Just when you thought this season of RuPaul’s Drag race was going to continue to be boring, the show came back in the rarest of rare form with its reunion episode.
— barbara loves sasha (@whatzupbarb) June 17, 2017
Thank the Drag Race Gods that the reunion and the finale have been separated, so the queens can properly get into all of the shenanigans we viewers weren’t privy to. There was so much drama, reading, and downright nastiness going on–I haven’t felt this verklempt about a reunion since…Season 2?
Let’s get into some quick takeaways from this reunion episode:
• Valentina is the new Queen of Snakes: To paraphrase someone from Twitter, Valentina has now succeeded Alaska in earning the crown and title of The Queen of Snakes. Valentina really showed her true colors right at the end of the episode when she snapped and told Farrah–who had said Valentina wasn’t a true friend to her–to “just shut up.” Her snap came on the heels of Aja and others disagreeing with her being crowned Miss Congeniality and with her lack of reining in her fans on social media.
Look, I’ll be upfront and honest and say that if there’s one character trope I love on Drag Race, it’s a good, glamorous villain. And by “glamorous,” I mean a villain who owns the fact that she’s a villain and runs with it. Phi Phi O’Hara was like that in her season (before she tried to change her stripes in All Stars 2, only to fail), Raja and The Heathers were like that in their season, Raven was like that in her season, and now Valentina has truly revealed herself to be the classic Disney villainess her Princess Realness look foreshadowed her as. Think back to that look–it was a sweet ice skatery look but had the sidekick fairy that said, “hate everyone.” Looks like that’s how Valentina is in real life, and I lowkey love it.
Maybe it’s because I’ve always had a soft spot for Veronica over Betty, but I just love a character who knows she’s terrible and is still determined to live her life and her truth, however wrong that truth may be. And isn’t that characteristic kinda at the root of why we love some of the people we love, like Naomi Campbell and Mariah Carey? They’re divas who are, in actuality, prickly, but they live the “I don’t give a f***” life we all wish we could live deep down. Valentina gave me a lot of that in this reunion. The comment about how she feels she represents something akin to Selena for her fans gave me a lot of that Mariah Carey vibe that only a diva would have.
Valentina is no Selena, let’s make no mistake about that, but I have seen from her fanbase, particularly the young, ravenous fans, that they do see her as the Selena-esque star Valentina believes herself to be. Jiggly Caliente even brought it up in one of Hey Queen‘s recent Drag Race finale videos that when she was hosting a viewing party for the episode featuring Valentina’s departure, there were Valentina stans at the bar crying as if, to paraphrase her, they were seeing Selena’s death all over again. So her core fanbase helps prop up Valentina’s vision for herself, which is to be one of the great divas of her time.
I guess my personal feelings on Valentina are this: I knew she was a cunning, smart and savvy queen. I knew she was all about perfection in her public persona. I get it and I’m quite okay with it. As Twitter user @MarioSanchezx said, Valentina is totally Eve Harrington from All About Eve–someone who puts on an “I’m just a little girl” act to get where she needs to go in life, and is ready to slyly cut anyone out of her way to get to her goal.
