Drag Race Down Under, Series 1, Episode 1: Aquatically Challenged Expense

Well, she got the Quote of the Season if nothing else.

We’re fresh off the boat of Drag Race Season 13 and like Hell were they going to give us any breathing space. So open wide because RuPaul has been practicing his terrible Aussie puns for MONTHS now.

Making a Grand Entrance

If you were wondering if there were any major changes with Drag Race going Down Under, there isn’t much – just the fact the Werk Room looks like the sort of Changing Rooms fiasco that only Linda Barker was capable of

Just absolutely no texture but every shade of pink you could possibly imagine, which is also my review of Tesco’s wafer ham.

The first queen in was Art Simone, who is unarguably the most well known (we’ll get to the weird legacy of Karen From Finance in a minute) with a WOW Presents show in the bag, a major social media presence, in demand makeup skills and touring with several RuGirls already and she really has the polish to prove it

It’s one of the most put together, complete entrance looks that we’ve ever seen – this could walk the runway and win – as long as that category is NeoPets realness.
Also, I cannot explain the garden ornaments on either side of the entrance, my best guess is that they’re hiding some sort of lighting wiring because I refuse to believe a production designer thought it was OK to just put down two stone grey cherub gate post toppers.

She was followed by Maxi Shield, who was technically proceeded by Maxi Shield’s enormous breast plate

it’s a perfectly fine entrance look, it allows you to move if there’s some sort of insane photography challenge and you’re not going to be to torn up if you ruin a glitzy jumpsuit.

Third to the party was Jojo Zaho in a very plasticky, Priscilla inspired look

It’s fun and cute but does remind me of those Ronald McDonald statues that you get in some McDonald’s that would scare the absolute life out of you as their paint gradually chipped off over the years.

The first New Zealand queen to his the scene was Auklander Elektra Shock and her upsetting wig

it is a very dry wig and EVERYONE let her know just how much they hated it which got a little much after about the 5th joke they made at its aquatically challenged expense. I don’t mind the outfit though, it’s very Valentine’s Day cabaret but I really liked her eye makeup

I don’t think it goes with the look even remotely, I just like that it reminds me of the MySpace scene kid era.

Scarlett Adams was next to enter in a look that can only be described as Corporate Erotica Era Madonna

pulling the real focus though is her fashionable Amish confessionals look

More hats in confessionals, I say!

Coco Jumbo was next and honestly, she might be one of the most beautiful queens that has ever been on the show – her beat is immaculate

The pearls in the crease are just perfection. The rest of her outfit was very wrapping paper Insta Baddie, which is to say absolutely superb

Show me anything purple and shiny and I’m pretty much putty in your hands.

The second of our very Priscilla-esque looks was from Kita Mean with her Polly Pocket FunkoPop outfit

You might know her from the fact she and her drag partner Anita Wigl’it hosted a New Zealand version of Drag Race called The Drag House – which yes, Elektra Shock did compete on and came second, which had absolutely nothing to do with the fact her two bosses were hosting the show. DEFINITELY ABSOLUTELY NOTHING.
Kita is mostly just fascinating in the fact her face moves at a hundred miles an hour like someone scrolling very quickly through an album of reaction memes, the muscle strain must be unimaginable.

I love a look that is essentially trying to make something ordinary into fashion whether it be Denali and her strange obsession with lamps, cacti and that one very specific boa constrictor or Ivy Winters’s silly goldfish dress which is why I really loved Etcetera Etcetera’s cigarette girl cockroach costume

It’s not the most attractive shade of brown but it’s cute and gimmicky and makes me, personally, excited to see what else she brings to the runway because I am obsessed with their Clarissa Explains it all confessionals look

I am also working on a theory that they’re Sara Pascoe’s long list sibling.

And in a truly cursed casting decision, they have not 1 but both of Elektra Shock’s bosses on the show as Anita Wigl’it (this will be the only time I write “wigl’it” – I hate it so much) enters the Werk Room in a distinctly confusing look

It’s like every iteration of The Penguin from the Batman comics rolled into one look and then a strange attempt to make it sexy but Anita is just a distinctly unsexy person, and I say that as a similarly distinctly unsexy person.

Lastly we have Karen From Finance looking like she’s about to take a class of third graders on a disastrous field trip

I find her fascinating because she has this weirdly big reputation surrounding her and yet it is mostly because Katya and Trixie are obsessed with her drag name and talk about it a lot on UNHhhh, I’m not sure how many people are actually aware of her performance skills or that she’s a real person.

