Brooklyn's heavy metal drag queen HELLVETIKA joins me this week to discuss the All Stars reunion!
Chad: Hellvetika! For the last several seasons of Drag Race, I've been pining for the old fashioned reunion format rather than the big, live finales of Seasons 4-8. And I finally got an old school reunion with All Stars, but... it felt a little anticlimactic. What did you think of it?
Hellvetika: So, I haven't talked to anyone about it or read anything online about the reaction to the reunion, and I also watched alone at home... But my reaction was I was VERY underwhelmed haha. It felt quiet..empty... very little editing, no? How am I supposed to know when someone says something shady without the sound effects? Overall, it felt rushed to me. Ru wasn't in drag... No Michelle...
Chad: Ha! I'm sure that they sliced and diced the footage a fair bit, but yes, it does feel like a quiet afternoon sitting around with RuPaul, who's desperately digging around for drama.
Hellvetika: If they were digging for drama, I don't feel like they found any.
(Chad's note: We didn't end up discussing Adore in this interview -- oops! -- but I liked seeing her again. So... here's some art.)
Chad: I feel like the girls have all been around the block and know how the game is played, so they didn't let things get heated. Roxxxy has been a shining example of restraint all throughout the season -- she seems to watch every word, never letting an ounce of negativity or ego slip out of her.
Hellvetika: I think this is something that's very apparent in all the latest seasons of Drag Race, actually. People are very aware that how they act on the show can be blown out of proportion, so everyone's clamoring to be likable and not stir anything up... Except one person.
Chad: Do you think it was fair for Ru to just totally shit all over Phi Phi for avoiding the reunion?
Hellvetika: Sort of. I have mixed feelings about it all, and I think people are thinking of it in absolutes. I think Phi Phi's portrayal on the show was somewhere in between acting like a douchebag and a bad edit. Phi phi wants to claim it's entirely the edit. Ru wants to claim that edits don't exist.
Chad: Ha! Right, yes, for Ru to maintain the suspense and drama of the show, she has to insist that what happens on the screen is exactly how it all played out.
Hellvetika: I think the editors picked up on Phi Phi's general tone of voice and tendency to say a few controversial things and focused in on it.
Chad: Sure, that's fair. I also think it's totally fair to say, "The producers of this show really screwed me, and I don't want to have anything to do with them."
Hellvetika: I think Ru pressures other queens to talk about the edit as if it doesn’t exist, too...
Chad: Right, Roxxxy is all, "Wait, what edit?"
Hellvetika: Yeah, Roxxxy is terrified! Phi Phi acted so dramatically about the whole thing though, which I guess is characteristic.
Chad: I know things with Phi Phi really blew up on social media and probably made everyone look kind of bad. I was actually pretty surprised and happy that a few of the queens pointed out how sickening that blue alien runway was!
Hellvetika: That is probably my favorite look this season. I don't think Phi Phi is aware of the tone of her own voice. Sometimes she says stuff that isn't even controversial, but the WAY she says it makes me think, “damn, what a bitch.” It just feels like there's a weird immaturity there.
Chad: I think she really IS talented at her weirdo sci-fi nerd aesthetic, she just does NOT have the right temperament to be on a reality show and be judged by thousands of fans.
Hellvetika: It's barely drag, but I'm not very hung up on what drag is. RuPaul's Costume Race would be fine with me.
Chad: Ha! Drag Race Face Off Top Model.
Hellvetika: Katya gave us some Face Off realness last night!
Chad: What do you make of that choice? I'm... conflicted.
Hellvetika: So, I kind of love it. But mostly because it was SO well done. I mean, clearly she hired someone to do that for her... but it really was a great prosthetic application. The dress she was wearing was absolutely hideous, btw. I don't know if anyone saw it... I also love how not a single person mentioned her face in the entire reunion???
Chad: Ha! It really IS funny that it was not mentioned at all. I felt like it was a better choice for a runway look – come out, shock us, leave. But in this context, it felt awkward to me -- it hid her expressions and made it kind of hard for her to talk!
