Can you believe it’s that time again? Another week means another episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars 7, and thus another review. This week’s episode felt a bit like a fever dream, with the cast of eight previous winners facing head to head in a fairytale court themed improv challenge. RuPaul shows up in jandals, and Yvie Oddly makes an oddly sexy wolf. Jinkx Monsoon loses an ear, and The Vivienne speaks in more accents than you’ve had hot dinners. Joining us this week to talk about all of … that is none other than drag royalty Stephii Onassis, formerly of Wellington and currently residing in Melbourne.
Just as you were about to forget about her it’s Mx Capital Drag 2016 and creator of King vs Queen, THE Stephii Onassiss. Currently residing in Melbourne, this Wellington legend is always ready to get stupid and dumb and silly and goofy whether it’s through her eclectic song choices or another absurd look. Keep your eyes peeled for Stephii’s return to the shores of Aotearoa, coming soon.
First things first, I had to ask Stephii for her thoughts on the cast. “I really like the cast, it’s a lot of fun and it’s a good mix of personalities and characters across various seasons. I do especially like that no one’s going home. I’ve thought it’d be nice before because you get to a point where you don’t want people to leave, like with Drag Race España. I’m excited for everybody to just be friends. It creates a good relationship between them all. I saw in interviews that a lot of them said they wouldn’t have signed up for it if people went home.”
We start talking about the episode but quickly divulge into a discussion about the various hosts of the show’s many regional variants. Obviously, RuPaul’s hosting is the blueprint, but it’s refreshing to see how the other hosts have tackled the role. About Ru, Stephii said, “She’s a good host. In the last couple seasons she’s loosened up a bit. Whether that’s drugs or old age or whatever, that is nice. I don’t know if she’s trying to take more chances, because all the other hosts of the Drag Race franchises – I love how they dress. Supremme’s suits are beautiful. I thought Priscilla, the Italian host, wore some really beautiful things. Obviously in Thailand Pangina and Art are just immaculate in and out of drag. I really enjoyed Brooke Lynn in the second season of Canada’s Drag Race, I think she really came into her own. What I really like about the other hosts is that it looks like they have a say in what they’re wearing. You can see the mind of Brooke and you can see the mind of Supremme, and it creates a warmth and authenticity that Ru is not very famous for. I’ve said for years, RuPaul is the worst queen on that show. She’s never done her own makeup and hair. I also can’t stand when she gets all pseudo-psychological. I couldn’t make it to the final of Drag Race because I wouldn’t be able to keep a straight face in the final Tic Tac lunch.”
We see the queens return to the werkroom, with Jinkx brandishing her freshly awarded Platinum Plunger. I asked Stephii what she thinks of this twist, and she said, “It’s good for a season where no one goes home – how do you figure out the winner? And a scoreboard becomes a bit too complicated and everyone’s watching the scoreboard and not thinking about the competition. The execution is good; I don’t necessarily love the visual. I don’t care for the plunger itself but stopping someone from getting the badge that gets you in the final is good, and it’s worked! Trinity didn’t get a star, and Jinkx didn’t get a star in this episode. People have played it well, and I do like that people ham it up. I think this cast is really good at making TV. Without the threat of going home they can be more goofy. I thought Jaida was really smart for blocking Jinkx after she said she’s good at everything but sewing, and they just did sewing!”
The maxi challenge this episode is a comedy improvisation challenge, Fairytale Justice. It’s the second courtroom improv challenge after Jersey Justice in All Stars 4, and I found it interesting that the two queens from that season didn’t excel, but Stephii and I agreed that there were, “no duds.” The two winners from the previous week, Jinkx Monsoon and Trinity The Tuck, take turns picking from the rest of the cast to make up their teams. Raja is picked last and ends up on Trinity’s team by default and in a confessional, she expresses her annoyance at that. Stephii said, “I think it’s fair that she got picked last just because no one’s seen her do stuff like that. I get being mad; why wouldn’t you be mad? But I don’t blame anyone else for picking her last. I think Trinity would have picked her if she had first choice anyway.”