— Mario Antoinette (@MarioSanchezx) June 17, 2017
Two final things on Valentina/Villaintina–yes, she should tell her fans to cut out all their bullshit. Excuse my language, but if I complain about Beyonce never collecting her fans when they get on folks’ social media and dog them out, then I have to do the same for Valentina. If you have a fanbase and you know they’re acting out of bounds, then you, as their leader, need to get on your social media platform and tell them to cool it. Now, of course, that won’t stop everybody, but it will make enough of them cower enough, I feel, to make them stop doing as much stuff as they were doing before. When these types of fans think they’re dragging folks in someone’s honor, they’ll go to any length to defend their queen. But this also speaks to today’s fandom culture as a whole–Y’ALL NEED TO STOP HAVING FAVES. Like, have the people you like, but this “fave” nonsense? As if a person can be a perfect vessel for an idea or a concept? Y’all need to stop that. And by “y’all,” I mean “the people that believe their favorite celeb can do no wrong.” Beyonce can do just as much wrong as doggone Keyshia Cole, and Valentina can do just as much wrong as anyone else on this show. At least go into the “fave” world knowing that your fave probably is going to be a “Problematic Fave,” because at the end of the day, ain’t nan one of us perfect and we’ve all said something or done something that we are not proud of. *End of soapbox rant.*
Second, while Valentina has clearly showed her colors, I do respect that she went into this playing the game. She went into this telling herself she was going to make it to the top–she didn’t go into this to make friends, she went into this to become a star and become a star she did. Maybe if she had said this upfront, like Bianca did, none of this surprise would have happened. More than likely, Valentina will learn how to do this and incorporate it into her brand so she can seem more…realistic and less of a soap opera character functioning in real life. But I am completely at peace with the fact that she didn’t try to keep up friendships with anyone on the show. Valentina has said before in an ABC News video that she keeps drag queen as colleagues and not as best friends, so…there you go. And also, it’s not a requirement to keep up certain friendships throughout our lives, right? How close were Farrah and Valentina, anyways? I believe Farrah’s emotions, but how close were they in actual life?
• Nina Bonina Brown needs to find peace: This is not me reading Nina or shading Nina or whatever. I’m actually being quite sincere, since I’m coming from a very personal place. I know Nina’s struggle well and I know exactly how her depression and darkness has been able to feed itself. She said herself in the confessionals that she still lives at home with her parents, she’s working hard to achieve her dream and to have that dream be her full-time career, while her family would rather her work so she can support herself. Basically, it’s that her family has felt like she was chasing a dream that they felt should just be a hobby and no a full-time profession.
Plus, Nina felt like she was being constantly excluded from the drag scene, and she probably felt like that inhibited her ability to make drag a profitable career. I understand exactly what it feels like to be working towards what seems like an impossible goal while trying to find a way to support yourself and meet the societal expectations of “adulting.” I also know what it feels like to see how the hivemind works–even in spaces where you feel you should belong, there’s always the idea that you still have to follow the crowd and what they believe in order to fit in and get somewhere. Just like how it works like that in the drag scene, it works like that on social media. Anywhere, really–the high school herd mentality is something that never really leaves.
In short, I get Nina’s pain, way more than I’m going to reveal in this article. I know that when the soil is primed and fertilized with this kind of pain, only the weeds of self-doubt, paranoia, and disillusionment can grow, and those weeds are hard to kill. You can literally tell yourself, “I need to stop thinking this way,” and you’ll still go back to thinking like that seconds later. These are hard habits to kill because they are partially hard-wired into the brain because the brain itself gets used to thinking in a certain way. But that’s not to say that you can’t defeat those demons. Nina has to take it upon herself to stop letting paranoia, self-doubt, and defensiveness run her life. As someone who is working on some of those same things, I know it’s a lot easier said than done. But you are the master of your mind. Whether that means going to therapy, mediating, getting a prescription, or doing yoga, you have to find mastery over your mental habits and inner demons, because it won’t happen just because it wish it would. It takes actual hard work. Will Nina put in that work? I think so. Or, rather, I hope so, because she is so talented and amazing. She deserves to have the life she wants.
• I’m rooting for Trinity to win: I know everyone’s expecting either Shae or Sasha to win, but I’m rooting for Trinity because she, like Valentina, has been playing the game to win, but Trinity has been upfront about it. She’s also been one of the most real queens this season–she hasn’t put on a persona or a facade; she’s been the direct, yet caring queen and she’s remained as such throughout the season. Also, she’s from Birmingham, so it’d be nice to have Birmingham make it to the top of the drag world for a little while (even if she’s repping Orlando).
That’s about it–what did y’all think of the Drag Race finale? Give your opinions below!
RuPaul’s Drag Race fans are both reeling and divided right now. Valentina, seemingly a shoo-in for Top 3, if not the winning spot on the show, was eliminated in the most stunning fashion, and people either don’t know how to cope with it or are blaming others for Valentina’s own mistakes.
