RPDR S4,E9-Untucking the Candidates

Are all these bitches really drinking this much alcohol?



The Queen will be honest with you: I found this episode of Untucked to be rather drawn out and pedantic, so you’ll forgive me if this post isn’t always linear. Hopefully it will give us a chance to discuss things that have been sticking in my cerebral craw for a while now.

So the lady boys sit down for yet another Absolut cocktail. I wonder how many of the dolls really drink? If so, who mixes the libations for them? Seems like a wasted opportunity for another gratuitous objectification of man-flesh with a half naked bartender. RuPaul, please make it so.

Latrice’s Lament

We start off with a bit of exposition involving Latrice. We revisit her frustration with Santino over comments regarding her runway outfit of two episodes ago. First of all, Ms. Royale needs a tattoo of her own 5 G’s mantra inked on her ample chest. She seems to be the one bent out of shape over the smallest thing most often. “I’m open for critique, but I’m less apt to hear what you got to say if you disrespect me.” What “disrespect” did Santino show in his critique? The dress was ill-fitting, made in a HORRIBLE fabric for a queen of her size, and the drag had PIECES COMING APART ON THE RUNWAY.
The Queen is not going to make any friends with this next statement: I’m kind of over Latrice. Don’t get me wrong–as a person (or at least what we see of her personage on TV) I have a deep respect and affection for her. It’s just that I find her a one note Drag Queen. That note can be elegant and imposing, but it’s still only one note. To blithely dismiss the issue with her bra strap sounds less like an accomplished queen, and more like a first timer at Amateur Night at Ziegfeld’s.

The Phi Phi Phenomenon

Then the producer-directed conversation turned to Sharon.

The Queen is always curious about how the powers-that-be go about deciding which contestant will play what stock roles in the overall arc of a story. Who’ll be the bitch? Which will be the lady boy-next-door? Does it happen organically because of the personalities that emerge during the tapings; or have the producers scripted it from the beginning? No matter how it’s done on different reality shows, one thing is for certain: It’s easier to turn you into a bitch if you give them the footage to do so. And Phi Phi O’Hara always aims to please. During Sharon’s critical analysis of her own work, the camera kept cutting back to Miss O’Hara primping. It was a perfect juxtaposition, but it almost made me feel bad (notice, the Queen said ALMOST) knowing how these edited cuts cemented her bitch personae.

Forget about “the Help” line. As many have said, it wasn’t offensive–it just wasn’t delivered well. The Queen’s litmus test is simple: if I have an immediate visceral and emotional reaction to a comment then I pay attention to that. There was none for me in Phi Phi’s line. What interests me more is her seeming inability to have even an iota of objectivity in all things regarding her. Maybe the judges did laugh at her schtick. If so, it was edited out. Yet she perceives the event so much differently. Is this real, or is she just playing a character? Forget Willam’s offing–THIS is the most compelling mystery of the season.

Chad’s Challenge

Not that I agree with Michelle Visage about Chad Michaels, but I get what she’s looking for. The show is patterned after the Ultimate Drag Queen, RuPaul–who is a created character in and of itself. It is literally a brand. Whether well done or not, all the other queens have a single personae that has a sort of through-line consistent in the runway presentations. While Sharon’s is a meticulous and thoughtful creation, most of the lady boys are doing this unconsciously: Dida with her wigs that look like they haven’t been styled, Phi Phi with tired old pageant queen drag, etc. There IS no one personae that is Chad Michaels. He’s a Gender Illusionist. HIS schtick is being able to transform himself into MANY different personae. Michelle wants him to be like RuPaul–a single personality. And she needs to get over it. And Chad needs to do what all the other less aware queens do and ignore the diva.

Dida’s Denouement

What a touching moment. We all know that no conflict of this complexity between parent and child can be wrapped up in 23 minutes–even if we grew up on the Bradys and the Huxtables. But what a beautiful thing to see. I mean for a black mama to just acknowledge her son’s drag name is pretty damn momentous. The fact that the producers reached out to include this goes a long way in having the Queen forgive Drag Race‘s shortcomings. And the dad shouting from off-camera was classic TV and classic dad.

