TV REVIEW: ‘RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars’ – ‘Divas Lip Sync Live’

Thorgy's in her head again, Shangela is a little too in character and BenDeLaCreme slays again; just another normal day

| February 2, 2018

Progress thus far. Photo courtesy of VH1.

After last week’s shocking elimination of Morgan McMichaels by BenDeLaCreme, “RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars” season 3 is in full, shady, controversial swing. Returning to the workroom, Ben is shaken up at having to have eliminated someone so early in the competition, stating that it “sucks” and is “not winning.” Thorgy Thor, however, thinks Ben is the one who needs to snap out of it and get it together since it’s a competition (we’ll discuss her later). Shangela, while disagreeing with Ben’s emotion, acknowledges and respects Ben’s decision to eliminate Morgan, as she’s a strong competitor and Morgan would’ve shown no mercy for her if it came down to it. Not everyone agrees with that, with Aja revealing to the group after questioning that had she won last week’s lip-sync against Ben, she would’ve sent Chi Chi Devayne home, a fact that shocked and somewhat upset Chi Chi. Now, with the claws out, where does this season of “RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars” go from here? Up?

Back in the workroom the next day, Chi Chi has some feelings about the chosen two for the bottom two of the previous week, stating she thought Milk should’ve been in the bottom two, instead of her, a statement I partially agree with; Milk should’ve been in the bottom, but it should’ve been either instead of Morgan or with the two other girls. Milk, however, has different feelings, stating she felt like she deserved to be in the top of the week, to everyone’s surprise.

Without a mini-challenge this week, the queens jump directly into their main challenge for the week: a tribute to RuPaul in the style of an old VH1 Divas show, with guest judge Vanessa Williams to be the true judge of the divadom. The girls are tasked with impersonating a certain celebrity during the lip-sync performance and perform a RuPaul song in the style of the Diva. Milk has Celine Dion, Kennedy Davenport has Janet Jackson, Aja has Amy Winehouse, Chi Chi has Patti LaBelle, Trixie Mattel has Dolly Parton, Shangela has Mariah Carey, Thorgy has Stevie Nicks, Ben has Julie Andrews, and Bebe Zahara Benet has Diana Ross, Ru’s favorite diva.

Quickly into working on the performance, Thorgy is in her head again, worrying that her portrayal of Nicks isn’t going to be on par with the other girls for the simple fact that Nicks is not a traditionally glamorous diva, summarizing that it feels like the cards are stacked against her favor.

Meanwhile, Milk is busy making terrible decisions in choosing to wear Dion’s 2017 Met Gala look instead of one of Dion’s trademark looks. Milk has this tendency to be really confident that the judges are always going to be on her page because she’s Milk, and that even if it doesn’t work, it’s okay because she’s the elusive, quirky Milk. The years of worship from basic gays since season 6 is starting to show in Milk’s personality, and she’s becoming sour very quickly.

Working with famed choreographer Todrick Hall, the girls get to work practicing their choreography for the performance. First up, one of the best dancers in “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” Kennedy, struggles to keep up with the choreography, to my everlasting surprise. She states that her dancing is never choreographed, but a natural rhythm of herself, which makes sense, but leaves Kennedy vulnerable to going the hell home if she doesn’t step it up. Thorgy is up next, and she does a nice job, but her insecurities about Nicks is beginning to show through in her performance, and Nicks is becoming harder to come by when Thorgy’s nervousness shines through. Thorgy even gets nervous at the thought of more of the girls getting back up dancer roles than her, insisting to Todrick that she can take more on.

Ben, struggles with her choreography, both in tone and execution. In all fairness, Ben is the only one tasked with doing something beyond the normal realm of her diva, with Andrews taking on a rap persona on top of her normal personality, but can she keep up after last week’s high?

And then there’s Shangela, coming in late with sunglasses and a fur coat, taking her sweet damn time, fully living the Mariah fantasy. Self-described as a method actor, she ruffles some feathers with Milk and Todrick, but any doubt about her ability in the character and the performance is absolved in her work. She might be extra, but she’s giving extra too.