I asked Stephii what she thinks of these improv challenges, which rear their heads in various forms in every season now. She had this to say, “I don’t hate them. I think I’m my funniest when I’m put on the spot as well. Improvising is a good skill for a drag performer to have, it’s just that normally that improv isn’t acting. Normally it’s hosting and buying time if someone’s running behind. It’s a really good skill to test, and you just have to come up with the most interesting way to test it, which is this.” I really appreciate her perspective on this as it puts into perspective for me just how crucial these types of challenges can be.
Then we start talking about the challenge itself. Trinity’s team is to base their challenge on Goldilocks and The Three Bears, while Jinkx’s team replicates The Three Little Pigs. We agreed early on that this was The Vivienne’s episode to excel, and Stephii mentioned that she “bulldozed it.” Overall she says, “The Three Little Pigs did better” when I asked her what she thought. “Viv was really great. I like how she said the next day, the best thing about playing a compulsive liar is that if she forgot where she was, she could just tell another lie. Jinkx was really good and funny. Her responding to accidents on the set – the fact they left in the pit crew guy dropping the book only because she made a joke about it. She was always in that moment, and that’s what Jinkx is best at. Jaida was really good. Yvie I didn’t like to start but I warmed up to her. All the scratching, the howl was really funny. There was no fear of doing bad, and I think that helps lift the pressure.”
Stephii also mentioned having a soft spot for Shea’s Momma Bear, and said that the standout of Trinity’s performance was her brief but bad imitation of Hocus Pocus. I mention the varying levels of success the three little pigs – Jinkx, Jaida, and Monét – had with blending their prosthetic pig noses into their makeup. Both Jinkx and Jaida’s were smoothly applied, while Monét’s appeared to be just sitting on her face. Stephii agreed that it stood out for the wrong reasons, “I was gonna overlook that, but it was bad.” Part of me wondered if it was a strategic move on Monét’s behalf, a ploy to stop the winning queen that week from blocking her from earning a Legendary Legends Star next week.
I mentioned the outcry of fans on social media sites like Twitter, complaining that their favourite from the cast hasn’t won anything when they are clearly doing well. Stephii agreed that she doesn’t understand it, saying she can “admit I don’t like [a] queen necessarily, but [acknowledge] they did very well.” Some seem delusionally blind to the successes of other cast members, and that leads us to talking about Raja’s performance this week, and how she yet again did well, but not well enough to make it to the top. “She could’ve been in the top,” Stephii said, “but there were other people who were more deserving. I thought her Iris Apfel as the granny from Red Riding Hood was very funny, but I thought the character was too many notes. At least with what they showed I don’t think I got a consistent character.” And it’s clear that when RuPaul announces the top two that Raja is not pleased to not be there herself, again. “Raja’s over it, Raja’s mad,” Stephii said. “I feel like she’s been a fairly close third the whole season through. I’d rather be the worst than just miss out on the win.” We can only hope next week sees her winning a Legendary Legends Star of her own.
The runway theme this week is spikes, and I asked Stephii what she thought of it, and she told me she liked it. “There’s really obvious places to go, if I was given that theme I would try to find the weird twist and find something unexpected. I like when the themes are vague like this, when they’re given a colour, or a material, or spikes. It means that you do have more creative license.” We discussed our favourite and least favourite looks from the episode, and I quickly gushed over Yvie’s interpretation, saying it’s one of my favourite runway looks of all time, and Stephii agreed, “I really liked Yvie’s because it was out of the box for the theme. I don’t just want to cover a dress in spikes, she was the spikes.”
About the rest, she said, “I didn’t care for Monét’s dress, but I was obsessed with her hair. I really liked Raja’s outfit, and even though it was covered in spikes I don’t know if I liked it for this theme. I like the way Raja’s playing with silhouettes this season. The more I looked at Jaida’s the more I liked it, and Viv’s look was fine, but I still would have put her in the top because of how she did in the challenge.” And finally, she mentioned how much she loved judge Michelle Visage’s glasses this episode.
