Welcome to our weekly look at what has been going on in the Werk Room and Main Stage of Rupaul’s Drag Race Down Under.
If you want to avoid spoilers for Rupaul’s Drag Race, stop reading now.
With the US’ Season 13 finishing just a week ago, I thought I would go into drag mourning but to my joy BBC Three are broadcasting Drag Race Down Under; the first Australasian version of the popular show. What’s more both Minogue sisters have been confirmed as guest judges – will we finally get to see Night of a 100 Minogues as runway category?
For the first episode it’s business as usual with 10 queens entering the Werk Room in turn, but first Ru sets the scene that this is the antipodean version in a video piece that mentions Koala’s, Perth and more. Much like the UK one, I think these obvious associations will be plugged to death, perhaps to make it stand out as ‘not the US version’; I’m expecting some kind of Neighbours/Home & Away/Cell Block H soap challenge, decorating a boomerang and jumping like a kangaroo!
First into the Werk Room is a polished looking queen who has had a bit of an explosion in the painting room; the aptly named Art Simone. Second in is 46 year old Maxi Shields, who was giving me Mimi Imfurst vibes, but I instantly warmed to him and his huge breast plate. Then came Jojo Zaho, a ‘faborginal’ queen whose make up was done to create more of a plastic doll look – very effective and something I don’t think i’ve seen on Drag Race before.
She was followed by the first Kiwi queen, Elektra Shock and it soon becomes apparent that the tone of this season could be a little bitchy, as Jojo and Art made remarks about Elektra’s thirsty wig and the fact she is was unknown to them.
Next in was Scarlet Adams a 27 year old aussie who was serving the fashion and could’ve been Aquaria’s sister. Following her was the very fishy and slightly curvacious, Coco Jumbo who seemed to be well-known by the other queens already in the Werk Room. Then came our second New Zealander in the form of Kita Mean who was highly camp and looked like a children’s TV character with her polystyrene hair and brightly coloured dress. Turns out that Elektra works at the club that Kita owns with best mate and business partner Anita Wigl’it. Kita joked that she hoped Anita wouldn’t be joining the cast as she’s sick of Anita riding her coat tails.
Next up was young queen Ectera Ectera who gave a vintage Hollywood glamour version of a cockroach. Then lo and behold Anita Wigl’it was next in! A very hyper queen, she doesn’t seem to stop pulling faces and I fear could be grating as the series goes on. Funnily enough, she looks like a children’s TV presenter too, but when she’s out of drag!
The last queen to enter was Karen from Finance, a comedy queen who plays up to her characters name.
Ru entered the Werk Room with a G’Day, G’Day, G’Day (see what he did there?) and the season had officially begun. The first mini challenge would be to act for a superhero roll in ‘Thot’ (a parody of Thor) to honour guest judge, director and actor Taika Waititi who connected via video call. Although his opening skit was funny, it then seemed that he’d actually prerecorded a series of one liners and expressions that were then intercut after each queen auditioned rather than watching them live.
Despite receiving the most jibes before the challenge, it was Elektra that got the win; maybe the other queens have underestimated her? For the maxi challenge, Ru was throwing a ball and asked each queen to come up with two looks – Born Naked (a nude Illusion look) and No Place Like Home (a look celebrating the queens’ hometowns).
The judging panel for this series is Ru, Michelle Visage and Australian comedian Rhys Nicholson. Clearly in another ‘done in edit’ moment, Rupaul walked the runway in drag but then referred to his boy-self sat on the panel who made a joke about losing his make-up (a dingo ate it!). So in a first we had boy Ru sat on the panel but then Ru in drag cut to at the side of the stage giving comments. Mustn’t have had time to drag up for the judging panel but added in the drag version later?
The Born Naked runway saw everything from a full latex naked bodysuit to nude style body stockings galore, but it was Karen that stood out with a camp reveal of tan lines under a sparkly bikini. Also Art delivered a half dressed, half naked look that had the judges cooing.
The second look highlights again included Karen; this time giving us a drunk lady at the Melbourne Cup, acted to perfection. Art is also a Melbourne queen and gave two chic looks for the price of one to represent fashion and street art.
One of my favourites was Anita as a camp lamb that played a different way on the runway could almost have been high fashion.
Maxi and Coco went animalistic serving prawn and gorilla looks respectively and Elektra had a slightly confused flowing white body/gown with red hearts and a rainbow shawl which represented ‘land of 100 lovers’.
Jojo made a political statement about her aboriginal heritage as she regally strutted down the runway, but as Michelle later pointed out some of the application wasn’t tight enough with wig fastenings showing etc.
As the queens all took to the runway for the first critique, Anita, Maxi, Kita and Ectera were all asked to stand forward before they were told they were safe. Of the remaining six it soon became clear that the tops of the week were Scarlet, Karen and Art who all received praise for both their looks on the runway. That left Elektra, who was told her second look had too much going on and needed to be explained so just didn’t work; Coco was given kudos for her gorilla outfit but told her naked look was cheap and lacked polish, and Jojo was called out for her lack of finesse in her second look and told her first look was a little on the basic side.
After deliberating with the judges, Ru called back the six queens and sent Scarlet to safety before crowning Karen as this week’s winner and telling Art she was also safe. Ru then delivered the bad news, saving Coco and pittingJojo against Elektra in the lip-sync for their lives. The pair danced and mimed to Bee Gees ‘Tragedy’ in a fairly tame lip-sync, but it was Elektra’s flips and splits that saved her bacon. Ru told Elektra ‘Chantay you stay’ and sent Jojo home in what was the right decision. Unfortunately Jojo came across as quite bitchy and also took herself very seriously.
It’s off to a good start, although there definitely seems to be more bitching than other series….this ain’t Rupaul’s Best Friend Race I guess! Early front runners would be Karen and Art with Scarlet a close third.
Next week will be Snatch Game, which I think marks the earliest it’s ever been done in a series. Here’s hoping there will at least be some characters I’ve heard of!
Rupaul’s Drag Race Down Under is on BBC Three every Sunday. Watch on iPlayer.