12th Jan2022

‘Ru Paul’s Drag Race 14×01’ Review

by Rhys Payne

It seems like every couple of weeks there seems to be a new instalment of Ru Paul’s Drag Race, whether that be the US or anyone one of the international spin-offs. I don’t know why but people online seem to be incredibly frustrated by this fact and I personally can’t understand why new episodes of your favourite show can cause you so much unhappiness but I suppose everyone is different. This latest edition marks the fourteenth season of the US version of Ru Paul’s Drag Race and it has been surrounded in drama even before the newest batch of queens have entered the werk room. Whether that is due to controversial casting (more on that in next weeks review) the apparent oversaturation of Drag Race shows or the viewing platform it is available on. Unfortunately for Ru Paul’s Drag Race fans in the UK this latest season not be available on Netflix and instead of the only place where we can find it is on the WoW Presents Plus app, which is available for just £44.90 annually (which works out at £3.80 a month) or you can pay monthly which is slightly more expensive at just under £5 a month. If you do make this payment however you will not only have access to the latest season of Drag Race but also hit shows such as Binge Queens, Painted with Raven and Drag Tots among many others. Hopefully, now we will have one central app where we can find all upcoming seasons of Drag Race (from all corners of the globe) instead of having to purchase multiple streaming platforms! Now that I have set up how I could watch the show, I was finally able to watch the first episode in series fourteen!

We learnt very early in this episode that the first two episodes in this season would be a split premiere with seven queens making their grand entrance this episode and seven more on next weeks episode. This sort of split premier format allows the audience to get to know the queens better and so allows them to identify fans favourite very early in the season. As always the queens enter the werk room and deliver some sort of iconic entrance line and then spend some time chatting to any queen that has already entered the competition. However the first queen would be all alone, which happened to be Alyssa Hunter from Puerto Rico. It’s great to see another queen from this island as the queens from there previously have been very exciting to watch and have showcased some incredible looks; and based on her entrance look Alyssa is no different! She entered the werk room dressed head to toe as a tribal hunter complete with a prop bow and arrow which looked absolutely amazing! The next queen to enter was Bosco from Seattle who was wore a wonderful black and white sporty outfit that had the most wonderful horns on the top of their head. This is clearly a common element in Bosco’s looks as her outfit later in the show also had this addition. The next queen has very quickly become a fan favourite and I have to admit has become one of my favourite queens to ever be on the show. Kornbread “The Snack” Jeté is clearly very naturally funny with one of the most infectious personalities to ever grace the show. She entered the werk room in an incredible leather outfit, that looked incredible strong/powerful but also fitted her perfectly. From just this first episode it is clear that Kornbread will be an incredibly entertaining queen so I hope she will last a while in the competition!

The next competitor to join Ru Paul’s Drag Race was Willow Pill and I have to admit it took me a while to realise the pun in this name. It was only when Ru Paul repetitively said the name and explained the joke that I realised the almost baby-talk inspired pronunciation of “little” made the joke. This queen entered the room dressed as a stereotypical Gen z girl who showed similarity to Paris Hilton. Not only did Willow create a full character for this look but also wore a shirt with the typo “angle” spread across her shirt with was both hilarious but also fitted the character she had created. She also controversially didn’t wear heels for her entrance and instead wore shoes that looked incredibly comfy to walk in, which was a point of ridicule from the other queens. Once Willow switched out of this character it was clear that she was incredibly nervous alongside the other queens which is totally understandable but in previous seasons the quiet queens tend not to do too well so I hope this does not happen with this queen. The next queen was Kerri Colbi who is a very gorgeous queen who is a part of the trans community and who used the flag to form the colour scheme of her entrance outfit. Her make-up to accompany this look was flawless and it is clear that Kerri is going to be one to marvel at. Also, Kerri supposedly has a very famous drag mother who has won many pagents,of  which is normally something that scares the other queens. I have to admit that I didn’t enjoy the look of the next queen June Jambalaya as to me it looked a bit basic and not up to the standard of the other queens. We also saw Orion Story enter the werk room with a wonderfully sparkly and sensual outfit with was presented alongside a lengthy entrance monologue. Due to the split premier format, it did allow me to warm up to the queens quicker than the previous season but I do have to admit that these latter two queens took me the longest to understand and I don’t think I fully get what Orion is about.

The mini-challenge in this episode of Ru Paul’s Drag Race had the queens tied to a spinning wheel where they had to pose for a photo. The wheel was decorated with pictures of past winners including Yvie Oddly, Jaida Essence Hall and Symone with the latest photo being placed between the legs of the queens tied to the wheel – which was a very unfortunate placement and the wheel itself also looked very basic. After all the queens had been spun around and around to pose for a photo they had to compete in the first-ever CNT (creativity, nerve and talent) talent show which was sponsored by Ru Paul’s werk the world tour which is heading to Cardiff the day before my birthday if anyone is interested in getting me an early birthday present! The talent show maxi challenge was opened by none other that Ru Paul herself who performed her new song ‘Catwalk.’ While this wasn’t the most energetic performance, we have to all keep in mind that Ru Paul is sixty-one years old and still looks better in high heels than most of the young people I know. This lip-sync was done in front of drag race regulars Michelle Visage, Carson Kresley and super special guest judge Lizzo! Lizzo not only offered the queens critics of their runway looks and watched every single act in the talent show but also made an appearance in the werk room as the queens were getting ready for their talent show acts.

