Review: RuPaul’s Drag Race season 10 premiere: 10s Across the Board


RuPaul’s Drag Race returns hot on the heels of All Stars season 3, but it’s easy to fall back into the rhythm, especially with girls are this talented.

Just last week, we watched RuPaul crown Trixie Mattel the third-ever Drag Race All-Star. Now, just seven days later, we meet 14 brand new girls. I’ll admit I was a little trepidatious about taking the plunge again so soon — there’s something to be said for giving viewers a little break to recharge, particularly on a show that blasts the senses this hard. But Drag Race, now in its 10th season, has become a big money-maker, and RuPaul is nothing if not a savvy businessman, so here we are.

And after watching the first episode, I’m at peace with that. This show lives and dies by its contestants, and we have some contenders in the mix this time. Season 10 kicks off with a mix of the new — the workroom has been spruced up for the first time since season 2 — and the old — the first design challenge is “Drag on a Dime,” the challenge from the very first episode of the show. You could take that as proof that RuPaul is finally running out of ideas, but it’s a great challenge because it requires the queens to get creative. There’s no arguing over who got assigned the good part, or if the challenge benefited this or that kind of queen; everyone had to stand on their ability.

Frankly, I wasn’t expecting so many of the queens to turn out high-quality looks, but it’s possible my expectations were low. (The only exposure I had to this challenge before was when Naysha Lopez drew it in season 8 and made a boxy mess.) In any case, newcomers Miz Cracker and Blair St. Clair immediately stand out for designing outfits with a very specific sense of mood (tragedy-stricken ’40s trophy wife and space-age high fashion debutante, respectively). Their personalities pop, too. Blair, one of the younger of the queens, has a fresh-faced innocence so sincere it almost seems like a put-on, while Cracker serves up witty comebacks made to order. (RuPaul: “What was the tragedy, a fisting accident?” Cracker: “There are no accidents in fisting.”) Right out of the gate, they’re two to watch.

But it’s veteran queen Mayhem Miller who wins the challenge with her all-black ruffled dress made from latex gloves and trash bags. It’s got structure, it’s got texture, and it’s made and sold with purpose. And on top of all that, Mayhem comes across as a total sweetheart who’s paid her dues and is happy to be here. Everybody welcome the den mother of the season.

Which brings up the other side of the RuPaul’s Drag Race coin. You’ve got the talent, which looks great, and then you’ve got the personalities, which at this point in the competition almost seem rote. Mayhem is the den mother. Aquaria, who serves up a memorably silhouetted Little Bo Peep look on the runway, is the Violet Chachki-esque above-it-all queen who can’t be bothered to sweat. Monique Heart is the lovable loudmouth. Dusty Ray Bottoms is the brainy punk queen, and Chicago’s own The Vixen is trying hard to be the reality TV villain. As with every season, we’re sure to learn more about these contestants as time goes on, but in this episode, I was more impressed by their work on the runway.

But not everyone can shine. Kalorie Karbdashian Williams and Vanessa Vangie Mateo both end up in the bottom, Kalorie for a dollar bill look reminiscent of too many past queens and Vanessa for a shapeless mass of flowers plastered to her torso. Both of them dig into the lip sync to Christina Aguilera’s “Ain’t No Other Man,” but Kalorie is clearly having a better time, and pulls more tricks out of her bag, sometimes literally.

It’s a shame, because while Vanessa scored low on the talent portion of the episode, I thought she had the most interesting personality on offer. She’s a sassy motormouth who compared RuPaul to the Loch Ness Monster — of course I wish she were still here. But RuPaul gives the spoils to the contestants who earn them, which pays dividends in the long run.

But Vanessa was my favorite girl from the Meet the Queens videos and I wanted her to last longer. Her catchphrase is “Get these cookies.” That makes no sense whatsoever and I wanted to hear it for a least few episodes.

