‘Drag Race All Stars’ Finale Ends with Yet Another Twist [RECAP]

Well. That was … something. For such a tightly contested season of RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars, that finale sure felt a little flat. Even the big twist ending left me feeling more disappointed than gagged.

Even the structure left something to be desired. The now standard What’s the Tee? podcast interview feels like a hollow replacement for the sharp Tic-Tac lunch from the days of old. The faux tension over whether the queens will learn the choreo for the big final number always has the same result. (They do!) Then, you get the effusive praise from the judges and carefully edited comments so it seems like it could be anyone’s game. 

This season’s cast was already fighting against those (like myself) who looked at the spate of fairly recent Drag Race alums and questioned if they were worthy of the All Star title. Throughout the hard-fought season, most of the queens proved their mettle, but the neck-and-neck nature of the competition dulled any one individual queen’s shine. 

You would think on its surface last night’s surprising decision to induct two queens into the Hall of Fame would be a satisfying end to a season where a handful of competitors consistently felt like viable winners.

And yet …

Let’s Ru-view what went down in last night’s finale and discuss Mother Ru’s questionable decision.

We opened with the gals all regrouping after last week’s elimination. In the true gag of the night, Monique refused to reveal the lipstick she would have chosen because she didn’t want to hurt Monet’s feelings. She leaned into the gag, giving a stunningly convincing performance that she was about to eliminate her bestie. Monet was visibly shook, but when the lipstick came out, it also had Latrice’s name. Well played, Ms. Heart.

The final challenge was the familiar combo of the aforementioned podcast interview, performing an original verse for Ru’s latest single and executing complex choreo courtesy Todrick Hall.

The interviews weren’t all that revealing. This may be gay blasphemy, but I am less and less charmed by Ru’s armchair psychoanalysis. Many of Ru’s life lessons and affirmations are truly so insightful and resonant, but there are times when she projects her worldview on others that starts to read a bit smug. (I feel this is the issue at heart when Ru’s personal rejection of the ego comes into conflict with contemporary identity issues and trans stories in particular.) Then again, maybe that’s just my personal brand of dopey pop psychology. Sorry!

All the gals were charming and likable in their conversations. Blah blah growth blah redemption blah blah I really want this blah. My two big takeaways were Monet’s cleverly titled one-woman show (“Call Me By Monet”), and the fact Monique was once 300 lbs. Every time I feel like I could not love and want to root for Monique more, she peels back another layer of her journey.

Todrick Hall held nothing back with the choreography. We’re talking cartwheels, lifts and lots of hot background dancers. Naomi in particular seemed distracted by all the dancing trade, shamelessly flirting to the point that Madame Hall had to snap her back to attention. Monique had cartwheel PTSD from her clumsy stumble lip syncing vs. the Vixen last season. Trinity was vocal about her unease with the choreo. 

The real standout coming out of the rehearsal was Monet. Free from the shackles of corny comedy or conceptual craft challenges, Monet can just do what she does best. 

It made her standout in the final video where the queens were joined by Alaska, Chad Michaels and Trixie to spit their verses on RuPaul’s latest track “Super Queen.” In the first segment, Monet looked like an actual pop star. Someone get her on a Lizzo remix, stat! (Though it seems Monique is more likely to score that collab.)

Monique was up next, and she was fine. Neither her lyrics nor her performance had any obvious flaws, but they weren’t particularly memorable either. 

Naomi looked stunning (of course), and her imposing stature made Todrick’s already challenging choreography look otherworldly. 

But then Trinity appeared.  Clad in a silver futuristic fashion, she not only nailed the choreo, but she lit up the screen with pure star power. 

The runway was one of those generic “eleganza”/best drag situations. Monet kicked off the show in a jaw-dropping African-inspired printed gown with a gorgeous pattern and stoned for the gods. She piled a mountain of beautiful white dreadlocks atop her head, and her makeup was hands-down her best ever. 

Monique was next down, and her final runway left a lot to be desired. Consistency has been Monique’s greatest struggle this season, and sticking the landing on the final runway was going to be absolutely necessary to stay in contention. Instead, the odd black gown was voluminous in all the wrong places and overall left very little impact. Also, her gloves were giving me serious Salad Fingers vibes.

Naomi’s final runway was a lot, but would you expect anything less? It’s so much sparkle, fishnet, a jaunty hat and a tearaway dramatic train that was removed to reveal her legendary stems. Here’s something I love about Naomi: Under the hat and fishnets on her head, she still worse a short blonde wig, even though you could just barely see it. That attention to detail is what makes this 24-year-old savvy beyond her years. 

