tag Mimi out? Mimi was clearly frocking up her lip-synch, looking manic rather than energetic, per usual.
Bloomer: That was bizarre, since it was so obvious Pandora had zero respect for Mimi, who I honestly don't even remember. (What were all those ominous mentions about her previous departure?) Each team can only use the button once the entire season, which I get. But wouldn't—shouldn't—Pandora have known that this was the time?
Lowder: Absolutely. Well, Mimi's exit from last season was less than graceful—she picked up her lip-synching competitor and basically body slammed her on the stage. Who knew that drag could be a contact sport?
Bloomer: You are a better queen than I for remembering that.
Lowder: Merci. I have to say I'm sad to see Pandora go, though. I felt she brought an element of old-school camp drag into an otherwise glamour obsessed show.
Bloomer: You really bring the most compelling defense of that fan favorite I've heard. I personally never understood the appeal—the whine and the constant glumness certainly seemed on display tonight. But I think you may be right about her aesthetic talent, if not her attitude. She did get a short deal, to be sure.
Lowder: Well, if you don't like Pandora, I wonder who you're rooting for. Could it possibly be that dark, crazy horse, Tammie Brown?
Bloomer: Another name I'll admit I didn't immediately recognize, though her sister act with Nina Flowers certainly had some of the most chemistry of any of the pairings.
Lowder: That's true!
Bloomer: Will you throw things at me if I say Latrice Royal and Manila Luzon?
Lowder: Only a little shade. I kid, of course not! They are fierce queens, clearly.
Bloomer: I do find them both to be a little antic, especially Manila, they have a winsome energy that is sometimes missing for what can be, honestly, kind of a mean show.
Lowder: I definitely find Manila especially talented, but I could be biased considering that the one time I performed drag in a show in college for a goof, she and her very sadly recently deceased boyfriend, Sahara Davenport, helped dress us backstage. She is truly a sweetheart, as you sensed, and I think we both agree that she gets the fan award for that amazing Holly Golightly head piece at the start of the show.
Bloomer: Indeed. Speaking of: The catchphrases made a triumphant return. Shall we recount favorites?
Lowder: YES! I'm partial to “Rutarded,” though I think "Speculative Taste Levels" courtesy of the smoldering judge Santino was the clear winner. What others caught your ear?
Bloomer: I am more of a fiend for the random puns Ru drops during the photo shoots, no doubt lovingly doled out during post-production. The one I actually wrote down was "couture meets cooter." What can I say, I'm a lowbrow boy.
Lowder: Then this is your show! Though I have to say the prizes are getting decidedly highbrow as the seasons go on: $100,000 and a cache of MAC products? It’s getting bougie, girl. And while we're talking consumerism, one thing I want to bring up: The product placement. How is it that this is the only show on television where brazen PP doesn't bother me?
Bloomer: I think we give it a pass on the generous assumption that the show is in a constant state of making fun of itself and other shows like it.
Lowder: I just feel like they've mastered the perfect tone for it—something about the campy presentation makes the corporate medicine go down. Before we sign off, let's make our picks for who we want to sashay away next week. I'm going to go ahead and get Tammie on out of there. Girl is too unhinged for me.
Bloomer: I'm going to be prickly and say I hope Chad Michaels and Shannel frock it up. I put up with Chad's pouty professionalism and godmother act for too long last season, and I’m fine if Shannel is collateral damage.
Lowder: Oh that's the real tea. I love it. OK, well, I'm going to head through to the Gold Bar for a night cap (sponsored by Absolut). Can I get an Amen?
Tuesday: What other writers and Slate commenters thought about Episode 1.