An Unofficial Entrance Look Ranking

  1. The Artist Currently Known as Art Simone
  2. Gift Wrapped Coco Jumbo
  3. The Plastic Fantastic Kita Mean
  4. Etcetera’s Bug In The System
  5. Scarlet Adams’s Corporate Erotica
  6. Karen From Grade Three
  7. Jojo is Waterproof
  8. Maxi Shield The Purple People Eater
  9. Elektra Shock’s Valentine’s Cabaret
  10. Anita’s Confused Penguin Demon

Feeling a Little Thor

Now for truly one of the most pointless Mini Challenges we’ve ever been subjected to as the Queens have to screen test for a movie, the plot twist being that they’ll have to talk with a lisp (a little yikes) and that Taika Waititi will be badly edited in via a Skype call

The relevance of Taika I hear you ask? Well, Ru claims this was a parody of, and a I quote, “Thor, directed by Taika Waititi” – quite why they couldn’t say “Thor Ragnarok” is beyond me, but can you imagine an acting challenge that was led by Kenneth Branagh? Had you forgotten that Kenneth Branagh directed the first Thor film? Please get him in to direct Shakesqueer 2: The Re-deadening.

As you might have realised the concept of getting a bunch of people to fake a speech impediment for shits and giggles is slightly more than A Little Yikes and I think someone in the editing suite realised this and the whole thing is mostly edited down to 3 or 4 queens reading the entirely incomprehensible script (a Drag Race norm) while the rest get to just do whatever weird shit Ru wants them to do including acting like a baby

Why does this keep coming up? Can a producer please just go to therapy, we’ve had enough adult babies to make an entire Channel 5 documentary about it.

Elektra gets to let out all her pent up rage by screaming into the void

and then gently whistling like a kettle which RuPaul ate up with a spoon and then Maxi Shield can be added to the Bad Orgasm hall of fame by faking one that rivals Alyssa Edwards’s moribund, funereal offering from the Telenovela challenge in Season 5 – I’m not sure just lightly jiggling a tit and gently moaning cuts the mustard

Where’s the Coco Montrese School of Faking an Orgasm when you need it?
Over all it wasn’t a particularly thrilling mini challenge, even the queens who have made their entire buck off overacting weren’t give the opportunity to shine. You will be unsurprised that Kita and Anita are virtuosos of the art – although Kita just did her best Daffy Duck impression and Anita baffled everyone by having the emotional range of an out of work actor in a haunted house

That was her being happy apparently.

The winner is Elektra Shock who wins a necklace set and we’ll say it cancels out the dent to her reputation that the wig has inflicted.

Take It To The Runway

As ever the first episode is very runway focused with the queens having to walk two looks down the catwalk, the first being a nude illusion in the same vein as the Season 7 premier and the second being the new Drag Race favourite: a look inspired by your hometown that has to be very recognisable to a panel of which two thirds are American that have barely done a cursory glance through the Australia and New Zealand Wikipedia entries. Even a quick flick through an airport pamphlet on Things To Do In Auckland might have saved some general confusion.

Also, RuPaul will not be judging in drag and will instead be in Boy Mode with the filter kicked up to 11

the rumour is that Raven’s work Visa didn’t clear in time for the show and they couldn’t get one of the most in demand Australian drag makeup artists to fill in for her because Art Simone is competing on the show.

Naked Attraction

With the naked themed runway there will always be the baggage of body image and self-esteem, I personally hate the theme, I don’t think it lends itself brilliantly to the Drag Race specific style of drag but nonetheless a number of the queens managed to make it work for them.

First to hit the runway was Scarlet Adams in her delightfully ridiculous, full body prosthesis that made her look like a very technologically advanced sex doll

It’s a remarkable feat craftsmanship, both the making of the original garment and the fact she had to Frankenstein it back together because the whole thing ripped apart

I’d have leant into a more horror aesthetic if that happened and I honestly admire her for staying as calm as she did, especially as she basically watched hundreds of dollars disintegrate before her very eyes – a breastplate along can be upwards of $500, this was a full body nonsense!

Maxi was next in a bubblewrap trench coat and a precarious bosom

Although, when are Maxi’s tits not precarious?
She looks really pretty, there’s something very Miranda Priestly about her face and the coat played exceptionally well in the strange choice of lavender coloured lighting.