But then, oh but then, Trinity walked her final runway, and it was literally a show-stopper. It may have been a world-stopper. Time definitely froze for me. I will say this is one of best drag lewks I have ever seen. It’s perfection. The structured gown feels like a blue and white fine china pattern, which is already a wonderful blend of whimsy and fashion, but then she tore away two breast pieces to reveal actual matching teacups over her chest that added a sublime level of levity. It was sophisticated, but there was still a wink, which is what makes it such incredible drag. Every single one of Trinity’s runways have been a home run this season. 

The judges went down the line singing the praises of each contestant. They are particularly glowing when it comes to Monet, citing her extraordinary growth and precise performance. The judges recognized how much more Monique was able to shine this time around, but even their compliments felt more like a eulogy. Next up, Naomi similarly seemed to be getting a pleasant send-off from the judges. However, when it came to Trinity, the judges seemed all in. Michelle even (rightfully) called her final dress one of her favorites in the show’s herstory. 

Predictably, it was Monet and Trinity in the top two. The final lip sync was set to an absolutely ideal track: Christina Aguilera’s “Fighter.” Both queens went all out. Trinity radiated so much passion you could almost steam coming off her wig as she slayed the lip sync and threw her whole body into every single move. Monet, meanwhile, showcased some of the absolutely masterful lip sync skills she displayed last season busting out an impressive jump split and then a wig reveal that exposed an almost identical wig underneath. I actually laughed out loud when I saw it. 

With both queens left with nothing more to give, they awaited their fate. Ru announced the winner … wait, I’m sorry, WINNERS: Monet and Trinity! It’s a tie!

Um, OK! It’s not that both queens aren’t worthy winners, but, like what’s the point of any of this? Why eliminate queens only to bring them back? Why allow the best performing queens (like Manila) to be eliminated unjustly? Why establish a search for the one to enter the Hall of Fame if you’re only going to change your mind in the end to two? Why not just induct all 10? Why not just every queen ever?

I’m sure there are people who will suggest that really Trinity is the worthy winner, but Ru/producers were worried about the optics of not inducting a black or Latinx queen in the Hall of Fame considering how vital both those communities have been to the history and art of drag. While I completely agree with the sentiment, I think that does a disservice to both Trinity and Monet. They both worked incredibly hard and have so much talent. Any of the top six queens could have been a worthy winner.

My gripe is more with the producers/judging. Was this finale REALLY that much harder to call than last All Stars? You can’t maintain the illusion that this competition is about awarding charisma, uniqueness, nerve and talent if the rules of the game are designed to undermine that at every turn. You can’t wave off criticism by saying it’s all part of the game and then change the rules at a whim. As viewers, we know this isn’t some documentary, and producer interference runs rampant. But we do expect you to stick to the rules of the universe you created, in spirit at the very least.

I am happy to see all four of these queens recognized for their extraordinary talent, but I am so very ready for a long break from All Stars. We don’t need All Stars 5 between seasons 11 and 12. We’re going to run out of worthy queens, and I just don’t care to see a three-way tie on All Stars 8 between Charlie Hides, Magnolia Crawford and Kelly Mantle. 

Let’s let All Stars rest for a bit so our reigning TWO winners each have plenty of time to reign. For now, let’s raise an Absolut cocktail to Monet and Trinity for both being excellent examples of drag at its finest. 

What did you think of the finale?

The post ‘Drag Race All Stars’ Finale Ends with Yet Another Twist [RECAP] appeared first on Towleroad Gay News.

Ellen Page on ‘Umbrella Academy,’ Lena Waithe’s ‘Boomerang’ and More TV This Week

Check out our weekly guide to TV this week, and make sure you’re catching the big premieres, crucial episodes and the stuff you won’t admit you watch when no one’s looking.

The 1992 Eddie Murphy/Halle Berry romantic comedy Boomerang gets a modern twist thanks to executive producer Lena Waithe. The contemporary take features several LGBTQ characters, including lesbian couple Rocky and Tia, as well as Ari, a queer man. Catch the premiere Tuesday at 10 p.m. on BET.

The Will & Grace revival keeps the guest stars coming Thursday at 9:30 p.m. Eastern on NBC when Aya Cash (You’re the Worst) plays a long-lost member of Karen’s family.

Ellen Page has been making headlines lately for being a total badass, but in the new Netflix series The Umbrella Academy, she’s an actual hero. The series, dropping Friday, follows a mysterious makeshift family of super-powered people saving the world.

Which remaining All Star will make their way to the Hall of Fame Friday on RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars? Find out if it’s Naomi, Monique, Trinity or Monet Friday at 8 p.m. Eastern on VH1.

Get ready to get physical Saturday at 8 p.m. Eastern on Lifetime. Olivia Newton-John gets the Lifetime biopic treatment with the premiere of Hopelessly Devoted to You. The film follows the Aussie actress’ career spanning decades, including her star-making performance in Grease and beyond.

