This fall, a historic decision will impact the future of this nation, and possibly the world. No, not the presidential election. We're fucked no matter who takes that. I'm talking about who will ultimately be crowned the winner of "RuPaul's All Stars Drag Race," which brings back a dozen of the baddest bitches from the previous four seasons of "Drag Race." Locas, the glamour! The eleganza! The SHADE of it all!
I have been gagging ever since the cast was announced yesterday (click here for the trailer, in case the embedded one is being a lazy bitch), and ruminating over which of the 12 returning queens will snatch the tiara in this battle of the drag titans. Consider this: we have every runner-up in series history, and every single Miss Congeniality in the mix. My thoughts are below. What do YOU think? Did they get the cast right? Who are you excited to see back? Who do you want to win this time? Post in the comments section below!
Nina Flowers: Back in Season 1, it was a real toss up between Ms. Flowers and eventual winner Bebe Zahara Benet. Both were fierce queens who exhibited incredible polish and radiated star power. At the time Nina was sometimes criticized for her unapologetically edgy, more androgynous style of drag. But given recent wins by Raja and Sharon Needles, it's safe to say that the judges have become more open to alternative styles of drag over the past few years. Nina's a solid competitor and a talented performer, but is also a sweetheart. Given this very tough field, I wonder if she's going to fight for the win as hard as some of these other seasoned queens.
Tammie Brown: Tammie was the second queen ever to be eliminated on "Drag Race," and many people are questioning her inclusion in "All Stars." But I have to say, I'm glad she's here. Her drag - though admittedly not a natural fit for this show's format -- is unlike anything else we've seen, she's fascinating, and given that she lasted only two episodes, nobody can deny that she's memorable. Keep in mind that Tammie, like the rest of the Season 1 queens, was at a real disadvantage the first time around - they had no idea what they were getting into, or how they should prepare. I'm fascinated to see what Tammie will do with another shot. Let's see what new tricks she's learned while walking with God's children through nature!
Shannel:Even after four seasons, I don't think any other queen on this show has ever brought performances on the level of Shannel. Remember that one runway where the bitch came out juggling while strutting bare assed? Or the snake-goddess outfit? Shannel is a master performer, and she is determined. The only thing that got in her way the first time was her attitude and inability to take criticism. Based on her subsequent appearances on "Drag U" she seems to have curbed the cockiness. If she can remain focused, ambitious, and actually listen to what the judges want, she should be very stiff competition.
Raven:There are a lot of similarities between Raven and Shannel. They're both drag vets who know how to own a stage, but they also both know how good they are - and expect to be treated accordingly. I will argue until my death that either Raven or Jujubee should have won Season 2 over Tyra Sanchez, but regardless, Raven is back, leaner but hopefully not meaner (she was vicious to Tatianna, and not in a fun way). Like Shannel, if she can fully harness that drive and perfectionism, and focus on her own performance instead of shitting on others, she'll be difficult to take down.
Jujubee: For me, one of the funniest, most endearing queens ever on the show. Juju is still the best librarian to take on the reading challenges, but her insults rarely seemed negative. She's a fun bitch, not a bitchy bitch. Juju's problems in Season 2 were all internal, as she psyched herself out during several key challenges (notably the rock-singing episode). She is fishy, she is funny, she is fabulous. If she can own that she'll do OK here. But I fear that she lacks the drive that it will take to keep up with some of these other all-stars. Love her as I do, I'm betting on a middle-pack finish for our Juju.
Pandora Boxx:Rochester's hometown gal emerged as the fan favorite from Season 2, and two seasons later is still among the most popular contestants ever on "Drag Race." In fact, when one of the spots on the show was left to a public vote on Facebook, Pandora narrowly lost to Sharon Needles - who opted out of "All Stars" after winning Season 4 - and the two of them were ahead of the pack by a WIDE margin. Pandora's humor, relatability, and sweetness have made her the people's drag queen, and many fans are looking for her to go all the way this time. Pandora's main critiques in Season 2 were related to her glam-challenged wardrobe and occasional self doubt. Since the show, there's no question that she's dramatically upped her fashion game, and her confidence. The trick now is, she's no longer the plucky underdog. She's got lots of fans with lots of expectations. But I suspect that Pandora takes that seriously, and I'll be stunned if Pandy doesn't make it to the finish line this time.
