Mind games, rhinestones, and puns might not seem to have much in common, but on RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars 7 they shine together! That’s right, with a new week comes a new episode of the All Winners season of the hit television show, and thus another review. Which two queens will be on top this week, winning a Legendary Legends Star and a possible $10,000 tip? Wellington Drag King Homer Neurotic joins me this week to find out!.
He’s blue in more ways than one, he’s Wellington’s resident sad boy, it’s Homer Neurotic! This multi-award-winning drag king has taken home a few of Wellington’s newest performing titles, including being awarded the Den of Thurst’s first Lip Sync Assassin (2020), Kelly Fornia’s first Evolution Grand Champion and People’s Choice (2021) and Kelly Fornia’s first Ultimate Drag Royale Co-Champion (2021), a title he shares with Wellington’s Scottish Daddy and local legend, Willy SmacknTush. When he’s not bringing the bangers, you’ll find him emceeing up a storm or crying in the corner.
The episode starts with seven of the cast of eight queens walking back into the werkroom from the main stage. Everyone but the blockee, Shea Couleé, enters and sits down, although after a moment of producer-planned waiting she dramatically enters and claims she knows the TRUE secret of the plunger. Trinity is quick to join in on her mind games to psych out the other girls, having been blocked the previous week. It seems to work, but it’s hard to say if the queens are taking it at face value with all the laughter and joy being displayed on our screens. Homer had this to say about this display of camaraderie, “Trinity has never necessarily been my standout or my favourite, but she makes great TV. The fact that she’s so competitive and she’s playing these mind games with Shea, and you can tell she wants to win this so badly, but that doesn’t stop her from genuinely going over and giving everyone a hand and still pulling out an amazing look.”
I asked Homer how he feels about this iteration of the now endless seasons of Drag Race. “I was really looking forward to this season because I always thought the gimmicky things for seasons, those are my favourites. I think an Early-Outs season would be really fun. I love this cast, I love this season so far. This is genuinely the most fun I’ve had with Drag Race in a few years. The camaraderie this season is really beautiful; they all understand each other’s positions in drag race lore.”
“I think everyone is aware that it’s a reality TV show, but the strings behind the scenes have become a bit more obvious in recent years, so what’s nice about this season is that, sure it’s still a competition, there’s still stuff on the line for people to win, but everyone’s just enjoying themselves and genuinely having a good time. It’s so nice to be re-introduced to these Drag Performers.” And about no one going home this season, he said, “It’s so good because it means you really just get to see the person’s vision for the entire season, rather than needing to keep up with everything on social media after they’ve been eliminated.”
The overarching theme of this episode is a nod to Wheel of Fortune, another American reality TV show. Homer and I agreed that it flew over both of our heads a bit: “The funny thing about the Wheel of Fortune theme that runs through the whole episode is that I’m not super familiar with Wheel of Fortune. I consider myself pretty up-to-date on my queer references, but I don’t understand what this is about!”
This week’s challenge is the highly acclaimed and critiqued ball challenge, where the queens have to present two pre-prepared outfits on the runway, and create a third from scratch with materials provided by production. Each runway relates in a way to Wheel of Fortune (and even the mini-challenge ties in too), with the ball itself being called the Realness of Fortune Ball. The three themes are Vanna White Realness, Before and After, and Realness of Fortune Eleganza. The hostess of Wheel of Fortune, Vanna White, even makes a cameo, surprising the contestants as they walk out onto the runway in outfits inspired by her. Homer said it was his favourite part of the episode. “It was just really sweet and unexpected in the way that all the queens were so pleasantly surprised to see her,” but said that the show’s treatment of her reminded him of the Hello Kitty Mascot in the Season 7 ball challenge.
The ball challenge is a fan favourite, and is ranked highly along with Snatch Game as one of the hardest and most sought-after challenges for contestants to win. I asked Homer how he felt about this challenge, and he had this to say, “The balls always bring a very interesting level of stress and pressure to the show. I’ve always had a very mixed relationship with the ball challenge, because I think it is the one challenge, other than Snatch Game, that we know is coming that really sets some people apart from everyone else. What is really interesting about All Stars compared to a regular season, is that they know these challenges are coming so it’s kind of fascinating to see these seasoned professionals fall into the same trap that these newbies fall into, of still not being that good at sewing.”
