RuPaul’s Drag Race UK is back for its second season (or series…), with a new episode being released every week on BBC iPlayer. To celebrate, we’ve lined up four rrramble writers (including a Drag Race virgin!) to watch each week and spill all the tea, with a new review coming to you every Sunday. Yas queens!
This was probably my favourite episode of the series so far.
‘Best friend’ and ‘Drag Race’ aren’t really phrases I can imagine being in the same sentence, but it was really interesting to see who the queens decided to pair up with for the second challenge. Also, pretty amusing to hear about the Tayce and A’Whora gossip from the other queens. That being said, one of the major plot twists of this week was that, as it turns out, A’Whora can be nice—to a fault! It was sweet and unexpected of her to help Tayce sew together her outfit, but it’s a shame to think that she could have won the challenge if she’d spent more time focusing on her own work (but well done Lawrence for winning this time around!)
I found the challenges a lot more enjoyable this week—I think it might have something to do with the fact that the first challenge, and a fair chunk of the second, were in the main room, unlike last week, so it felt less showcase-y. It also helps that sewing is a hobby I can actually relate to. Being able to sew well is a skill that really takes time, and it was nice that the seamstress queens got a chance to show off their talent.
My favourite part of this episode was definitely the DMC between Ginny Lemon and Bimini Bon-Boulash, where they confided in each other about their struggles with being non-binary. I think it really reaffirmed, for me at least, how awesome Ginny Lemon is for choosing to take up space for her own version of drag that doesn’t necessarily look like everyone else’s. I felt personally affronted when Ru asked her to try dressing more “sexy”—surely not everything has to come back to sexiness, Ru??—but that probably says more about me than it does her, and she took up the challenge like a champion.
I did feel very close to tears when Ginny outrightly said that she didn’t love herself at all; I really relate to how exhausting the journey towards self-acceptance can be, and I’m glad that the judges gave her credit for being brave and attempting her version of “sexy”, even if it wasn’t the best, technically-speaking. I’m so glad that Ginny wasn’t eliminated (maybe I should just start a Ginny fanpage at this point?) but I was surprised to see Asttina go. I do love Tia but it really did feel like this was her time to go; her dress was really ~not good~ and it felt like she’d been on thin ice more or less since the beginning.
Anyway, as I wrote in my notes whilst I was watching, ‘GINNY LEMON LIVES TO SEE ANOTHER WEEK I AM THRILLED’, and very much looking forward to seeing what next week’s episode will bring.
This Thursday marked a significant moment: the first week I received the infamous ‘HAVE YOU WATCHED DRAG RACE YET???’ text. Oh lawd.
I was in fact half way through the episode at the time, and so proceeded to watch the judges critiques unfold with a growing sense of impending doom. What was going to happen that my pal had deemed so news worthy? By the time we reached Asttina and Tia’s lip sync, I was practically cowering behind the sofa watching through closed eyes. I knew, deep down, what was coming, and yet it still cut deep. Oh Ru, how could you?
Yes, Asttina’s outfit wasn’t all that (despite the legs for days, I did sadly agree with the gloriously scathing comment that ‘there was a lot of man shining through’) but surely it was Tia’s time to go?! I understand that maybe the judges feel that she has more to give: as they pointed out, with her willowy frame she has the potential to go full fashion model. But I just don’t think she has it in her. Her look was so much lower in standard that the others, snake charmer arms notwithstanding, and I hate to admit I agreed with A’Whora’s harsh criticism that there are plenty of other queens (cough, Asttina, cough) that deserve to be there much more than her. Ru: I’m watching you. No more slip ups please.
Anyway, moving onto the positives before I work myself up into too much of a rage. The limbo mini challenge was incredibly silly, had absolutely nothing to do with drag skills, and went on for ages… and yet, I loved every minute of it. Again, it truly feels like the UK version refuses, even in moments it would be entirely understandable, to take itself seriously. At the end of the day, when the prize is a plane ticket to Hollywood and a vague promise of a ‘digital series’, it’s pretty clear the contestants are basically just here to get some publicity and have a laugh. And what better way to do so than by hauling yourself under a sparkly limbo bar with all the grace of Anne Widecombe after a few sherries. I’m here for it.
This week, a limbo mini-challenge with queens in carnival wear had me both confused and entertained. The constant apprehension of seeing one of Ellie’s Diamonds popping out from their display case also added some unexpected whimsy. However, why sabotage yourself with a headdress?! Grab your pussy cat wig and play to win, damn it!