One queen toeing the line between personality and talent is Eureka, who’s back for a second go-round after leaving season 9 halfway through due to an injured knee. Her runway look is predictably solid — a saccharine Sweet 16 look with a distinctively enormous hoop skirt — but what I didn’t see coming was her reservedness throughout the episode. In the mini-challenge, for example, the girls had to walk a runway in front of a gaggle of queens from past seasons, winners and also-rans alike. Eureka, who we know to be irrepressibly energetic, was the most mellow queen of the bunch, with nary a shimmy in sight. We’re given a lot of reasons for this, from fear (“I see all these former queens, and immediately, my butthole has sucked up the crotch of my [expletive] leotard.”) to grief (in Untucked, which now plays directly after the episode, she talks about her ailing mother) to possible complications from knee surgery, but the only thing for certain is that something is off. Let’s hope it doesn’t lead to another early exit, or worse.

As for who slays the mini-challenge, Mayhem vogues up a storm and does a cartwheel in a gown (Trixie Mattel: “I couldn’t do a cartwheel if four people operated my limbs.”), The Vixen is all kinds of acrobatic, Dusty Ray Bottoms rends her garments, Monét X Change does the best job of interacting with the crowd, and Vanessa Mateo finds a new way to do a death drop. (Get these cookies, RIP.) It’s a fun if disposable mini-challenge, and keeps up the energy during this hour-and-a-half long premiere.

Really, there’s not much else to do but keep soaking up the promise. Monique makes a rigidly structured gown out of playing cards (complete with plastic hairpiece), Dusty over-accessorizes a Tin-Man-from-The-Wizard-of-Oz-inspired number, The Vixen makes a simple-but-fun parade float outfit out of pool noodles, and Yuhua Hamasaki puts together a dress made of yellow caution tape.

These are all promising signs. If the quality remains this high, Drag Race can run year-round.

Next: Game of Thrones season 8 spoilers: Who’s visiting this time?

Random Ruflections

  • Eureka gets the night off to a good start by throwing shade at a stool in the workroom.
  • “My name is Miz Cracker, just like the snack and the racial slur.”
  • Monét X Change wins the award for best name of the season. She also has a great handle at rhyming insults, a good skill to have on this show. “How you up here doing a money gown and you look like a money clown?”
  • Today in embarrassing moments preserved forever on television, Eureka doesn’t know Harlem is in New York, Vanessa can’t pronounce “accoutrements,” and Yuhua Hamasaki does the worst cartwheel in history.
  • Even for him, RuPaul’s opening video message with all those Drag Race winner puns was over the top.
  • Having Trixie in the crowd for the mini-challenge paid off. “Yes crouching!” “Yes broken legs!”
  • The most distinctive thing about Kameron Michaels so far is that he has muscles on muscles on muscles, unusual for a drag queen. That could make for some interesting contrast in his looks. We’ll see if he has the creativity to back up his potential.
  • The producers try to serve us a storyline involving Miz Cracker copying Aquaria’s makeup, but it’s too early to tell if it’s an Alyssa-vs-Coco manufactured nothing or a Jinkx Monsoon-vs-Rolaskatox scorcher.
  • RuPaul’s runway looks can blend together after a while, but the black-and-white pattered jumpsuit she had on tonight straight-up slayed. And a good thing, too, considering the quality of the contestants’ looks.
  • Karson gets off a good pun about Vanessa’s flower-fueled runway look: “You can lead to whore to culture…”
  • So when the show pretends guest judge Christina Aguilera is Farrah Moan, who is it shading? Whatever. Aguilera is fine as a judge, but her appearance is a step down from Lady Gaga’s last year. Gaga sat down with the girls and critiqued them. It was like a master class. Aguilera went backstage during Untucked as well, but it played more like a meet-and-greet with fans.
  • Eventually, I’m sure the sight of RuPaul cutting off Michele Visage mid-sentence will get old, but now is not that time.
  • And also Asia O’Hara was there.