Every single Lip Sync For Your Life/Legacy, ranked.
“Two queens stand before me. Ladies this is your last chance to impress me and save yourself from elimination. The time has come for you to Lip Sync For Your Life. Good luck and don’t fuck it up!”
No, it’s not Game of Thrones.
Eleven regular seasons, four All Star seasons, and one Christmas special that is not part of any canon I recognise. RuPaul’s Drag Race has been a juggernaut, creating as many stars as it has reaction GIFs, and turning a certain section of drag from subculture into the mainstream.
If you’re unfamiliar to the show and the internet, wow, let’s have a chat because your inner life is fascinating to me. But also here’s a rundown: drag queens compete in various challenges, usually based around performance or craft, to be America’s next drag superstar. It’s high camp, high comedy, high drama. It’s high, is what I’m saying.
A key part of the show’s formula is the Lip Sync For Your Life (or Legacy, if you’re in All Stars). It sees the two bottom queens of each challenge lip-sync against each other for a chance to stay in the competition. These performances are often emotional, sometimes funny, and always, always highly watchable.
So, as the show jumps across the Atlantic to the UK for the very first time (premiering on October 4), I decided to do a little ranking of the best of these lip-syncs. And by the best of them, I mean all of them. All 162 of them. From best-to-worst. With commentary. Because why wouldn’t I?
Let’s get into it.
(Earnest, genuine shout-out and hat-tip to esteemed Drag Race scholar Kevin O’Keeffe’s own definitive ranking for IntoMore a year ago, which is a lot more scientific and formulaic than my own, and goes into great depth on each performer within each lip-sync. If you disagree with me, as I’m sure you will, then you may agree with him! Or you might disagree with us both! What a layered existence we all lead.)
162. Dax Exclamationpoint vs. Laila McQueen (Season 8) – “I Will Survive“
“Neither one of you survived that lip-sync.”
Those words are so lethal that I’m surprised that RuPaul wasn’t immediately arrested for a double homicide.
I mean, there’s kind of no question here as to what lip-sync is the worst in the show’s history. It’s the one where they sent two queens home for barely knowing how to perform ‘I Will Survive’, a song that is so emotionally legible and universal that a toddler with the barest conception of life or death could do a passable run at it.
161. Honey Mahogany vs. Vivienne Pinay (Season 5) – “Oops! I Did It Again!“
See above! Both queens were sent home, for sleepwalking onstage. The only reason this ekes out above the former queens is that ‘Oops! I Did It Again’ is kind of a nothing of a lip-sync song – there’s no energy to the vocals, and the beat kind of meanders along – and I think any queen, including Britney Spears herself, would have a difficult time lip-syncing to it.
160. Asia O’Hara vs. Kameron Michaels (Season 10) – “Nasty“
The only lip-sync to involve the wanton slaughter of butterflies on live television.
159. Victoria ‘Porkchop’ Parker vs. Akashia (Season 1) – “Supermodel“
Look, this is no shade on these queens. This is shade on the editors – editing a lip-sync is goddamned hard. You need to build a narrative without being able to use the entire song (all these performances are generally 75-90 seconds long), you need to showcase each queen and exactly why they won and why they lost, and provide a climax to your episode.
So, I’m not surprised that the editors hadn’t quite nailed it for the first episode, and the queens maybe hadn’t quite figured out how to make the most of a stage that’s about the size of the device I’m typing this post on. It’s messy all around, and it shows you how far the show has come in terms of literally everything.
158. Monica Beverly Hillz vs Serena ChaCha (Season 5) – “Only Girl in the World“
There’s been a scant amount of Rihanna lip-syncs on Drag Race, and they either turn out to be all-timers or duds. This is not just a dud, but the dud, thanks to a distant-to-the-point-of-Pluto Serena ChaCha and a defeated Monica Beverly Hillz half-stepping through this banger.
157. Penny Tration vs. Serena ChaCha – “Party in the USA“
See above re: Serena ChaCha, but add in Penny Tration clearly not knowing the words to the song, which happens less often than you’d think, but more often than is acceptable. It’s a competition! Come to win, but be prepared in case you need to wig-toss your way out of a loss.
156. Six Way Lip-Sync Hell (Season 11)– “Waiting for Tonight“
Don’t call the cleaners, this mess is too much for them. Call the junk removal experts, because christ. This is just a poorly conceived idea. Even though they’ve sneakily increased the stage size as time goes on, no soundstage is designed for six queens to perform on at the same time.