Hellvetika: The bizareness of it, the awkwardness of it actually straining her speech a little bit... Hilarious. That's like Katya's sense of humor to me.
Chad: I also worry that it's mocking disfigurement? Like, if I draw this look, am I glamorizing serious burn victims? I don't know.
Hellvetika: I thought that too! MAYBE... Thorgy did an obese prosthetic look last year during the premieres and I wondered the same thing...
Chad: Oh, I love Thorgy, but.... choices.
Hellvetika: Maybe it's fine since no one was outright mocking it? Maybe it could be viewed as normalizing deformity? Haha... that's a stretch. I've also had people tell me my drag is offensive because I'm making fun of trans people or something... so there are limits and spectrums to everything, I suppose.
Chad: I know, absolutely. One should try to be sensitive and listen to people's reactions, but it's difficult to know where to draw the line.
Chad: I was interested in a lot of the discussion with Alyssa, especially when they brought up the different standards of how she's judged!
Hellvetika: I don't get a lot of the "judging Alyssa on a different scale" critique. I never really noticed that, maybe I'm not paying enough attention. I agree with Alaska that the camera dress was stupid.
Chad: Like, I think it was entirely reasonable for her to point out that each queen does their own style of drag. But yes, the camera dress was a hilarious punching bag throughout the reunion.
Hellvetika: Although after Alaska said that... my favorite moment of the Reunion was Katya calling her out, when she mentioned that her Lil' Poundcake reveal was not a reveal haha
Chad: I KNOW!!! Katya was clearly having fun with the format. Katya comes with her quirky, weird, hideous outfits, and they work, because Katya. Alaska wins a bunch of lip syncs in stubby little heels, but... she deserved it! Arguably, I guess.
Hellvetika: Yeah... I don't know how much the runway should even count, to be honest. I always pick my favorite queen based on how much they make me laugh and how interested I am to see more from them.
Chad: I do have to ask, though: what the hell do you think of what Alyssa wore to the reunion?
Hellvetika: Alyssa's outfit was probably my favorite? Hahaha
Chad: Ha! I kind of loved her knock-off Lion King realness.
Hellvetika: As far as finales go, the looks were kind of slim pickings to me... But Alyssa went dramatic, so I love that.
Chad: It was so theatrical, so ridiculous, so ALYSSA.
Hellvetika: She actually looked a lot like a character from Final Fantasy 12...
Chad: Yes, bring it, nerd!
Hellvetika: I think her name was Fran? She was some kind of humanoid rabbit? White hair and a black and gold headpiece just like Alyssa's.
Chad: Eagerly googling that shit – ha! I can totally see that.
Hellvetika: I swear Alyssa wore a Legend of Zelda shirt on the show at one point, haha. Maybe she's aware of it!
Chad: I think a few of the queens are legit nerds, but... I have a hard time imagining Alyssa doing any serious gaming. If she does, she NEEDS TO LIVESTREAM THAT!!!
Hellvetika: I love that as time goes on, we get nerdier and nerdier queens. I think it's just this 90s generation.
Chad: Yes, absolutely. What did you think of Detox's look?
Hellvetika: I thought her outfit was classic and simple, no problems with it. Didn't "wow" me. I have aesthetic problems with lipstick that does not contrast with skin, though! Made her look washed out to me.
Chad: Yeah, I LOVE a good use of a bold accent color. But I hear you-- I tried several times to draw the look, but I had problems getting anything to look good -- I think I was confronting that exact issue of it looking washed out.
Hellvetika: Like, that lip needed a border/ombre of a darker color. I'm always very conscious about contrast in my looks, and I just do not do light lips for the most part. Or light brows, lord. The worst.
Chad: I liked hearing the queens' praise of both Roxxxy and Detox's runway looks throughout the season -- it was gratifying to see that their talents were recognized, even if they didn't dominate the season.
Hellvetika: They both did really well on the runway. I think in retrospect, I liked Roxxxy's looks overall a little more, actually. Detox killed it with that latex look, though.
