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 This n’ That, located at 108 North 6th Street off the Bedford L.
In the immortal words of Mariah Balenciaga: “If it’s right, it’s right.” And Bob the Drag Queen’s win was so, so right.
The eighth season of RuPaul’s Drag Race came to a close Monday night as New York’s leading advocate for walking into the club purse first was crowned America’s Next Drag Superstar over fellow finalists Kim Chi and Naomi Smalls. Bob’s win should come as a shock to no one who’s been following the show this year; she had three challenge wins, more than any of her competitors, and an otherwise strong track record episode to episode. If you didn’t see this victory coming, you weren’t paying attention.
Bob the Drag Queen is crowned during the finale episode of “RuPaul’s Drag Race” season eight. (World of Wonder Productions/Passion Distribution)
To watch the 90-minute Drag Race finale, I hit up This n’ That, a bar that on busy nights—like Monday—feels more Chelsea-adjacent than its Bedford-stop address might let on. Many of the patrons gathered at TnT agreed with Bob’s crowning, cheering wildly almost every time the mouthy Manhattanite walked onscreen. The support made sense to me, as it did to many others.
“I really identified with Bob,” Tommy Pico, a Brooklyn-based poet I ran into at the venue, told me just before the episode began airing. “Somebody like Bob or somebody like us having self esteem is a radical act because America was not made with us in mind. [Laughs.] The system wasn’t made for people like us to flourish, so deciding that you’re going to feel good about yourself and deciding that you’re going to make yourself laugh is speaking truth to power.”
He added that rooting for #TeamBob helped him understand why people care about sports so much. I asked Pico, whose debut book of poetry IRL will be released in September, if he might give watching actual sports at a bar a try now that Drag Race was over.
“No,” he said. “Never.”
Bob the Drag Queen is crowned America’s Next Drag Superstar live in New York Monday night. (Instagram, @bobthedragqueen)
Bob wasn’t the only Drag Race hopeful who received support from the TnT audience. Runner-up Kim Chi’s efforts were widely applauded, as were Miss Congeniality winner Cynthia Lee Fontaine’s. The biggest cheers of the night came in favor of Thorgy Thor, arguably the first true Brooklyn queen to make it on Drag Race. (Sorry, Pearl.) The audience was supportive yet comparatively quiet when second runner-up Naomi Smalls was given the spotlight, and the crowd all but ignored eliminated queens Robbie Turner and Derrick Barry during their various finale appearances—just like they talked over our TnT hostesses for the evening, Brooklyn queens Ruby Roo and Ragamuffin, during commercial breaks.
That disconnect bothered me—like, don’t you see the invisible thread running through your local drag scene all the way up to the streamlined, homogenized vision of drag you’re consuming on TV? You wouldn’t ignore Brooklyn’s own Thorgy Thor now that she’s been on TV, but would you have talked over her Drag Race hosting gigs in years past? Are you just here so you don’t get fined? Why can’t you treat them like they would be treated by any stuh-raaaaaanger on the street?
I really shouldn’t have to explain the reference. (Paramount Pictures)
That’s but one of the many reasons why I’m so glad that Bob the Drag Queen won season eight. She’s a queen of context with deep roots in her greater communities, raising thousands of dollars for various charities that support homeless LGBTQ youth nationwide. Given the fact that a black drag queen hasn’t even made it to the top three of RuPaul’s Drag Race since 2010, the importance of her win, in terms of representation, cannot be overstated. Logo’s flagship series is the most visible and most widely consumed piece of gay media at the moment—maybe ever. So if it’s going to commodify queerness and sell it to the straight nation at large, the least it can do is start giving those who can’t fly “Aryan Airlines” a chance to soar as well.
But back to Bob, who, at the end of the day, is just really talented. She said so herself during her finale one-on-one with RuPaul, literally word for word: “I’m just really talented.” And last night, that talent was justly rewarded.