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Finally, the finale of RuPaul’s Drag Race crowns its new reigning Queen from Vegas

The Top Five at the Grand Finale.

The Top Five at the Grand Finale.
Screenshot: RuPaul’s Drag Race

The longest season of RuPaul’s Drag Race came to a close with the correct outcome that seemed almost inevitable from the beginning. RuPaul descended from the sky flanked with chocolate bars to announce the historic nature of this finale. First, it marked the first time, after two years, that the finale would film in front a live audienc,e after Jaida Essence Hall won season 12 from her living room, and Symone was crowned in an empty auditorium in season 13. The second historical note came from the number of finalist increasing from the standard top four to a top five. This prompted a change of format for the finale. Season 14 presented a kind of hybrid of the lip sync for the crown format from season nine with the performance numbers from season seven and eight. But before the final five faced off, the cast of season 14 returned for a final sashay down the runway.

Given the return to the stage and a live audience, the full cast was given the opportunity to bask in the spotlight by walking the catwalk. June Jambalaya donned a glittery gown that had circumference that surpassed part of the stage as she walked. Alyssa Hunter followed in a dramatic gown complete with a money reveal that fit the Vegas theme and harkened back to the money gun mishap during her elimination. Perhaps the best look of the night, Kornbread Jetee combined Beauty and the Beast in a jaw dropping look. It had nothing to do with Vegas, but no one will ever forget it. After a casual reunion look, Orion Story, referencing the luck dragon The NeverEnding Story, redeemed herself in a truly off-kilter psychedelic look worthy of Willow’s mushrooms. Not known as a look queen by any stretch of the imagination, Maddy Morphosis combined her love of camp with polish presenting an Elvis-inspired look, bringing together the King and the Queen. Kerri Colby turned to meme-culture for inspiration. When fans connected Thanos collecting Infinity Stones (I think, I’ve never seen the movie) to Kerri inspiring multiple contestants to come out as trans, she decided to give them Tranos. Meme-aside, she looked absolutely stunning in a golden warrior look. Jasmine Kennedie was much more understated than usual in an elegant green gown, that read a little too mature for her. The real draw and mystery of her look was how one can attach so much hair to a wig and how a human neck can support such a heavy weight. DeJa Skye was taking Vegas with inspiration referencing Miss Congeniality 2. It’s kind of a shame that she didn’t actually win Miss Congeniality. Jorgeous came in with the same idea, presenting a glittery silver fringed showgirl. I guess great minds (eliminated together) think alike. I’ll save the top five looks when discussing their overall performances in the finale.

After RuPaul is presented with a key to the city of Las Vegas by Michelle Visage, the competition really begins. The top five, competing in alphabetical order, face the final gauntlet to the crown. Their performance is based on five categories: their entrance look, Vegas video package, musical performance, performance look, and final interview with RuPaul.

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Screenshot: RuPaul’s Drag Race

The first up is Angeria. Her entrance look was dramatic from afar, but up close had some issues. Known for perfected pageantry, something about Angeria’s look fell flat. Though a beautiful blue gown, the nude illusion couldn’t really hide that it didn’t match her skin tone well. The attachment on the back of the gown, while impactful, proved overwhelming to the point that it appeared as if it was collapsing in on itself from its sheer size. The worst part of it was how it hindered Angeria’s movement and the strain it put in her expression. The weight of the piece seemed to dampen her natural ease and charm.

That charm was on full display during the video package. Her interactions around the city combined with her narration was everything people love about Angeria. Her highlight reel from the season echoed what she said about marrying pageantry with personality. Likewise, her interview with RuPaul reflected her narrative of becoming a star from the small town of Sparta, Georgia. Combined with her supportive parents, the video and interview were Angeria’s best sections. Her performance recalled her confessing that she prefers to “park and bark.” While her number “Check My Track Record” was energetic and polished, it lacked any sense of surprise. Her outfit reveal was instantly recognizable and the end product was the kind of dance leotard that irks Michelle Visage.

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Screenshot: RuPaul’s Drag Race

Bosco’s look was one of her best. She was simply cursed by the alphabet that Angeria came out in a blue gown right before her. Bosco’s look perfectly combined Vegas showgirl with her unique brand of angelic demon. The bright blue contrasted wonderfully with the red hair and her horns and wings were expertly constructed. The only drawback was that blue had already been done right before her. She was introduced as having “brains, beauty, and body-ody-ody.”

