by Albert Rodriguez -
SGN A&E Writer
By a hair - a wig of hair, actually - Seattle's own Robbie Turner advanced to the second week of 'RuPaul's Drag Race.' Season 8 of the reality competition series premiered on March 7, featuring twelve new contestants vying for the ultimate drag crown. It was the Logo TV show's milestone 100th episode that also included appearances by its previous titleholders, which meant another Seattle queen, Jinkx Monsoon, was in the house.
The 'dirty dozen,' as Ru called them, introduced themselves to audiences at home, and to each other, at the start of the episode, by making their grand entrances individually. First up was Naomi Smalls (21, Redlands), who described herself as having 'legs all the way up to her asshole.' Next was Cynthia Lee Fontaine (34, Austin), a comical Puerto Rico-born performer who mentions her 'cu-cu' in every other sentence. Dax EclamationPoint (31, Savannah), a cosplay-loving queen, followed; and after her was Naysha Lopez (31, Chicago), a pageant girl with an unforgettably pretty face. Acid Betty (37, Brooklyn), one of three contestants from the NYC area, said she's 'an acid trip without the drugs,' and then came Robbie Turner (33, Seattle) looking nostalgically glamourous in a vintage getup.
Moving on, Kim Chi (27, Chicago) is a bubbly, adorable makeup artist who looks like the offspring of an Easter Bunny-Hello Kitty one night stand; I loved her donut pun! Thorgy Thor (31, Brooklyn) is a zany, energetic gal who forgot her real age on camera, stating she was 29 before correcting herself and adding two more years. Bob The Drag Queen (29, New York), the last of The Big Apple trio, strutted into the room in a black and white leotard with the letters 'unt' spelled out across the belly; brilliantly she formed the letter 'c' with her right hand at her hip to complete the word. Laila McQueen (22, Gloucester) is a short, gothy girl that showed up in a Beetlejuice-themed outfit with flat-footed boots, and behind her was Chi Chi DeVayne (29, Shreveport), who declared 'I don't get ready, I stay ready' as she pranced around in a garbage bag (yes, a garbage bag). The final contender, and overall 100th contestant on the show, to stroll through the entryway was drag celeb Derrick Barry (32, Las Vegas), a Britney Spears impersonator from Sin City who turned heads in a white, open-chested jumpsuit.
Immediately afterwards, the show's mother hen, RuPaul, descended a small staircase and greeted the ladies in an overly colorful, bright and busy ensemble that screamed Skittles.
'An occasion such as this demands to be acknowledged on an epic scale,' announced Mama Ru, which led to the traditional first episode photo shoot challenging each contestant to out-pose all seven previous 'Drag Race' winners - minus Season 7 champ Bianca Del Rio, whose absence was filled by a random circus clown. Some of the girls managed to upstage the former titleholders, including Jinkx Monsoon and Violet Chachki, but a few simply got lost in this queendom of drag divas, who collectively had no personality and just sat there like wax figures in costumes.
A fun part of any episode, though especially the season premiere, is watching the ladies de-drag. This particular group is cuter than others, especially Derrick Barry who could probably pass for Britney Spears brother, bearing an uncanny resemblance to the Toxic singer as a girl and a boy.
For the main challenge, Ru resurrected memorable challenges from past seasons - Drag on a Dime (Season 1), Pride Floats (Season 4), Money Ball (Season 3), Sugar Ball (Season 5), Glitter Ball (Season 6), Post Apocalyptic (Season 4), Cake Couture (Season 6), Hair Ball (Season 3), Hello Kitty (Season 7), Gone with the Window (Season 2), The Queen Who Mopped Christmas (Season 3), Bitch Ball (Season 4) - but asked the girls to put their personal spin on them. They were each assigned a challenge by Robbie Turner, selected at lottery for the task - okay, this is what had had happened: Robbie Turner's name was written on a ping-pong ball that shot out of Morgan McMichaels' butt, paying homage to the draggiest of films Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. Unfortunately, Robbie Turner forgot to assign himself a task and therefore had to settle for the very last one, the Bitch Ball (remember when Sharon Needles knocked it out of the doggy park with her poodle do?).
All of the competitors gave the challenge their best shot, but in the end only a handful stood out, including the top three: Kim Chi, Acid Betty and Derrick Barry. The bottom three were: Robbie Turner (because of her poorly executed, pooch-themed outfit; a big pile of you-know-what), Leila McQueen (because of her awful photo shoot and mismatched punk-meets-Valley girl runway look) and Naysha Lopez (because the judges weren't impressed by her at all, and neither was I). Robbie was spared an exit by receiving a 'you're safe' pass for next week, sending Leila and Naysha to the elimination round, where they lipsync'd for their lives to Lady GaGa's 'Applause'; Leila worked it, while Naysha only - and I repeat, only - clapped her hands to the beat of the song (maybe she thought it was a salsa number). Thus, she got the boot - er, the heel - from RuPaul and got sent back to Chi-Town.
Aside from Ru, the judges panel this week included sidekick-BFF Michelle Visage, 'Queer Eye's' Carson Cressley, tabloid magnet Nicole Richie, and funnyman Ross Matthews, who interviewed with Seattle Gay News three years ago.
Of course, I'm cheering for hometowner Robbie Turner; what kind of Seattleite would I be if I didn't?! But I'm also on Team Kim Chi, whose mom has no idea that she's doing drag (how do you say 'yikes' in Korean?). Overall, this is a much more interesting and stronger set of contestants than last season. Robbie Turner is the fourth contestant from The Emerald City, following Jinkx Monsoon (Season 5), BenDeLaCreme (Season 6) and Magnolia Crawford (Season 6).
Episode 2 of Season 8 is set to air on March 14, on Logo TV. All episodes can be streamed online at logotv.com.
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