Alexis Mateo: Although second-runner-up in her original season, I am extremely dubious about Alexis's chances this time around. She is very good in her particular showgirl style of drag, but now she's competing directly against Shannel, who basically IS showgirl drag. I've seen the term "one-note" bandied about a lot in regards to Alexis, and I have to agree. She can be a delight (I am still tickled by her salute to the troops), but she's simply not the most exciting queen in this race - not by a longshot. There's also a strange sadness with Alexis - a vibe that permeated her entire season, actually - and the slightest dip in energy is going to leave any of these ladies in the dust. Sorry, Alexis fans, but she's my pick for the first or second to go.
Yara Sofia: Yara became a dark horse in her original season, and the plucky Puerto Rican certainly has her charms. She's got tons of energy, a cool alternative style, and can be quite funny - she was great in both the news channel and stand-up comedy challenges. But the problem with Yara is that she tended to go right to the hyper, incoherent Latina shtick, and on top of that, she completely, totally cracked under the pressure at Final 4. That's somewhat understandable, but her terrible attitude about having to lipsynch - with only four queens left - really put me off. But hey, she won Miss Congeniality that year, so what do I know? She's got some fight, but I'm seeing a middle-of-the-pack finish for Yara this time.
Manila Luzon: Had the exquisite creature known as Raja not been on the roster, I'm convinced that Manila would have won Season 3. She's elegant, funny, fishy as all hell, and a gifted comedian, and she performed one of the most memorable lipsynchs in the show's history to "MacArthurPark." While dressed as a muppet. That is furry fierceness. The bad news is, I don't think Manila is as hungry for the win as some of the other queens invited to this race. I'd like to be proven wrong, because I love her, and she certainly has the goods. But so do at least four other queens, and they won't hesitate to trip a bitch on the runway if they have to. Manila's too classy for that.
Mimi Imfurst:Easily the most controversial member of the "All Stars" cast, Mimi finished in 11th place her original season, which wouldn't necessarily scream "all star" to most viewers. But allow me to play drag devil's advocate. There's no doubt in my mind that Mimi had much, much more to show us in Season 3, and probably would have stuck around quite a bit longer had she not physically assaulted one of the other competitors during her final lipsynch. Mimi's kind of nuts. Sometimes that can be a bad thing (see: that whole physical assault thing), but if channeled the right way...well, then you get Sharon Needles. Mimi is a total wild card, and has absolutely nothing to lose. If she can keep her shit together she could surprise a great many people. Or she could have another spectacular flame out and head home early. They're almost equally likely, although her "Meet the Queen" video on Logo's website suggests that she's still trying too hard. So that's worrisome.
Latrice Royale: I live for Latrice. In Season 4 she was a regal, calming presence in a sea of foolery (or should that be Phoolery, for Ms. O'Hara?), and this queen knows how to deliver a lipsynch. But her limited looks were a real problem (her appearances on "Drag U" at least suggest that the make-up has been much improved), and Latrice is, by her own admission, pretty fried after just wrapping her original season. She's an amazing queen and I hope she goes far. But again, she's up against SERIOUS competition this time. I'm afraid we'll be bidding adieu to Ms. Royale fairly early on, and then I will need biscuit Jesus to come and sop me up, as I will be awash in tears.
Chad Michaels: In his NewNowNext video, Chad also cops to having basically no time to prepare for "All Stars." But the thing is,Chad doesn't need prep time. Chad is one of the most flawless queens we've ever seen on this show. There's very little Chad cannot do, and do well. Comedy, acting, performing, sewing, working a motherfucking runway - Chad has this. Chad has all of this. The only reason Chad didn't win S4 is that Sharon sparkled just a bit brighter. This time, I expect Chad's consistent perfection to take him right to the end.
My predictions for Final 6: Chad Michaels, Nina Flowers, Shannel, Pandora Boxx, Raven, Manila Luzon. If I had to pick a winner right now, I'd bet on Chad, Pandora, Nina, or Shannel.
That said, we have absolutely no idea how this competition will work. There are 12 queens but reportedly only six episodes. Does that mean that we'll lose two queens per episode? That would mean at least three queens lipsynching for their lives, which would be awkward to say the least. Perhaps we'll get an entirely different format? Maybe one without eliminations? The trailer does say, "Twelve queens enter, one queen leaves." (I know, I'm being too literal.)
We'll all find out in October when "RuPaul's All Star Drag Race" premieres on Logo. To keep up on the show, check the official website or follow it on Facebook. And yours truly will be blogging the shit out of this right here for City Newspaper. Echa pa'lante!