15th Jan2021

‘Ru Paul’s Drag Race UK 2×01’ Review

by Rhys Payne

Two seasons of Drag Race being released simultaneously? Aren’t we just some extremely lucky drag fans! Now there has been some debate online about how frequent these seasons have been coming out, with All-Stars 6 rumoured to come out later this year; which will mark three seasons of Drag Race in one year (not counting all the additional seasons such as Spain, Australia etc) which many people find an over-saturation of the TV market but for me, as it stands, two seasons of Drag Race shown at the same time is filling the void!

After the success of the first season of Ru Paul’s Drag Race UK, it was only a matter of time before a second season was developed that showcased the fabulous queens from all across the UK! The opening episode paid homage to some of the most iconic moments from the previous season such as the infamous “a red wig and a silver dress… I don’t think!” Or “break up bye-bye” (if you don’t know what I’m on about then please watching season one ASAP) which was a great way to get back into the UK format. Despite the UK strand being a part of the Drag Race franchise, it is very different from its US counterparts. For example, the winner of the UK version is given an all-expenses-paid trip to Hollywood to film a web series and in all honesty, having seen Vivienne’s (season 1) series I would not be that excited about winning this prize. However, the winner of each week’s challenge is given a Ru Peter badge (see what they did there!) which the queens can wear to show off how well they have done! While there is a lot of Drag Race seasons being released this year I believe that the UK one is unique enough to gauge and maintain many peoples interest.

The queens for this season have already been announced and have done “meet the queens” style interviews and there is a wide diversity of places, talents and experiences on the show this season and I am very excited as to how these relationships will blend. The first queen to enter the werk room was Lawrence Chaney who I have to admit at first I was uncertain about. By the end of the episode, she had become one of the most likeable characters in the show. The turning point for me was when she described herself as the Susan Boyle of drag as she dreamt a dream which I found hilarious. The queen that followed was the spooky Cherry Valentine whom I have been following on Instagram for a long, long time. Cherry’s Instagram feed is full of incredible outfits and makeup looks so I am interested to see how she will perform in the show. At this point at time, I know her as a look queen and so it will be exciting to see how much she can showcase her personality. The other noteworthy thing about Cherry is that she has been working as a mental health nurse during the current lockdowns which makes her an even more impressive and likeable person in general. Another interesting thing about Cherry’s entrance is that as she entered the room she knocked her headpiece off causing her to do a retake. I had never seen bloopers of Drag Race so to see something like this happen was really unique and fairly entertaining to watch! From my initial exposure to Ginny Lemon, she is the most out-there and ridiculous character I have ever seen. I’m intrigued to see if Ginny can channel her craziness into more refined looks and performances and if she attempts a high-end glamour look at any point. I was over-the-noon when Tayce entered the werk room and revealed that she was from Newport which is a short bus ride from where I live! I hope that she puts on a fantastic performance on the show and helps to put Wales on the Drag Race map. She walked into the room with so much intensity and attitude that it was clear the other queens found her very intimidating. I would like to think this is how I would enter the room but in actually I would never be able to! They left the more well-known queens to enter later in the order. Joe Black was billed as an “international Cabernet Sensation” with a lot of the queens labelling her as an icon in the UK drag scene. I loved Joe’s sequin outfit and cape combo and is something that I want to own some point in the future! Victoria Green is the queen who has the biggest transformation in and out of drag. She is a very stable she’s a performer who has more experience than many of the other queens but remained humble and very down to earth which is great.

The first-ever mini-challenge in this season was tennis-inspired Photoshop which had the queens posing while being hit with tennis balls which led to many crude jokes that would be unsuitable for a younger audience to watch. The runway in this episode was split into two categories the first being inspired by British gay icons and the later is to showcase what makes them the queen of their hometown. This is very similar to the first runway of season 1 but without a challenge inspired by the British queen herself! Joe Black did a very interesting David Bowie-inspired sequin dress which was incredibly fun but did lack a solid reference to Bowie. If I didn’t know this was supposed to be a homage I would be impressed by the outfit as it was stunning but did not match the theme of the challenge. It was incredible to see Alan Turin (computing genius who helped win World War Two) get some recommission as being a gay icon as he is often never talked about in the manner he should be! While I enjoyed the fact that Tia Koffi paid homage to this icon by using binary code on her outfit again I don’t think it was a clear and direct reference to the pioneer. If you were putting money of an icon that would appear in this runway it would be Freddie Mercury. I hoped someone would do Freddie on Drag Race and it was Cherry Valentine that did a costume inspired by the iconic ‘I want to break free’ outfit which was very fun. For the second runway, my favourite was A’whora who showcases a Robin Hood inspired look complete with a sequinned outfit and a working bow as it was a reference to her hometown of Nottinghamshire. While this was my favourite look, as a proud Welshman, I loved seeing the Welsh dragon made of ostrich feathers being modelled by Tayce on the main stage of Ru Paul’s Drag Race UK!

Okay, so spoiler alert. Joe Black and Bimini Bon Boulash ended up on the bottom two which I did not agree too. These two were wearing probably the two most complicated outfits to lipsync in as Joe had a royal inspired gown and Bimini was in a football-inspired bikini (basically!) I have to admit that Joe performed this lipsync in the way I enjoy lost with high camp and energy but Bimini was doing some incredible gymnastics that was also a spectacle to watch. It was eventually revealed they Bimini was the winner of the lip-sync to “relax” by Frankie Goes to Hollywood which means Joe Black has to go home which I am very disappointed by. I was looking forward to seeing what this icon would bring to the show but I am going to follow her across all social media as I think she is a queen that truly speaks to my heart!

I believe that the focus on the UK branch of the franchise has a much bigger focus on entertainment as so in that regard was a great opening episode. It will be difficult to see if this season matches up to the iconic-ness of the previous season but from the first inspection, it is going to be a very interesting show!

**** 4/5

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