It Gets Better

Are there any other shows on television with a captive young gay audience that can address the subject of bullying any more eloquently? There’s nothing like having personal accounts of how people you respect handle tough situations to give you perspective and hope. Along with the connection to Sharon and Chad the Queen felt during this segment, I was also extremely respectful of the courage it takes to share information like that. And I love that young people get to see what survivors of bullying can look like: two extremely accomplished artists who have triumphed over screwed-up people and institutions, to follow their dreams. Those lady boys are real men.

Lady Bird gives those High School bitches the Lady Finger

Thoughts Miss Things?

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17 thoughts on “RPDR S4,E9-Untucking the Candidates

  1. I saw a brief interview with Phi-Phi and Sharon, who apparently are playing up their rivalry in performances post-Drag Race (part of the contract?). When the interview chirpily asks Phi-Phi if she was the bitch of the show, which a good-humored and quick-witted drag queen would just turn into GOLD, Phi-Phi gets this deer-in-the-headlight look and says, “No! I’m just real!” Nothing so clueless as someone who explains all the conflicts they get into with “I’m just real” or “I tell it like it is,” is there? And I don’t think it’s an act. Sharon, on the other hand, was quite gracious, “Oh, Phi-Phi and I are cool. We just represent two very different kinds of drag.” She clearly has moved on.

    That photo of Chad-as-Mamie giving the finger is fabulous! Would make a great poster.

  2. Oh, you made a friend in me with this:

    I’m kind of over Latrice. Don’t get me wrong–as a person (or at least what we see of her personage on TV) I have a deep respect and affection for her. It’s just that I find her a one note Drag Queen. That note can be elegant and imposing, but it’s still only one note. To blithely dismiss the issue with her bra strap sounds less like an accomplished queen, and more like a first timer at Amateur Night at Ziegfeld’s.

    I didn’t believe I could think you were any more fabulous, but with the above comment, I do. I even feel bad to say it because Latrice is a great person off the runway and I like her so much (plus, I feel intimidated to say it because she is so popular any criticism of her meets with flames), but you hit the nail on the head about Latrice. So thank you for saying it.

    And I’ll go a step further — as good as her lip sync was, I think the whole “she took us to church” praise she is getting across the internet is a little over the top seeing as she took her shoes off before the first note. That kind of bothered me — a lady doesn’t go barefoot. I’m not saying she didn’t deserve to stay over Dida, but Latrice was no Manila Luzon (who did hers with shoes on).

    • I didn’t notice that Latrice took off her shoes. Uh-oh. That’s a problem. Phi-Phi was skewered recently for doing the same thing. Do we wave this off because Latrice is so awesome?

      I’m not going to argue that Latrice has been bringing it on the runway every week. She’s been very inconsistent. And maybe she could use a dose of her own 5Gs. But I loved that she told Santino what she thought about his earlier critique. Let’s face it. Santino is not tactful, and can easily come across as insulting instead of helpful. Latrice was respectful, and Santino took the opportunity to be kind with his explanation. Everyone won.

      Anyway, I am not over Latrice. I’m still loving her, and routing for her, and I’d say she took me to church despite being shoeless. ;-). She really did a fantastic lip synch.

    • In all fairness to Latrice surrounding this ONE issue of the shoes: in most predominately black Pentecostal churches that I’ve been to, the first thing that come off when women get the Spirit–are their pumps. Now, granted this is not reality–this is Performance. She really should know how to dance in heels. But she is a big girl so I can see why she would want to play it safe.

      My real problem with Latrice as a performer, is that she doesn’t seem to have much to say on her own. It takes someone else directing her, or structuring a character, FOR her, or lip syncing to a pre-recorded song in order for her to thrive. She suffers from the same disconnect that many would-be actors have surrounding how to use their natural intellect and wit in the creation of a character. I think she would really benefit from taking acting lessons from a good teacher.