Preparing for the performance, the girls discuss how they thought they were viewed on their season, giving them a chance to open up about what they wanted to change about themselves. Thorgy discusses her “rivalry” with Bob that really brought her down in season 8, meanwhile Shangela says that people open up to her outside of “RuPaul’s Drag Race” far more than her performance on the show, while Kennedy discovered she had terrible resting bitch face. It’s a nice moment to see the girls reflect on their time on the show and really evolve.

In the performance, Milk starts the show as Dion, and it’s okay at best. Her outfit is messy and her performance is borderline pantomime, lacking any real subtleties of Dion outside of the pre-recorded voice that Milk doesn’t even have any control over. Next up is Kennedy, who also lacks any subtleties surrounding Jackson and her trademark style and way of movement. She learned the movements, but she never got into the character. I felt like I was always watching Kennedy, with no real hint of Janet in there.

Things get better with Aja’s Winehouse. Pairing Winehouse style with RuPaul’s “U Wear It Well,” this is the first one that has any semblance of a character in it, and Aja really nails it. There’s a lot of subtleties in there that many people could’ve missed, but with a great vocal track and wonderful facial expressions, it makes up for Todrick’s complete lack of anything substantial for Aja to do in the challenge. Aja is still a major contender here. Next is Chi Chi’s LaBelle, which is fine. I legitimately didn’t feel one way or another about it, it’s not good, it’s not bad, it was just…there.

Mutha herself, RuPaul. Photo courtesy of VH1.

Again with the “great performances paired with nothing to do” is Trixie as Parton. Trixie is a country queen, and for Todrick to leave her behind everyone else in terms of performance is disrespectful. Still, Trixie does good work on the character and really nails her when she is given the chance to.

But now, we’re getting the meaty performances, with Shangela’s Mariah stealing the show. A good amount of this does come in Shangela’s ace performance as Mariah, perfectly suited and crafted for her, but there is a noticeable difference in how much material Shangela was given here, as opposed to someone like Aja or Trixie. It really seems to set her up for a win. This also goes for Ben’s wonderfully crass Andrews, whom she nails wonderfully too. There’s a lot of potential here, potential that could’ve been spread around a little more fairly.

Next up is Thorgy’s Nicks, which is actually not terrible, even if it’s not super high energy. Thorgy’s insecurities are still shining through in the performance though. You can tell that she’s pissed and with that, it’s hard to really take her performance seriously when we know how much fun she’s certainly not having right now.

Lastly, Bebe’s Diana is absolutely wonderful. Noted later in judging, she doesn’t have to do much, since Bebe embodies Diana so well in her face, her lack of choreography doesn’t even matter when she’s embodying the character so well.

There’s a lot of runway looks in this RuDemption Extravaganza, so I’m just gonna do a quick rundown:

Milk: Boring, not particularly flattering, and actually worse than her initial look. Boot.
Aja: Much better rendition of her princess look from season 9. Well-made, flattering and quite sexy. Toot.
Chi Chi Devayne: Much better neon look, even if it is a bit basic. Still, it looks good on Chi Chi. Boot.
Trixie Mattel: This dress is everything to me. It’s awful in all the right ways. It’s really befitting of the “ugliest drag ever” challenge. Toot.
Kennedy Davenport: As much as I want to hate it, it’s too hilariously fabulous not to love. It’s so over-the-top and ridiculous, yet so well-made and beautiful. Toot.
Thorgy Thor: It’s whatever. Boot.
BenDeLaCreme: Beautiful. Absolutely beautiful. It’s trademark, but different. A wondrous improvement over her old look. The jeweled cigarette holder is everything. Toot.
Bebe Zahara Benet: It’s cute, but the fabric looks cheap and it’s not very well-fitting. It tells a wonderful story though, even if it is a bit basic. Boot.
Shangela: Jesus Christ, woman. This look is glorious. Shangela really is the Tatianna of this season, showing such immense improvement since her season it’s nearly inappropriate. Shoot.

