Saturday, November 19, 2022

REVIEW: 'Canada's Drag Race: Canada vs. the World' - One Girl Group Provides Excellence Above All Else in 'Bonjour, Hi'

Crave's Canada's Drag Race: Canada vs. the World - Episode 1.01 "Bonjour, Hi"

Queens from around the world descend on Canada and form girl groups to kick off the battle for the crown.

In 2022, the drag queens who competed on the international versions of Drag Race got the chance to compete again and find redemption. That has long been an option for the American format. All Stars seasons happen yearly now. This year has offered that opportunity to the other stars of the global franchise. Drag excellence isn't solely found stateside. And now, two international All Stars seasons have aired in the same calendar year. That's insane. Sadly, the show doesn't have RuPaul and Michelle Visage on the judging panel with Canada as the host country. Brooke Lynn Hytes has proven herself as an admirable host though. Plus, the winner actually receives a grand prize of cash. That shouldn't taken away from Blu Hydrangea's victory in UK vs. the World. She got to be featured on a song with RuPaul. The cash prizes are simply much more tangible in the moment. So many seasons are spreading the love with so much money bestowed upon the queens. It's still unfortunate that the United Kingdom queens don't get that on their regular competition. It's actually shocking for the winner at the end of this first challenge. That's such a genuine moment too because it's unexpected. Some queens see this competition as validating their self-worth as performers. It doesn't need to carry all that responsibility. All nine competitors this season are deserving of their place here. They may be judged based on how they perform in the various challenges and their looks on runway. They still need to be showered with love and praise. Their art is incredible. It pushes pop culture and the world forward. They are being celebrated and paid for that. That must be noticed and recognized no matter what happens next.

Of course, one of the queens already knows what it's like to win. Icesis Couture snagged the crown in Season 2 of Canada's Drag Queen. She enters this season with the biggest target on her back. She can't falter at any point. As soon as the other queens have an opportunity to knock her out, they will do so. It's okay to have mixed feelings about her competing again as well. Nothing that happens here will take away from her previous victory. She also shouldn't have to wait for another All Winners season to come to fruition. That would grace her with the opportunity to share every single look she brought with her. She simply wanted that moment now. She accepts the pressure. Sure, she shouldn't have to compete again during her reigning year. A new queen of Canada has already been crowned. However, this was filmed before the title was passed on to Gisele Lullaby. This season offers further recognition of Icesis' talents. Her entrance look is perfectly fine. That's basically what an entrance look should be. It should deliver the point-of-view of the queen in a clear and succinct way. However, it shouldn't be the best garment they brought to the competition. Icesis more than delivers when it comes to the runway later on. It's not always endearing when a queen talks about how much an outfit cost her. It was still funny as Icesis wanted to collect every single feather that could have possibly fallen off. She isn't going to let anything disrupt what she paid for to look this immaculate. She easily could have been in the top for the challenge as well. The wig and its frizzled ends caused some trouble. That didn't take away from the power of her verse and her performance. She was fully engaged when her two teammates only had brief moments of being alive in what they were doing.

That's getting slightly ahead of schedule though. Four of these queens are returning to their home stage. Icesis is joined by Rita Baga, Kendall Gender and Stephanie Prince. Rita and Kendall made it to the finales of their respective seasons. Stephanie is a more peculiar casting choice because she was eliminated so early. She's hardly the only one with that trajectory from their prior season though. Anita Wigl'it had a distinct but brief run during the inaugural Down Under season. Meanwhile, Victoria Scone had to exit the UK competition after a knee injury. She was around long enough to form a bond with Vanity Milan, who had a much more celebrated run. Vanity earned the title of one of the fiercest lip sync performers of the franchise. That was impressive. But again, she isn't the only one in this competition with that particular title. Silky Nutmeg Ganache performed seven lip syncs in the span of one episode. It was phenomenal watching each of them too. Plus, this is the third time she's competing alongside Ra'Jah O'Hara. The roles are even reversed for them as they competed with Brooke Lynn on Season 11. She is now judging them. They know she will be fair. There is no bias towards any particular queen amongst this cast. They all walk onto the main stage with their specific flair and style. Silky obviously had the best look and entrance line. Ra'Jah, Vanity and Victoria were gorgeous as well. Kendall's choice of a body suit perhaps foreshadowed what was to come later. It was an attempt to take what she was known for her on her season and brand it as something more stylish and elevated now. It could also be seen as her evolution not quite being up to par with the other queens. She's not exactly the only queen in that camp. It's already apparent that some queens aren't quite on the same level as the powerhouse performers of this cast. That already gives off the sense that the viewer will be waiting for their eliminations so that the more engaging and cutthroat drama can start. That may not be entirely fair at this point. It's still an impression that comes across in this premiere.