The main problem with any lip-sync with more than two people (with one notable exception way down this list) is that there’s just not enough time to showcase everybody. The songs aren’t that long, it’s hard to get all the angles you need because you can only shoot the performers front on, and you’ve got no sense of who’s winning against who. It might as well be a clip-show.
But no, the main problem with this lip-sync is that it was very early on in the season where there’s still a lot of dud queens around, and instead of getting two of them to fight for their life, it’s six of them trying to hold their own space on stage and not get lost. Nope!
155. Kahanna Montrese vs. Mercedes Iman Diamond (Season 11) – “Work Bitch“
They didn’t work.
154. Ariel Versace vs. Shuga Cain (Season 11) – “I’m Your Baby Tonight“
Picking a great lip-sync song is an art. A great song does not necessarily make a great lip-sync (see: Kate Bush’s ‘Running Up That Hill’), and a bad song does not necessarily make an awful lip-sync (see: a scant few of RuPaul’s songs, as we’ll see.). Whitney Houston is a safe pick; most of her songs have a huge amount of vocal energy, but even she has songs that might well be good but don’t necessarily lend themselves to cohesive, energetic performances. ‘I’m Your Baby Tonight’ is nobody’s favourite Whitney song, but hey, when you’ve been going for eleven seasons you’re gonna run out of Whitney.
Oh, also, Ariel fell down. Sometimes just messing up the basics puts you in the bottom.
153. Laila McQueen vs. Naysha Lopez (Season 8)– “Applause“
To speak in Drag Race vernacular, Naysha brings Soccer Mom Realness.
Which is to bring up another issue that often comes up with lip-syncs: sometimes a queen completely misses the energy of the song and approaches it in the wrong way. It might feel right from the inside, who can say, but to watch it can be painful. As seen here, Naysha brings a handing-out-orange-quarters kind of energy to Lady Gaga’s most hi-NRG single, and it does not work. On the other hand, Laila occasionally connects with the song, but not in the way it needs.
152. Tempest DuJour vs. Kandy Ho (Season 7) – “Geronimo“
Which brings us nicely to another issue that comes up with Drag Race lip-syncs: an upsetting amount of them are RuPaul songs, and RuPaul has, well, about as many good songs as you have thumbs. But RuPaul has a lot of songs and enjoys using this show as a way to showcase them. Not even RuPaul, the undisputed superstar of drag, could give his lip-syncs a great showcase, so it’s a bit of an ask to ask two filler queens to do it.
151. Monique Heart vs. The Vixen (Season 10) – “Cut to the Feeling“
… and sometimes, two talented queens just utterly fuck up one of my favourite songs. These are my rankings, they are fairly arbitrary, you go make your own exhaustive rankings or leave your issues in the comments or my inbox – email@example.com
150. Kahanna Montrese vs. Soju (Season 11) – “Best of Both Worlds“
149. Darienne Lake vs. Magnolia Crawford (Season 6) – “Turn The Beat Around”
Note: Video lost to the Miami Sound Machine, aka Gloria Estefan’s Lawyers.
148. Jaymes Mansfield vs. Kimora Blac (Season 9) – “Love Shack“
When the editors decide to cut to Fred Schneider lip-syncing to his own song, rather than the two queens lip-syncing it, you know they’re both in trouble.
147. Kandy Ho vs. Mrs. Kasha Davis (Season 7) – “Lovergirl“
146. Lashauwn Beyond vs. The Princess (Season 4) – “Bad Girls“
145. Pearl vs. Miss Fame (Season 7) – “Really Don’t Care“
144. Delta Work vs. Phoenix (Season 3) – “Bad Romance“
143. Jaidynn Diore Fierce vs. Kandy Ho (Season 7) – “Break Free“
142. Shangela vs. Venus D-Lite (Season 3) – “The Right Stuff“
141. Mayhem Miller vs Yuhua Hamasaki (Season 10) – “Celebrity Skin“
Instant disqualification from Drag Race: air instruments. It’s Drag Race, not Mime Race (absolutely nobody commission that show).