Very early on into the construction segment of the episode, it became clear that seven out of eight queens knew what they wanted to do, with the eighth, Jinkx Monsoon, struggling. In a confessional, she admitted that she still does not know how to sew, even after landing in the bottom two for the ball challenge in her original season. As a huge fan of Jinkx, it was a bit disappointing to see, but I appreciated how the moment humanised her. Homer had this to say about it as well, “I adore Jinkx, she’s one of my favourite queens to ever come out of the show full-stop, and she was talking about being terrified that her sewing skills in the last 10 years had not changed, I was like you of all people know how this works! Why are you not prepared?”
We also see Trinity and Monét trying to rope Jinkx and Shea into their alliance where they won’t block each other from winning a Legendary Legends Star in the coming weeks of the competition. I asked Homer what he thought about this alliance, and he said, “I feel like as soon as they get too caught up in the strategy of it they tend to lose sight of what’s actually in front of them. They’re too busy trying to play a game of 7th dimension chess that they forget there is actually a game of checkers right in front of them.” Jinkx politely declines their offer, and when Trinity tries to rope in her Season 9 sister Shea, Shea expresses that she’s worried Monét is only using Trinity to protect herself. Something both Homer and I appreciated about this moment was Shea keeping it real with her friend: “When Shea was like ‘you are aware the only person who benefits from this is Monét right?’ I hadn’t even thought of that, now Shea’s playing 14th dimension chess ahead of Monét and Trinity.”
And now to the runways themselves! Having this cast compete in a ball challenge was really a treat. No one did badly, and it was refreshing to see that in a challenge where the editing of the show can hide your mistakes. All of the performers brought their own unique perspectives to their runways, especially the garment they had to create. However, Homer and I agreed some performers simply excelled more than others.
“The Vanna White looks were lovely,” Homer said, “I just didn’t understand the reference, it was something that I think was a bit age and region-restricted. I had to look up what the Before and After theme meant – it’s a wordplay category on Wheel of Fortune. I really enjoyed that category. It showed you a behind-the-scenes of how the queens work when they’re given a prompt. What I really enjoyed about that category was not knowing what was coming around that corner.”
We agreed that Jinkx’s ‘Whatever Happened to Baby Jane Fonda?’ was clever and that Trinity’s ‘RuPaul Charles II’ was a bit of a stretch, but she sold it just like she did her Unicorn look on Season 9. We also both enjoyed Raja’s ‘Olivia Newton-John Waters’, but as Homer said, “The moustache could have been bigger.” However, I think in this category Yvie’s ‘Cardi B. Arthur’ was the stupidly brilliant standout for us both. Homer had this to say about the Season 11 winner, “I’m so happy that Yvie’s on TV again. She has a really unique perspective – she’s not so tightly tied to her aesthetic that she can’t step outside the box and do glamour and beauty, she’s not so tied to this idea that she’s needing to present as polished and perfect, which means her drag and interpretation of things is on a different level to everyone else’s.”
I then asked Homer what he thought of the final category, the looks the queens had constructed in the werkroom with limited time and resources, and he had plenty of wonderful things to say. “Other than Jinkx being a bit more on the struggle bus than the rest of them, I didn’t think there was a dud amongst them. It’s obvious they’re all really talented seamstresses, I really appreciated the different interpretations, the different takes on silhouettes … They’re almost all performing at levels of designer garment levels.”
“I thought that Shea’s was beautiful, so gorgeous. I really love obviously where her drag inspiration comes from, and how she brilliantly brings that Black woman beauty to her looks every time. Trinity’s looked like a custom made, hand sewn, fetish leather outfit. That was not an easy task to do and the fact she did that so quickly. I really enjoyed Monét’s which I thought was really impressive considering she said she hadn’t made anything since the sponge dress and she came out in this wonderful green pantsuit. I always appreciate a pant on the runway when everyone else is doing a dress. I really enjoyed Raja’s look that she made as well, she really is the O.G. fashion girl of Drag Race.” And finally, when I mentioned how much it seemed that RuPaul wished The Vivienne would pull off her dress and hand it to her right there and then Homer said, “The Vivienne’s was incredible. It looked like she’d had it custom made. That’s how you do a classy rhinestone.”