After deliberation, RuPaul announces the top two queens this week are Jinkx Monsoon and The Vivienne. Stephii and I disagreed with this, but then it’s not our show is it! They both won because they proved how witty and quick on their feet they are, with The Vivenne changing her character’s accent constantly throughout the challenge, and Jinkx being able to make anything into a joke at a second’s notice. Stephii said, “I wouldn’t have put Jinkx in the top, almost because I didn’t like her runway look. I’m not a big fan of brown clothing. They didn’t show us enough of the cape with the spikes on it. I didn’t think it was very interesting, and maybe the detailing didn’t show up well on TV. I would have put Yvie in the top over Jinkx,” and I must say, I have to agree.
Stephii mentioned a conspiracy theory she’s formulated, and said, “If Yvie was in the top two that means there’d be six people with one star, and they have to get down to the top four star holders. What if they’ve realised they just can’t give everybody a star, and so they were like well Jinkx won’t get a star if she’s in the top.” I then told her there are eight more episodes to go, which gives every queen plenty of time to win at least one star, but we agree that the production of RuPaul’s Drag Race likes to create a storyline and we wouldn’t be surprised if they had done something like this.
Jinkx and The Vivienne lip-sync to “Love Will Save The Day (Jellybean/David Morales Remix)” by Whitney Houston, and The Vivienne is declared the winner, meaning she gets both a Legendary Legends Star and a cash tip of $10,000, while Jinkx who was blocked last week, gets nothing. I mention The Vivienne having already won more money than she did on her original season, and Stephii says this, “I don’t think she’s allowed to make jokes about it on the show. When she won $1500 when they did the wheel of fortune spin, I would have wanted to make a joke if it was me, but I’m guessing if she did they would have cut it.” I asked her what she thought of the lipsync and she said, “It was serviceable. I think Viv won it. Even without the prop I think she would have won.”
The Vivienne is then tasked with choosing who to block next week from earning a Legendary Legend’s Star and she subverts the norm so far and blocks one of the first queens to win, Monét X Change, instead of last week’s winner, Jaida Essence Hall. I asked Stephii what she thought of this and she said, “They were talking about the pattern of the previous winner getting blocked each week, and [the camera] flicked to Monét. I think that’s Monét’s game, to play just under the radar enough. I love Jaida, but when you’re worried about the next challenge coming up I think Monét has a certain set of more rounded skills. We’ve had the ball, we’ve had two comedy things, they had the song. What’s going to happen next? I would try to predict that it’s more in Monét’s wheelhouse than Jaida’s.”
I asked Stephii if she thinks Monét would throw next week’s challenge so she doesn’t miss out on winning a Legendary Legend’s Star, and she said, “She wouldn’t throw the challenge, but maybe she’d throw the lip-sync. Because she’d get the star, but she wouldn’t have to block anyone and get in anyone’s bad books.”
The episode draws to a close and I ask Stephii what she is expecting from the rest of the season. She said, “I don’t expect anything out of Drag Race ever. I don’t find it worth getting incredibly invested in. There’s no one particular thing I’m looking forward to. I think the runways are exciting this season. I read somewhere they weren’t given a weight limit for their luggage, which is what they normally have.” I mentioned reading somewhere that Shea’s crown look hair took three months to make, and so perhaps they were given more time to prepare than regular seasons as well, and I have to agree that I am most excited for the runways this season. Stephii again says how she likes this format, and we both agree it would be cool to see it crop up in more seasons in the future. Stephii said, “If they ever do the First Out All Stars, I would want it to be where no one goes home. It would be really nice if all these people who didn’t get to show themselves got to show their all.”
And with that, I thanked Stephii for her time and conversation this week! Join us next week for a review of the fifth episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars 7 with another fabulous New Zealand Drag Performer.
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 Stephii Onassiss.
RuPaul’s Drag Race screencaps courtesy of torrents and screen capture technology.