RuPaul’s Drag Race UK vs The World, Episode 2: “RuPaul Ball” — Review
For the first time ever, Drag Race artists from around the world gather to compete for a single crown in RuPaul’s Drag Race UK vs The World! And if you find yourself struggling to keep up—there’s a lot of Drag Race, we get it—stop by each week for the essentials.
Following the elimination of Lemon at the hands of Pangina Heals, the international divas gathered to discuss, and naturally, everyone was curious to know what Jimbo had planned in case she’d pulled off the win. Unsurprisingly, Jimbo revealed that her plan was to keep Lemon in the competition by eliminating Janey Jacké. What was surprising was Janey’s reaction: “It’s good to know we’re choosing alliances over some feedback from the judges.”
To quote a very wise and citrusy woman’s preseason interview, “You have to be obsessed with yourself, [and] you have to serve your fullest fantasy” in order to succeed at Drag Race. But the reaction Janey received from her fellow competitors, including Pangina, says a whole lot: fantasy or delusion? It sure appears that if many of this cast were to operate on their interpretation of the judges’ comments alone, Janey would’ve been in much hotter water.
To add to the awkward atmosphere, Blu Hydrangea swooped in with a question for Jimbo that I was genuinely surprised to hear on the show: did you throw the lip sync? Throwing the lip sync is something Drag Race fans have suspected about a number of performances over the years, but to hear it on the show reaches a level of self-reference that truly solidifies this format. It feels like this cast is prepared to fully embrace the All-Stars format, and if that’s the case, we’re in for a wild ride.
Entirely unrelated: Next time you’re watching UK vs The World, pause on a Janey confessional to witness the boy eyebrows if you haven’t already. I just did, and I can’t stop witnessing.
Setting the Stage
The next morning, as the cast waited for their message from RuPaul, a few notable conversations emerged: Janey once again brought up her suspicion that Jimbo made her decision based on “alliances,” Mo Heart took a few digs at Janey’s quick-change costumes, and Cheryl Hole continued the thread of her never winning challenges on Drag Race, a thought that Jujubee punctuated with Cheryl’s famous quote about “doing mediocre.” The first and the last of these pay off later in this episode, but the story they’re building about Mo Heart being the season’s ultimate shady queen? I’ve yet to see where that’s going, if anywhere.
After their morning chat, the cast received their standard visit from RuPaul and instructions on their challenge for the week: The RuPaul Ball! Each artist was tasked with putting together three looks, each based on one of RuPaul’s songs:
- Kitty Girl: “a fun meow-tfit, fit for a glamor puss.”
- Butch Queen: “for a lady who’s not afraid to put the bass in her walk.”
- You Wear It Well: a look from scratch “that Mama Ru herself would want to wear.” RuPaul specified that it needed to be a dress, but as the episode pans out, it becomes clear that this rule is a very loose one… or rather, simply doesn’t apply.
As the construction actually began, the artists quickly sorted themselves into three categories: the confident ones (Jimbo, Pangina, and Blu), the not-as-confident-but-calm ones (Mo, Jujubee, and Janey), and the absolutely panicked ones (Baga Chipz and Cheryl). And as often happens during construction challenges, the folks who are confident found themselves offering assistance around the room. In this case, Mo helped Janey reconceptualize her outfit after Janey’s materials turned out to be too difficult to manage, and Jimbo and Pangina offered a whole lot of assistance to Baga.
Speaking of Baga, she and Jujubee had similar interactions with RuPaul during the episode’s walkthrough segment. The two of them are similar in a lot of ways: they’re incredibly charismatic, they’re astoundingly quick-witted, and most importantly, RuPaul absolutely adores them. In a confessional, Baga posited that she’s RuPaul’s all-time favorite—which while a bit cheeky also felt pretty genuine—and after reminding us that she’s got more experience figuring out exactly what RuPaul responds well to, Jujubee spends her entire check-in effortlessly making Ru laugh.
There’s a reason I’m pointing this out, but for now, let’s put a pin in it, because there’s another noteworthy moment I don’t want to forget!
I really loved the conversation Blu shared with Cheryl and Jujubee about exploring where they fit in the spectrum of gender in and out of drag. We’ve seen this conversation happening on Drag Race more frequently as of late, and Blu’s experience questioning their gender specifically in relation to being affirmed for their female-presenting persona added a dimension to that conversation. I appreciate when Drag Race shows this stuff, because I think a lot of straight and queer folks assume publicly queer people have their queerness entirely figured out or that they’ve reached their final queerness destination, and often we don’t or haven’t. And that’s perfectly natural.
The RuPaul Ball
There’s not much preamble to this. It’s a ball! Let’s talk best in category!
- Pangina’s hairless sphynx – This is exactly the kind of drag I want to see from an all-star cast. It’s high-concept, it’s intricate, and it takes everything it’s doing one step further than you’d expect.
- Blu’s “futuristic Pussatron 3000” and Mo’s Sailor Moon Luna-inspired black cat – They’re both unique takes on the “dress like a cat” looks we’ve seen before. Plus, I saw someone online compare the two to the Pokémon Espeon and Umbreon, and I simply can’t unsee it.