In critiques, Shangela, Ben and Bebe are all declared the top 3 of the week, while Kennedy, Thorgy and Chi Chi are the bottom three. Leaving Aja, Trixie and Milk safe, which Milk is absolutely livid over, thinking she deserved top billing for the week. Here’s the thing: Chi Chi didn’t deserve to be in the bottom, Milk did, not the top, the goddman bottom. So for Milk to throw an absolute temper tantrum over not being in the top, when she better be pretty damn glad her ass isn’t going home frankly makes me like Milk less than I already don’t.

Thorgy has a hard time not complaining about being treated unfairly during judging, much to RuPaul’s chagrin. Perhaps this is what did it in for Thorgy, but in the end, Kennedy and Thorgy were chosen as the bottom two of the week, while Ben and Shangela were the top two, tasked with choosing a queen for elimination and lip-syncing for their legacies. Leaving Bebe and Chi Chi safe.

Backstage, Shangela plays the damn game, making sure that no matter who she saves, she’s going to get something in return. With Kennedy being a good friend of Shangela’s, it looks easy to think that she’s going to save Kennedy, but her realness in talking to Kennedy and her possible elimination made me think otherwise. Meanwhile, Ben is struggling to decipher who truly deserves to stay, and whether or not she’d be knocking competition out with either of them. Meanwhile, Milk cries more entitled tears about not being in the top, while she should be glad she isn’t pleading for her life with Ben or Shangela.

Lip-syncing to The Pointer Sisters’ “Jump (For My Love),” Shangela pulls the props out early with a jumprope and teals the judges hearts, but Ben’s comedy is coming through once again, paired with an outfit reveal that made me scream, the lip-sync is so neck-and-neck that I can’t choose who might win it out this week. In my heart, I know Shangela deserves it, but Ben’s lip-sync is doing it for me hard. In the end, it’s Shangela who pulls through victorious. And when it came down to it, Shangela eliminated Thorgy, saving Kennedy for another week.

I’m not sure how to feel about Thorgy’s elimination, as she really did irritate me this week, but of the two in the bottom, I would’ve sent her home too, but I can’t help but think how wrong the bottom two was this week. It should’ve been Milk and Thorgy, not Kennedy and Thorgy. Hands down, the weakest performance of the week came from Milk (even though she thought she was perfect), and it’s going to be an interesting future with her as we come to see just how confident she can really be in the face of serious competition. I can’t forsee Milk staying fresh for much longer.

This being said “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” and even more so in ‘RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars,” are the stakes so high, that anyone at any time can go home for any reason. To try to predict what’s coming next is like trying to cut water, it just can’t be done. This is the beauty of this competition: who knows what’s next?

My current standings are as such:

8. Milk
7. Kennedy Davenport
6. Chi Chi Devayne
5. Bebe Zahara Benet
4. Shangela
3. Aja
2. Trixie Mattel
1. BenDeLaCreme

“Divas Lip Sync Live”: 4/5

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Category:Arts and Entertainment, Television

Hunter Heilman Hunter is the current editor-in-chief for The Niner Times. He is a senior Communications major who wishes he were a dog and wants to pet your dog if you have one. Hunter has been a member of the North Carolina Film Critics Association (NCFCA) since August 2015. Hunter has been the editor-in-chief since May 2016. Please do not hesitate to shoot him an e-mail at editor@ninertimes.com for any questions or concerns and he'll be sure to get back to you ASAP.

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Hunter Heilman Hunter is the current editor-in-chief for The Niner Times. He is a senior Communications major who wishes he were a dog and wants to pet your dog if you have one. Hunter has been a member of the North Carolina Film Critics Association (NCFCA) since August 2015. Hunter has been the editor-in-chief since May 2016. Please do not hesitate to shoot him an e-mail at editor@ninertimes.com for any questions or concerns and he'll be sure to get back to you ASAP.

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