140. Raven vs. Alexis Mateo THEN Yara Sofia (All Stars Season 1)– “Don’t Cha“
139. Delta Work vs. Mariah (Season 3) – “Looking for a New Love“
138. Mystique Summers vs. Raven (Season 2) – “I Hear You Knocking“
137. Rebecca Glasscock vs. Shannel (Season 1) – “Shackles (Praise You)”
136. Peppermint vs. Sasha Velour vs. Shea Coulee vs. Trinity the Tuck (Season 9) – “U Wear It Well“
135. Aquaria vs. Asia O’Hara vs. Eureka vs. Kameron Michaels (Season 10) – “Call Me Mother“
134. Bob the Drag Queen vs. Chi Chi Devayne vs. Kim Chi vs. Naomi Smalls (Season 8) – “The Realness“
All three of the above (no. 136 – 134) showcase one of the most frustrating things about Drag Race, which they’ve rectified in the last few seasons with the more recent format of winner-knock-out lip-syncs (all of which are included here). This is the aforementioned issue of getting people to lip-sync to RuPaul songs – which should be a felony – and putting more than two queens on the same stage.
These lip-syncs also tend to have an Inspirational Voiceover™ playing over them, which means you lose the song and what the hell they’re performing to. They’re almost always messy and never particularly successful or memorable, which is why they’re hanging around the gutter here.
133. Chad Michaels vs. Raven (All Stars Season 1)– “Responsitrannity”
Video of this is lost to the ages because that title is offensive and transphobic.
132. Vivacious vs. Kelly Mantle (Season 6) – “Express Yourself“
131. Ben DeLaCreme vs. Darienne Lake (Season 6) – “Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You)“
130. Akashia vs. Shannel (Season 1) – “Greatest Love of All“
129. Milan vs. Jiggly Caliente (Season 4)– “Born This Way“
128. Chad Michaels vs. Mimi Imfurst (All Stars Season 1) – “Opposites Attract“
127. Adore Delano vs. Joslyn Fox (Season 6) – “Think“
Two young high energy queens are unfortunately given the task of lip-syncing to a soulful, high energy Aretha Franklin song. There are no survivors.
126. Kennedy Davenport vs. Jasmine Masters (Season 7) – “I Was Gonna Cancel“
125. Alexis Mateo vs. Stacey Layne Matthews (Season 3) – “Knock On Wood“
124. Derrick Barry vs. Robbie Turner (Season 8) – “I Love It“
123. Nina West vs. Silky Nutmeg Ganache (Season 11) – “No Scrubs“
122. Cynthia Lee Fontaine vs. Farrah Moan (Season 9) – “Woman Up“
Warning: video contains Meghan Trainor in a onesie, and a Meghan Trainor song that isn’t the Blu Cantrell rip-off ‘No’. You have been warned.
121. Laganja Estranga vs. Gia Gunn (Season 6) – “Head to Toe“
120. Rebecca Glasscock vs. Jade (Season 1) – “Would I Lie To You“
119. Shuga Cain vs. Vanessa Vanjie Mateo (Season 11) – “No More Drama“
Warning: video is free of any drama whatsoever, unfortunately living up to the title of the song. Instead, I suggest you watch Mary J. Blige’s 2002 Grammys performance of the same song, which is full of so much drama that Chekhov is spinning in his Moscow grave.
118. Willam vs. Jiggly Caliente (Season 4) – “Mi Vida Loca“
117. Mercedes Iman Diamond vs. Ra’Jah O’Hara (Season 11) – “Living in America“
116. Kalorie Karbdashian-Williams vs. Vanessa Vanjie Mateo (Season 10) – “Ain’t No Other Man“
115. Chi Chi DeVayne vs. Naysha Lopez (Season 8) – “Call Me“
114. Ra’Jah O’Hara vs. Scarlet Envy (Season 11) – “Last Dance“
113. Trinity the Tuck vs. Jasmine Masters (All Stars Season 4)– “Peanut Butter“
As we get higher up these rankings, you’re going to find some performances where one queen is much better than the other. In this case, Trinity the Tuck churns something edible out of RuPaul’s ‘Peanut Butter’ while Jasmine Masters proves herself a master of the seven-second video form. Unfortunately, these lip-syncs are longer than seven seconds.
