RuPaul’s Drag Race: All Stars S3E6 review: Handmaids to Kitty Girls


BenDeLaCreme rewrites the rules of reality TV and proves that RuPaul’s Drag Race still has plenty of juice left late in its run.

RuPaul’s Drag Race has to be the best reality TV show ever. Right? I’m speaking as someone who has never seen a reality TV show other than RuPaul’s Drag Race, but I don’t know how I can be wrong.

I’m babbling. I’m still processing that ending, where Seattle’s own BenDeLaCreme, fresh off her fifth challenge victory and third lip sync win, upended the rules of RuPaul’s Drag Race: All Stars.

The scene began like any other. BenDela had just won an emotional, if not particularly dynamic, lip sync against Bebe Zahara Benet, the both them performing a dance remix of Deborah Cox’s “Nobody’s Supposed To Be Here.”

And then — and then — DeLa had to choose between sending home Trixie Mattel, Shangela, and Kennedy Davenport. I figured it would be Kennedy on account of her having spent the most time in the bottom, and I think Kennedy expected it, too. But then Ben, calm as can be, pulled a lipstick out of her bra and revealed that the girl she was sending home was…herself.

She sent herself home. On a reality TV show. Even though by this point she was basically a shoe-in for the crown and a $100,000 prize. Who does that? I’ll tell you who: the people on this reality TV show, which we’ve already established is better than the others. By making this choice, BenDeLa becomes the rare TV personality who finds a middle path through the push and pull that defines every reality show: is it more about the drama, or the talent?

“Handmaids to Kitty Girls” leans heavily on the drama. This is the episode where the weird Handmaid’s Tale runner pays off. The remaining five queens are tasked with auditioning for a girl group: the Kitty Girls. They assign themselves different girl group personality types (Diva Kitty, Sparkle Kitty, Bimbo Kitty  — you get the idea), write lyrics and perform a song together. (Baby Spice Emma Bunton is on hand as a guest judge, naturally.)

The twist is that the eliminated queens — Morgan McMichaels, Thorgy Thor, Milk Chi Chi DeVayne and Aja — are back for their ruv…revenge and are also auditioning. At the end of the hour-and-a-half, one of the top five queens goes home while one of the eliminated girls returns.

And honestly, everyone expected something like this. They bring back at least one girl every year on Drag Race, and pulled something similar to this on All Stars season 2. It’s a chance for the eliminated queens to stir the pot both on and off the stage, and for the first chunk of the episode, the show follows through with what we expect from it.

There’s a solid 15 minutes of the girls sitting around a table and sniping at each other over who eliminated whom, and why, and are they sorry, and so on and so forth. It’s entertaining, particularly when Kennedy calls Milk out on his ego trips and Morgan accuses BenDeLa of being “hypocritical” for eliminating her back in the first episode. But it’s also a little rote. Of course the queens relitigate the issue of the nasty note Thorgy wrote about Shangela. Of course Kennedy has a talking head bemoaning the whole stunt as “a crock of shit.”

That’s why BenDeLa’s decision at the end is so refreshing. Throughout the episode, she repeats that she returned to Drag Race to show off her talent and isn’t interested in drama. But drama is a necessity on reality TV and on Drag Race. The fights, the shade, the tearful catharsis — that’s a big part of the reason people watch. And as long as BenDeLa is on the show, she’ll be involved with it.

BenDeLa is visibly upset by her confrontation with Morgan, and even though the two of them talk it out later, DeLa’s doldrums seem to turn on a light bulb in her head. What better way to put her money where her mouth is — to show that she doesn’t hold grudges and isn’t about self-aggrandizement — than to step aside and let someone else have the spotlight for a while?

She’s right that she’s already proven herself a winner — I think she’s now won more challenges in one season than any girl in Drag Race history — and by choosing to bring back Morgan, the first girl eliminated and the one who got the least exposure, she proves that she believes in giving people a chance to shine.

