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Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Work It: RuPaul's Drag Race

Posted By on Wed, Feb 4, 2009 at 10:40 AM

I recently complained to my cable provider about my ever-escalating bill and for my troubles wound up with more channels for less money. Among the new-to-me channels is the gay-oriented Logo -- and just in time for RuPaul's Drag Race!

I'm not sure that the maxim "there a reality show for everybody" has been coined yet, but the industry is well on its way to making that happen. If bariatric surgeons, dogs and truckers who drive on icy roads can get their own shows, then it's imperative that ever-camera-ready drag queens get theirs.

Has-been (no, please, let's be honest) disco diva and one-woman-band RuPaul hosts this fierce-fest that puts nine drag queens through the paces. The unworthy will be eliminated weekly, and the winner will receive mostly limited glory. (Seriously, the "big prize" is a photo shoot and $20,000. Honey, a good wig costs half that!)

We meet an assortment of gals: the booty-shaker, the fabbo-mutant, the lounge act, the Stepford wife, the tattoo-ed boy known as "Ongina," etc. Easy money is on the older, fatter girl to go first; this is a brutal beauty biz.

The first challenge seems 1. designed to test the girls' equanimity and 2. to give the folks at home something to shriek over. It's a photo shoot and the girls have to drape themselves over a hot car and two hot guys in shorty-shorts while being hosed down. Lemme repeat: while being hosed down.

Most took this in stride. It was the second challenge that drew claws, when the ladies were presented with some used clothes and boxes of junk from the dollar store and told to make a signature outfit. There was some sniffing about "$25,000 wardrobes" and ugly, cheap clothing but I applaud the challenge: Drag is from the inside out, attitude counts for a lot, and a real top queen will rock a plastic bag. If your best drag feature is a custom wig, for shame.

To wit, Ongina rocked the runway with a dress made from exploding loofahs, and Miz Flowers' 1980s-style couture-punk suit was sheer genius. Scary fierce!

While I was rooting for the older queen, Miss Thing's green dress was a hot mess and a half, and her lack of confidence in the look was obvious on the runway.

The bottom two contestants faced a final challenge -- "Lip synch for your life, and don't fuck it up," snapped RuPaul, and the two beautiful losers preened to "Supermodel." Both had problems, but Victoria -- Miss Plus-Plus-Size in Green -- seemed sad and lost.

She was told to "shantay" or "sashay" away -- I forget which was the drag code for "The tribe has spoken." There are judges, including Santino from Project Runway, but they are just on board to provide bitchy comments. (Santino to one bedraggled girl: "You look like you're about to give a $20 handjob.") Apparently RuPaul makes the decision, alone. Oh, how heavy is the head that wears the zircon crown.

Victoria -- bless her heart -- at least went out with class, all Southern charm, but undoubtedly shrieking fits of tears and the rending of chiffon await loyal viewers of future eliminations,

I'd be remiss not to note the freakiest thing about this show was the most "normal" aspect -- that is, RuPaul dressed as a man. With his skeletal bald head, snake-ish facial features and weirdly fluid motions, he resembled the evil villain-in-human-form from some comic-book movie. Look out, ladies! It's The Viper!

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