In full disclosure, I’m a Valentina stan. (I’ve said so in this article!) Because I am a Valentina stan, I didn’t want to believe the Reddit rumors were true and was shocked when I saw Valentina leave. I was even more shocked by just how quickly it seemed like 1) the show turned on her and 2) how she’d set herself up for her own ouster. Thankfully, I can say that I’m not a Valentina stan that’s not going to view reality as it is–Valentina’s own actions led to her leaving the show. But what I’ve been parsing through is just how Valentina let herself slip up like this.
One thing people have always scratched their heads about is Valentina’s claim that she’s only been doing drag for 10 months. If my research is correct, she’s only been doing drag as a serious career for 10 months–she’s actually been doing it off-and-on for much longer. Either way, Valentina proved to those calling BS on the “10 months” claim that yes, she has been doing this for a very short time. Otherwise, I don’t think her Achilles heel–the fear of failure–would be so apparent.
I identify with Valentina when it comes to the fear of failure. Just like how I identify with Nina Bonina Brown on feeling so beat down by your career that you sometimes start seeing conspiracy theories as to why you aren’t where you feel you should be, I understand how Valentina might get so freaked out by failing (especially failing in front of an international audience, as she said in Untucked) that she would completely forget all of the words to the song and, in a peak out-of-body moment, delude herself into thinking she could get away with lip syncing with her Club Kid Realness mask on. In fact, it was that fight-or-flight response that made her keep the mask on–if she could preserve any shred of dignity she had left, she was going to do it any way she could.
I feel like Valentina must have put herself through a crash course of preparation before auditioning for Drag Race. If she’s the perfectionist she’s portrayed herself to be, she’s probably practiced her acting for months and scoured for the most detailed costumes and wigs and, probably, even rehearsed how she would answer RuPaul’s questions. Her goal, aside from winning the whole thing, was to go through the entire competition showing the most perfect version of Valentina possible. As she said, what she failed to prepare for was the possibility of actually losing.
I think that her perfectionism is why some folks were turned off by Valentina’s run on the show, because she came off as a completely stylized, rehearsed human being. I’d say that for me, that’s what made me like her even more after initially loving her performances from her videos; for me, her attention to detail and refinement is comforting in an OCD way. But regardless of how you feel about her, it was ultimately her journey towards unattainable perfection that led her down a dark ending.
(You could also say that her demand for self-perfection had already shown itself to be a debilitating factor–she had revealed that she battles an eating disorder and, like OCD and anxiety, most eating disorders seem to be driven by deep insecurity and a fruitless strive for perfection. Her dark side might be why she gets along with Nina so well, seeing how they both struggle with acceptance on some level.)
Her reliance on her charm also showed just how young in the game she is. While queens like Alaska and Alyssa have tons of charm to spare, and oftentimes can skate by in certain challenges on their charm, they also have a lot of experience and know how to recover when things go wrong. Valentina doesn’t have that experience in drag (as far as I know), and I think her lack of experience is also what led to her meltdown. It would seem she’s used to everything going right for her, and with a small amount of performances under her belt, maybe everything’s gone well because she’s been able to control the environment. But RuPaul’s Drag Race is sometimes less about finding the most talented, refined drag queen and more about finding the drag queen who can survive and adapt under pressure. Adapting under pressure is also what Alaska and Alyssa know how to do in spades. With reality hitting Valentina in the face as hard as it did, she’s now learning how to build her skills the hard way.
At the end of the day, though, it’s sad to see her go. You can tell how sad she was at her own performance on the mainstage afterwards. What I appreciated the most was how angry she was at herself. As you can see in Untucked, Valentina states that in any other situation, she would have fought to the end. Even with listening to the song before the lip synch, she just froze because she didn’t ever think that she would be eliminated. It’s heartbreaking to see how disappointed she was in herself because you can tell she really wanted this.
However, All Stars 3 could certainly be within Valentina’s sights. Like many have said, All Stars 3 could be Valentina’s to win, much like how All Stars 2 was Alaska’s to win. Until then, we Valentina stans can comfort ourselves with the fact that Valentina is still a star, whether or not she’s got the crown.
(Also, if you’re a stan who think bullying Nina Bonina Brown for winning the lip synch or talking smack to RuPaul for getting snippy with Valentina, knock it off.)
RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 9| Episode 2 | “She Done Already Done Brought It On” | Aired March 31, 2017
Oh, Jaymes Mansfield. I had such high hopes for you. We all had high hopes for you. If there was ever a time to use that Tyra Banks “We were all rooting for you” .gif, now would be the time.
I’ve recently become a fan of Jaymes Mansfield from her YouTube page, and after seeing how lively, bubbly, energetic and knowledgeable she is on her channel, it’s a shame none of it translated to the Drag Race stage. Jaymes already knew she was in her head too much, but she just couldn’t shake whatever shellshock she had. I’m not knocking her for it, though. As an introverted person, it sometimes takes a while for us to get used to a new environment, and in the meantime, we’re left looking and feeling like a shell of ourselves. That’s what happened to Jaymes here. All of the girls (well, almost all of them) seemed to understand that and tried to help her out as best they could, but ultimately, the real challenge was up to Jaymes and she just couldn’t get out of her own way enough to really shine. She’ll be fine, though–she’s got tons of fans, and she’s garnered even more after folks sympathized with her during her short time there.
However, wouldn’t it be amazing if Jaymes got the Trixie Mattel save and was brought back for a second chance? That would be spectacular!
Speaking of second chances, how great is it to see Ms. Cucu, Cynthia Lee Fontaine, back again! I’m a big Cucu fan, so I’m excited to see her energy on this season. It’s especially great to see her healthy after her liver cancer bout. I’m glad she was able to overcome this serious disease and come back to her full vigor.
This challenge was all about vigor, since it was a cheerleading challenge, but not where the queens just had to look like cheerleaders–they actually had to perform real cheerleading moves. As Nina said during Untucked, that was the most strenous challenge yet on Drag Race. I’m almost surprised they let that one be a challenge period, much less the first challenge, since it requires skills not everyone has, like doing splits and cartwheels and stuff.
However, like true professionals, everyone rose to the challenge and did what they had to do. Even Jaymes, who did some really athletic-looking tumbling. However, I have to say that while Valentina gave great Overcaffinated Cheerleader Face, Shea Couleé really gave me Real Girl Cheerleader. I didn’t go to a black school (unfortunately), but I feel like I would have seen cheerleaders like Shea Couleé at the black high school of my dreams.
She was also a very strong contender to win; in fact, most of the girls thought was going to be Shea Couleé’s win, what with her living out her Dominique Dawes childhood fantasy with a ton of flips and splits. Also, her White Party look was really strong, too. But the win ended up going to Valentina, who mesmerized the judges with her zany cheerleader persona and stunned them with her bridal look, which is based on her own mother’s wedding video.
Since I’m talking about the White Party Looks, let’s just get into my favorite looks, which are a lot. All of the looks were strong; this might be the first season in which all of the first runway looks for competition were this strong.
As the judges (which included the B-52s this week) said, this was a very Barbarella moment. It’s executed flawlessly, and she looks like a supermodel in it.
Again, another flawlessly-executed look. If Michelle Visage hadn’t pointed out Valentina’s nude shoes, I don’t think anyone would have even noticed. At least, I wouldn’t have noticed. In any case, if that’s all she had to complain about, I think that’s a clear win for Valentina. Besides, this is ode to her mother and her parents’ love. You can’t really get too mad at her for this, especially when it looks not only amazing, but expensive and luxurious.
Cynthia Lee Fontaine
Cynthia really gave us a My Fair Lady moment with this outfit, and I think it’s the perfect outfit to use as your comeback dress. I feel like we’re going to see a lot of fun, gorgeous stuff from Cynthia this season.
Trinity Taylor is someone I haven’t mentioned a lot, but I’m rooting for her as hard as I am other queens. She’s a Birmingham, AL queen who has made it to the national stage, and even though she’s repping Orlando on the show, I have to keep an eye out for a hometown girl. So far, she’s done the city proud and she’ll keep doing it if she’s consistently turning out looks like this. If there’s one thing I can say about Trinity is that she has an extremely high level for commitment to an uncomfortable look. If you’ve seen her Season 9 premiere party performance (and I’m sure other performances out there), you have seen how severely she tucks, to the point where it looks like she has a va-jay-jay. She’s not called “The Tuck” for nothing. This look continues that throughline of commitment, because this is all vinyl. How she can stand it, I’ll never know.
