Recapping RuPaul’s Drag Race: And The Top Three Are…
By John Walker
Naomi Smalls, Kim Chi, Bob the Drag Queen, and Chi Chi DeVayne (Photo via World of Wonder Productions/Passion Distribution/Logo)
Does anyone still own a TV? No! Or at least I don’t. That’s why I’m recapping the eighth season of RuPaul’s Drag Race by hopping from bar to Brooklyn bar where you can watch the show live every Monday night. This week, I hit up Eastlands, located at 53 Wilson Ave off the Morgan L and Central M.
As I crossed Flushing Avenue on my way to Eastlands Monday night, I suddenly realized that I was technically in drag. The heather-gray hoodie I was wearing came from Beyoncé’s Ivy Park Topshop collaboration, which, while unisex as fuck, had only been manufactured in a “woman’s” size. Gendering articles of clothing is totally bullshit and arbitrary, but I didn’t make the rules — Topshop did. I think Judith Butler said that.
Anyway, it was a pleasant surprise — one of many over the course of recapping this season of RuPaul’s Drag Race, which saw everything from a rollerskating runway to the Logo show’s first all-POC top four (and top three!) since 2011. One not so pleasant surprise came in the form of Chi Chi DeVayne‘s elimination following the final lip sync of the season. The charismatic Shreveport queen struggled during this week’s main challenge, which saw the queens filming cameos in RuPaul’s upcoming “The Realness” music video. But her glamorously pageant “best drag” runway was arresting, if not boundary-pushing, and her heartfelt closing speech about growth and opportunity was powerful.
Oh, well. I’m still extremely pleased about this year’s top three: Naomi Smalls, Kim Chi, and New York’s own Bob the Drag Queen. None of them are there because the editors needed to have a villain. (This year really is RuPaul’s Best Friend Race, not that there’s anything wrong with that.) None of them are there purely to complete a forced narrative arc. All three have deserved their spot, and I’d be happy to see any of them take the crown during the finale on Monday, May 16. I might dip into a momentary rage-fueled fugue state if that winner isn’t Bob, but, like, a happy rage-filled fugue state nonetheless.
Naomi, Bob, and Kim (Photo via World of Wonder Productions/Passion Distribution/Logo)
Ariel Italic, one of Eastlands’ MCs for the night, shared my pro-Bob sentiments.
“If it’s not Bob, I am burning this building–and others–to the ground,” she said.
Ariel makes up one third of The Nobodies, a trio of gnostic Sailor Moon villainesses-turned-queer nightlife personae who host the Bushwick bar’s weekly “Nobodies Hosting Drag Race“ viewing parties. One of her co-hosts, Lady Bearica Andrews, concurred, although she felt that Kim has a good shot at being named America’s Next Drag Superstar. The other member of their crew, DJ Accident Report, expressed the reverse; he wanted Kim to win, but predicted a Bob crowning.
The Nobodies’ weekly Drag Race event consists of a few parts: bingo (with prizes), live shows, and a “Drag Suicide” lip-sync battle between Ariel and Lady Bearica where the two trade off mystery songs of the DJ’s choosing. Courtney Barber, Eastlands’ waitress slash self-described “weirdo who works there Monday nights and makes everyone slightly uncomfortable,” says the venue’s had an “amazing” response so far.
“There’s been a huge turnout. Everyone’s been enjoying it,” Barber said. “A good mix of gay and straight people who like Drag Race.”
Eastlands might not a gay bar, but, much like The Exley and Lantern Hall, it doesn’t mind becoming one every Monday night. Any straight bar with a TV and a half-decent sound system that likes to make money on typically slow nights should probably consider doing the same — just throwing that out there!
Lady Bearica Andrews, DJ Accident Report, and Ariel Italic (Photo via Instagram, @arielitalic)
The Nobodies’ Drag Race viewing parties might be coming to a close, but their weekly event series at Eastlands–the four-week Miss Nobodies Pageant–will kick off May 23, the Monday after season eight’s finale. The pageant, they said, will be sort of an anti-pageant, a place where queens will be able to experiment with what their best (“or worst”) drag could be. The Nobodies said they want their competition to be as open-minded to as many styles of drag as possible, not just the Instagram-ready high-femme aesthetic often found on Drag Race.
“Drag Race is going to be over in a couple of years,” Lady Bearica said. “I think it will be interesting to see what happens to drag culture once it ends. I hope it gets weirder.”
“I always want to do shows that are weird and gross,” DJ Accident Report concurred. “We need more of that.”
So if you’ve been watching Drag Race all season and wondering what it would be like to perform onstage like Bob, Chi Chi, Naomi, or Kim (well, maybe not Kim), now’s your chance.
“I wanted to do drag since college, and I waited until I was 31 before I started,” Ariel said. “That was just, like, a wasted decade. We live in the information age right now — you can Google how to do anything you want! So [if you want to do drag], the only person you’re letting down by not doing it is yourself. Some people already won’t like what you’re doing, regardless of what it is, so just do what you fucking want! At least that way you’ll be happy. Fuck everyone!”