RuPaul announces the top two All Stars of the week are Jaida Essence Hall and Trinity the Tuck, who will finally win a Legendary Legends star after being blocked last week! Homer and I discussed their joint win, and he had this to say, “I was a little surprised, just when you hear the judges’ critiques and you think you know who’s going to win, and then they pick someone else. Like I can see it, and I’m not mad about it, it’s just not who I thought was going to win.”
I asked who in particular he was referring to and he admitted, “I was just a little surprised that Trinity was in the top after the ‘RuPaul Charles II’ feedback, but I love that Jaida was there. Her interpretation was very high fashion streetwear. Jaida is possibly one of the best seamstresses that has ever been on Drag Race, alongside Ra’Jah O’Hara. As much as Drag Race is definitely getting to a point where it is becoming very untenable and unaffordable for your very casual drag artist, people like Jaida and people like Ra’jah prove that as long as you have the appropriate skill set it doesn’t have to cost heaven and earth to be on the show.”
The top two then lip-sync to “Green Light” by Beyoncé, and Homer laughed when I mentioned how excited I was to finally have a bop this season, and we both agreed it was a good lip-sync, and that the correct queen won the cash tip of $10,000. “I was actually wondering … it seems really funny, because the rest of the season has been so perfect, no notes from me, but I feel the lipsync songs have just been a very weird selection so far. I thought from the get-go that Jaida ate this one up. As soon as she started whipping the plait around I knew she’d won, sorry Trinity you didn’t stand a chance! You can see on the show the people who have thought about the song as a whole performance, rather than just going on stage and hoping that the vibes come.”
Throughout the course of our interview, we both gushed about Jaida, and Homer had this to say about her many talents. “Jaida is such a fantastic addition to the winner’s pantheon, because she is so many different things at once. She is the pageant girl, she is the seamstress, she is gorgeous, she is an incredible performer, but she’s also this huge dork.” I think it’s safe to say we’re both rooting for her to make it all the way to the end!
I also asked Homer what he thought about the much meme’d about Platinum Plunger twist, and he said this, “Well firstly it’s gold, and it’s like a rose gold. While I understand what they’re going for, I am getting a little tired of all the twists. I didn’t like the chocolate bar from the last season. [In Season 14 there was a golden chocolate bar twist wherein the queen who had the golden chocolate bar was saved from elimination]. I think this does add some fun to it, but I also don’t know how I feel about people getting strategic, when you should just think about getting to the end and getting the cash; don’t think about it too hard. It’s an insult to be blocked, but it’s also an insult not to be blocked. It will be interesting to see if any of these friendships fall apart because of that.”
This week’s recipient of the Platinum Plunger is none other than Jinkx Monsoon! I bet she regrets saying that sewing is her only weakness on the main stage now, but at least she agrees it’s a fitting week for her to receive it.
And finally, I asked Homer what he thought of this season as a whole and if he had any final thoughts to share. He said this, “I’m here for RuPaul’s Best Friends Race! This season has shown us you can show them looking good and having fun and we’ll tune in and watch. I wasn’t sure how I was going to feel about seeing so many recent drag race winners back on TV so soon, but I’ve actually really enjoyed having every single one of them back. Because if you win, unless it’s an All Stars season, it’s kind of the last we hear of them, especially if you’re not in the States and you don’t get to go see their shows. I remember when it was a big deal that Derrick Barry was the 100th queen to walk into the workroom, and now it has increased exponentially. Every time there’s a season going there’s another one to catch up on. I am feeling a bit of Drag Race fatigue, I’ve started picking up seasons and actually not being able to finish them.”
This is a point we both agreed on, but he took the time to highlight how all these different iterations of Drag Race get to showcase the types of drag from those specific areas. “Down under drag is so different because it’s influenced by so many different things, in the same way that UK drag is completely different from American drag and so on, so forth. I think it’s really important for these iterations of drag race to exist.”
And with that, I said farewell to our fabulous guest and thanked him for joining me this week. Keep your eyes peeled for next week when I’ll be joined by another New Zealand Drag Performer to discuss the fourth episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars 7!
If you are a Drag Performer from, or living, in New Zealand and would like to be interviewed as a part of this review series please get in touch by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Cover image by Tim Wilde, for more of their work you can visit tim-wilde.com.
Featured photos courtesy of Homer Neurotic.
RuPaul’s Drag Race screencaps courtesy of torrents and screen capture technology.