112. Eureka vs. Kalorie Karbdashian-Williams (Season 10)– “Best of My Love“
111. Kameron Michaels vs. Miz Cracker (Season 10) – “Nasty Girl“
110. Latrice Royale vs. Trinity the Tuck (All Stars Season 4) – “You Spin Me Round (Like a Record)“
109. Ra’Jah O’Hara vs. Akeria Chanel Davenport (Season 11)– “Strut“
108. Monet X Change vs. Mayhem Miller (Season 10) – “Man! I Feel Like a Woman“
107. Trixie Mattel vs. Pearl (Season 7)– “Dreaming“
106. Aquaria vs. Eureka vs. Kameron Michaels (Season 10) – “Bang Bang“
105. Alexis Michelle vs. Peppermint (Season 9) – “Macho Man“
104. Plastique Tiara vs. Vanessa Vanjie Mateo (Season 11)– “Hood Boy“
103. Aja vs. Kimora Black (Season 9) – “Holding Out For A Hero“
102. Alaska vs. Katya vs. Detox (All Stars Season 2) – “If I Were Your Woman“
101. Ginger Minj vs. Kennedy Davenport vs. Violet Chachki vs. Pearl (Season 7) – “Born Naked“
100. Adore Delano vs. Bianca Del Rio vs. Courtney Act vs. Darienne Lake (Season 6) – “Sissy That Walk“
See above re: multiple queens onstage, winner lip-syncs, RuPaul songs. These two rank slightly higher because they’re better songs.
99. Jiggly Caliente vs. Alisa Summers (Season 4)– “Toxic“
98. Blair St. Clair vs. The Vixen (Season 10) – “I’m Coming Out“
97. Aja vs. Nina Bonina Brown (Season 9) – “Finally“
96. Nicole Paige Brooks vs. Raven (Season 2) – “My Lovin’ (You’re Never Gonna Get It)“
A great example of one queen absolutely getting the vibe of the song (not an easy lip-sync, to be fair) and riding it like the Auckland-to-Wellington bus, and another one missing the bus entirely and having to book into a backpacker hostel.
95. Cynthia Lee Fontaine vs. Robbie Turner (Season 8) – “Mesmerized”
94. Manila Luzon vs. Raja (Season 3) – “Champion (Remix)“
93. Alyssa Edwards vs. Ivy Winters (Season 5) – “Ain’t Nothing Going On But The Rent“
92. Shea Coulee vs. Nina Bonina Brown (Season 9) – “Cool for the Summer“
91. Carmen Carrera vs. Shangela (Season 3) – “Believe“
90. Katya vs. Sasha Belle (Season 7) – “Twist of Fate“
89. Jujubee vs. Pandora Boxx (Season 2) – “Shake Your Love“
88. Aquaria vs. Eureka (Season 10) – “If“
As with any show that goes on for ten years, trends emerge. The most recent trend on Drag Race is the lip-sync reveal, or the ‘RuVeal’. Thanks largely to Sasha Velour’s legendary lip-sync of ‘So Emotional’, it’s become the trend for queens to incorporate reveals into their performances to give themselves an edge (even though reveals have been a part of Drag Race, lip-syncing and drag since one could remove a wig from one’s head.)
This is an example of RuVeals done wrong. Sasha Velour approached the RuVeal like a fine bar of Lindt chocolate, savouring it piece by piece and giving each RuVeal its own moment and grace. Aquaria and Eureka approach it like a 3am block of Cadbury Dairy Milk, devouring it as quickly as possible without savouring it.
Which is all to say: this is not very good.
87. Asia O’Hara vs. The Vixen (Season 10)– “Groove Is In The Heart“
86. Shangela vs. Trixie Mattel (All Stars Season 3) – “Freaky Money“
85. Trinity the Tuck vs. Charlie Hides (Season 9) – “I Wanna Go“
An example of one queen killing it and one queen killing their chances of being remembered for anything else other than shrugging onstage for 90 seconds.
84. Coco Montrese vs. Monica Beverly Hillz (Season 5) – “When I Grow Up“
83. April Carrion vs. Vivacious (Season 6) – “Shake It Up“
82. Carmen Carrera vs. Yara Sofia (Season 3) – “Hey Mickey (Spanish Version)“
81. Acid Betty vs. Naomi Smalls (Season 8) – “Causing a Commotion“
80. Brooke Lynn Hytes vs. Vanessa Vanjie Mateo (Season 11) – “Pride: A Deeper Love“
Note: Video filmed at a convention/viewing party.
79. Laganja Estranga vs. Joslyn Fox (Season 6) – “Stupid Girls“
Note: Video appears to have been filmed in the 1920s.
78. Tyra Sanchez vs. Raven (Season 2) – “Jealous of My Boogie“
77. Peppermint vs. Cynthia Lee Fontaine (Season 9) – “Music“
76. Bebe Zahara Benet vs. Ongina (Season 1) – “Stronger“
75. Bob the Drag Queen vs. Derrick Barry (Season 8) – “You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real)“
74. Eureka vs. Kameron Michaels (Season 10) – “New Attitude“
Sometimes all you need is two drag queens in old-age makeup dancing around. There’s a pure, innocent joy in that.