- Mo’s leather daddy – This is one of the best runways in Drag Race herstory. It nails the category, it incorporates multiple unexpected elements that take it further than where you’d expect, and it’s unabashedly queer. And to think, this would’ve been a run-ending choice on Drag Race just… eight years ago?
- Blu’s old-fashioned weight-lifter – It’s tough to pull of a look that’s equally masculine and feminine but not specifically androgynous. Blu nailed it.
- Jimbo’s leather biker – Eleven years ago, Lady Gaga turned herself into a motorcycle for the cover of Born This Way. The doors she’s opened.
- Cheryl’s daredevil jumpsuit – This is the epitome of taking something ordinary and making it drag. It may not be a “top toot,” but it’s simple, it’s effective, and I really like it.
You Wear It Well:
- Jimbo’s gold gown – This is the only look that came close to meeting the brief: make a dress that RuPaul would want to wear.
- Janey and Blu’s catsuits – They’re not dresses, but aside from minor details, these are the only other looks I can see a current RuPaul wearing some version of.
- Mo’s lime green dress – This isn’t something I imagine Ru wearing now, and it wasn’t especially well-constructed, but I appreciate that the inspiration was of a different but recognizable RuPaul era.
As for the choices that fell short…
- Baga’s army-inspired look – If Cheryl’s jumpsuit is a perfect example of taking something ordinary and making it drag, Baga’s Butch Queen look is an example of just not dragging it up enough. I love the concept… it just didn’t go very far.
- Cheryl’s constructed look – There’s nothing I can say that didn’t say itself the moment she turned the corner.
- Jujubee’s… everything – We’ll get to it.
- Missing panties galore – Why were there so many people walking the runway with garments that revealed nude crotches? Is this a choice? At least according to Jujubee, it was. I don’t understand.
Let’s Talk About Jujubee
There’s been a lot of conversation about Jujubee following these first two episodes of UK vs The World. From the way it looks, she’s being given a lot of grace, and after this ball challenge, plenty of folks called into question whether she’s even trying. Look, it’s impossible to gauge how much a contestant is “trying,” and effort shouldn’t be measured on runway garments alone, but this isn’t a new discussion with regards to Jujubee. On Season 5 of RuPaul’s Drag Race All-Stars, Jujubee’s sense of fashion and ability to elevate her drag were called into question, and that would’ve been well over a year prior to UK vs The World’s filming.
It’s a complicated discussion. While having a sense of fashion is a clear component of Drag Race, it’s only one component of the show, and it’s not a make-or-break component of drag as a whole. Simply having the best fashion does not guarantee a win on Drag Race—it’s Ru’s show, and Ru loves Jujubee. Plus, the depth or cost of someone’s wardrobe shouldn’t dictate their ability to do drag. Generally speaking, Drag Race over-emphasizes the importance of fashion in drag versus simply clothing or costuming as forms of expression or performance.
But the context of the Jujubee conversation is Drag Race, and Drag Race is a televised competition that Jujubee has just come short of winning every single time she’s competed. If she agreed to compete on UK vs The World, because she wanted to win, she has over a decade of experience and three full seasons’ worth of being judged by RuPaul and Michelle to help her prepare. If she wants to win, and if the thing preventing her from doing so is her runway package, you’d think she’d arrive to the competition with a wardrobe ready to blow the judges’ minds. She’s good at literally everything else, something I think her critics are forgetting.
On Twitter, Dragula Season 4 cast member HoSo Terra Toma argued that people complaining about Jujubee’s success so far on UK vs The World are missing the point. HoSo claimed that the ultimate “royalty energy” is not caring and just showing up “for a gig,” and to a degree I get where they’re coming from. One of the reasons I still watch Drag Race despite its flaws is to support these queer artists having an international platform. But if it’s just a gig, how are we defining the gig? To be honest, there’s often no clear answer when it comes to reality television, especially if there’s a competition involved.
Jujubee has every right to protect her peace and get her check, but if she’s just there for the gig, and if for her the gig is to simply show up, I completely get why folks would find that disappointing.
You’re A Winner, Janey!
That was a big detour, so here’s the absolute skinny: when the ball concluded, Janey and Jimbo landed in the top two, and Cheryl landed in the bottom alongside Jujubee. After a lip sync face-off to RuPaul’s “Supermodel (El Lay Toya Jam),” Janey earned the right to eliminate one of her competitors. Cheryl ultimately got the chop, and in doing so, Janey seemingly followed through on her assertion that decisions should be made on challenge performance.
The hits just keep on coming, because tonight we’re getting a Rusical! Because Rusicals tend to have so many moving parts, they have the potential to trip anyone up. Considering the majority of this cast has never done one, it could be a recipe for disaster. In any case, I won’t be surprised if Janey, a former Rusical winner, comes out on top for a second week in a row.
‘RuPaul’s Drag Race UK vs The World’ airs on BBC Three in the UK and Crave in Canada, and it streams on WOW Presents Plus in the US and everywhere else.