Joining me this week is Ariel Italic, a NYC queen who also writes hilarious Drag Race recaps for Queerty!
Chad: Okay, Ariel, at the end of a weirdly abbreviated 8th season, I have one question: Where was Mathu?
Ariel: SERIOUSLY. I've read theories that they got into a fight.
Chad: Between whom? Bob and Mathu, about whose makeup was better?
Ariel: Oh, sweet Bob. I love her so so much, and I wish wish WISH that she would learn to do a better face. Like, I know it doesn't REALLY matter, but it does KIND OF matter.
Chad: What should she improve? I don't know enough about makeup to actually know anything.
Ariel: For most of the season, she just wasn't doing much. Not a lot of highlight or contour. Kim's read about it looking like she wasn't wearing any make-up was pretty accurate. For the finale, she tried to amp it up, but then her blending was off. Like, a thick, dark line down each cheek is TECHNICALLY a contour, but it wasn't necessarily helpful in making her look pretty. And again, I adore Bob. Her paint is FINE. Just not, you know, GOOD.
Chad: Ha! I agree that Bob doesn't necessarily need to be a glamazon. But I do sort of wish, given their similarities, that she would get more of a "Bianca" thing going on. Where she at least gets a polished level of consistency, a very exaggerated but recognizable aesthetic. But again, she's about to win the season, so she's clearly got it going on.
Ariel: Yeah, I understand her point that she's a performer and the beat is secondary, but to call on Kim Chi again (I think she's the one who said it), your face as a drag queen is your calling card. A stronger aesthetic would help Bob make a better first impression. She puts so much work into what she does, but you couldn't necessarily tell that by looking at her, the way you could with Naomi or Kim.
Chad: Right, I think that's a fair point! So what did you think of this week's challenge? Or do you need a reminder of what it actually was?
Ariel: Oh, the infamous music video that never actually factors into the judging. It was so irrelevant this week that they didn't even bother to show finished clips for the runway.
Chad: I know! It felt like a complete afterthought. The "floatography" part reminded me of the ridiculous photo shoots they usually have in the first episode of a season -- physically taxing and sloppy. And then the rest of the shoot was... well, I assume there was more, but I don't remember much of it.
Ariel: It all seemed entirely arbitrary and ultimately useless. Of course Ru needed that footage because she actually will release a music video, but in terms of its impact on the game, it may as well have happened after the crowning. It would have made more sense to just do a Tic Tac luncheon and retrospective for the whole episode. Everyone was clearly being judged based on cumulative performance rather than video-making skills.
Chad: Right, it felt like half of it was the “Rucap” episode with Ru and the judges discussing each queen's personal growth, the journey they underwent over the course of the season. Did you buy any of it, or do you feel like it's mostly contrived for good TV?
Ariel: I noticed that they pointedly DIDN'T push the growth narrative for Bob (since, like Bianca, she showed up ready to win from Day One), but it seemed entirely accurate for the other three. Chi Chi especially came in a somewhat shaky regional queen and left a much more polished and assured champ. Kim was clearly more comfortable in print than on stage, and while I think they downplayed her lingering awkwardness significantly, I think she's blossomed. And Naomi... well, she's gotten more confident, I guess? I dunno, I don't have as clear a sense of her personality. She's super chill.
Chad: I agree that Naomi really didn't have a ton of stuff going on -- yes, she emerged as a serious contender halfway through the season, but I see that more as editing than actual performance. I was at the viewing party she was co-hosting last night, and even she acknowledged that her only storyline was... really loving her mother?
Chad: With Kim, as people get to know her, her talent, and her quirks, you just sort of say "that's Kim," and don't necessarily notice her occasional awkwardness anymore. So honestly, the "growth" is probably more of our own subjectivity. And, hopefully, a deep fondness and admiration for how amazing she is.
Ariel: It seems clear that Naomi snuck up on everyone. Which is not to say that I think she shouldn't be there. I am extremely impressed with her aesthetic. She brings something different to the table. She's less extreme than Kim in terms of her looks, but also infinitely more comfortable in her skin, and it shows in how she works the runway and camera.
Chad: Right, she's like a cat slinking around and effortlessly stretching, striking seemingly impossible poses. It was especially intense watching the episode with her, because they shot it in such a way that no one knew for sure whether they were in the top 3!
Ariel: I had a really hard time predicting who would last. I could have seen literally any of them going home. Even Bob! I was worried for Kim because performance is not her strongest area. It was anyone's game.