73. Milan vs. Kenya Michaels (Season 4) – “Vogue“
72. Alexis Mateo vs. Yara Sofia (Season 3) – “I Think About You“
71. Alexis Michelle vs. Farrah Moan (Season 9) – “Baby I’m Burning“
70. Coco Montrese vs. Jade Jolie (Season 5) – “I’m So Excited“
69B. India Ferrah vs. Mimi Imfurst (Season 3) – “Don’t Leave Me This Way“
Editor’s note: Drag is not a contact sport.
69. Milan vs. Madame LaQueer (Season 4) – “Trouble“
68. Jaidynn Diore Fierce vs. Max (Season 6) – “No More Lies“
67. Alexis Mateo vs. Shangela (Season 3) – “Even Angels“
66. Chad Michaels vs. Latrice Royale (Season 4) – “No One Else on Earth“
65. Alaska vs. Phi Phi O’Hara (All Stars Season 2) – “Got to be Real“
64. Nina Bonina Brown vs. Valentina (Season 9) – “Greedy“
Look, sometimes you have to acknowledge when a lip-sync is a total Moment. It might not be objectively a great lip-sync (this is a ranking of opinion, nothing is objective, also nothing is ever objective), but it’s part of the canon.
One of those moments is Valentina trying to do a lip-sync with a mask covering her face. God bless you, you celestial creature who was made specifically to be a reality show star and/or villain, depending on where the sun is that day.
63. Trinity the Tuck vs. Monique Heart (All Stars Season 4) – “When I Think Of You“
62. Manila Luzon vs. Monique Heart (All Stars Season 4) – “The Bitch is Back“
61. Jessica Wild vs. Tatianna (Season 2) – “He’s The Greatest Dancer“
60. Ben DeLaCreme vs. Darienne Lake (Season 6) – “Point of No Return“
An example of literally one wrong move losing you a lip-sync. Did Ben throw the lip-sync on purpose? Maybe! Do I try to spend my time as far away as possible from Drag Race conspiracy theories? Absolutely! Let’s carry on.
59. Sahara vs. Shangela (Season 2) – “Cover Girl“
58. Alaska vs. Katya (All Stars Season 2) – “Le Freak (Freak Out)“
57. Manila Luzon vs. Monet X Change (All Stars Season 4) – “Jump to It“
56. Jujubee vs. Tatianna (Season 2) – “Something He Can Feel“
55. Farrah Moan vs. Valentina (All Stars Season 4) – “Kitty Girl“
54. Ben DeLaCreme vs. Shangela (All Stars Season 3) – “Jump (For My Love)“
53. Detox vs. Katya (All Stars Season 2) – “Step It Up“
52. Morgan McMichaels vs. Sonique (Season 2) – “Two of Hearts“
One of the beautiful things about the lip-sync format is that it allows people who aren’t the winners to shine. Nobody would say that either of these season two queens are the most memorable, but I’ll be damned if they don’t absolutely turn it out here.
51. Brooke Lynn Heights vs. Silky Nutmeg Ganache (Season 11) – “Bootylicious“
50. Alaska vs. Jinkx Monsoon vs. Roxxxy Andrews (Season 5) – “The Beginning“
49. Chad Michaels vs. Phi Phi O’Hara vs. Sharon Needles (Season 4) – “Glamazon“
Good songs, great queens, great performers. These are the parameters you need to make three queens on a single lip-sync stage work. I don’t make the rules, I just comment on things.
48. Trinity the Tuck vs. Monique Heart (All Stars Season 4) – “Emotions“
47. Alaska vs. Katya (All Stars Season 2) – “Cherry Bomb“
46. Jujubee vs. Manila Luzon (All Stars Season 1) – “Nasty“
45. Ginger Minj vs. Trixie Mattel (Season 7) – “Show Me Love“
This is a great performance, but I’ve knocked it a few points because ‘Show Me Love’ is one of the top five songs of the 90s, one of the best club songs ever, and imagine what the right queens could do with this song. It’d be a top five lip-sync for sure. But neither Ginger nor Trixie quite nail it, so it’s here.
44. Trinity K. Bonet vs. Milk (Season 6) – “Whatta Man“
43. Yvie Oddly vs. Akeria Chanel Davenport (Season 11) – “SOS“
42. Ben DeLaCreme vs. Kennedy Davenport (All Stars Season 3) – “Green Light”
Note: No proper link available! That’s how much y’all hate it. Seriously, people really don’t like this lip-sync. I love it! I think Ben’s performance is elegantly demented, and Kennedy’s approach to take on Lorde’s post-relationship melanbanger in character as an ageing Gloria Swanson-esque diva is inspired.