Nina Bo’nina Brown
This is giving me a “Storm at a P-Diddy White Party” vibe, which I’m a big fan of. She looks amazing, and that hair color is really something special; I’m glad she went with an unexpected gray.
Jaymes might have gone home this episode, but I think he had one of the strongest runway looks. Who doesn’t like a well-done late ’50s/early ’60s pinup look? I love it, since this is Jaymes Mansfield at her most Jayne Mansfield. The judges are also right that Jaymes is one of the best padders (is that a word?) in the race.
I really like the detail in this dress, particularly that faux-two-piece look. I love a high-waisted skirt or pant, and I love to see it especially when it’s executed expertly.
Also, let’s talk about how the commenters are ablaze with love for Charlie for telling Eureka to shut up in Untucked. I think some of it was Charlie’s own frustration at being in the bottom and his fear of being ousted because of his age, but I also think he was genuinely frustrated with Eureka and has been for some time. I’m not going to get into severe Eureka discussion right now, but Eureka is quickly becoming this season’s hated queen, if the comments are anything to go by.
The bottom two were Jaymes and Kimora Blac, who had to lip synch for their lives. I thought Jaymes would be able to get something out of this performance, since she’s campy and the B-52s are nothing but pure camp, especially their most iconic song, “Love Shack.” But instead, she copied Kimora, who, if her Season 9 performance is anything to go by, isn’t the best performer. But I have to hand it to Kimora; she gave the judges personality and a palpable desire to stay, and that’s what RuPaul was trying to coax from Jaymes. Darn it, Jaymes!
It was sad to see him leave the show; his Untucked departure was particularly tough, seeing how torn up he was about his performance and how he felt his dreams came undone. This is why I feel like we’re in for a surprise with Jaymes. I seriously think she’ll be back.
• Hearing Peppermint’s story about finding acceptance after a horrible high school ordeal and Cynthia’s story about battling cancer are the reasons RuPaul’s Drag Race has an Emmy. I love when the show decides to get real and give viewers an insight into the real lives of these contestants. It’s not always about glamour and fabulosity; sometimes, it’s about overcoming bigotry, finding acceptance, and overcoming what seem like insurmountable obstacles. It’s moments like these that show how much of a role model drag queens are.
• I’m glad I was able to being somewhat professional with this recap and not make it a pure gush-fest over Valentina. I’m torn between idolizing Valentina as a woman and harboring a crush on Valentina as James Leyva the man. It’s a battle of emotions right now. A result of that is screencapping a ton of Boy Valentina images.
The beautiful people of the world can be really frustrating, can’t they?
• Last, but not least–we’ve got the first RuPaul in Drag moment!
I thought, oddly enough, that this was demure and covered-up for RuPaul. Not that she’s always naked or something, but something about the dress looked understated, even though it was a loud cyan-teal. In any event, it’s not RuPaul’s Drag Race without RuPaul as The Monster, and it’s good to see her continue the tradition.
What did you think of this episode? Do you think Jaymes will come back? Give your opinions below!
Season 9 of RuPaul’s Drag Race is upon us come March 24 on VH1, and I can’t even figure out who will be the first queen sent home. All of this season’s queens seem like they could easily take the win, but even still, I have a couple of predictions as to who will be in the top five. Join me on a journey and see if you agree.
Nina Bonina Brown
Nina Bonina is someone who is a true unique force. That’s tough to say that with this list is because all of these queens on this list are true unique forces who are bringing something new to the art of drag. But what Nina brings is a truly different way to paint. She doesn’t just “beat a face” in the traditional beauty queen way; she literally becomes the characters in a hyperrealistic, yet very painterly way. It’s astonishing. (Case in point: her Transformations episode in which she made James St. James into Minnie Mouse.)