Her video package was one of the funniest, and showcased her ability to be effortlessly funny with deadpan delivery. Her yelling from the lifeguard stand for Michelle to put her top back on was one of the funniest lines of the evening, only to be topped by her deadpan apology to a drowning swimmer a second later simply saying “sorry.” Her highlights and confessional harped on her up and down trajectory during the competition and her near elimination. Her performance number fit well with the angelic demon brand, but was too inert. The entire number seemed built around a carefully constructed outfit reveal, which was impressive, but not engaging. The song itself felt like an abandoned Billie Eilish demo, and the static nature of the performance was underwhelming. Her wit came back during the interview with RuPaul, though Jorgeous got a lot of screen time during it. Despite displaying an ability to “shit-talk” during the season, Bosco, supported by her boyfriend and drag sister Lucy Lips, spoke about sisterhood and making friends with RuPaul which was a smart addition to complement her dry sense of humor.

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Screenshot: RuPaul’s Drag Race

Daya’s runway lavender runway look was a great play on the androgynous codes that she has used throughout the season. The showgirl in a top hat look utilized huge feathers that, combined with Daya’s height, accomplished the scale Angeria was going for without the hindrance. It was a grand look, but she seemed completely comfortable and at-ease. Her given moniker was the “wild card of season 14.”

The Vegas video package had Daya vamping in a fountain. It was the least engaging of the videos. It felt limited in space and scope. It lacked the charm or humor of Angeria or Bosco’s videos. The dark punk look contrasted with the garish landscape of Las Vegas, but did not produce an engaging video. However, the editor does deserve an award for cutting together Daya’s fall on the catwalk with her crawl in the Catwalk music video. If Bosco’s track was a failed Billie Eilish demo, then Daya’s was the b-side. The song was not memorable in any way, but her look and movement were. Daya had the best performance look of the bunch. Her insect-inspired look, referencing her taste for bugs, was layered and detailed. In addition, her movement was strangely compelling. She didn’t come off as a strong dancer in the number, but she presented something fully realized and deliberate. The interview demonstrated Daya’s humor as well when she asked “who’s Debarge?” Supported by her boyfriend and Lux, the other member of the House of Methyd, Daya discussed how women operating outside of societal norms inspire her drag, which connected perfectly with her wild card status in the competition.

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Screenshot: RuPaul’s Drag Race

Lady Camden’s finale entrance look was pure camp. She became a horse and carriage, perhaps in a reference to a fairytale. It was well constructed, but not a personal favorite. It was the look most disconnected from Vegas showgirl to me. However, the unmasking to reveal the nod to kink culture was a nice touch. Lady Camden has proven to be a bit of chameleon with her looks in the last few episodes, but it leaves me still wondering what is her signature look.

She sort of kept on theme in the Vegas video as a denim cowgirl with furry chaps. Maybe there was a connection between the horse and the cowgirl theme? The video combined with the performance really highlighted this narrative theme of going from timid to Rockstar. Her transformation from ballerina to Rockstar was one of the better reveals of the night, even if her Rockstar look was a little too plain. Lady Camden does get points for being the only queen to combine both a costume and wig reveal. She clearly proved herself as the dancer of the five, and it was the performance that resonated the most with the audience. Her song “I fell down,” referenced her fake falling gag that was discussed further during the interview with RuPaul calling her a stunt queen. Perhaps the best stunt that she pulled was having both her biological and drag mother there for support. Combining traditional family with queer family was a great statement that pleased RuPaul thoroughly.

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Screenshot: RuPaul’s Drag Race

Willow’s entrance look was perhaps the most directional. Giving a violent video-game meets anime spin on Vegas showgirl, Willow’s look was the most daring. It was the perfect reminder that Willow had some of the most memorable looks in the history of RuPaul’s Drag Race. The look perfectly matched her introductory tagline about weird being wonderful.

That wonderful weirdness was on full display during her video package with Willow running around Las Vegas like the long-lost Beastie Boy from the Sabotagevideo. The nod to espionage narratives framed her as the queen with a mission. She was savvy to point out that despite having only one official win, she was consistently at the top. Going into the finale it would seem that the momentum was behind Bosco or Lady Camden, who earned wins later in the season, as opposed to Angeria and Willow, who won in earlier episodes. Stating that her drag is about translating her dark illness into absurd humor is a perfect mission statement for her art. Her subversive humor was perfectly transposed into her song, a Julie Andrews-inspired number, “I Hate People.” The brilliance continued with her extravagant head piece (in a bizarre taupe) that hid an amazing reveal. A reveal was obviously coming, but no one would have expected a three-headed reveal that recalled both her drag mother/sister Yvie Oddly’s crowning performance, but also evoked the Bad Boy Baby trio of a blonde, brunette, and red head. Despite some references, it was uniquely Willow Pill. The chefs kiss came with the reveal of a fourth head under her skirt. It was a expertly constructed and timed performance that won over the audience. Her interview, supported by her mom and sister, was also winning. The Ross, Carson, Michelle joke was superb and the way RuPaul laughed at her “mental illness and rhinestone” comment; it was a surprise she wasn’t crowned right then and there.