There will always be a queen who does a RuPaul reference, it’s a delightful display of incredibly transparent ass kissing. The problem is that you have to do it justice and Elektra Shock’s take on the footballer outfit just fell a little short

It’s very the Glee kids do Lady Gaga.
She wasn’t the only to fall just a scooch short as Coco Jumbo had a very good idea but did look like one of the Bratz characters in the 2005 PlayStation game

It doesn’t help that we’ve seen a very similar concept from Monique Heart before, which in terms of this specific look is probably the best it could look

I appreciate that she tried to add on to it with the earrings but they just didn’t work and in the words of Michelle, they did look a little bit too much like calamari.

I loved what Etcetera did with the androgynous, gender horror of it all

It’s very The Chainsaw Massacre while still radiating glamour; and then in what should be considered an iconic runway moment she just fully moons RuPaul – crack, taint and everything. It’s like a power move, a mic drop and the last word all in one very naked package.

Jojo Zaho was also making statements with her look that heavily featured her native Australian background

There are a number of very obvious issues with the outfit – most obviously being the band on her midriff but the styling of the outfit, I really liked, it could have been more exaggerated to take it to a draggier level but for what she was trying to do in showing off her culture, it worked. They also described it as a simple, which it is but it’s no more so than Scarlet Adams’s whose was just more expensive.

Karen From Finance brought in a reveal in which she took off a bikini to reveal her tan lines

I think it’s a fun idea, I personally hate that the bodysuit was glittery because it looked like a skin condition and it made me very itchy but I did laugh at the Big Bird pubes

Burn the shoes though.

Of course a nude runway theme wouldn’t be complete without someone doing an biblical Eve inspired look and Anita was on hand to provide it with assistance from a very meagre snake

I really love the patterning on the bodysuit, it’s very flattering – however it took me a while to work out what was happening with her shoes

I thought she was wearing nude galoshes for the longest time but no, it turns out that they’re stirrup pants and we have no choice but to disqualify her from the competition.

While most people’s nude looks made sense I was quite stumped by Kita Mean who had come dressed as Ice Princess Yeti Balls?

I am needlessly confused by this look, it seems like it should make sense and then my brain just stops computing and I can’t process it – a lot of it might be to do with the absconded bellybutton. It’s not the clearest of concepts but it moved very well on the runway which counts for something.

Lastly we have Art Simone with a take on the half-and-half look

It’s just very cool, the way the fully dressed side melts away into the nude illusion is very Mystique, which is an instant win in my eyes.

An Unofficial Nude Illusion Ranking

  1. Art Simone’s Two Faces
  2. Etcetera’s Non-binary Finery
  3. Maxi’s Meryl Streak
  4. Karen From Beside The Pool
  5. Anita’s Garden of Eden
  6. Jojo’s Nude Magician’s Saw Trick
  7. Scarlet’s Stitch Up
  8. Kita’s Princess Yeti Balls
  9. Coco’s Throw Pillow Couture
  10. Elektra’s Ru-pale

Home, Sweet Home

Now for the more exciting category where everything is marginally less beige but decidedly more niche.

First to hit the category was Scarlet dressed as a black swan

I liked it, I would have liked to see a reference to the film Black Swan in the makeup just for an added nudge and a wink but I’m all for the puppet swan, the unofficial eleventh queen of the season.

Maxi Shield followed her while also doing an animal illusion as a prawn in honour of Ballina

at least she was trying to do a prawn on purpose and this wasn’t another incident of Sasha Belle aiming for a dragon and landing firmly in infamous accidental lobster.
How long do you think it’ll take for Michelle and Ru to ding her for the tattoos? I give it until Week 3.

Elektra Shock, an Auckland native, had specifically designed her look around the Maori name for the city: Tamaki Makaurau which translates to Land of 100 Lovers which made perfect sense with her outfit

I think she should have ditched the rainbow capelet and just let the weirdly attached white fabric be the statement but even then it’s a perfectly fine look that Michelle didn’t understand because she’s obviously unfamiliar with the history and culture of Auckland and in her head that made it a bad look and it simply isn’t.

Apparently Michelle is familiar with Australian theme parks though because she had no problem understand that Coco Jumbo had dressed up as a gorilla to honour renowned water park and tourist attraction The Big Banana

She delivered the look superbly, camping it up and pulling a banana out of somewhere – it was probably the most fun runway of the night and as per usual, her mug is flawless

I stan.

For a lot of the runways the queens will inevitably have to ransack their pre-Drag Race wardrobes in the hopes if making something fit, enter Etcetera Etcetera and her GPS corset that was meant to depict the main streets of Canberra

I love the look and honestly, God bless her for bullshitting her way through it.