Chad: This episode didn't really focus much on Bob, which was interesting. Like you said, she came into the season already so self-assured, so the judges discussed the growth of the other three girls more.
One nice thing about the challenge was seeing a few new outfits from each queen. I got the feeling that a few were out of new stuff and had to recycle. Why would Bob bring back that white wig? Why, Ariel???
Ariel: It might be the only long, straight hair she has. She probably wanted something that would move in the fan. In that way, it was smarter than Kim's choice; that red thing was rock-hard with a hairline to match.
Chad: Ha! But everyone's longer wigs just lay flat on the bench underneath them! I see what you're saying, but I feel like the final video will show everyone's hair lying flat behind their heads.
Ariel: I think that was a poor production choice. I noticed that when they were filming, and I couldn't grasp why they didn't have everyone scoot up a little. Like, let your head hang over the edge so that the hair can flow back. And then you'll have more support for your legs! Two birds, one stone.
Chad: Right, it was baffling. So, given that Bob seems to have the most momentum, what circumstance would lead to any of the other queens taking the crown?
Ariel: I think it has a lot to do with what Ru wants to SAY with the win, you know? When Ross mentioned that Kim Chi could "change drag," that definitely caught my attention. She's part of a new era of queen that's more about Instagram and viral fame than local club performances. In that way, she almost makes Bob seem old-fashioned. Similarly, Naomi has this fashion model potential, and focuses much more on that chic, androgynous look. And she's young, so she brings the "next" to the title. This is about Ru leaving a legacy and what she wants to be remembered for.
Chad: Those are good points. But aside from dominating most of the challenges, I think Bob brings a level of activism and social consciousness that the community sorely needs, and I hope/expect that to play into the decision, as well!
Ariel: Absolutely. Her efforts raising money for charity since the season filmed have been phenomenal, and as she's pointed out during the show, it's not a new side of her. She's been fighting the fight for a while, and I respect that so much.
Chad: What did you think of the episode's runway looks? Who just grabbed what was left in their luggage?
Ariel: Only Kim really slayed me, as she does every time. Chi Chi's dress was clearly something she had saved until the end, and for someone on her budget, that was no small investment. It wasn't outstanding by the show's overall standards, but it was a new high for her. I was frankly not impressed with Bob's look, and Naomi's was true to her aesthetic, but not necessarily a showstopper.
Chad: Now, everyone I've interviewed so far this season has been from the Chicago drag community, so we were all smitten with Kim Chi before she was on the show. What do you think about her aesthetic and artistry?
Ariel: I followed her on Instagram before the season started, and I agree that in terms of makeup and fashion, she's in a class all her own. And her personality came across on the show in a really charming, endearing way. I'm not hugely impressed with her performance skills, but I think her look is in a league by itself.
Chad: It's hilarious that so many people initially dismissed her early on as an Asian Trixie Mattel, right?
Ariel: I didn't realize that was happening! I mean, in NYC we were hoping for an Acid/Thorgy/Bob Top 3, but everyone I knew figured Kim would be Top 4.
Chad: I agree that she has a hugely endearing personality and sense of humor, and I'm curious to see where she goes from here. Who are you excited to see at the Reunion?
Ariel: CYNTHIA! She brings me infinite amounts of joy. Also, I really want to see what Violet wears to crown the new winner.
Chad: Oh! Yes, absolutely. I'm hoping Bob brings something stunning to wear, and I can't even imagine what Kim is cooking up. I'll be interested to see how Thorgy is doing, how she responds to Ru and the girls. I feel like she got depicted in a weirdly competitive way during the season, and I hope that doesn't stick!
Ariel: She's got such a positive energy overall, I think she'll come out looking good. I'm sure she was surprised by some of the negative edit, but I'm hopeful that she'll be her usual upbeat self. Also, after seeing her wear a full fat suit and facial prosthetic to the NYC premiere, I want her to do something nuts for the crowning.
Chad: Ha! Yeah, here's hoping! Did you have any other thoughts about the season? It was short, wasn't it?
Ariel: It was extremely short! I can't believe it's already over! I want more! As for other thoughts: not really. Go read my recaps, everyone, I've expressed many opinions. All of them obnoxiously.
All of this week's art is already available on Etsy! You can also find my queens and me at RuPaul's Drag Con in LA this weekend! I'll be exhibiting my work in Chicago at Sidetrack's finale viewing party on May 16th!