      Maybe I’ll send her my card. 🙂

  3. I agree with you to some extent on Ms. Latrice Royale. I still love her and think she is fabulous, but she has disappointed me a couple of times now. I really didn’t have a problem with the way she confronted Santino on his comments, though. It was obviously something that was sticking in her craw, so she waited a couple of days to cool down about it and then brought it up in a pretty calm, straightforward way. She cleared the air and got it off her chest, so good for her. (The girl did look upholstered in that dress, though–just sayin’.)

    One thing that’s been bothering me about Latrice’s look is her makeup. Somehow, it seems to look OK on the runway (just OK, though) but when the camera is up close it is awful. I don’t know anything about stage or drag makeup, but 5Gs, can’t you blend that mess? And what is that awful terra cotta color she uses on the lower half of her face? I know she is trying to acheive a more sculpted look with those harsh lines and contrasts, and it does work to some extent, but the colors just seem so off. All that being said, she is still one of my all-time favorites and is my choice for the number three spot.

    Chad is a treasure. I was a little worried about him this week, as I didn’t think his debate character, however fabulous it was, fit the challenge very well. Still, he stuck to his guns and made it work. I was kind of hoping that Chad would be the one to do a Palinesque character, because he has the skills and wit to pull it off. And his runway look was to die. As for Michelle’s problem with Chad–well, whatever. Who is Chad? A kind, quiet, gentle, classy man who does amazing drag characters. Kind, quiet, gentle and classy are probably not qualities Michelle can relate to very well. In any case, I’ll take Chad over any of the one-note pageant queens any day of the week.

    Sharon Needles is the one who navigated the confusing debate direction better than anyone, and for that she deserved the win. Everyone seems to recognize how awesome she is, and at this point, if she is robbed of the top spot I will be very disappointed with Ru and the show.

    You said it all about Phi Phi, Scotty–nothing more to say there.

    Dear, sweet Dida Ritz, my favorite ingenue. (And the most attractive of the men out of drag, in my book. He has that “nerd with a rockin’ body” thing going on.) Dida had me from episode one with her “Can’t we all be nice to each other?” comment. I felt bad for her during the mini-challenge this week, first of all because of her Victorian/Marie Antoinette gaffe, and then because her shoes were the best and she should have won. And it was painful to watch her struggle with the debate challenge. As you said earlier, Scotty, it just seemed to make her shut down.

    Untucked did give her a great moment, though. It was really the most touching “video from home” I’ve ever seen on a reality show. Her face as she was watching it made me choke up. You know, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if it was RuPaul who personally called and spoke to Dida’s parents. He probably said something along the lines of “You have a wonderful, sweet son here who needs to know that you love and support him.” Dida’s dad shouting his support from off camera, probably while sitting in the Barcalounger, was hilarious.

    Dida knows that she has her birth mom’s support now, but she is the one queen that seems to be most in need of a really good drag mother. Truth be told, she wasn’t quite ready for this competition. If she wants to be a top-notch queen, she will need to hone her skills and knowledge of fashion, styling, etc., but I have no doubt that she will. What might benefit her even more would be to be around people who could help her gain a bit more knowlege of the cultural, social, political and historical references that give a good drag queen the confidence to be witty and sharp on a variety of topics.

    Wow, I never thought I’d go on like this about a bunch of drag queens!

  4. “One thing that’s been bothering me about Latrice’s look is her makeup. “

    Bianca and I talk about it all the time! I have the same problem with it as you do. I will acknowledge that she is probably used to doing make up for the stage, but I would think that most of her venues are small to medium-sized clubs in which the audiences are up close–you wouldn’t need to paint like that. Regarding the colors themselves: Bianca says that there simply isn’t that much out there for dark skinned women (or men trying to imitate them). Also there is definitely a more “traditional” drag that tends to be more stylized in nature as opposed to the natural “fishy” look. Check out the difference between Vicky Vox and Detox’s makeup, as compared to Willam in their latest video Chow Down (at Chick-fil-A)

    • Besides the fact that I’ve never been of the opinion that “fishy” drag queens were the “ideal” (my favorites from past seasons, like Nina Flowers, have never done that kind of drag), I agree with Bianca on Latrice’s make up (and yes, I feel the need to defend her after critiquing her above). But I think it isn’t just that there isn’t a lot of choice out there for women (or drag queens) of color (which, granted, is a part of the problem). Latrice’s natural skin tone is on the end of the dark scale — now, for an actual, biological woman who doesn’t need to “create” feminine features, this wouldn’t be such a problem (see, for example, Alek Wek), but for Latrice she really doesn’t have much of a choice when it comes to achieving the contours she is going for but to make her “base” a lot lighter than her natural skin tone and then use darker shades to create contour.

