Show versus Show: RuPaul’s Drag Race and Drag Race Thailand

With double the drag race, we must bow down to these queens of different continents

Photo courtesy of VH1

Written by: Winona Young

Warning: this review contains spoilers for both shows!

RuPaul’s Drag Race (Season 10, 2018)

RuPaul’s Drag Race (RPDR) turns 10 and is back with finely orchestrated drama, bigger wigs, and even bigger personalities. RuPaul herself makes big promises about this season being more show-stopping than ever. She is ready to butt into these queens’ lives with sharp observations about their most personal and drag-related flaws, which brings us to the queens of this season.

     RPDR is all about fleshed-out arcs, whether they’re real or not. The season is full of shade, laughs (may I interest anyone in a Miss Vanjie reference?), and underdog arcs. However, it’s queens like The Vixen and Eureka who bring fresh drama to the screens, the former igniting a long overdue discussion about racism amongst the drag community. That aside, many charming personalities make it to RPDR this season, getting the audience cheering for underdogs like Miz Cracker and Kameron Michaels who must face daunting and sometimes confusing challenges.

     When the queens walk the runway this season, we’re witness to many glamorous and lavish looks, with fashion queens like Aquaria dominating the stage. At times RuPaul is a tad more adventurous than her usual gown, but nothing is too notable. As for lip syncs, this season includes a few lip sync assassins like Monet X Change and Kameron Michaels. Only a few queens rely on props to make their lip syncs legendary; most rely on their heart and many, many death drops.

Photo courtesy of Kantana Group

Drag Race Thailand (Season 1, 2018)

Drag Race Thailand (DRT) may not include RuPaul herself, and the production of the show isn’t as stellar RPDR, but the show proves that Asian queens have just as much charisma, uniqueness, nerve, and talent as their American counterparts

     All 12 queens, diverse in both Thai and other Asian languages, are also wildly diverse in body style, size, and looks. A big difference between DRT and RPDR is that two queens are hosting the show. The first is Art Arya, whose background is more grounded on design and style than drag. She’s more subdued that RuPaul and she isn’t bursting with catchphrases, but she’s still always ready with her sharp tongue. The other host, Pangina Heals, is younger, more charismatic, and a seasoned drag queen after winning Thailand’s first drag reality TV show T Battle

     In its first season, DRT does not pull back when challenging the girls. Their first maxi challenge is to create three-in-one looks, immediately raising the bar for RPDR. Looks this season vary wildly, with some queens going for cheap and glamourous and others attempting intricate and lavish. It’s refreshing to see traditional cultural pieces like Jaja’s baro’t saya, and to see even the judges going all out; one of my favourite outfits would be Pangina walking out as a sexy bowl of noodles (no, I am not exaggerating).

     The lip syncs of the season, like the show’s production, vary wildly in quality. The Top 6 performance is a disorienting and messy dance sequence with too many pop ballads. It’s no surprise that Art Arya did a double save and elimination. In the “Dhoom Dhoom” lip sync, one queen, Natalia Pliacam, brought out a literal bag of props, which goes to show that heartfelt performances like Petchara never go out of style.

Verdict:

After almost a decade of RPDR, it’s clear that the show is struggling to top itself, raise its stakes, and keep the audience surprised. RPDR still showcases great personalities with strengths varying from pageant to comedy to looks. There’s more than enough drama to boot. But the drama has gotten contrived.

     The stunts pulled, especially in the finale with a “surprise” three-person lip sync (made especially unbelievable with a song meant for three divas), were anything but surprising, and with more and more queens getting snubbed, the show is losing the same grip it had on audiences like me.

     Drag Race Thailand, however, is a refreshing change of pace in terms of the contestant and judge aesthetics and the challenges themselves. The queens keep your attention with their shady one-liners (Meannie Minaj upon seeing another queen freak out over a win: “Are you that happy? Haven’t you been winning anything in life?”), but drama for the most part is toned down.

     Both shows have their own charm, RPDR with its drama and DRT for its fascinating looks and challenges. But I’m an extra bitch at heart, so I’m inclined to say this season of RPDR with its flaws, shenanigans, charming-as-hell queens, and over the top drama, that, Chantay, you stay.