And the irony is, by stepping away from drama, BenDeLa creates plenty for us to enjoy. First, there’s the moment itself, which is a jaw-dropper. Then there’s the fact that, with Ben gone, the question of who will win the crown is suddenly reopened. She checked a lot of boxes with this move. For my money, the queens on this show throw around the word “legendary” way too often, but that decision…that was pretty legendary.

Not all the queens feel that way, with Thorgy rolling her eyes and Aja calling her “BenDeLaChrist,” but they’re both eliminated queens whom DeLa chose not to bring back, so consider the source.

BenDeLaCreme’s RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars portrait. Photo via VH1.

On the other hand, losing BenDeLa is a shame because she’s time and time again shown that she’s the most talented queen in the mix, and this episode is no exception. For the challenge, she channels her frustration with Morgan into a punk character: Goth Kitty, and from the first second she appears on screen, sneer firmly in place, she brings more personality to the stage than anyone else.

Her only competition is Bebe, whose Jungle Kitty character is so bafflingly off the wall I found myself rewinding her performance multiple times. As Emma Bunton points out, it had a very Scary Spice feel — Bebe and BenDeLa more than deserve their spots in the top.

As I.Q. Kitty, Trixie stands out for her brainy lyrics. (“Beauty and intelligence, in one combined. Serving body to the fifth power to the cosign.”) And over with the returning queens, Aja showed off some impressive flow. She’s clearly the best rapper of the bunch.

But the top five queens have the better group overall, mainly because they actually feel like a girl group. You’ve got a smarmy goth, a horny mathlete, a head cheerleader, whatever the hell Bebe was…girl groups are all about distinct personality types, and they had ’em. The other group was competent — there were no duds in this episode, to be clear — but their individual members didn’t stand out as much.

Honestly, the challenge this week dims in comparison to the ending. I’m excited to see how the fans react to BenDeLa’s decision. I’m excited to see if it triggers anything in the girls. I’m excited to see what Morgan can do with a second chance. Mostly, I’m just excited, which is how I like it.

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Random Ruflections

  • Trixie on Emma Bunton: “I spent a good part of my youth pretending to be Baby Spice, and a lot of my adulthood, so I’m pretty happy.”
  • Of all the queens, Bebe is generally the most cool and collected, so it was fun to see her push back when Aja grilled her about her choice of whom to send home last week. Waving her hand around, not making eye contact…it was solid non-confrontational confrontation.
  • That said, easily the most memorable confrontation was the teary tiff between Kennedy and Milk, which actually inspired Milk to reexamine his behavior in the first handful of episodes. “Am I an asshole?”
  • Trixie on why Bebe should be Mother Kitty: “Not because she has kids. Cause she’s old.”
  • BenDeLaCreme on fun: “Fun’s fine.”
  • Trixie: “If you guys have, like, a note for me, just, like, write it down, burn it, never say it.”
  • For the umpteenth time this season, Trixie’s low-key humor wasn’t quite reading right to the people around her. This time, it was rubbing guest judge Adam Lambert the wrong way. I was giggling, though. “Oh, so you believe in gender stereotypes?”
  • Hey, Shangela didn’t make any Game of Thrones references! She made one hell of a Destiny’s Child reference, though. A new era?
  • No runway this week. My favorite outfit was Milk’s denim halter top-and-hot pants combo with white sheer body condom.
  • Chi Chi had a good showing as Cajun Kitty in her sparkly silver bodysuit, but she clearly didn’t want to be brought back. “I don’t wanna be the Roxxxy of All Stars 3.” Overall, I’m a little bummed that Chi Chi didn’t live up to her potential, but happy she’s so secure in herself. All the best to her.
  • Carson to Kennedy: “The hair’s a little Newark realtor to me.”
  • BenDeLa looked really funny whenever she tried to make casual conversation in her goth girl makeup.
  • Bebe took her wig off during the lip sync, and it may have cost her the win. Aja said it best: “I don’t see no flowers. I don’t see no glitter. I don’t see no gag. You ain’t no Sasha Velour, bitch. Keep your wig on.”
  • BenDeLa’s early exit even left RuPaul speechless, a true rarity. “I’m…actually I don’t know how…how to take this.”
  • “No. More. Whiteout.”