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Screenshot: RuPaul’s Drag Race

In addition to a season 14 finale, the episode also functioned as a prolonged advertisement for the Drag Race Live show at The Flamingo, featuring a performance from the show called “Losing Is The New Winning.” The song was ironically started by season 12 winner Jaida Essence Hall, and featured other past queens like Kameron Michaels, Trinity K. Bonet, Kahanna Montrese, Derrick Barry, and Naomi Smalls. The season 14 girls joined at the end. It was also followed by a tribute to Las Vegas queen, and Tina Turner impersonator, Hot Chocolate, whose reaction was emotional. It was great to see how the show is starting to give a spotlight to queens that have built careers outside of the franchise, such as Love, Connie. This all came before announcing the top two, which, based on audience reaction, was quite clear. A giant slot machine spun to reveal the obvious top two queens as Lady Camden and Willow, who will compete in a lip sync for the crown.

As Lady Camden and Willow prepare, the season does some finale housekeeping. Symone comes on stage to share what her reigning year has been like and Lala Ri joins her to announce Miss Congeniality or Fan Favorite. Kornbread wins the title despite her truncated turn on the season. This was probably the biggest surprise, as I thought Kerri Colby might win that title. Korbnread gets $10,000 and then Lala Ri lets the other season 14 queens know that they also win $2,000 each. This prompts Jasmine to steal the spotlight again when you can hear her (unmiked, mind you) yell out that she finally won something. In addition to the added congeniality cash prize, when Lady Camden and Willow return to the stage. RuPaul announces that the cash prize for season 14 will increase to $150,000 for the winner and $50,000 for the runner-up.

The final lip sync is to Cher’s “Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight).” Lady Camden is in an Anglo-inspired white ensemble with gold boots. She is already donning a crown, which in retrospect feels like a faux pas. In the most over-sized suit this side of David Byrne, Willow manages to capture everyone’s attention by just standing there. As they start, Lady Camden dances across the stage gracefully. Somehow, all I seem to really remember is Willow slowly shifting side to side undulating her shoulders. There is something so captivating about her simplicity and her weirdness. Both have reveals. Willow removes her suit jacket to reveal comically over-sized pants that come up to her chin. She managed to show an even more absurd second look. Lady Camden actually struggles with her look. She stages a theatrical fall, like her Freddy Mercury number. The episode hammered the falling thing a little too much. It was starting to feel like Mo Heart’s Brown Cow Stunning or Monét X Change’s sponge. However, this time there is a slight snag. The camera briefly catches that Lady Camden’s wig gets caught on the crown. It creates an awkward transition into a fire-inspired dance look that may be a reference to Cher. In the meantime, Willow had made it into a third outfit. All the while, Camden seemed to struggle with her second wig strenuously trying to flip it around. In the end Willow wins, because what she was doing was so effortless. Even as the season went on and it seemed as if the judges were forgetting about Willow Pill, the audience never forgot and her win feels like the rightful, if not predictable, ending for the season. She ends on a hilariously self-deprecating note when she gives her final thanks to “Kornbread’s ankle.”

Stray Observations:

  • Do you think RuPaul Day in Las Vegas is April 22 or the day they actually filmed?
  • I wonder if Lucy Lips or Lux (Methyd) will be on season 15.
  • Did it feel like Symone was a little wasted in the finale? I kind of missed the past winner passing the crown to the new winner moment.
  • Symone was dressed perfectly for her role, but it would have been great to see her version of Bianca’s silver glitter look, Violet’s skull crown, Bob’s African queen, Sasha’s alien eve, or Aquaria’s phoenix.
  • Winner Top Five Entrance Look: Daya Betty
  • Winner Top Five Video Package: Bosco
  • Winner Top Five Musical Performance: Willow Pill
  • Winner Top Five Performance Outfit: Daya Betty
  • Winner Top Five Interview: Angeria or Lady Camden
  • Kind of feel like Kerri Colby should have won Miss Congeniality and Kornbread should have won fan favorite. (That said, I’ll never forget Kornbread helping Willow out).

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