    • Was Divine the first one to do some of those really harsh and stylized drag makeup looks? I’ve always found those looks to be kind of unappealing unless they are somehow related to the whole costume or character (a la Sharon Needles’ scary looks). Vicky and Detox skate right on the edge of harshness that in the Chick-fil-A video, but their makeup still works for me there. It’s probably the type of thing that Latrice is going for, but the colors she’s using just don’t seem to make sense. I don’t know from makeup, but I have no doubt that the range of products and colors available for dark-skinned women/queens is more limited. Still, there are other darker-skinned queens who seem to be able to make it work.

      I can’t remember if you’ve already discussed the Chow Down video or not, but it’s pretty fantastic. The first guffaw for me came with the whispered “You’re an abomination!” at the beginning. Oh, and I can’t not mention how completely gorgeous Willam looks in the short, blonde wig. He should work that look more often.

  5. Brilliantly said, as always.

    Phi-Phi just keeps getting worse and worse. The “help” comment actually made me gay gasp, and not the good kind…more the oh-no-she-didn’t-on-national-tv kind.

    Speaking of that “joke”, I was once in an astronomy class in college and a guy in the class wasn’t doing so well. Our teacher gave us an optional presentation for extra credit, and he decided to do it. He was black, and so were three other students. At one point in his (hilarious, might I add) presentation, he wanted to jump out wearing all black and yell “I am the black hole!” He ran this by our professor first, and our professor told him he had to go let the other black students in the class know and see if they would be upset by it. They all gave him the go ahead and thanked him for asking.

    I don’t see why Phi-Phi wouldn’t have asked in the same manner, especially since she made a joke about a race other than her own. Even if was just a “Hey, I’m going to do a stereotypical racist southern lady, would you be offended by a racist joke?” I’m not saying she needed to give them chapter and verse about her planned character, but I think both Dida and Latrice would have been less offended if they hadn’t been surprised by it. (Although they may not have been surprised… it is reality tv and all.)

    Manila Luzon did a character last season that was a sterotypical Asian reporter, and it was HILARIOUS. The only one to say she was really offended was Shangela… who isn’t Asian. But I guess that truly is the difference though… drag is politically incorrect, and if you’re going to cross the line, it had better be funny. Otherwise, it’s a train wreck.

    I think Michelle’s “Who is Chad Michaels?” comment is ridiculous. That’s like asking “Who is Emma Watson?” I picked her because everyone knows exactly who she is, but not WHO she is. She’s an actress from the Harry Potter movies. That’s it. No one really knows anything about her. Actors have their whole lives put on display, why can’t they keep aspects of their personality private? And why can’t an uber famous drag queen have the same right to privacy? Most entertainers make their living off of being something that they’re not. Chad is excellent at creating well-thought out, complete characters, with personality and style to match.

    Chad is easily the nicest person in the history of reality TV. She looks after the other girls, she’s always quick with a hug and a kind word when another girl is down, and Dida mentioned in Untucked that Chad sewed up her dress! Since when does that EVER happen on a reality show with a big wad of cash on the line? I don’t think she’ll win though… the season 3 crown went to the oldest, most experienced queen and I don’t think they’ll repeat it. Chad is FABULOUS though, and a kind soul. I want to hug her, lol.

    Little Ms. Needles… luv huh. Another sweetheart who definitely deserves that win. Love her looks, love her snappy little comments. Winner, right there.

    Latrice… how can she take Santino’s comments to heart but blows off the comment about her exposed bra strap? I can’t believe Michelle didn’t jump over the table at her for that one. That dress WAS heavy, that dress didn’t fit well, the fabric wasn’t very pretty once you got a good look at it… it’s a show where you get critiqued. Toughen up, boo-boo.