Chad: I also thought Tatianna came across SO WELL in the reunion. Sassy, smart, and sooo gorgeous. Her look was a little simple, but that wild ponytail was everything.
Hellvetika: Yeah, the hair made it work for me, too. I personally hate the color of her outfit, but it's very Tatianna and not me. So. Fine. Haha! Tatiana usually comes across as very even-tempered to me, smart, somewhat reserved, even.
Chad: Everyone was parroting her catchphrases the whole episode! I think she was amazingly effective in her short time on the show. I really, really hope her fanbase follows over into whatever she does in the future.
Hellvetika: I wonder if she went in with "choices" in mind or if it happened naturally, and she went with it.
Chad: Ha! I try not to think about that stuff too much.
Hellvetika: It was definitely funniest the first time when she said it about Coco's talent performance.
Chad: Yeah, agreed. I have to say that I thought Alaska came through really well -- she looked absolutely stunning, and she took Ru's questions with the right amount of levity.
Hellvetika: She looked fine to me, very Alaska. I wasn't necessarily "gagging" over the gown. I get that it's a Hairspray reference, but the patchy bugs were a little distracting for me, I guess. I think personality-wise she came across as congenial and funny and relaxed and confident as Alaska tends to. Definitely felt like the winner.
Chad: I really, really loved the absurd beehive she had going on -- I think it gave the whole look the right alien vibe to it. And the fact that it fit perfectly into her "new hat" was just perfect.
Hellvetika: Haha, I think I'm just underwhelmed because the last time I saw her she was in her crowning look, which is probably the best I've seen her. And she had that amazing Bobbie Z wig.
Chad: I mean, I do think her career took a hit in the final few episodes. But do you think she's bouncing back Or is she in a better position than ever?
Hellvetika: I wouldn't say she's in a better position than ever, haha. I actually feel like the season may have positioned Katya to make a run for the most popular queen title... Alaska was already getting a lot of criticism for maybe unfairly winning the lip syncs on a few of those challenges BEFORE the meltdown.
Chad: Right, right. It all happened over a few episodes. A perfect shitstorm.
Hellvetika: Honestly, before this season, there was pretty much no Alaska dissent ANYWHERE. Everyone loved everything about her
Chad: Exactly, yes. It's hard being top dog.
Hellvetika: And now there's just a little bit of doubt. While Katya made it through completely unscathed. We still haven’t seen her do ONE unlikeable thing.
Chad: Ha! Except offend Harvey Dent. But yes, I agree -- Katya continues to be funny and weird. I tune in to all of her Youtube videos, especially UNNGGGGHH.
Hellvetika: I feel like Katya has been coming into her own so much lately, and since All Stars 2 was filmed so long ago... She just seems poised to be really, really huge. And that Unnhhh thing is the best show on the WoW Youtube by a longshot.
Chad: Absolutely. It's so perverse and profane and put together so brilliantly. Do you have any other thoughts on the season? On the future of Drag Race? On drag? On internet haters?
Hellvetika: The future of Drag Race scares me, because I think we're getting to the point where half the queens are going to have been doing drag for 4 years max. So they've all been inspired so heavily by the show.
Chad: I mean, I'm pretty sure Kim Chi hadn't been doing drag for four years when she was on Season 8. But yes, absolutely, the snake eating its tail.
Hellvetika: Her and Pearl both. Like 2 years or something? Laganja was just a few...
Chad: Right. I think the Drag Race fosters a lot of creativity and inspiration -- hopefully we can embrace the unique new directions that queens take it in... rather than seeing the same "Raven" mug on everyone.
Hellvetika: Everyone's going to look like Naomi. Which is pretty, but... mix it up guys.
Thanks for joining me for another Drag Race season! You can find my work on Etsy and pre-order my ALL STARS book collecting all this season's art! You can also support me in the off-season and get some custom artwork on my Patreon!Now I'm going to hide at home and desperately try to finish my giant new graphic novel The Cardboard Kingdom in the four months before Season 9 starts. Oof.