Another runway-based challenge inspired excitement. Queens were asked to buddy up with their best friend and instantly, I got school flashbacks of being in a friendship group with an odd number. Luckily though, with 10 queens left no one has to pair up with the class teacher. With the twist of best friends becoming fashion frenemies in a fight to see ‘Who Wore It Best’, I prepared with great delight to see sightings of sketch pads and flying fabric by the metre!
All fashion fun aside, the star of episode 3 had to be the continuance of Werk Room conversations so important to the Drag Race fandom and beyond. During Ru’s usual rounds, Ellie’s mentioning of working at a drive-thru to fund her drag was important for recognising the humdrum hard work that goes behind the glitz and glam. However, it was Ru’s interaction with Ginny Lemon that navigated this episode to a place that felt amazing to see this show go.
The beautifully articulated revelation of both Ginny and Bimini Bon Boulash identifying as non-binary was such a wonderful thing to see. With many still showing confusion over gender nonconformity and pronouns, such open dialogue as this on a popular TV show is both a necessary and promising step forward. The way Ginny opened up about their own struggles with identity and feelings of self-worth was both touching and maddening, to think those closest to you can be the most damaging. Even so, through time and acceptance, Ginny has burst forth boldly in a flash of yellow and I thank both individuals for their openness.
Though Ru’s questioning of Ginny’s reluctance to present as sexy did spark this conversation, that moment in itself felt problematic. Ginny’s rising to the personal challenge whilst still maintaining a sharp twist of lemon did prove as positive; showing personal growth from a distorted perception of self, as opposed to feeling othered. However, I felt the situation paralleled former “kooky” queens being asked to showcase “realness”, which often feels like a request for assimilation into a certain type of drag.
On the runway, decisions were made… and I mostly agree. Though I concur with Lawrence’s win, Ellie looking stunning in a Marie Antoinette fantasy I’ll always be here for. It was also great to see Sister Sister showcasing herself a little more; feeling that so far, she’s not quite been delivering her brand.
The bottom two situation left me feeling mixed. Each queen’s open-mouthed response to Tia Kofi winning suggested utter shock, but I didn’t quite agree. Asttina Mandella was a fierce contender, but her lip sync just didn’t quite live up to the promise of a jaw-dropping stage presence.
After the mini challenge, in which the queens have to compete in a limbo contest while in quick, carnival attire (and I must point out I was very impressed with Veronica and Tayce’s strange ability to go as low as they did), Ru announces a design challenge. I always love a design challenge, I love getting to see creativity and how the queens construct an outfit from scratch. It’s always exciting observing something come out of nothing. And this episode, the design challenge is extra juicy with the queens being pitched against each other within their pairs.
As the queens get to work, each pair allocated a particular colour, I can’t help but be charmed by Tia’s ability to laugh at herself when remarking on how she’s one of those queens who never learnt to sew (even though a design challenge is inevitable!). Yes, she may not have grasped a good sense of fashion yet, but at least she knows how to take the piss out of herself (a very British trait indeed).
Meanwhile, I have no interest in the sexual tension between A’Whora and Tayce, so I’ll gladly move onto writing about Ginny and Bimini, who I find myself rooting for more and more. Both non-binary queens with yellow mullets, I really get the sense that they’re truly lovely people as I hear them talk about their experiences. I agree with Bimini that being non-binary is certainly not a new thing, and Ginny speaking about their association with the colour yellow is heart-warming.
Moving onto the runway, for the first time, Sister Sister stands out for me; I thought her peachy outfit with a blue face was kooky and interesting. I, of course, think Bimini looked gorgeous, so I was a little surprised when Lawrence won. Hats off to her though, as I still liked her golden look, and her ‘fuck me sideways’ exclamation in a thick Glaswegian accent keeps replaying in my head. Ginny looked adorable on stage—not sexy, and not the greatest outfit ever designed on Drag Race, but I like her even more for taking up Ru’s challenge and trying it out. For the record, I think she did a great job with her makeup.
This proves to be a pretty emotional episode, with Tia finally unable to laugh at herself, Ginny saying she’s often felt like she’s worthless, and Asttina expressing her disappointment with herself. It’s the first bottom three this season where I genuinely feel nervous and don’t want any of them to go. By the end of the lip sync, it’s a lose-win situation; I’m relieved Tia gets to stay in the competition, but sad Asttina has to leave. Yes, her outfit was a disappointment, especially because she won the first challenge due to her excellent runway looks (one of which she rocked her ASOS jacket), but I really thought she was going to last longer. Anyhow, she’s still fabulous and I know she’ll do well beyond the competition.
Ru Paul’s Drag Race UK is available now on BBC iPlayer. Catch us next Sunday to see what the reviewers make of episode 4!