Without cracking even a nail, RuPaul’s Drag Race breaks into the mainstream

RuDemption is at hand as Drag Race All Stars finally makes it to Comedy Central

Queen of all she surveys: RuPaul

Queen of all she surveys: RuPaul

 

In between the endless Friends re-runs and the embarrassing Dad-japes of Impractical Jokers there is now a small space where true joy can be found on Comedy Central. It’s a place where diminutive Disney diva Vanessa Hudgens dances in a sparkly dress next to a plinth that displays a plated-up pork chop, a place where the Dolly Parton maxim of “the higher the hair the closer to God” is gospel.

Hallelu! Mama Ru is back! It’s hard to believe that it’s taken this long for RuPaul’s Drag Race to break into the mainstream, but after nine seasons (and two series of All Stars) multiple Emmy awards, record-breaking audience numbers for Netflix and VH1 and its total domination of pop culture with everyone from Gaga to Oprah bowing down to Ru, it’s nice to see the lads at Comedy Central finally catching up to speed.

The third series of All Stars (where queens from previous seasons compete against each other for a place in the Hall of Fame) has some pretty big Iron Fist heels to fill after the iconic second season. With expectations at an all-time high and with the absence of heavy-hitting drama queens such as the divisive Valentina, it would be easy to conclude that this is the season where the show is revving up to jump that infamous shark.

These fears are immediately squashed as soon as Trixie Mattel stumbles into the workroom on her Sindy doll skates, while Chi-Chi Devayne cheerily chomps on her earring and Kennedy Davenport enters with her hair sprouting like an oversized braided palm tree, her face a pointillism mirror ball – Drag Race is never average.

All Stars is the unique space given to the queens who previously suffocated under the weight of the inflated personalities of their rivals or were not fully formed enough to snatch that crown a chance to return for their RuDemption. It’s an opportunity for queens from older seasons to find a whole new audience (who could forget Tatianna and her ‘Same Parts’ spoken-word performance?).

Although for every moment of triumph like Katya’s comic genius finally captured in her Krisis Kontrol ad there’s an awkward display in the style of Coco’s silent soft-shoe show that caused her to shuffle off into oblivion. All Stars can crumble the confidence of fan favourites (the tragedy of Adore) or transform them into a hulking, egomaniac of gloriously monstrous proportions like Alaska.

The show still adheres to the winning formula of different styles of drag bouncing off each other, from arty thoughtful creatives to crazy club kids to polished showgirls, but with the added spice of the returning scrappy underdogs trying to assert themselves against the cocky kids and careerists who are more than ready for their close-ups. Alliances are formed and friendships lost through a series of outrageous, head-spinning challenges that would leave the average talent-show wannabe in a full body cast foaming at the mouth.

The new batch that make up season three are that intriguing mix of old gals out to prove a point (all-rounder BenDeLaCreme, acid-tongued viper Morgan McMichaels, angry young thing Aja and the cheeky Chi-Chi) and those who strived outside the Drag Race arena suvh as comic, country singing wonder Trixie Mattel.

Although, as usual it’s always the quiet ones that cause the most drama – surrealist oddity Milk has returned having carved out a career as a creamy-skinned male model. Milk may do a body good but seems to have become curdled by celebrity, time hanging out with Marc Jacobs and Madonna is causing her to believe her own hype, acting aloof and condescending, this might be the season that manages to turn everyone lactose intolerant.

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