What are you watching this week on TV?

The post Ellen Page on ‘Umbrella Academy,’ Lena Waithe’s ‘Boomerang’ and More TV This Week appeared first on Towleroad Gay News.

‘Drag Race All Stars:’ Manolo-She Betta Don’t [RECAP and RANKINGS]

Before I get into last night’s episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars, I need to get something off my chest. I’ve been particularly hard on Monet and Monique this season. I think I just have a hard time rooting for girls who were just on the most recent season competing on All Stars. Give it a minute, girl! Let me MISS you. Put out an album! Tour with the Roast! Do a holiday show at the Laurie Beechman! I don’t know, bitch, put on a backpack and go Reese Witherspoon Wild!

However, I am now fully STANNING. Maybe it was the edit that didn’t highlight their fabulosity early in the season, but now I am gooped, gagged and totally on board. I feel like Monet (as well as Naomi) are getting bolder, more assertive and taking big swings. Monique — never one to take a small swing — is hitting it out of the park. 

But before we go ahead and split the crown among them Cady Heron style, let’s discuss last night’s episode.

Fresh off Manila’s shocking elimination, Naomi was #sorrynotsorry. “I sent Manila home … because I wanted to!” she proudly told camera. But whose lipstick did Monet choose? Oh, Manila, too. Monet made no bones about her logic: She’s a petty bitch from Brooklyn (and I love it).

“Because what’s fair? Life’s not fair,” Naomi explained. I died. R.I.P. me. 

The increased ruthlessness had Trinity shook, but at this point in the competition what even are these report cards? How are they weighted? It’s time to abandon the pretense of fairness and get those claws out. Literally.)

This week’s challenge had the girls dusting off their acting chops for Ru Hollywood Story: Sex and the Kitty, Girl 3. It’s part Sex and the City parody, part behind-the-scenes documentary about the backstage rivalries. 

Because she was last week’s winner, Naomi gets to assign the roles. She makes a power play by taking the lead, “SJP.” (All the characters are hilariously — and wisely, in terms of copyright — named after the actresses, not their characters.) Trinity and Monet both dig their high-heels in about wanting to play “Kim,” the second [*Kim Cattrall voice*] juiciest role. In one of the series most ludicrous moments of manufactured drama, Monet and Trinity face-off in a high-stakes, edge-of-your-seat game of rock-paper-scissors. They even took a dramatic commercial break! They did a slo-mo! 

If this finale is not a rock-paper-scissor round robin battle, I’ll be pissed.

Trinity won the part, and Monet settled on Kristin. Latrice picked up Cynthia, blending the no-nonsense lawyer Miranda with the lesbian aspiring politician who portrayed her. Of course, we’ve got five girls left, and the show featured a foursome, so Ru injected the legendary Kristen Johnston character, Lexi Featherston. On the surface, picking a character that only ever appeared in one episode of the show’s six-season and two-movie run seems odd. However, that character is so iconic, so memorable, the episode in which she appears (“Splat!”) is one of the most beloved in the series’ history. As an unapologetic Sex and the City superfan, I couldn’t be more excited to see Monique in this role. (Though as an SATC scholar, I need to call CONTINUITY ERROR on saying K-Jo was in a coma. We saw her funeral!)

Ross was directing, and the edit really leaned into everyone’s struggle. Naomi was having a hard time blending her personality and SJP’s signature ease and charm. It’s always a tough call on these challenges. There’s a risk the judges will skewer you for playing the part so faithfully that it loses the parody, OR you could get called out for not being true to the inspiration. Naomi certainly made a choice to play the part very NAOMI-as-Carrie Bradshaw, and the result was not great. She also struggled with her amount of lines. 

Ross had to give Trinity a lot of coaching from the Kim Cattrall School of Saying Everything Like It’s Sexual (now accepting applications for the Class of 2023). Latrice seemed fine, but gave more definitive choices between takes telling Monet to stop stepping on her lines. Why didn’t they use that in the actual video? It would have read perfectly as the actresses sniping at each other. Ross, as a director, you need to learn to USE that!

Then, Monique entered and stole the whole damn show. This kind of challenge plays directly to all of Monique’s Moniqueness, and she lit up the screen any time the camera caught her. Even when she was doing the wrong thing, she made it look right. Someone give “K-Jo” a webseries, STAT! Hello, World of Wonder, do you hear me?

On the runway, the gals strutted their stuff in Cat Couture. It felt like a category designed specifically for the judges to use cat puns, and I ain’t even mad about it. (As usual, we’ll talk about specific “lewks” — which, no, I will not stop saying; “life’s not fair,” darling! — in the rankings below.) 

