Drag Race Season 13 — Tributes and Scale: The season of RuPaul’s Drag Race we all sort of felt would never end (and sometimes didn’t want to) finally crowned the next drag superstar.
It was a return to the vaunted lip sync smackdown format after last year’s pandemic outbreak forced Ru and producers to get clever. Still, the reality of COVID lingered as the queens performed in an empty auditorium, chatted from a safe social-distance from RuPaul and were cheered on remotely by revelers in sequin ASOS clearance jackets in a drive-in parking lot.
Overall, though, the return to the grand stage, as empty as the theater was, made everything feel more special. The runtime still felt a little bloated, but we spent less time rehashing with the eliminated queens than prior seasons.
Instead, the night showcased a surprisingly emotionally-evocative performance from the top four to Bette Midler’s classic “Friends,” in honor of the 40th anniversary of the first reported case of AIDS — to the friends lost in that pandemic and our current one, as well. Maybe my brain is just ravaged from the last year, but this was sweet and simple and gleefully performed by the top queens.
There was also an extended tribute to the late Chi Chi DeVayne, featuring former queens sharing memories and some Chi Chi highlights from her time on the show. She was a beloved queen, and this was a fitting tribute.
Drag Race Season 13 — The Queens: Ru even opened the show with a performance. Now, I’m not sure if it was supposed to be a sort of ironic homage to Mariah Carey’s lackadaisical choreography or if Ru’s knees just ain’t what they used to be, but either way, I lived. Go on, gurl, you put in your time.
There were also one-on-ones with Ru with videos from family, celebrities (Paris had a gorge message for Gottmik) and celebrity DMs, but nothing too revelatory there. Plus, a mini-ball with the gals all rocking black and white, red all over and finale eleganza. Of course Symone and Gottmik absolutely murder all three looks, but Rosé and Kandy turn in some of their season best. Everything is fantastic, but they breeze through so quickly there’s barely enough time to take in all the details here.
Drag Race Season 13 — The Smackdown: But you’re here for the smackdown, and, honey, it did not disappoint. First, it’s all Britney songs, which are each scientifically engineered in a Swedish DJ’s basement to be perfect lip sync songs. Second, Ru’s cousin Sen. Cory Booker is here to mop some last-minute pop-culture cred, read the rules and give this a real big fight feel. And, lastly, you know these queens realize the children are expecting stunts, tricks, goops, gags, live(?) animals and reveals.
I admit, I’ve had my doubts about the impartiality of the wheel in choosing past pairings. If I were booking this, I’d want frontrunners Gottmik and Symone in separate first-round lip syncs, increasing the chances it leads to a nail-biting final lip sync.
That’s not what happened here. Instead, Kandy got picked first up against Rosé to Brit-Brit’s “Work B*tch.” Both ladies had a tearaway reveal packed. Rosé’s was more chic and clever, but Kandy had a more dramatic transformation into a multi-colored bodysuit. Rosé mentioned getting over an injury recently in the interview, so it may be that she wasn’t at the top of her game, but she just never seemed to kick it into gear. Kandy’s performance had more passion, better pacing and more impactful moments. In the upset of the season, Ru put Kandy over Rosé, sending the divisive diva from the Bronx to the final two.
Symone and Gottmik faced off to Britney’s Blackout banger “Gimme More.” Mik looked awesome in a rock and roll red mullet wig, classic Gottmik white face and red bubble dress that transformed into a dark, sexy, stoned fantasy with the message “Crash the Cistem.” It was a competent performance, well danced, but felt like it was missing something special. I wish Mik found a way to incorporate that newfound sense of humor into this performance.
Symone, meanwhile, came out in a Lakers-inspired workout set and oversized flattop. In a thrilling, spinning reveal, Symone lost the tracksuit to reveal a wink to Timberland boots and shook out a concealed, curly wig with blonde-to-black ombre. Simply stunning. It was impossible to look that good and not feel yourself, so Symone slays. As Ru says, it’s just not Gottmik’s time. (But, also, it still kind of is, regardless of tonight’s winner.)
Before the final lip sync and crowning, Heidi N Closet came by to pass on Miss Congenialty (and a $10k bonus) to this year’s best bag dress designer Lala Ri. (Sponsor Olay Body also gave all the other queens $2k each.)
Drag Race Season 13 — Finale: Then it all came down to one final lip sync, set to one of my personal favorite Britney songs, “Till the World Ends.” It’s hard to do justice to Kandy’s performance here, because all I want to talk about is Symone. And that’s not even really a knock at Kandy. I didn’t love the white sequin bodysuit and makeup, but I thought she gave a very vibrant and engaging performance. (The Dominican flag was a nice touch.) But Symone etched her name in the herstory books before the song even ended.
When Symone tore off her heavy, leather jacket dress early in the song, I was curious where she would go from there. Underneath was a classic, skimpy Symone silhouette, all strips of stoned fabric in a perfect shade of yellow. She began wearing an elaborate wig with braids in almost a stovepipe shape. Then, like something out of the Bronner Bros. International Beauty Show, Symone pulled one of the braids, causing the top to pop with matching yellow streamers. It was such a perfect period on the end of Symone’s run showcasing black artistry and excellence. Iconic.
RuPaul had no choice but to give the win to Symone. The three runners-up rushed the stage and embraced their friend to send the season off on a high note. The night didn’t unfold in the most narratively satisfying way, but I don’t think anyone would dispute the ultimate outcome.
What do y’all think? Did the right queen snatch the crown? How did you feel about the finale format? Sound off in the comments about Drag Race Season 13!