EP5 — The Inner Saboteur

Another week brings another episode of everyone’s favourite season of the biggest drag reality television competition show! This episode will see some failing upwards, strong butterflies, and the daintiest celebratory ponytail. Joining me this week is the endlessly talented and kind Harlie Lux!

Harlie is a Pinup Punk Fashionista! Harlie is a hair wizard and a lip-sync slayer. She gives you an edge and is constantly changing things up so ya never know what you’re gonna get. She’s been on the Wellington scene for a while now, but is always having a good time. For more info about what she’s up to follow her on Instagram @harlielux.

The episode opens, as always, with the queens returning to the werkroom straight from the back end of the previous episode. We see Viv celebrating her win, and then an extremely salty Monét entering, carrying the Platinum Plunger. Raja and Yvie complain about not having won yet, and then they de-drag to get ready for another day and another challenge. I asked Harlie what she thought about the season so far. “I really like it; it’s a breath of fresh air. It’s what the Drag Race world needed. It was getting a bit stale. Imagine if they bought James (Winner of Season 2) in. How good would that have been? And they could have brought more of the international winners in. I feel like Viv is a good choice because she’s quite universal and she has worked with a lot of the Americans. But if you’re gonna bring one, at least bring one or two. And I’m glad to see Raja again.

“I think if the blocking thing weren’t there, Jinkx would win the season, it’s very obvious. Everyone’s very threatened by Jinkx, which is fair. Her fashion’s her weakest point, but it’s not remotely bad. She’s got an aesthetic and she sticks to it. She has been wearing the same silhouette. She’s been wearing a lot of gowns. They’re kind of letting [the queens] be themselves. On a regular season, they want to see you do a bit of everything, but like Yvie is being Yvie, Jinkx is being Jinkx, Shea is being Shea, everyone’s being their own aesthetics. Everyone’s sticking to it and they’re not trying to change that.”

This week the main challenge is a comedic public speaking challenge, where the performers must give commencement speeches after graduating from Drag U. The little nod to the short-lived offshoot of the franchise, Drag U, is cute, and it allows the performers to showcase their skills in blending comedy and inspiration. I asked Harlie if she likes these kinds of challenges. “I do, but I would be awful at them. I can’t read a script to save my life. They can go either way. You can tell they’re all winners. Throughout the whole episode, no one has been bad, it’s literally splitting hairs. That outfit is not as nice as that one, but it’s still not bad. That performance was probably not as good as that one, but as a stand-alone, it was still really good.”

We’re far enough into the season now that the queen’s personalities are really starting to shine through, especially with all of them staying through the whole season. We see Raja complaining about how she doesn’t have a win or a Legendary Legends Star yet, and rightfully so. She has been at the top for the majority of the competition so far, and has narrowly missed out on earning a Legendary Legends Star enough times to drive anyone mad. Shea notes in a confessional that the werkroom is not a conducive writing environment, especially with half of the cast goofing around while she stares blankly into the depths of her writer’s block.

The performers get sage advice from mainstay judge Carson Kressley, and comedian Nikki Glaser, who listen to what the performers have so far and nudge them in the right direction. They seem most worried about Yvie, who doesn’t seem to know what she’s going to do, and have reservations about Raja’s spiritual cult leader character.

I asked Harlie what she thought of the queen’s performances. “This was a hard one, because I don’t think anyone did bad. Anyone could have really been in the top. Some people did it like it was them graduating and telling their story with a few jokes in it, and then you had Jinkx, Raja, Yvie and Viv doing characters. How do you judge a character against someone being themselves? It could just go down to what was the funniest and most entertaining. Shea and Monét did quite heartfelt ones, they were a little more personal. Viv and Raja in particular played up these weird characters, and then you had Jinkx in the middle, being this witchy woman–which I guess is just Jinkx when you think about it. I thought this challenge–it was leaning to roast territory. Is that the challenge? Or are they just doing it because it’s funny? It’s an odd choice, a graduation, but I guess they just wanted to use that Drag U sign again.”

I then asked Harlie if she had watched Drag U back in its heyday. “I’ve never actually watched Drag U, I’ve only seen like two or three episodes. When it came out it was on Logo, and Drag Race itself was really hard to get hold of.” 

This is a tough week for the judges, as each performer holds her own and succeeds this week. Sure, some did better than others, but no one did badly. Before I asked Harlie who her favourites were we had a brief conversation about the judging of the show, especially Michelle’s critiques. “Just because you don’t like it, doesn’t mean it’s bad,” Harlie said. “Especially coming from Michelle, because she has really specific things she doesn’t like. Just because you don’t like it doesn’t mean it’s a bad thing.” Especially when things she critiqued queens on in earlier seasons became runway themes, like bearded drag and pants on the runway. Harlie also noted, “Ru doesn’t really say much in the critiques anymore.

