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!
The episode kicks off with the remaining queens, in my opinion, complaining for no good reason about Ginny’s shocking self-elimination. Sure, Drag Race is a competition, but it’s also a chance to just simply BE ICONIC, which Ginny mastered. I don’t think anyone should negatively judge her for doing her own thing—in fact, often it’s the people who go about life uniquely that pave the way for others. Ginny is so different to what Drag Race has made viewers think a ‘proper drag queen’ should be, and I don’t think any of the other contestants can compete with that. So I applaud her for bowing out the exact way she did!
The queens are interrupted by an announcement from Ru explaining that the competition must be put on hold due to COVID, a very relatable moment indeed for all of us. We then see the queens return seven months later, and I’m devastated to learn that Veronica tested positive, but glad to hear she has an open invite for next season. I remember in the first episode thinking she might be boring, and she completely disproved me in such a pleasant way, so I cannot wait to see more of her!
A further twist comes when Joe Black, Asttina and Cherry return to the workroom, and the queens vote for Joe to have another stab at the competition. Although I’m sad that Asttina didn’t get through, I’m relieved she still got a couple of votes (awkward for Cherry who got none), and pleased we get to see more of Joe. Lawrence is beginning to annoy me just a little bit. Don’t get me wrong, I think she’s hilarious, but sometimes she comes across as mean towards the other queens in her confessionals. For now, she seems to be a frontrunner for the crown, having previously won two challenges, but I don’t think meanness is a quality I’d like to see in the overall winner.
Meanwhile, each time Bimini is on screen, I fall more and more in love. She’s absolutely hilarious (I don’t know why her team went with ‘United Kingdolls’ instead of her excellent suggestions: ‘Girls Not Aloud’ and ‘All Sinners’), and extremely relatable. When she talks about how difficult it’s been getting income during this whole pandemic crisis, as an artist myself, that really hits home. Her performance in the main challenge is golden. In fact, that whole team did very well, but for me, Bimini stood out the most so it was frustrating to see she had to share the win with three others.
Ru, of course, has his outburst at the losing team, which is awkward to watch, to say the least (takes me back to Season 7). In fact, it made me squirm. But I can’t help but also feel disappointment with Tia, one of my favourites, who unfortunately came dressed as a very unsatisfactory ice cream cone on the runway, and Joe, who I so desperately wanted to be one of those returning queens that makes it past one episode. Sadly, that was not the case, although I’m glad she at least got to return. I just hope Tia’s looks improve as I love her so much and want her to go far!
To quote A’whora: ‘It’s like the beginning all over again!’
At the end of last week’s episode came the “plot twist” of the pandemic, bringing production to an abrupt halt. Seven months later, and we arrive at the beginning of this week’s episode.
It’s clear that the hiatus has afforded many of the queens time to re-energise themselves. Tia Kofi seems to hold herself a little taller. Of course, the next major plot twist that Ru announced was that sadly Veronica Green would not be returning to the series after testing positive with Coronavirus, and, knowing that Veronica and Tia were very close on the show, undoubtedly this will have knocked Tia’s sense of security.
Just to air one of my personal grievances before it festers anymore: currently Lawrence Chaney’s only source of comedy seems to stem from needlessly insulting the other queens, which at this point doesn’t feel particularly funny or original. From what she said about struggling over lockdown, it sounds like the past seven months have not been as kind to her as they have to some of the others, and it seems as if her insecurities are once ruling over all of her jokes. Hopefully this might change as everyone gets back into the swing of things, but I have a feeling that it might just get worse…
Then we have our THIRD plot twist of the episode (not even halfway through!) with the return of Joe Black. I initially felt that Joe would do very well, for the same reasons I felt that at the beginning of the show (foreshadowing??). He was well liked and seemed to have a very good grasp of the theatrics of drag, but, alas, it was not to be.
As, I said, major whiplash this episode.
The main challenge this week was a two-team version of Ruruvision, with the queens split into two groups, led by Joe Black and Lawrence Chaney respectively. Lawrence Chaney’s team, The United Kingdolls, with A’whora, Tayce and Bimini Bon Boulash, won, and rightly so; their choreography was extremely well done, and everyone worked together despite their different dancing abilities.
The judges’ critiques segment this episode is the first time that I’ve seen Ru get properly mad (very I’m not angry, just disappointed—although there was definitely some anger—vibes), wishing for more from the queens, specifically from the Banana Drama team. This anger seemed mainly directed at Joe Black, and I can’t really blame Ru: it felt like he could have given more for his mighty comeback, especially with his Ruruvision outfit.
The bottom two ended up being Joe Black and Tia Kofi, either of which I felt could have gone home. But ultimately, Joe Black was the one to ‘sashay away’—for the second time in the same season. Oof.
This week’s episode began as usual, with the always slightly bizarre situation of the queens having a deadly serious discussion, still in full drag. Veronica dressed as a Medusa-come-Pig Monster telling the queens “bitches beware, you don’t know me” while remaining absolutely stony faced, was definitely a highlight.
