It’s lucky for someone like me — whose own prognostications are often incorrect — that I love to be surprised. Of course, I was delighted by the finale to RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars season six. From disappointed grumbles when the cast was first announced all the way through the rollercoaster “game-within-a-game” and down to our fabulous final four, this season of All Stars may go down as the purest distillation of the form.
Yes, Drag Race All Stars is all about landing a spot in the Drag Race Hall of Fame, but this isn’t actually supposed to be a battle of ultimate supremacy. All-Stardom isn’t only about out-performing, it’s about out-evolving. Lordt knows folks like Madonna (and Ru) aren’t the best vocalists in the gay pantheon, but their abilities to transform themselves (and their narratives) is remarkable.
That’s the real rubric here.
I’m sorry, “Ru-bric.”
This season, the Drag Race discourse unfolding over Twitter, TikTok and your most active group text initially reacted with griping about the quality of the cast, only to steadily be surprised and delighted by one of the strongest collections of queens to ever werk the runway. They all have come light years from where we last left them, and it has been positively thrilling to see.
Does it sound like hyperbole? Maybe. But going into this season’s finale, I found myself fighting the urge to wish for a four-way tie. None of these final four ever were top of my lists during their respective seasons. (And, in my case, there are actual lists to check.) However, by the time we got into the final challenge, I was firmly #TeamEv’rybody.
I didn’t even mind the typical finale episode filler — the endlessly misleading teasers telegraphing tense moments and turmoil that never really materializes. There are probing, but mostly pleasant convos with Ru and Michelle. Judges bend over backward (insert Carson Kressley joke here … and then cue a Ross joke about Carson getting inserted) to make the case it’s a neck-and-neck race and keep critiques to a minimum.
It all unfolds against the backdrop of a great finale challenge, one of the better RuPaul tracks and a thrilling lip sync, all leading up to a gorgeous crowning moment that had me literally screaming alone at my laptop.
Reader, I’ll be honest. I shed some real tears.
But if you’re looking for a blow-by-blow of the tender, weepy exchanges with Mama Ru, et al (a weepcap?), you’ll have to pony up the 3.99 for Paramount+. We’ve heard more than enough about each queen’s STORY and their STRUGGLE this season, and not that it’s not moving and important, but recapping it yet again feels like a sort of kaleidoscope of Pinterest aphorisms and teardrops on rhinestoned bodysuits. Suffice to say, each queen deftly presented their platform, shared their personal journey and deeffffffinitely did a lot of RuPaul ring-kissing. (Not that kind of ring-kissing, get your head out of the gutter.)
The real meat of the episode is prepping for a sexy performance to RuPaul’s latest track titled “This Is Our Country,” which really feels like more of an exasperated question these days than a declarative statement. It’s already a pretty exciting prospect, considering contemporary country icons like Kacey Musgraves, Orville Peck and Lil Nas X are ushering in a new generation of queer country fans. (And, of course we can’t forget pioneering queer country artists like Steve Grand, k.d. lang, Chely Wright and so many more.)
I was excited to see Tanya Tucker show up here to meet the gals virtually and add her legendary vocals to the song. A longtime favorite of gay country fans, her presence on the track instantly elevates it and adds a ton of legitimacy to what would otherwise feel like nothing more than a discarded track from “Ru-Ba: The Reba McEntire Rusical.”
Instead, this song sort of slaps. Yes, there’s Tanya’s touch, but the queens bring so much to it. Eureka (somewhat confusingly) does a whole Marie Antoinette-inspired verse and lewk that is gorgeous, fun, coherent and has a solidly socially-conscious message. It doesn’t scream “country,” (unless the country in question is, uh, France?) but still! She for sure fulfills the assignment, and, love her or hate her (how can y’all still hate on any of these queens?), Eureka always puts on a show.
As we’ve come to expect, Ginger comes prepared, and, perhaps this challenge more than any other, feels deeply in her wheelhouse. Vocally, it’s excellent. Ginger knows this genre, clearly, and has the chops to cut a kickin’ country verse. She looks great, and she’s clearly in her element.
Next up, Ra’Jah takes a different approach to great success. Instead of faking a country croon, Ra’Jah raps. It’s such a smart choice, and it elevates the entire final product. On top of the musical choices, Ra’Jah’s message feels the most immediately resonant, conjuring the harrowing images and language that fueled the Black Lives Matter movement. It may sound like the kind of thing that could really harsh the vibe, but, first, it’d be much more jarring to hear some rah-rah America jingoist nonsense (especially this week), and, second, Ra’Jah’s charisma carries it all so captivatingly. She looks great, too, in a red gingham bodysuit with oversized blue, fuzzy epaulettes that feel like someone threw Dorothy Gale, Sasha Fierce-era Beyonce, an American Flag and a Muppet in a blender, but, also, fashion!
