RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars review: All Star Super Queen Variety Show


A new season of RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars brings new frontrunners, new also-rans, new heroes and new villains. It’s good to be back.

Here we go, another season of RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars. I’ve been wondering lately if Drag Race is overexposing itself. The show used to go years between seasons of All Stars. Now we have a fourth season not even a year after the third. Has it finally reached the tipping point? Is it all downhill from here? Is this when I finally lose interest?

Nah. Whatever my reservations, it’s hard not to grin when these queens walk back into the workroom one by one, cracking whatever catchphrases they’ve been massaging in the offseason (Monique Heart is really leaning into her brown cow gaff from season 10). There’s a giddiness in seeing Jasmine Masters return in a smart floral print suit and call everyone junkie wh—s, or watching Trinity Taylor rock a gown made entirely of acid-green zip ties. (That was my pick for best entrance look, although I also liked Monét X Change’s simple tuxedo leotard mashup.) Drag Race is back and I’m happy to see it.

“All Star Super Queen Variety Show” comes barreling out of the gate with some fun new storylines, too. And they start, much to my surprise, with Gia Gunn. Since her time on season 6, Gia discovered that she is a trans woman. It’s hard for me to look at her appearance on All Stars 4 and not think about the blowback RuPaul received earlier this year after he said he probably wouldn’t allow post-operative trans women on the show. I don’t know if All Stars 4 was shot before or after that controversy (Gia had not yet had gender affirmation surgery when she filmed All Stars 4, although she has now), but it’s important that she’s here and that her voice is heard.

Gia was also by far the shadiest queen of the night, coming after Trinity’s idea for the talent show (that’s the maxi challenge this week, FYI, as it has been for the past two seasons of All Stars) and coming after Farrah Moan in general (“Let’s be honest, she’s not that talented”). I remember Gia being shady in season 6, but not head and shoulders above the rest.

I also remember Gia not really standing out in challenges, so I was genuinely surprised when I enjoyed her variety show performance the most. I like seeing a drag queen rock out to a club banger as much as they next guy, but there was something lyrical and understated about Gia’s Kabuki dance, and I loved the flourishes of cherry blossoms she sent flying through the air.

So… I guess Gia is the most interesting queen on the show right now? What world is this?

Meanwhile, the girl I think most everyone expected to stir up drama, Valentina, was perfectly lovely, goofing off with the other queens and debuting an updated beret in her confessionals. Her talent wasn’t particularly creative — she stomped the runway in a glittery slip and lip-synced to a Spanish-language song — but considering that she’s most famous for not knowing the words to Ariana Grande’s “Greedy” — lip syncing was really her only option. And she does have a lot of charisma; simple as her performance is, she draws you in, and her tornado of twirls was impressive. If she can get people to move past mask-gate, she could do some real damage in this competition.

The other talent that stood out to me was Manila Luzon’s. She painted a picture of a pot of flowers onstage, but did it upside down, so we didn’t know what we were looking at until the very end. It was clever, and not the kind of thing you expect from Drag Race. Trinity’s tucking tutorial was also unique, and had an appropriately impressive finish. In one her confessionals, Trinity says that you have to take risks to win, and this was a well-chosen one. She’s someone else to watch closely.

If it were up to me, I would have put Gia and Manila in the top two. The judges went with Trinity and Monique Heart, who stomped through her original song “Brown Cow Stunning.” Monique’s performance was a little predictable for me, but I give her credit for keeping the energy level high and singing live. Even bumping and bopping and working the stage like she did, she never went off pitch, a problem that plagued Monét X Change at the start of her own drag dance number.

Farrah Moan and Jasmine Masters end up in the bottom. Farrah seemed a little nervous during her burlesque number, but her bejeweled outfit looked great, and she was serving PG-rated striptease fun until she slipped and fell in the middle of her song. At least she’d planned something. Jasmine Masters goes on stage and wings a comedy routine about how her date’s breath smells like an asshole and it’s predictably terrible. A lot of drag queens are comedians. Surely Jasmine knows some. It’s hard for me to fathom how Jasmine could have thought going out there cold was a good idea.

I enjoyed her glittery black-and-white suit, though. She looked like a referee made love to a disco ball.

We end with a lip sync to Mariah Carey’s “Emotions,” which is a great drag song. But honestly, I expected a little more out of the girls.

Trinity wore a lovely pink dress –the fiery sleeves were particularly cool — but while she was putting feeling into the words, I wanted more movement. Meanwhile, Monique had the moves, but her wig falls off in the middle of the song and she tosses it into the ceiling, which… why were you tossing your hair like that if your wig was loose, Monique Heart? I think RuPaul gave Trinity the win purely because she kept her hair on.

Trinity sends Jasmine home, which… yeah. When Monique and Trinity were grilling the bottom two girls, I went back and forth over the right choice, but in the end, Jasmine didn’t prepare anything. At all. At least Farrah put in some effort.

Then again, Farrah’s blubbering was pretty annoying. Part of me understood what Monique meant when she asked if she could send both home.

Still, this is a strong set of girls with several solid contenders in the mix. Bringing back Manila and Latrice Royale was a smart move on RuPaul’s part. A lot of the remaining girls are on on the younger side, and having a couple of seasoned, confident pros around should help everyone raise their game.

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Random Ruflections

  • Another reason I’m happy to see Latrice and Manila: they had the best reads in the mini-challenge. “[Valentina], [t]ake that thing off your face. Oh, it is your face. Your other one.”
  • Naomi Smalls’ talent, which involved walking around the stage and posing over the mildest club banger of the night, was underwhelming. The judges were right that the best moment was when she revealed her bald cap at the end.
  • I enjoyed Latrice’s athletic flag girl routine, even if she only lip-synced every other word. It had drama, it had surprises, it had charm.
  • As a guest judge, Jenifer Lewis is a natural. “Leave that nervous shit at home, it’s boring!” Come back, please.
  • The judges give Monét a note about not relying on her sponge gimmick. Is that hypocritical given that they loved Monique’s brown cow fashions? I’ll admit I’m a little tired of all the sponge stuff myself, so I’ll get on board.
  • “The judges and I will be… tooting our own horns.” And then they’re a band. We’re starting the season at a very advanced level of visual punnery. Can Drag Race keep it up?