Every Wednesday night for the past nine weeks, drag fans and entertainers have congregated around R Place's stage to watch the second season of their live drag competition, So You Think You Can Drag. Hosted by Seattle queen Cookie Couture, drag entertainers compete against each other every week for the grand prize of $5,000 (!!).
And last night, a winner had to be crowned. R Place was stuffed with drag fans, friends, and rugby players. The line snaked around the second floor, down the stairs, and nearly out the door. By the time Digital Editor Chase Burns and I got to the entrance, the place ran out of ballots and stopped letting people in. "This is where the real competition begins," Burns said to me, whipping out his phone like the people in front of us were doing: who do you know?
I won't say how we managed to get in, but we did. The place was packed with Seattleites craning their necks to see the top five queens: Kung Pow Meow, Freeza D'Lust, Dolce Vida, Miss Texas 1988, and Londyn Bradshaw. R Place mainstays Mila Skyy and Amora Dior Black, and SYTYCD Season 1 winner Irene DuBois (whose final performance last year remains one of my favorite lip syncs I've ever seen) were the judges.
The finale was split into two parts: the first consisted of a swimsuit and Q&A with the judges, followed by a "talent" portion a.k.a. lip sync performance. During intermission, ballots were collected and a top two picked. The two remaining entertainers then performed ANOTHER lip sync, the audience/judges voted, and a winner was birthed right there onstage. Phew—what a night. Let's jump in.
The highlights from this segment were Kung Pow Meow's drippy, Kim K, lavender wig; Freeza's bog creature floatie; Dolce's original Barbie fit; Texas pulling trash out of her mouth while in a trash-kini ("I came into this competition to say that trash can be good, but not all trash is good" in reference to the 150 million metric tons of plastic in our ocean); Londyn's "I'd like to keep it on" neon green mask.
Cookie asked each contestant who they'd like to see take the crown if they didn't win. Everyone said Miss Texas, the favorite coming into the finale, with the utmost sincerity. Miss Texas said Freeza D'Lust and Kung Pow Meow but then added that this is really anyone's game.
I had a hard time discerning exactly what everyone's talent was, but it doesn't matter, I'm here to be wowed bitch! Kung Pow Meow did a Missy Elliot/Lizzo mashup replete with the puffy black suit and two nearly-naked go-go dancers, which was good enough to send her to the top two. Freeza D'Lust performed an emotional number, initially live singing to "Go the Distance" (like from Hercules), then dancing to "Stronger (What Doesn't Kill You)" by Kelly Clarkson. She addressed the online hate she's been getting from right-wing trolls for her participation at a recent Drag Queen Story Hour, ripping up printed hateful comments about her that were originally posted on Facebook.
I think this was my favorite Londyn Bradshaw performance, who kept it simple and just danced the fuck out of a "Bitch Better Have My Money" remix—it was pure chaos. I was delighted. Her sole even came off—what a commitment. Miss Texas's number was a little less "complete and total failure" than normal, stuffed with rainbows, wigs, piñatas, and poofy dresses. There was really no way that she wouldn't advance to the final round, having won every week for the past four weeks. She did.
In this humble writer's opinion, Dolce Vida stole the show in this segment. Though she did not end up advancing into the second round, her talent portion was the most ridiculous, the most camp, the most entertaining. Bringing Big Rich Bitch Energy to the stage, Dolce played the role of a drunk flight attendant to Yolanda Adams's cover of "I Believe I Can Fly." She gave the crowd (fruit) snacks, collected our empties, and straddled her cart, humping it as the song ended. It was a mess. It was inspired. I was in love. I walked away from this night with a greater appreciation of Dolce—the way she very much makes "in the moment" decisions and her ability to then sit in that moment, good or bad.
Kung Pow Meow and Miss Texas went head-to-head in this final round! Ding, ding, ding!
First was Miss Texas, assisted by drag entertainers Sugar Darling and reigning Miss Bacon Strip, One, who played servants to Mistress Texas. This was an "eat the rich" number. Or maybe it was a comment on how the ruling class actually doesn't know what's best for us. Either way, I ate it up.
The servants stripped Texas of her clothes and put her in a boiling cauldron, from which she emerged wearing a burlap sack bearing the word "failure." Except, she had it on inside-out. The word failure was barely legible—fitting since she was winning. She failed at failing, meaning she won (if I did my math right). At this point, Burns leaned over and told me, "Her clothes rebelled." Like they knew.
Kung Pow Meow's performance was just as maximalist as Texas's. She came out lip sync-ing to a Lady Gaga/Todrick Hall mix, eventually bringing out a whole crew of people clad in all the dresses she wore during the competition. It really displayed how much Kung Pow Meow put into her looks, constructing nearly all of them. It was an emotional moment and a good reflection of her hard work in the competition.
Ultimately, though, Kung Pow Meow's performance was not enough to win—Miss Texas 1988 took home the $5,000 and the crown. The crowd went nuts.
Miss Texas is kind of unbeatable because she understands how to harness the emotional energy of a space. Sometimes watching her, you think her number is going south, fast, but then all of the sudden she rips off her wig to reveal a telephone cord that she whips around the stage and everyone is brought back to life. I've never seen a performer come so close to faceplanting only to somehow turn that into dunking on everyone. It's a winning (or losing?) formula. And, it's charisma, uniqueness, nerve, and talent, baby!
She told the audience that she was going to take that money and pay off her medical debt (I'm happy she can do this, but honestly, I want free healthcare for everyone and that includes drag entertainers!). And hey, maybe with an audience that large, why don't we move into the Tacoma Dome?