Once again, while re-watching this first season, I'm struck by how much the producers got right in this short little "lost" stretch of episodes. The lead-up to the mini-challenge, where the queens give feedback on their peers, was surprisingly candid and interesting without resorting to (too much) cattiness. And having the queens make each other over was brilliant! Not to mention the intriguing results, seeing their faces painted in dramatically different styles. Nina looked soft and understated, Ongina looked fresh-faced and lovely, and Bebe gave Rebecca a smoldering, smoky eye.
I always feel bad for the shy queens on this show. We get some screen time with this season's two quieter queens, Jade and Rebecca, but they express dramatically different attitudes. Rebecca, irritated that the other girls don't "get" her, says fuck 'em. Jade realizes that her introverted personality isn't anyone else's fault, and she needs to step up her game.
The Viva Glam challenge was an especially complicated one--how do you balance a socially conscious message of HIV prevention and research while also projecting an image of yourself as glamorous and fun? Nearly all the queens stumbled, in variously hilarious ways. The way they edited Shannel's wandering monologue was laugh-out-loud funny, resulting from yet another misunderstanding of the challenge's criteria. (Do you think in subsequent seasons they've been extra careful about meticulously spelling out the requirements for each challenge to avoid these blatant screw-ups?)
Rebecca's breakdown was a face-palm moment, Nina's language problems continued to plague her, and Jade just plain missed the mark, despite bringing more energy and confidence than I had expected. Bebe, however, brought a sincerity and seriousness to her commercial shoot, as well as a stunning outfit. But Ongina was the clear winner. Oh, Ongina! Just the best.
It's interesting to look at the first season's (mostly) awkward MAC commercials compared to some of the stand-out film shoots of Season Five. For their perfume commercial, we got funny, smart performances from Alaska, Jinkx, and Detox. (Some painful ones from the other queens, but still.) Nowadays, it seems like the queens are generally much more media savvy, experienced in promoting themselves, shooting crazy YouTube videos, pandering to legions of Twitter fans. The queens from that first season seemed much more awkward in front of the camera, not sure of how to present themselves, how to act on a film set.
This week's runway looks were mostly underwhelming. Rebecca's outfit was a trainwreck. And that makeup? Yeesh. A lot of the queens wore dark, understated dresses that were hard to see through the greased up camera lens. I did love Nina's feathery flourish, though, and her tall column of hair.
And Bebe served up a dynamite look. Sure, there are a lot of mixed opinions out there about her, but week to week, I find myself saying, "Ooh, I want to draw her in that! And that! And that!" There's something so engaging and unique about her style that keeps me coming back for more.
Was anyone else surprised that Jade was selected to sashay away? She definitely had better moves and more stage presence than Ms. Glasscock, but maybe she still came across as too tightly wound, too choreographed? Or maybe, with Rebecca's simmering attitude and conflict with the other queens, she was kept on purely for the sake of drama.
It's a shame! I had really been hoping to draw Jade this season, but none of her runway looks really jumped out at me. Maybe I need to go see her perform live here in Chicago and ask for a personal modeling session?