41B. Monet X Change vs. Valentina – “Into You”
(Editor’s Note: Despite stringently checking my list twice and thrice, I have been informed that I missed this one out. This is where it would’ve ranked!)
41. Roxxxy Andrews vs. Tatianna (All Stars Season 2) – “Shake It Off“
40. Akashia vs. Tammie Brown (Season 1) – “We Break The Dawn“
This is another Moment, one that solidified Tammie Brown’s place as an All Star queen, and only in the second episode of the show. Just watch the clip – she doesn’t just not try, she masters Not Trying. She’s the Picasso of Not Trying, the Matisse of Absolutely Not, the Van Gogh of Go Fuck Yourself. Her decision to absolutely not lip-sync to Michelle Williams’ ‘We Break The Dawn’, in front of the Destiny Child herself no less, is one of the best moments on the show.
Akashia does fine, too.
39. Sharon Needles vs. Phi Phi O’Hara (Season 4) – “It’s Raining Men (The Sequel)“
38. Sahara Davenport vs. Morgan McMichaels (Season 2) – “Carry On“
37. Detox vs. Lineysha Sparx (Season 5) – “Take Me Home“
36. Trinity the Tuck vs. Monet X Change (All Stars Season 4) – “Fighter“
This song is impossible to lip-sync. Go, try it at home, and do it with the same breaths that Xtina takes. You’ll give your lungs a work out and have a newfound respect for the Burlesque thespian.
35. Latrice Royale vs. Dida Ritz (Season 4) – “I’ve Got To Use My Imagination“
34. India Ferrah vs. Stacey Layne Matthews (Season 3) – “Meeting in the Ladies Room“
A great example of queens collaborating to make a performance better, and actually nailing one of the hardest lip-sync tasks of all: a spoken-word introduction.
33. Alyssa Edwards vs. Detox (All Stars Season 2) – “Tell It To My Heart“
32. Kennedy Davenport vs. Trixie Mattel (All Stars Season 3) – “Wrecking Ball“
31. Monet X Change vs. Dusty Ray Bottoms (Season 10) – “Pound the Alarm“
30. Jaidynn-Tempest vs. Ginger-Sasha (Season 7) – “I Think We’re Alone Now“
29. Ben DeLaCreme vs. Bebe Zahara Benet (All Stars Season 3) – “Nobody’s Supposed To Be Here (Remix)“
Note: YouTube video is a weird fan-edit of this song. Take caution.
28. Coco Montrese vs. Detox (Season 5) – “It Takes Two (To Make A Thing Go Right)“
27. Jujubee vs. Sahara Davenport (Season 2) – “Black Velvet“
Not enough Drag Race lip-syncs are to rock songs!
Correction: Not enough Drag Race lip-syncs are to ‘Black Velvet’. Please rectify this.
26. Chi Chi DeVayne vs. Thorgy Thor (Season 8) – “And I Am Telling You (I Am Not Going)“
Man, how much do you think Thorgy Thor resists the Music Supervisors That Be for giving him – a white queen –one of the most lip-synced songs by a black woman of all time to lip-sync against a black queen known for being a lip-sync assassin?
Also, imagine how much a time traveller’s brain would explode if they read that sentence.
25. Naomi Smalls vs. Monet X Change (All Stars Season 4) – “Come Rain or Come Shine“
24. Trinity K. Bonet vs. April Carrion (Season 6) – “I’m Every Woman“
Joyous, beautiful, incredible, Linda Evangelista, Christy Turlington. This performance is every woman.
23. Kennedy Davenport vs. Katya (Season 7) – “Roar“
22. Bebe Zahara Benet vs. Trixie Mattel (All Stars Season 3) – “The Boss“
21. Peppermint vs. Trinity the Tuck (Season 9) – “Stronger“
20. Dida Ritz vs. The Princess (Season 4) – “This Will Be“
One of the most joyous lip-syncs of all time. Not only does Dida Ritz channel Natalie Cole in her prime, she confirms herself as a contender here. It’s a perfect match of song, energy and performer, only marred by the queen she has to share the stage with, who has one of the least imaginative names of all time and doesn’t quite know how to match the effervescence that Cole (RIP) brought to every song she did.
