Tuesday, February 1, 2022

REVIEW: 'RuPaul's Drag Race: UK vs. the World' - Nine International Queens Compete for the Crown in 'Global Glamazons'

BBC Three's RuPaul's Drag Race: UK vs. the World - Episode 1.01 "Global Glamazons"

Nine Drag Race legends from around the world vie for the title of Queen of the Mothertucking World. Mel C joins the judges as the global glamazons stage their very own Royal Command performance.

For years now, RuPaul's Drag Race has been called the Olympics of drag. That may actually be a more apt description for this new spinoff of the global franchise. This competition takes queens who have competed on various seasons from around the world and thrown them into the contest together. It's very exciting. It's an opportunity for some of the international queens to get their second chances much like the American girls do with All Stars. Drag has become such a phenomenon around the world. Each franchise has its own distinct flair. Drag isn't the same in every place around the globe. As such, it's going to be fun seeing the various styles clash in this competition. The cast is full of standout performers as well. Some of them have been evaluated by these specific judges before. Will that give Baga Chipz, Blu Hydrangea and Cheryl Hole a home town advantage? It might but everyone has expectations they have to meet for their chance at rudemption. That will mean winning for one of the nine queens. But this should mostly be seen as a strong showcase for their drag and what they do best. That's why someone like Jujubee keeps coming back again and again. She is good television. Her confessionals are always exceptional. She is a serious competitor who always makes it to the finale. The world has fallen in love with her even though she has only ever won one challenge. This program gets to introduce more queens to the global audience too. It's Pangina Heals' first time competing after hosting Drag Race: Thailand for two seasons. A language barrier has tripped up some of the international queens on the mothership. Will that be a problem for Pangina or Janey Jack√©? It's doubtful. But again, these are some of the questions worth posing in preparation for this series. All was revealed in this premiere. So let's get down to discussing the queens' entrance looks, workroom banter, maxi challenge performances, runways and critiques in front of the judges.

First off, it's notable that the queens make their entrances on the main stage and not the workroom. It mostly feels like a fun showcase for the silhouette effect that has become known in introducing lip sync assassins on All Stars. This season is reverting back to the prior All Stars rules with the top two queens having the power to eliminate a girl in the bottom each week. Secondly, the girls are essentially introduced in groups by the countries they represent. The queens take note of the pairings and their histories on the stage and in front of the judges just like the audience did. It's also notable that the energy shifts once Monique and Jujubee enter the proceedings. They offer a different perspective as they have already competed multiple times. Monique especially is hungry for the crown. That's her top priority. As such, she is throwing shade all over the place. Sometimes it is warranted. Other times, it comes across as a defense mechanism in an environment where she is competing against the best. She believes she has to present as fierce and strong no matter what. It's an odd energy that stands out. Meanwhile, Jujubee just continues to serve quality narration of events. Jimbo fulfills that same wild energy. In terms of the actual entrance looks, Pangina, Lemon and Monique have strong outfits. Blu's is fascinating as well but also a little confusingly scattershot. Cheryl and Janey are ready to perform instead of making a statement with their looks. Baga starts the walk-ins with a look paying homage to Princess Diana that mostly misses, though her fashion isn't exactly what she's known for. And finally, Jujubee is last and always goes the simplistic route with her entrances. She has done so many and they all build on each other. This is her best entrance so far. Knowing the caliber of drag she can offer though, it's very safe and boring.

The maxi challenge is a talent show. That has become the expected move for returning queen competitions. It also means the audience can expect plenty of singing and dancing numbers. It's understandable given that's how most drag queens make a living. However, they can all become interchangeable after awhile. The queens believe they have to offer certain moves in order to be seen as valid as drag queens competing in front of RuPaul. They can certainly reference the past while offering a new spin on things. But so much is unoriginal. In fact, that's why Jimbo and Pangina stand out as the clear and deserving winners of this challenge. It's hard for comedy to work and stand out in this specific challenge. Jimbo is a clown who delights in doing strange and unnerving things. That translates perfectly on this stage even though the routine is just her moving weirdly, making odd noises, opening an empty lunch box and throwing bologna around the stage. It's so disarming. But again, it's entertaining because it's different. Pangina sings and dances like many of the other queens. She also introduces Thai moves into the routine to help make it feel unique. That's her doing something completely her own. She may be the only queen representing Thailand. But her perspective is much needed to shake up what the overall franchise has become. Other queens have stand out moments - the most notably being Lemon's stunning jump off a platform into the splits. And yet, the split was the move she committed to fiercely. Up until that point, it felt like she was marking the routine instead of performing it. Similarly, it's odd that Jujubee once again sang when that got her to safe on All Stars 5 and eliminated her on Queen of the Universe. It wasn't all that special enough. The same went for Monique while Baga and Cheryl's attempts at comedic music was no match for the prop that Blu brought along with her.

All of these queens are competing to win. As such, they should each have a garment celebrating that fate and proving they are deserving of it. The judges want to see that right away. That affirms who the frontrunners are, who has potential and who may be swallowed up by this competition. Again, Jimbo and Pangina have phenomenal looks. Janey is right there with them this time too. Jujubee, Lemon and Cheryl didn't push themselves far enough. Juju's was simple again while Cheryl's had bulky stars in some odd positions that didn't entirely work out. Blu executed a solid vision that was completely her but got somewhat lost in translation pertaining to what was required of the category. And finally, Baga's look is bad and takes an explanation in order for anyone to get that she is an Academy Award. The judges basically agree with all of these critiques. Jimbo and Pangina are singled out as the rightful winners while Lemon and Janey are in the bottom. Canada's Drag Race revealed that Jimbo isn't really a lip sync queen. That hasn't changed in the time since. And so, it was always up to Pangina to decide who would be the first eliminated queen. That's a position she has been in before as a judge. It's more personal now as she is also competing. She opts for the more original number from Janey. It wasn't that original to be honest. It was a lot of reveals with each outfit being skimpier and easier to perform in. That was always the focus in the routine. Her runway was incredible though. It's disappointing that a stellar queen like Lemon is the first to go home. That feeling will likely ring true in each elimination though. All of these queens are deserving of victory. Someone has to go each week. Each country is still represented in the competition. The queens take that into consideration more than it probably deserves. They aren't required to represent all that drag is in their home countries. They need to be authentically themselves. Some of them have that in spades while others project confidence hoping that it can translate to success. That too can be a winning strategy. At this point, it's just easy to get wrapped up in the competition between Jimbo and Pangina for the win - even though Jimbo can't dance to save her life!