One of the highlights during the talent show for me was Kerri’s amazing skipping rope routine to Nicky Minsk’s “Anaconda”. This performance started with a simple lip-sync to the song but once she picked up the rope she was able to showcase her incredible skills. It was clear that she had spent many years practising and developing this skill but I do think it did not translate on screen due to lighting and camera angles. I think this would have been even more impressive when performed live in a club/venue! When it was announced that Bosco would be doing a burlesque number I instantly thought about the storied past that this art form has had on this show. We have seen burlesque performed in two different All-Stars talent shows with both Roxxy Andrews and Farrah Moan choosing to showcase this style of dance with the latter known for the infamous trip and fall. Bosco started out this number is a rose outfit with petals that were sensually peeled off as the number progressed. At the end of the number, this queen stood on the runway wearing just sparkly patches on the more private areas of their body. Alyssa Hunter had promised earlier in the episode that she would be playing the guitar for her talent show act however it actually came to her performance she was simply lip-syncing to a rock and roll song. She did pick up a guitar at one point but as many of the queens pointed out, it was not plugged in. Rock and roll is not a genre normally seen on the drag race main stage and so that was a nice surprise but we learnt later in the episode that this isn’t a genre that Alyssa is a fan of which suggest that it was for the purpose of being unique. The whole point of the talent show this early in the competition is to get to know the queens and this act did not teach us anything about the queen behind the act which the judges did comment on later in the show. June decided to perform a wonderfully high energy African inspired dance number that was very powerful to watch but it was slightly hindered by the headband that kept falling off her head and covering her eye during her act. I think that Orion’s stereotypical trailer park character-led aerobics routine had all the possibility of being a hilarious routine but instead, it was incredibly awkward to watch. As a reviewer, it is my job to critique and review TV shows, which usually involves being able to explain what happened at key points in episodes. I cannot begin to explain Willow’s talent show performance which had her pouring wine and spaghetti into a bath and then preceding to get into the bath. It was an almost homage to the self-care habits many people picked up during quarantine. I personally did the classic drinking wine in the bath or eating some foods but I don’t think I ever did both never mind pouring them into the bath with me. Despite the chaos, however, it was very entertaining in its own wild way! Kornbread also made a promise during this episode that she would be showcasing her competitive eating skills which again turned out to be a lie and instead she lip-synced to her original song. She is very extremely comfortable on stage and is a very talented performer as she was amazing to watch with hilarious facial expressions throughout.

On top of having to do a spinning mini-challenge and a talent show acts, the queens also had to also show off a signature drag outfit in this first episode of season fourteen. I thought that June’s look in this runway was miles better than her entrance dress. Her stoned bodysuit with massive, over the top sleeves, complete with a wonderful cape was amazing with her make-up really shining! I can understand what the judges said about the closer details of June’s look and how the undergarments are visible but from a distance, this was one of my favourite looks I have seen in a long time. Alyssa is a very talented queen who values the importance of fashion in the drag realm as her wonderfully over-the-top fringe look complete with a massive hat was incredible! I didn’t quite understand what Orion was going for with her mushroom inspired look that revealed to her having three covered breasts. I have to admit that I personally didn’t enjoy Kornbread runway look that was clearly a homage to the guest judge Lizzo. This queen was covered head to toe in silver jewels with a hood that had a very powerful message behind it about fat people being told to cover up instead of loving their bodies. Despite the importance of the message behind the look, I did think that it needed to be bigger (which one of the judges did comment on) but it didn’t matter as Kornbread was announced as the winner of this weeks episode! At the bottom of this weeks episode of June and Orion which I think made sense as these were the queens that took me the longest to warm to. They had to lip-sync to the song “Water Me” by Lizzo which is not a song that I am particularly aware of but I enjoyed the fact that the song was by one of the guest judges. It is clear that June had just not had the opportunity until this point to showcase the type of performer she is as she fully emptied the song and dance with tremendous amounts of energy and power which made it clear that she would be staying in the completion which meant that Orion, unfortunately, is the first queen eliminated in this season.

Overall this was a very entertaining opening episode of the brand new season which must have been very difficult for the queens due to the amount asked of them. The split premier format did everything it needed to by allowing the audience to focus and warm up to just seven queens which meant they could identify any favourites within the first episode. I cannot wait until next week to see the other queens as I know there are some very interesting performers still waiting to be shown to the world. I would recommend people check out the Wow Presents Plus app to stay up to date with season fourteen and other drag race-related content!

**** 4/5

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