19. Ben DeLaCreme vs. Shangela (All Stars Season 3) – “I Kissed A Girl“
18. Raja vs. Carmen Carrera (Season 2) – “Straight Up“
The rare Sexy Lip-Sync™. Do not watch at work, even if you work somewhere where they don’t mind you reading a ranking of 162 lip-syncs when you’re on the clock.
17. Latrice Royale vs. Monique Heart (All Stars Season 4) – “Sissy That Walk (Remix)“
16. Adore DeLano vs. Trinity K. Bonet (Season 6) – “Vibeology“
15. Raven vs. Jujubee (All Stars Season 1) – “Dancing On My Own“
This might be a controversial pick, but damned if this isn’t one of the lip-syncs I remember most. Just two queens being overcome by the emotion of a Robyn song and their own situation, and just breaking down (they’d been a team for the entire competition and were now forced to lip-sync against each other). It’s stirring, beautiful, and a reminder that lip-syncing doesn’t have to be acrobatic, athletic or visually stunning. It can make you cry.
14. Bebe Zahara Benet vs. Nina Flowers (Season 1) – “Cover Girl“
Maybe the best RuPaul song? And by far, by far, the best lip-sync of the first season. Both queens are all-timers, they know how to use that tiny stage, and they know how to work together. There’s also a certain blind joy to it – this is before queens were scrutinised and memed within an inch of their lives on this show. These queens aren’t performing for the camera or for the audience at home – they’re doing it for the people in the room, and there’s an energy to it that’s been lost in recent seasons.
Also, just a great lip-sync.
13. Alyssa Edwards vs. Coco Montrese (Season 5) – “Cold-Hearted Snake“
This is another Moment, and another demonstration of lip-sync as a great narrative tool.
To quickly recap: Alyssa Edwards and Coco Montrese had been set up as rivals since the start of the competition and this was their chance to not only kick each other out of the competition but show that they deserved to be there. They’d both been in the bottom three times, which is usually the kiss of death for any lip-syncer, and there was no chance to save them both.
So they absolutely go for it – there’s a flying split, there’s yellow fabric flying everywhere, queens go up-and-down on their knees, they nail the rapping, they nail every moment of it. It’s thrilling, not just because of where it sat in this season’s narrative, but because it’s two queens doing what they do best – compete.
12. Brooke Lynn Heights vs. Yvie Oddly (Season 11) – “The Edge of Glory“
Oh golly, another opportunity to talk about how lip-syncs are used as part of the narrative, and now the meta-narrative of Drag Race! What joy.
But, seriously, this lip-sync is not only great – Brooke doing her blend of dance and art, and Yvie doing her own blend of high weird and high art – but it’s a clear showcase of where Drag Race (as very separate from the form of drag) has been and where it’s going.
Brooke represents the past decade of drag: the kind of highly polished queens that are becoming more-and-more polished and less-and-less real as the show continues into the double digits. Yvie represents the next decade of drag: less polished but more experimental and exciting. This lip-sync doesn’t show them necessarily in competition with each other, but in collaboration. They exist together, and they make up the culture of Drag Race (once more, very separate from drag) in a way that keeps the show alive and exciting to watch. It keeps the tension there.
Also, the mirror-spinning bit looks real cool.
11. Manila Luzon vs. Trinity the Tuck (All Stars Season 4) – “How Will I Know“
Manila Luzon is one of the best performers this show has ever seen – and one of the rangiest. Even in her lesser lip-syncs, she’s proven herself to be able to dig into what makes a song tick and adjust her own full Farro Ham-style to match it. It always works, but sometimes it works better than others.
This is one of those times where it’s absolute gold. She channels the love-lorn teen that Houston plays in ‘How Will I Know’, spinning and swooning all over the stage. She’s breathing pure, honest love and life into the performance. Trinity the Tuck is there too, and doing a fine job, but Luzon is calling on the reality of the song, not just portraying it.
10. Roxxxy Andrews vs. Alyssa Edwards (Season 5) – “Whip My Hair“
A lip-sync full of moments: the wig-under-wig reveal, the triple-speed hair whip, Alyssa rolling around on the floor and giving us the first sign of Alyssa the brilliant performer that season five had yet to show us. The emotional breakdown at the end. The double save. It’s here for a reason.
9. Ben DeLaCreme vs. Aja (All Stars Season 3) – “Anaconda“
A lip-sync that functions as a redemption for both queens, and a statement of purpose: Ben left surprisingly early after being a frontrunner in season six, and Aja was an also-also-also-ran in season nine. This showed them off as being more than worthy of being in All Stars, and their respective styles – Ben playing high camp and high comedy, Aja being fierce and athletic. Both channeled the song’s essence in very different ways and both sold it like gold.