Jojo was next in a sort of Marie Antoinette outfit through a distinctly aboriginal lens. It has some really cool details such as the stoning of the corset is designed to look like the Australian Aboriginal Flag

I really like this look, I get that you could see the wig fasteners at the back but it’s so inconsequential that you have to be purposefully ignoring the statement she is making to see it. It was a great runway moment and the whole thing told me more about Jojo than any of the other queens’ looks told me about them and that really should have counted for something in this challenge.

Karen was next doing a look based on the Melbourne Cup, which is basically Ascot but with more Victoria Bitter

I really love the jacket, it’s very cool and architectural looking. It was a perfectly fine outfit that relied mostly on her runway delivery which she of course nailed.

Anita came out wearing every IKEA bath mat she could get her hand on and called herself a sheep

It’s such a stupidly fun look with not a stirrup pant in sight and I can’t help but like it, even more so for the flash of her pastied nip

very Ca-baaa-ret.

I was glad to see someone doing an All Blacks rugby inspired look

I can barely recognise Kita, there’s just something very transformative about a formal gown. Her makeup is a little too pale, setting powder will do that to a gal under heavy lights but it’s a thoroughly good outfit and I will never not love a black wig with a white stripe through it.

Last up was Art Simone looking very much like Liza Minelli as the supreme ruler in some sort of Star Wars prequel to the prequels trilogy (MAKE THAT HAPPEN)

It’s very chic, very vintage Chanel but it’s not the entire story as she whips it open to reveal the graffitied lining

which she then turns inside out to become a whole new outfit

quite where she pulled the hat from, I do not know and I do not care to ask – I hope it was a Debbie McGee’s Tambourine situation.
I think I actually preferred the black look with the flash of the lining inside it, but I do like the second look and the nod to Melbourne’s diversity.

An Unofficial Hometown Look Ranking

  1. Anita at the Ca-baa-ret
  2. Art Simone Turning Inside Out
  3. Coco Jumbo as Queen Kong
  4. Jojo’s Native Queen
  5. Scarlet’s Nina Sayers Cosplay
  6. Kita’s Rugby Gown
  7. Karen From The Bookies
  8. Elektra’s Land of the Unloved
  9. Etcetera’s Road to Nowhere
  10. Maxi’s Prawn Blah

The judges decide that their Top Three for the week are Art, Scarlet and Karen – personally I think I’d have swapped Anita and Karen which might be my Hot Take of the Week because Karen goes on to win the whole episode despite the fact Art Simone is right there.
Their Bottom Three are Jojo, Coco and Elektra which is… well it’s a slight yikes all round that 2 of the queens that made statements honouring the native peoples of Australia and New Zealand are both in the bottom and both of the non-white queens are there. It’s just not a great look. It also doesn’t help that both Karen and Scarlet who have had racism scandals in the lead up to the show’s premier are being lauded… This episode was a minefield and I feel we did not fair it very well.

Coco is spared the lipsync because Michelle just really loved water parks which means Jojo and Elektra will have to go head to head

Tragedy Beyond Reason

The lipsync song for the week is Tragedy by The Bee Gees which is a thoroughly excellent choice and I cannot believe they haven’t ever done it before – it’s practically designed for the melodrama of a Drag Race lipsync and Jojo and Elektra really did deliver on the melodrama with the constant blocking of one another

a personal favourite of mine, possibly my second favourite trope bellow crab walking in the back of someone else’s shot.
It was a pretty well fought match, both of them had the words down to the letter – I very much enjoyed Jojo’s ululations during the instrumentals but Elektra was bringing out the big guns were her really rather impressive jumping splits

You knew something big was coming because within the first few bars of the song she was removing her earrings like any experienced street fighter knows to

I’m not saying all Aucklanders are the rough and tumble type but there is a reputation.

I fully believe this could have been a double save, or a triple save in that we would have been saved by endless discourse on how this elimination came to be but sadly Jojo Zaho is the first to sashay away and it very much didn’t feel deserved to me

Her confessionals were great, she was incredibly charming and funny, her point of view is important – give her a follow on Instagram at Jojo_Zaho.

This of course means that Elektra Shock lives to fight another week – how long can they draw out the supposed underdog narrative when she can lipsync like that?

And so 9 Down Under Queens remains

One thought on “Drag Race Down Under, Series 1, Episode 1: Aquatically Challenged Expense

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