RuPaul's All Stars Drag Race
Debunking the Chad Michaels conspiracy theorists.
While I haven’t seen a ton of reaction online so far (almost everyone seems to watch Drag Race online a day late because Logo is a weird channel no one actually has), the general vibe of the responses that have cropped up are pretty much in line with the “eh, sure” sentiment that Jeff and I expressed last night. In retrospect, Chad Michaels seems to have been cruising for the win for the past few episodes, and in light of the missteps of the other three challengers (or really, two, since Shannel was never really a contender) last night, there really was no other option—Michaels triumphed handily.
But some pundits, like EW’s Tanner Stransky, are already floating conspiracy theories about the final result. “Was Drag Race All Stars created just so Chad Michaels could be crowned the winner? It seems like a distinct possibility, in a weird way. Chad clearly deserved the season 4 crown just as much as Sharon [Needles] — and it oddly came down to just a matter of taste between the goth-queen winner and the pretty-perfect Chad. Things in the Drag Race universe aren’t this Machiavellian, though, so I don’t know why I’m even headed down this road.”
Me either. As far as I can tell, the only thing Machiavellian about RPDR is the show’s cut-throat business sense. All Stars (like the under-produced Drag U) is more likely merely a calculated extension of the only lucrative brand Logo has going. No tea, no shade—but you know it’s true.
In any case, what’s lost in all this speculation about the structural forces that “allowed” Chad to win is the fact that, even though she’s not my favorite in terms of style, she is a damn talented queen. I feel as though some of us are bandying about the words “poised” and “polished” like they are insults, when in fact, the kind of masterful professionalism Chad Michaels brings to her work (and make no mistake, she does treat it as serious work, which is not always the case in drag) is laudable. Sure, Sharon Needles from Season 4 or Manila Luzon are more my jam aesthetically, but we need to give respect where it is due—Chad Michaels earned this win on her own merits. I, for one, say kudos.
Now, is Chad truly the “Queen of Queens?” That’s another question entirely, and one that I expect could only be answered by a real All Star competition featuring the actual winners of all the previous seasons rather than some random assortment of performers from the past. If my calculations are correct, Season V will give us a total of six winners (including Chad)—that number seems perfect for an authentic best-of-the-best (and team-free!) set-up next fall. All will be revealed at that time, I guess.
Until then, keep your eyelashes affixed and your wigs askew, ladies. It’s been fierce!
J. Bryan Lowder is the Slate editorial assistant for culture.