The final video was one of Drag Race’s better parodies. You can tell whoever wrote the script really loved the series, and they peppered in so many specific jokes and references to even the smallest moments. Monique and Trinity both stood out from the rest of the litter with show-stealing performances and purrrrrr-fect runways. 

Naomi’s performance seemed the most off-the-mark, but the edit isn’t the sort of disaster the filming made it seem. The judges were enamored with her runway, an almost kawaii take on the modern cat lady. Monet seemed to barely give just enough in the clip, and her runway was gorgeous (though it did not read “cat”). Latrice made a bigger impression in the video, but her airbrushed safari gown was a dud on the runway.

Monique and Trinity were named the winners, and everyone else was up for elimination. Deliberations seemed tough. It seemed Monet was relatively safe, but both Latrice and Naomi could’ve been in danger. Naomi was this week’s weakest contestant, but Latrice is often safe, at best. (Plus, she was already eliminated once before — this season.) Naomi and Monet both told Trinity Latrice was the choice to go home, and Naomi was not apologizing for it. 

“Honestly, she could tell Latrice what I said about her and I’d be like, ‘Yeah that’s exactly what I said.’ I don’t give a f*ck. Honestly, I don’t give a f*ck.”

Tell us how you really feel, Naomi.

The lip sync was to Janet Jackson’s “When I Think of You,” and, even though it’s not the highest tempo number, both ladies hit every piece of percussion with precision. It was a real fun little number, with Trinity edging out Monique, whose loose top seemed to be a distraction during her performance.

Trinity was picked as the winner, and she elected to eliminate … LATRICE! I wouldn’t call it a “shocking” elimination, but it was unexpected!

Now, if this season has taught us anything, it’s that I have truly no clue who is winning this at any given moment. That’s half the fun. So, read on for my totally subjective (and apparently very off-base) rankings below!

  1. It’s a very tight race, but I’m going to go out on a limb and pick Monique for the win. There are some things she just does SO well. This season has given me such an appreciation for her makeup skills, and her fashions have been elevated. (Though I am still hesitant to say she’s nailing every runway.) This week’s Cat Couture was best in show, for sure. It was campy AND glamorous. It told a story, and it was EXAGGERATED, like drag should be. Her comedic timing and dance skills are expert, and she would be a worthy addition to the Hall of Fame.
  2. Right there with Monique is Trinity. She’s the competitor who has been the most consistently strong in every challenge, and all her runways have been killer. No wonder she’s so concerned about elimination by report card; hers is definitely the strongest. I do have to wonder if her choice to eliminate Latrice had anything to do with Latrice’s comment in the workroom about how the winner should be someone with a platform, not just someone looking to shill singles and T-shirts. Maybe Trinity wanted to send Latrice home, before Latrice got the chance to send her home. Although Trinity’s Cat Couture was fun, it just lacked oomph for me. The mask was a cop out compared to doing the cat makeup, and her catsuit was just too plain. (She rocked it down the runway, regardless.) I got cat, but no couture. This season we’re really talking about the differences between As and A+s.
  3. As much as I am digging Monet, I’ve got to put her in third. She was fine in the parody, and her runway was ambitious. There was good stuff in her lewk, but it wasn’t a cat. The ears were part of the problem, but I think the makeup was a much bigger factor. Compare her face to Monique’s. (Or even her pro-recreation on Instagram. Clock the nose.) Monet just didn’t know how to create the illusion. I’m surprised the judges didn’t single that out more than the ears. Still, Monet’s profile is on the rise thanks to a Super Bowl commercial, and there’s no denying she’s invested in improving her fashion.
  4. Were any of us ready to be as gagged by Naomi as we’ve been? I certainly wasn’t. She missed the mark on the challenge, but I understand the choice she made. She wanted to showcase what she thought the judges wanted to see. This was not her best runway, but it was still classic Naomi, high fashion. I am also LOVING this take-no-prisoners, not giving an F attitude. She feels the least likely of the remaining four to snatch the crown, but she has proven she is worthy of the All Star title.
  5. Oh, Latrice. Yet again, your time has come. She will always be beloved, but, come on, she rarely stunned this season. This week, her performance was strong, but it felt like it was the script doing most of the heavy lifting. That runway was inexcusably lazy, and I must add it to the list of Latrice’s middling ensembles. The returning eliminated queen gimmick needs to be retired for a while. It’s starting to feel super predictable and required, instead of earned.

How would you rank the queens? Who do you think will take the crown in next week’s elimination? Sound off in the comments, henny!

The post ‘Drag Race All Stars:’ Manolo-She Betta Don’t [RECAP and RANKINGS] appeared first on Towleroad Gay News.