RuPaul has become a mean, mean drag queen—and all you blabbermouths are to blame.
America’s grand dame of drag is taking drastic measures to keep the winner of her hit Logo show RuPaul’s Drag Race close to her corset after the identity of last year’s victor, Raja, was leaked halfway through the season. So she mercilessly baited this year’s three finalists with a shocking twist: America’s next drag superstar would not be named on the final episode. They’d have to wait until the reunion.
Naturally, audience members and the gaggle of queens (Pork Chop! Yara Sofia!) who filed into the El Portal Theatre last week for the reunion taping had to sign away their firstborns before being allowed inside to witness the coronation. They also had the pleasure of experiencing Ru’s magnificent entrance: “Excuse my beauty, bitches.”
But it was all a ruse. Once again, RuPaul had pulled one over on graceful Chad Michaels, spooky Sharon Needles, and spunky Phi Phi O’Hara, giving them the hardest challenge of all. Each was filmed fake-winning, and America’s next top drag queen will—finally!—be revealed when the show airs tonight.
In a sickening red gown, gold slingbacks, and matching gold curls, RuPaul took time out to explain the process to the audience. “We are going to film the ending three times so we can protect the integrity, because I know how it is with you lying bitches.”
She was flip, but she wasn’t playing. RuPaul was determined not to let the end of this season be a drag. The winner won’t even be included in the tape of the episode; it will be uploaded to a satellite and broadcast at the end of tonight’s episode, which begins at 9 p.m.
“Humans love to have a piece of something that they can run and tell somebody,” RuPaul said in an interview with The Daily Beast. “The human ego wants attention. It needs to have something over on other people. We didn’t want to tempt anybody.”
Don’t lose your wig over tonight’s faux winner’s walk, though. The cornerstone of drag is illusion, and trust us: Chad, Sharon, and Phi Phi channeled their inner winner with as much flair as the three queens who won before them. Chad Michaels’s reaction was heartfelt; Sharon Needles came out with a great one-liner; and Phi Phi had an unintentional but hilarious pink corset and tiara malfunction, which led her to crack when it was over, “That was a mess. That was worse than my Gaga.” (No, no. Nothing is as bad as Phi Phi’s Lady Gaga impersonation.)
“These kids are actors,” RuPaul said. “They are actresses. They know how to do it. It’s a live audience so they’re going to be excited anyway. I venture to say—is there ever a genuine response to anything in this world? They’ve been doing a freakin’ reality show for the past six months. They live their whole lives to give those reactions.”
It helped them, of course, that they were in on the prank. Before the taping began, producers warned the finalists that they would each get a chance to wear the tiara and sashay on the runway. Phi Phi, 26, characteristically saw the upside. “We have 16 minutes of fame instead of 15, which I really like.”
Sharon Needles, the show’s first Goth queen revealed a softer side: “I’m glad that we knew how this was going because I probably would have been a blubbering fool and it allowed me to show a more demure monster side of myself, which is how I’d want to do it.” Needles's green shimmery gown was fashionably contrasted by her ebony and ivory loose curls, signature vampire eyes, and the 1922 Ouija planchette she had glued to her forehead.
Chad Michaels, as usual, took the high road. “I still don’t know who won and I’m still not mad about it because it’s just been the most incredible journey. You just have to be flexible with this and roll with the punches. You have to remember we’re making a fun television show.”
RuPaul’s Drag Race has always been more than that. As the competition brings out the queens’ creative and artistic abilities in impossible challenges (design and sew three outfits and choreograph and learn a song and dance routine in one day!), it also forces the contestants to dig deep. For every catfight (Phi Phi and Sharon Needles’s “Party City” tussle was a classic), there is an introspective revelation about the pain of being bullied as a gay child or being disowned by parents and feeling isolated.
Phi Phi O’Hara, for example, has been dealing with the hurt of her father’s rejection for seven years. Holding back tears during the taping, Phi Phi said she knew her father had watched the show “and didn’t like it.” But her mother, who attended the reunion, said: “He’s a wonderful person and his father is missing out. It’s his loss.”
“It’s the Academy Awards of drag!” RuPaul quipped.
“That subject is so sensitive to me,” O’Hara told The Daily Beast afterward. “When they portray me as being this evil villain, alpha mega bitch, I’m not. “I have a heart and things hurt. I couldn’t talk to my mother tonight.”
As a gay punk rocker kid, Sharon Needles was bullied a lot. But even when she started performing drag at 15, she found herself alone because of her scary style. Everything changed after the season premiered in January, she told The Daily Beast.
“Sometimes when I’m working with RuPaul, I can’t even look at her without feeling so emotional about the process I went through, and what was before the competition and what happened in my life after, and what it’s done to millions of gay disenfranchised freaky kids,” Needles said. “When I’m working, I don’t have time to let them know I appreciate them as much as they appreciate me. But then I’ll go to my hotel room and I’ll cry all night. I’m holding the heartache of so many youngsters that tell me that RuPaul’s Drag Race and my participation has made them more confident, kept them from suicide, kept them from dropping out of school, or allowed them to visually look the way they want or express themselves in any way.”
After 20 years as a top Cher impersonator, Chad Michaels decided to audition for the show because she also wanted to share a part of herself with a broader audience. “I wanted people to know what I’ve been doing with my life for 20 years and dedicating my life whole-heartedly to. I also wanted to maybe inspire or maybe scare some people, but to make people feel something. People are so desensitized now and I just wanted them to hate me, love me, but take something away from this that maybe I could show you or provide for you.”
Like the rest of the season, RuPaul’s Drag Race: Reunited will offer a little bit of everything: jokes, tears, fights, friendship, fabulous fashions (including Chad Michaels’s gorgeous silver sequined mermaid silhouette and Willam’s Louboutin nails), a “reading” in RuPaul’s special library, a new vocabulary word (“rupologize”) and even a sex scandal.
“It’s the Academy Awards of drag!” RuPaul quipped.
You will see the underwear-clad Pit Crew models dragging in Willam to face RuPaul and finally explain to viewers why she was the first contestant to be unceremoniously dismissed from Drag Race. Hint: it has nothing to do with barfing and everything to do with sex. Charo makes an appearance to bail out Kenya Michaels. Phi Phi O’Hara addresses the haters, Jiggy Caliente weeps, and Latrice Royale receives five standing ovations and many more catcalls. Is “We love you, Latrice!” the new national anthem?
But will there really be a winner tonight? At the end of the reunion taping, the finalists understandably had lost a bit of their trust in their drag leader.
Phi Phi: “I’m waiting for Ru to come out and say we have to do another challenge before she crowns a winner.”
Sharon Needles: “Season four has been nothing but twists and turns and complete hysteria and madman angst. There’s a part of me that thinks Ru is just going to give the crown to Willam.”
Chad Michaels: “I’m still a little bit in shock. We’ve waited this long; what’s another couple of days? Unless, it’s longer than that. Oh dear.”