And then there’s Kylie. Wow. This is Kylie’s element. She’s described earlier in the episode as being very “Roadhouse,” and it’s just what the doctor ordered for this challenge. Kylie pops in the performance, bringing all her Southern charm, sleek sexuality and showgirl mentality to a stunning finale performance. It all just works.
Even though she was my least favorite in the country performance, Eureka opens our last runway (for this season) in absolutely stunning fashion. Hands down, this is her best Drag Race look ever. It’s a big, showy number, with a massive headpiece and dropped waistline detailing that adds new dimension to her figure. She’s always got a good beat, but the makeup here is also sensational. It’s not just a 10, it’s a 20.
Ginger is less successful here. I appreciate her stepping out of her comfort zone with a dress that shows off her legs, but all it did was serve as a reminder why she so infrequently shows them. (It’s not an issue with her legs! Her actual legs are gorgeous!) This just isn’t a flattering silhouette with so much bulk kind of flopping around on top. Eh.
Kylie looks lovely in a star-spangled number that shimmers from tip to toes. It doesn’t pop on TV the way I imagine it might on stage, which makes it feel a little underwhelming at first glance. The judges’ praise helps zero in on the subtler touches.
Ra’Jah, of course, gives us another serve, in her signature color (as Big Freedia might say: “HUE ALREADY KNOW”) purple This time, it’s a gown with a lovely, almost petal-like neckline and slit all the way up to her hip. She looks incredible, she always shines in her runway performance, and I adore the hair here. The fact Ra’Jah made all her outfits is remarkable considering how well they stood side-by-side with what I’m sure are very expensive garments on the other gals.
There’s obviously one last order of bidness before Ru hands down her decree. (DecRu? Ok, I’ll stop.) All four queens will lip sync individually to — GASP! — “Stupid Love.” Talk about a crowd-pleaser! Everyone is great. Full stop. We’re getting sexy, we’re getting high N-R-G, we’re getting comedy and facials (expressions!). It’s a smorgasbord of sass and sex and star power.
But the moment — and I mean THE MOMENT — occurs during Kylie’s lip sync. Having doffed part of her garment, Kylie pulls a Farrah Moan and slips during the lip sync. And you know those editors did us dirty and slow-mo’d that snagged stiletto as I felt my heart actually start to make its way up my throat.
But! Then! In one of the most iconic moments in Drag Race herstory (maybe human herstory?) Kylie executes a perfect parkour-style tumble and doesn’t miss a beat.
I’m honestly getting misty just imagining it. Wow. I mean, yes, the talent and skill that takes to execute, but the METAPHOR, MAMA. First, I’m reminded of Kylie’s quip earlier this season: “I am a showgirl; I know how to rig up the gig.” Don’t believe her? Behold, bitch. That’s the kind of confidence I want to bring to my everyday life.
Then, there’s the poetic bookending of Kylie’s journey, from early elimination fodder — taken out by an impression of LADY GAGA, NO LESS — to a triumphant display of guts, talent and skill to a LADY GAGA SONG.
It’s undeniable. Ru has no choice but to award her the crown, which feels at once shocking, but also like there would be a gay uprising if the results went any other way.
That’s absolutely no knock on the other three queens. Each one fully transformed their reputation, character and career before successfully reintroducing themselves to the famously venomous Drag Race fandom. Eureka already has a platform on HBO’s fantastic We’re Here, but I feel like this run has cemented her artistry beyond her personality. If there’s any justice in this world, Ginger will be booked and blessed on stages and screens across the globe for as long as she wants. Ra’Jah, too, likely has legions of new fans chomping at the bit to see her do what she does SO well.
But, my heart belongs to Kylie. It’s almost too perfect of a Drag Race narrative as to potentially feel forced or disingenuous. A show all about transformation, self-expression and authenticity presents a queen who struggled in the game while struggling internally, but, once they learned to love themselves, comes back to conquer.
Yeah, it’s a satisfying narrative arc, and I’m sure one that had producers positively salivating in the story meetings, but reducing Kylie’s win to heavy-handed production does such a disservice to the incredible work she’s put in. She may not have won the most challenges throughout the season, but she had lots of strong performances. I thought her Steve Tyler impression was woefully under-celebrated. Her Snatch Game performance — the challenge that cut her first Drag Race run short — deserved at least a shared win, but, and I’m not just saying this as a Dolly superfan, I think she outperformed Ginger.
Then, of course, there’s the fact we have our first trans winner. Again, her win is well-deserved solely on the merits of her talents, but we’re so fortunate to also have a winner who will truly inspire so many young Drag Race fans out there who need this much more than most of us bitter, old queens.
Now, everybody say Love.