— nina bonina brown (@atlsexyslim) March 12, 2017
— nina bonina brown (@atlsexyslim) March 16, 2017
— nina bonina brown (@atlsexyslim) March 15, 2017
— nina bonina brown (@atlsexyslim) March 13, 2017
— nina bonina brown (@atlsexyslim) March 11, 2017
Also, her performances are wildly entertaining as well. Maybe the use of “wildly” is a bit of a pun, since this particular video is of her Season 9 premiere party performance as an ape. (As a Planet of the Apes superfan, it’s giving me visions of what an Ape City nightclub must be like and I love it.)
Sasha Velour is the performance art queen to beat. Sasha is probably the most avant-garde queen I’ve seen, and she definitely embodies that artsy New York spirit. She also has given herself the unique trademark of an artistic unibrow, which takes from further still from the traditional beauty makeup and presentation of what the mainstream might think of as a drag queen. Overall, Sasha’s elevated drag to a fine art level.
Shea Couleé has the makeup skills down and her own set of avant-garde references, as she showed in her episode of Transformations:
But she also has some amazing dancing skills, too, particularly with her Beyoncé performances.
I think she’s probably the most conventional on the list, but she’s got tons of stage presence, and she seems to be in line with the RuPaul mold of Young, Gifted and Black supermodel queens. RuPaul does like her Black Barbie queens, as evidenced by the wins of Bebe Sahara Benét, Tyra Sanchez, and Bob the Drag Queen (who does fall in line with that description for me–wouldn’t you count Viola Davis as a Barbie?), so Shea Coulee could certainly end up following in that tradition.
I hope one day Valentina’s fans start calling her La Valentina, because she’s a true Diva in every sense of the word. Well, except for being mean; of course I haven’t seen the show, but she doesn’t strike me as a malicious queen. What she does strike me as is humble, graceful, and gracious to her fans, which is how our Divas used to be back in the day (if, for some Divas, only in their outward appearance to the public).
Valentina really embodies that Diva persona in the best possible way, so much so that it does take me back to my childhood in the ’90s, when you would see these larger-than-life singers like Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey and Celine Dion and say, “Yes, that’s how a superstar is supposed to be!”
Of course, I’m using examples from my very narrow perspective; clearly, Valentina’s true love lies in showcasing the divas of her childhood and of her background, like Yma Sumac, Isabel Pantoja and Selena Quintanilla, to name just a few. Valentina said in her “Meet the Queens” interview that she tries to bring that telenovela, over-the-top dramatic style to her drag, and she certainly does, and for me, it’s the most comforting thing ever.
Also, she’s Boulet Brothers approved: She won a live stage version of “Dragula” two years ago, so if she can get the Boulet Brothers’ stamp of approval, then that means she’s definitely got some skills up her sleeve.
Congratulations to @allaboutvalentina ! Valentina won the club version of Dragula in Los Angeles two years ago, and has continued to claw her way to the top. We hope all your dreams come true and you slay on @rupaulsdragrace darling! (pic from Queen Kong by @jeremylucido ) #bouletbrothers #rupaulsdragrace #wowreport #valentina #queenkong
For me, it’s really going to come between Valentina, Sasha Velour and Aja for the crown. That’s my prediction and I’m sticking to it. Aja really has something special that gives her the X factor, and I think it’s her ability to tie today’s drag trends and direction to past influences, like The Fifth Element, singer La India and John Leguizamo’s drag-filled one-man comedy acts from the early ’90s. We haven’t even talked about her intense voguing yet, or her ability to perform to any song, whether it’s by a man or woman, whether it’s rap, R&B, salsa, what have you.
Many have tried to read her for looking a lot like Naomi Smalls, but could it be the no breastplate thing is just coming into vogue now? As I wrote above, Aja’s just as much about trends and trendsetting as she is about showcasing her varied pop culture influences and knowledge in her performances. I think she’s been able to combine everything we’ve seen from recent seasons and make something one-of-a-kind. It’s that alchemical ability that just might allow her to snatch the crown.
And just for good measure, here’s the act Aja was referencing in the John Leguizamo mix, “Manny the Fanny.”
Aja not only entertained me, but she taught me something new and increased my love for John Leguizamo ten-fold. Of course I’m going to root for her.
Who do you think will be in the top five? Who do you think will win? Give your opinions below!