What happened next threw me. The introduction of the C word… no, not charisma. I guess I knew Corona was likely to emerge at some point, but I also thought that maybe the series was filmed before the pandemic. Either that or filming had been allowed to continue throughout; the show is filmed in a kind of ‘Drag Race bubble’ anyway, so really if ever a show was pandemic proof, it’s this one. Although apparently not…
There was something extra bizarre about watching the queens find out – from the looks on their faces, for the first time – about the pandemic via a recorded message from Ru. I wasn’t sure how to feel. Drag Race has always felt like a safe haven, detached from the outside world. I want ‘realness’, yes but not… reality?
But I guess we have to accept that Coronavirus has now infiltrated every aspect of life, even popular culture. And to be fair, I think the show has handled it skilfully. All the little details – from Ru’s announcement message (“Drag Queens know a thing or two about survival”) to the playful discussions of plastic surgery certain queens have had done during the hefty seven month break in filming (Sister Sister: “it’s like walking into an episode of Botched…Lawrence: “for me it’s just Embarrassing Bodies”). Even Ru’s casual assertion that “The world’s about to end, by the way” is truly proof that anything, even a global virus, can be made into drag.
In fact, I think the producers made the right decision to address the pandemic in the show’s own way, rather than just try to completely ignore it. This episode, along with the bonus lockdown special, also gave us a glimpse into what life had been like for the contestants over the break. It’s strange to think of the queens going straight from filming one of the biggest shows on tv, to being plunged back into their old realities. And while some of the queens had ‘day jobs’ (Ellie Diamond was back in the drive thru, and the amazing Cherry Valentine has been working as a nurse on the frontline) for some of the queens, performing was their only income source. So it was sobering (literally) to hear about how with no bars or clubs open, they were left so financially unstable. #SaveTheArts!
Anyway, back to the show… I was happy enough with the queens’ decision for Joe Black to be given another shot at the competition. Although it was heart-breaking to have to see Asttina leave again. I soon got over my sadness though, when the main challenge was revealed. What’s the one thing you could add to Drag Race to make it even camper? Eurovision!! Complete with H.R.H. Graham Norton. BIG yes.
Everything about this challenge was amazing. The queens recording their vocals had me in stitches, from Joe Black’s ‘no cigar’ fiasco to Bimini’s ‘Prodigy does Eurovision’ hot take, I loved every second. It really did feel like everyone had upped their game and brought the energy… I guess they were just happy to be out of the house.
Then there was all the drama of the runway. The saga of the two ‘bag of chips’ outfits was just SO drag race, and Ru was on absolutely top bitchy form. Two words: Fucking H&M.
Though sad to see the queens retire their lace fronts for a Corona-induced pause on production, I was excited to see how they might develop. Cosmetic updates aside, the unexpected break left many feeling recharged, evolved…and skint (thanks for keeping it real Bimini!). The main news of Veronica’s departure from the competition was an unfortunate reality; a fierce competitor sabotaged by shady Miss Rona. However, the twist of an eliminated queen returning as a result was a lovely surprise. Hoping for a Cherry return in time for Valentines, Asttina and Joe took a far better approach in their pleas and so I understood the vote.
Though great to see the queens’ positivity, I appreciated the honest perspective given on lockdown – financial hardship, mental struggle…and the disgraceful treatment of the Arts industry. With a government that left creatives out in the cold, many were made to feel their chosen craft was no longer valid – myself included. Whilst many like Ellie had to return to work deemed more “feasible”, it was also interesting to hear Lawrence highlight how the inability to perform led them to doubt their talents. For anyone who missed it, I recommend watching the Lockdown special, that gives an extra insight into the resilience, adaptability and vulnerability of these queens. With that in mind, I would like to call out Ru’s somewhat insensitive explosion over off-the-rack apparel. Though I understand it’s the Olympics of Drag and the break allowed time for development, lockdown impacted people differently both financially and mentally. As much as I’d want to return with my A-game…I can’t say I’d have always been up for stoning garments!
The RuRuVision Song Contest was just what the nation needed! Though rooting for Banana Drama, the United Kingdolls showcased sheer joyous freedom in their rendition of ‘UK Hun?’ – a bop I’ve listened to countless times already! Bimini was the standout this week, with their distinctive sound present throughout, a verse perfect in its identity representation and an Art Deco seaside runway that was positively delectable! Speaking of which, I cannot ignore Chip-gate. Both looks were amazing, but I do have to side with A’Whora. I don’t doubt Sister Sister’s creativity whatsoever and fair enough if it was her original look, but to return with something that similar in concept (even if different stylistically), was unfortunately coincidental.
Bottom two was a tough call. Ellie’s femme seagull was a delight right down to the webbed feet heels and honestly, I think those details saved her. Joe’s runway was wonderful but their performance was surprisingly subdued and though Tia’s rap was a mic drop, she “flaked” on her ice cream couture. Tia was melting fast in the lip sync, but a rising blast chill appeared to slow Joe down for a deserved win.
With a fabulously classic runway theme and a campy challenge I felt born for, I have never felt prouder to be British! It felt wonderful to see the queens overflowing with joy to be in drag, back on stage and embracing their luck to exist fully again. Most of all, this week proved what many forgot *Ahem!* – the value of the entertainment industry…and the power of camp.
Ru Paul’s Drag Race UK is available now on BBC iPlayer. Catch us next Sunday to see what the reviewers make of episode 6!