And then Harlie had this to say about the performers in the challenge this week. “I think it was between Jinkx and Viv for me. I liked Raja’s but I thought it could have been better, but it wasn’t bad. I don’t actually remember Jaida’s very much. Raja’s was definitely one of the tops, and I really liked Shea’s.” 

The runway theme this week was ‘Veiled It’, and the performers each took this prompt and made it their own. I asked Harlie what she thought of their runway presentations. “I like that Trinity has done basically what Jinkx has been doing, wearing a similar silhouette with trains and they called her out on it. I always feel like Trinity needs to take five things off. Monét’s was really cool. Jaida’s was cool, but is that a veil?” About The Vivienne’s Harlie said, “I like the colour, I’m glad she didn’t just go black, because it’s very predictable for that sort of look.” 

Yvie’s was really cool, I loved it. I like that it was this really heavy fabric that was completely rhinestoned. I just like the different take on it. Veil is like, I think the obvious one is funeral, and people didn’t do that which is nice. It’s either funeral or wedding. Raja’s was my favourite, and I quite liked Jinkx’s as well. I really liked the illusion of the butterflies holding the veil up, it was not expected. But I wish she had lifted the veil at the front up at some point.

The discussion about Yvie’s heavy dress lead us to talking about luggage limits that the performers, especially in regular seasons, have placed upon them. “They shouldn’t really have a limit,” Harlie said, “especially because they have the mini-challenge outfits, runway looks, and then they have to fricken have their lip-sync outfit. And every time there’s a lip-sync they’re all in different outfits, so that’s three-plus outfits per episode. I would really hope they didn’t get a limit on their outfits. If they started re-wearing their lip-sync outfits I’d be like, go for it. Jinkx has hair all the same colour, and the styles are all very similar. She could get away with wearing a couple of wigs twice and you wouldn’t even notice it. Do they have time to restyle stuff if they want to? Do you have to bring your own styling tools or would they have it there?

RuPaul ultimately declares the top two queens of the week are Raja, who made Ru laugh perhaps the hardest she ever has on the show, and Jinkx Monsoon, who unsurprisingly excelled at this challenge. I think I speak for every viewer when I say it is so pleasing to see Raja finally win this season, and you can tell she’s ecstatic.

When Ru’s laughing like this, you know a Legendary Legends Star is headed your way.

The lip-sync song this week is ‘Better In Color’ by Lizzo. I asked Harlie what she thought of the lip-sync, and she had this to say. “It was neither of their songs. I would like to have known what the other options were, because I feel like seeing those two people on the stage, maybe it wasn’t the best choice for these two. Jinkx did a really good job, but Raja did not know the words at all. And you can see the camera cutting around her not knowing the words. Jinkx made it her own, she did the damn thing. I think the one negative of the top two lipsyncing, there’s not as much pressure to go hardcore. Raja could have just stood there and been like ‘Oh I couldn’t be bothered winning.’” Harlie also noted, “Raja just had her hair in a little ponytail, get it queen!

Jinkx is declared the winner of the lip-sync, earning the $10,000 cash tip, and the power to block a fellow contestant from winning a Legendary Legends Star next week. However, the top two queens this week have each also won the ability to give a Legendary Legends Star to one of their fellow competitors. I asked Harlie what she thought of this new twist in a season of twists. “It’s interesting. Cool, you get to give one to someone else, but automatically you’re not going to give on to someone with one already. Yvie now is the only person who does not have one. So the smartest choice would be to give it to Yvie. So whoever gets the other one is going to be neck and neck with Jinkx. I would genuinely be shocked if no one gave one to Yvie. I feel like we’re gonna get a ‘you can steal a badge’ soon, too. The blocking thing is interesting too, because you don’t know what’s happening in the next episode. I do love that Shea created the fake secret, and I love that everyone just played along.

Ru announces that we won’t find out who gets the extra stars until the next day, or for us viewers, the next episode. It’ll be interesting to see how much the other performers try to butter up Jinkx and Raja until they make their decision, and I can imagine there’ll be plenty of discussion about this between fans.

And finally, I asked Harlie what else she’d like to see from this season. “Do you remember in All Stars 1 when they threw them on the street? Do that again. We’ve done a lot of the traditional challenges, and we’re not even halfway through. It’d be cool if they brought in their peers for the finale, to do a ‘Why do you think so-and-so deserves this crown more than her?’”

Join us next week where we’ll review the sixth episode of this gargantuan season with another fabulous special guest!

You can follow Harlie Lux on Instagram instagram.com/harlielux

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 @haroldjnp@gmail.com.


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