    I never realized how blessed white girls (and lady-boys) are with make-up until I went to Ulta with a sorority sister a few years ago. I go for the palest option and it’s usually right, but she went through just about every foundation option in the damn store before she found one that was “close enough” and it still wasn’t quite right. Latrice’s foundation looks very yellow to me when she’s on stage, but it doesn’t look nearly as harsh when she’s in the lounge. Her makeup elsewhere is STELLAR (the crystal lips look? amazing!), so I don’t think she’s oblivious to how it looks. Like you said Scotty, there aren’t a lot of make-up options for anyone with dark skin.

    Dida’s mommy and daddy calling was super cute. I agree with ScottAntoine, I’m sure Ru herself called them up and told them how their amazing son needs their support. She definitely needs a drag mom though… girl, brush your wig!

    There are a lot of really nice queens this season and I don’t think they’re faking it. Maybe we all hate Phi-Phi since she has to make up for 10 queens worth of bitchiness.

    Anyone have thoughts on who they’ll bring back?

    I don’t think it will be Willam… you don’t get the disqualified, just for Ru & Co to re-qualify you one episode later.

    I think every queen who has left, has left for an excellent enough reason to keep them gone… but I think it’ll be The Princess. I don’t know why, just a feeling.

    • I LOLed at your comment about Phi Phi having to be bitchy enough for 10 queens.

      Thank you for reminding me about Latrice’s blue look with the crystals on her lips. Now, that was some fierce, very stylized drag makeup, and it was spectacular.

      I wouldn’t hate it if they brought The Princess back, but I doubt it will be her. My guess is that it will be Kenya because the whole letter thing would make for more drama, and because a couple of the judges were really into her.

      • Bringing Kenya back would be the most drama-filled, since it wouldn’t be Willam.

        You’re probably right. I just liked The Princess. Wishful thinking, maybe?

    • I really don’t think Michelle is asking who Chad is out of makeup, or personally as a human being. I think she wants to define her the same way she defines her friend RuPaul.

      There are certain traits, makeup and characteristics that “make up” the “character of RuPaul”: she usually wears blonde hair that’s big, she has a very specific way of talking, she wears a certain type of “bombshell” costume–that sort of thing. However there is no set character for Chad Michaels. Chad changes hair and type of costume and makeup for every runway appearance. What I think Michelle is asking is: “What would Chad Michaels (the drag queen) look like in drag if he weren’t doing Cher, or a Biker Chick, or a Wife at a Republican Ball? What she doesn’t get is that “Chad Michaels” isn’t a drag personae–it just happens to be the guy’s name. Chad Michaels is a Gender Illusionist the same way David Copperfield is an Illusionist. He does all kinds of different tricks…not just one. The “real Chad Michaels” is a guy.

  6. Can I just say how much the casual misogyny of “fishy” burns my bacon? It definitely seems to be more in use this season, I don’t remember hearing it as much (if at all) previously.

    • They may be using it more this season, but they’ve definitely used it in seasons past. I believe it was particularly thrown around in relation to Carmen Carrerra and possibily Tatianna. I can see the misogyny, but I still think it’s pretty funny. The only term I can think of that’s regularly thrown around in the gay community that I despise is “breeder.” Blech!

  7. I just thought that Phi Phi’s “help” joke was tacky, more than anything. No, it wasn’t super-offensive by drag standards, but it wasn’t funny either because she didn’t set it up right at all. If she had set it up by mentioning Viola Davis not winning the Oscar or something, I think it could’ve worked. Or she could’ve developed the racist part of the character a bit more, so that it didn’t seem like it was completely coming out of left field.

    • This was probably shot before the Oscars aired, so she wouldn’t have known. I can think of quite a few ways to make that “help” joke land, but her desperation was so palpable, that I doubt she could have pulled off ANY joke with aplomb. She brought more props than Carrot Top and expected that plus a one-off Sarah Palin look to save her, but that desperation came through more than anything else and it was grating.

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