Drag Race All Stars 3: May the Best Woman Win

Our long national nightmare is over.

No, Trump is still around and the glaciers are still melting. But at least there’s something good to watch on Thursday night. At long last, RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars 3 has premiered.

In the past, if you asked me what my favorite TV show was, I’d probably give you some highfalutin answer like Homeland or The West Wing or Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom. But now I cannot tell a lie: My TV practically does a jig when that music starts and RuPaul’s laugh echoes through the room.

Most reality competition shows are cutthroat affairs. Which is why Americans can’t get enough of The Great British Baking Show, whose contestants inexplicably refrain from sticking their competitors’ heads in the oven. As Americans, we’re just unaccustomed to respecting our competitors. (Reality TV mirrors our politics, I suppose.) Drag Race sits somewhere in the middle, and that’s one of its charms. Yes, the competition is fierce—drag would not be drag without shade and a dollop of bitchiness to go with the mascara—but there’s also an underlying sense of camaraderie. These girls have all struggled to get where they are. They have struggled, indeed, just to be who they are. And Mama Ru—not to mention the fans—is there every week to let them know that the struggle was worth it.

This week’s premiere of All Stars 3 brought it all back—literally—though I would say that the term “all stars” is being used a bit loosely these days (just watch the current season of Project Runway “All Stars” to see what I mean). Other than Bebe Zahara Benet, the ringer, there isn’t a single queen here who, in my opinion, was a serious contender for the crown in her original season. (By contrast, All Stars 2 seemed willed by the gods as an opportunity for Alaska to make up for her unfortunate loss to the equally talented Jinkx Monsoon the first time around.)

I won’t recap the show here, but I would like to call out some of the highlights. And low lights.

  • Best insult goes to Shangela’s comment about BenDeLaCreme: “the low-rent Michelle Visage.”
  • But performance: Ben (take that, Shangela), and what judge Ross Matthews termed her “Ukrainian nesting dolls of bras.”
  • Thorgy Thor, a vision in white with electric-chair hair, playing the violin: I love the incongruity of her absurd look with classical music.
  • And Aja strips. Of course she does.
  • After ChiChi’s horrific number (randomly jumping around in the world’s ugliest dress), Michelle critiques her for not wearing heels. Michelle, if you were distracted by the shoes, then count yourself lucky: you missed the rest of the performance.

I was somewhat disappointed to find that they’ve returned to the practice that originated in All Stars 2 of having the top two lipsync for the right to decide which of the bottom two goes home. After all, when RuPaul is your queen, drag should be a monarchy. But, this time at least, it worked out fine: Ben had a choice between the worst performance of the night and the most distasteful personality of the season. Win win.

Now if only she’d get rid of the Jughead hat she wears in the one-on-one interviews.

 

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