Splitting into groups of three, the queens are asked to write verses as new Girl Groups. Nothing ultimately compares to the Black excellence Silky, Vanity and Ra'Jah operate with from the start. They talk about how this franchise has never had an all Black girl group before. This is a show that celebrates diversity in all its forms. And yet, there are still so many barriers these queens face in the real world. This can still be a segregated space that isn't welcoming to differing perspectives. This show hopes to elevate these conversations and break down those expectations. Silky, Vanity and Ra'Jah are wonderful because they are cohesive as a group and each offer an empowering message with their lyrics. It's no surprise Vanity is one of the winners. Silky should have been right up there beside her. Instead, the judges wanted to talk with Ra'Jah. That's fair. After Icesis though, Silky had the best runway look. The category is "Queen of the World." Sure, the reveal aspect wasn't entirely necessary. But the beautiful gown Silky had underneath was gorgeous. Ra'Jah always looks great in her signature color of purple. However, the nude illusion on the front didn't quite work. Elsewhere, the judges didn't get Kendall's warrior queen approach to the category. That was harsh even though the look wasn't quite as polished as several others. Anita also presents with a classic version of drag. It's wonderful to see in a regular drag setting. On the runway though, it doesn't quite measure up to everything else. Victoria's approach to a campy design was better than Rita's. However, it's remarkable how much Rita's makeup has improved. Her face looks stunning. The hot dog scepter wasn't to my personal taste. Neither was the quilted design on the bottom half of Vanity's look. And finally, Stephanie would photograph phenomenally well with her celebration of Filipino culture. However, it was cumbersome to walk the runway with her hands holding up the massive pot on her head the entire time. It read in her face and took everyone out of the experience. That simply couldn't happen in a week where the challenge already featured her as not quite engaged enough.

Vanity and Rita are declared the winners of the week. Again, Vanity is the right call. Rita is insanely questionable. It's almost as if the judges didn't want to elevate one of the groups above the other two. And yet, SRV deserved that recognition. Meanwhile, history repeats itself of Rita winning a challenge while performing in a lackluster outfit. The challenge looks really don't come into play with the judging at all. It's only been a major plot point when RuPaul was yelling at Joe Black about an H&M dress. However, that scrutiny is warranted with what Rita wore in the challenge. It stuck out in such a bad way. The color scheme was cohesive with Anita and Victoria. But it was clear Rita was relying on the verse she wrote to prevail in the challenge instead of how she performed it. That's a huge aspect of the challenge though. Plus, Rita had much more fun playing up a schtick in the lip sync for the win. She returned to the runway immediately in character. She had the judges laughing before the music even started. That shows the power she wields. She already has them begging for more. Of course, that character didn't quite line up with the sexual nature of Anjulie's "Brand New Bitch." Vanity was consistent as she delivered the essence of the song from the very beginning. Rita picked up some steam when she made her reveal into the brand new bitch she was channeling. It wasn't good but that was the point. She is playing a woman who believes she's gone through this evolution and is bragging about it in song. However, she's awkward like so many middle aged white woman are. Even Vanity had a moment fearing the judges were enjoying her competitor too much. But again, no one can beat Vanity in a lip sync. She is just that good. Everyone should prepare for more excellence from her in that regard. Plus, she wins $10,000 for her work this week. Much more should be coming her way. That love will be spread around too. However, Vanity decides to eliminate Kendall, who understands and accepts the choice completely. It was probably done strategically to eliminate someone perceived as the stronger competition. But it also provides Stephanie with one more opportunity to prove to the world what she is capable of doing. She deserves that. It's simply sad it had to come at the expense of Kendall, who also has such an empowering perspective in her drag.