Caution: Spoilers ahead
This has certainly been one of the most interesting and unique seasons of Drag Race ever. Not since the heady days of Willam proudly vomiting off the runway have we had such a memorable ride. The guest judge calibre has been higher than ever (“he’s a dinosaur doctor!”) the contestants have been possibly the most talented crop and, in terms of the general progression of the show, things have been messier than ever.
As if Sherry Pie-gate weren’t enough, the “cursed” 12th season has now been hit by the shadiest queen ever to grace our world stage, Miss Rona. But they haven’t let this stop them. In true 2020 style, this week’s final has been put together via a wifi-defying combination of video chat, special effects and lots of clever editing. Our three finalists are Jaida Essence Hall, who’s natural destiny in life is to wear ballgowns and be fanned by men holding palm fronds while eating grapes; Gigi Goode, the devil in an a-cup, robotic glamour personified; and Crystal Methyd, somewhere between club kid elegance and an extra from Luc Besson’s Fifth Element. So let’s go!
Bring back. My girls.
First, we get a recap of all the girls from season 12. Dahlia Sin’s on a roof! Careful, Dahlia. Aiden Zhane’s looking great but her back garden needs a trim. No, that’s not a euphemism. We think Aiden’s actually going to do very well out of this. She’s got the kind of kooky outsider vibe Drag Race fans love. Meet and greets with lots of tattooed people in polka dot dresses. Opening for Rob Zombie at Download Festival. We can see it now.
Next we go to the three finalists and Crystal Methyd is wearing possibly the most avant-garde outfit ever to be seen on Drag Race. An actual, fully-functioning pinata, reminding us of one of our favourite Drag Race drinking games; is it cultural appropriation, or is it just high concept?! Either way, she’s half Mexican so she’s allowed. God, we’re tired.
Gigi Goode is stunning as always in a crushed blue velvet Madonna homage. Speaking of Madonna – we’d like to address her directly. Madge. Have you heard Lady Gaga’s “Babylon” yet? If you haven’t, don’t listen. It’s just not worth the aggro. Stick on Schitt’s Creek and have a Twix instead.
Jaidia Essence Hall is here, and she’s ALREADY wearing a crown. The audacity is palpable, but Jaida has always been audacious and that’s why we love her. Next, “almost live, from his panic room in the Hollywood Hills”, it’s RuPaul! And he’s … not … in … drag. He wasn’t last week either. We have a controversial theory about this. Social distancing of course means that he can’t have his usual hair and makeup squad flitting around him. Maybe … he’s … FORGOTTEN HOW TO DO HIS OWN MAKEUP? That’s pure conjecture of course. Please don’t sue the Guardian, RuPaul.
He reveals that this episode will entail three competitive lipsyncs. First, a three-way close-up lipsync where it’s, presumably, all about the lips and getting the lyrics right. Then, a lipsync from home, with each queen choosing a song they feel represents them, complete with homemade backgrounds (this is a great idea) and finally, the top two queens lipsyncing against each other. We head to Carson, Ross and Michelle – Carson’s home is gorgeous. Books, pianos and drinks everywhere!
Next we get some video chat from Whoopi Goldberg and she says “as an entertainer, there are times when we are really necessary … where no-one can do it better than we can. I think this is one of those times.” Whoopi is right. What entertainers do cannot be replicated. They are having a very tough time during the pandemic. Nightlife and theatre culture have been decimated, it’s impossible for performers to work right now, and performers need to work to survive, not just economically but mentally.
Have a think of all the times you’ve yelled with joy and laughed until your sides hurt, while someone fabulous has been on stage in front of you. Much of our culture wouldn’t exist without performers. Drag Race wouldn’t exist without performers. This column wouldn’t exist without performers. If you know any performers, drag or otherwise, show them as much love as you can right now. That’s all.
Not for the first time this season, we’ve entered unprecedentedly surreal territory for Drag Race. RuPaul is inside a giant eyeball, videocalling Crystal, who’s painted completely pink. If you pause it, it looks like a student art project (second year). We get a cute video message from Crystal’s parents. Her dad says her non-english-speaking grandma records the show and gets the family to translate what she’s saying. We’re not crying, YOU’RE CRYING! (Btw Crystal’s grandma, if you watch it on Netflix you can have subtitles, less of a faff, just saying).
We get a mind-bending montage of Gigi Goode’s many stunning looks. She’s undeniably the most cut-glass fashion queen of the season. She addresses the fact that she’s confident, and comfortable in her confidence. Good for you, Gigi! Having healthy self-esteem is nothing to be ashamed of. She says the only performance venue in her hometown was “a substance-free venue with an indoor rock wall”. Oh dear. We cut to Gigi’s mum – she looks fabulous, stylish, and uses the “they” pronoun with aplomb. We’d have expected nothing less.
Jaida Essence Hall
Jaida looks great, in a huge piled wig. We get some truly beautiful video message action from Jaida’s dad and brother, two very stereotypically masculine men, supporting their sibling in something that until recently was very alien to them. “I love you bro.” Aaw. These family video messages are great – something to carry forward to future seasons perhaps, Covid or no Covid. We also get a nice tribute to Drag Race producer Jacqueline Wilson, who passed away earlier this year.
First it’s the close-up lipsync and this is a bit creepy. They’re leaning in VERY close. Like when your mum tries to use FaceTime. Gigi stands out the most in this, but that might be just because she’s in the middle and has the best camera? Sigh.
Next it’s the home lipsync. Crystal Methyd is lipsyncing to Like A Bird by Nelly Furtado and it’s absolutely brilliant. Kids TV show meets acid trip. There’s a giant egg. There’s puppetry. There’s perspective wizardry – the real genius of this is that she’s made the whole thing seem bigger, by making herself smaller. Next we head to Gigi Goode, with a beautiful and characteristically stylish rendition of Take On Me. Madonna meets Cruella. Jaida’s is the weakest and least inventive by far. To be fair, this isn’t what she signed up for. She shines most on a stage. But she hasn’t adapted or invented as well as Gigi and Crystal.
Ru says all three of them are going through to the final lipsync. Get those Zoom backgrounds ready! Suddenly Dolly Parton’s on screen. What’s. Going. On. Nina West presents this year’s Miss Congeniality and a ten thousand dollar prize (!) to Heidi ‘N’ Closet! Fully deserved.
The final lipsync is … well, it’s an online lipsync from their living rooms. They all do great, but a huge part of lipsyncs is for performers to react to one another and play off each other, so it’s obviously just not the same as it is on stage.
Ru crowns the winner, and it’s Jaida Essence Hall! Despite not especially standing out in this particular episode, if you take the whole season into account, it had to be her, really. Accomplished, confident, funny and beautiful. She’s one of the best contestants the show has ever seen and in fact, this has been the best top three the show’s seen in a good few years. Well done, Jaida. Thanks Ru, and thank you all for reading. No matter what else this year has in store, campery and ridiculousness will prevail, we’re convinced of it.
Now. Look over there!