8. Peppermint vs. Sasha Velour (Season 9) – “It’s Not Right But It’s Okay (Thunderpuss Remix)“
Do yourself a favour and go listen to the nine-minute remix of this song. It’s one of the best nine minutes ever put to song, and the production work on Houston’s original vocal is stunning.
It’s easy to forget this lip-sync in the wake of ‘So Emotional’ and how great it actually is. Peppermint goes manic and wild, Sasha goes more quiet and intense. Both play to their audience, a much bigger one than they’ve been playing to thus far, and both of them scale their performance up to the hugeness of this song.
7. Gia Gunn vs. Naomi Smalls (All Stars Season 4)– “Adrenaline“
Naomi Smalls spiderwalking down the runway. Gia Gunn showing herself as someone who deserved to be here. Sometimes it’s as simple as that.
6. Jinkx Monsoon vs. Detox (Season 5) – “Malambo No. 1“
It’s easy to remember this as solely Jinkx being given the best gift of the season – a Yma Sumac song that she could lip-sync in her sleep – and forget that Detox also nails this song. It’s weird, fun, and a reminder that Drag Race, at least in its early years, had some weird songs they dragged out to get the queens to do. Was this them trying to hand Jinkx an easy win? Like I said, I stay away from Drag Race conspiracy theories, so take it somewhere else and not to my inbox!
5. Latrice Royale vs. Kenya Michaels (Season 4) – “Natural Woman“
Latrice Royale sings to her own pregnant belly, and then sings to a pirouetting Kenya Michaels as though she’s her own daughter. Audiences cry.
4. Yvie Oddly vs. Brooke Lynn Heights (Season 11) – “Sorry Not Sorry“
A very good lip-sync, one that feels so motivated by producer intent that even I, noted conspiracy avoider, can’t deny it. What other reason would there be to put your two frontrunners in the bottom, giving them a chance to strut their very specific stuff? I don’t know, but what I do know is that this is a great showcase for them both. Brooke does her beautiful, athletic, charged thing. Yvie does her weird, acrobatic, no less charged thing. They match the song perfectly.
Look, we’re at number 4. Just trust me on this or wildly disagree with me here.
3. Manila Luzon vs. Delta Work (Season 3) – “MacArthur Park“
These next three are basically neck-in-neck, so don’t come for me about them.
Back when season three aired and we were essentially single-cell organisms who had to jump through VPNs to even get a glimpse of this show, this was what I’d show people to hook them into the show. It was all of Drag Race in a bottle: high camp, high comedy, high drama. Delta Work’s weird bikini-painting T-Shirt? Manila riffing on Bjork’s swan dress with her own Big Bird dress? The discocaine romp that is ‘MacArthur Park’? Check, check, check. The fact that these queens are fighting for their life? Caps-lock-check.
It’s easy to remember the wildest moments of the lip-sync – the shift from the ballad part to the disco part, Manila’s now-legendary cross-eyes – but the moment that sticks is that loving embrace at the end. These queens are in the competition together, and no matter how much shade is thrown across the soundstage, Drag Race is a gauntlet for them all. This lip-sync captures all of that, and only in a minute and a half, which is a testament to the editors as much as anybody else!
2. Sasha Velour vs. Shea Coulee – “So Emotional“
The lip-sync that changed an entire series. This is the one that made RuVeals not just a nice-to-have, but an essential part of every queen’s repertoire. It wasn’t the first to do it, but nobody built their RuVeals into a consistent narrative like Sasha did, and hell, even built those RuVeals into the actual song. What a concept!
No lip-sync has cemented a winner more easily – do you even remember Shea Coulee doing anything here? – than it did for Sasha. Suddenly the queen who had largely been a talking head for an entire season and a Diana Vreeland impersonating nerd became a fan favourite. Moments like those happen once an entire series and Sasha more than earned it.
1. Tatianna vs. Alyssa Edwards – “Shut Up and Drive“
The clear winner. A triumph of performance, of narrative, of song choice, of queens, of basically everything. This is what Drag Race is at its finest: artists doing their best, to a Rihanna song.
Drag Race UK premieres on October 3. You can watch every season of RuPaul’s Drag Race on TVNZ on Demand, and some of them on Netflix.
More definitive lists by Sam Brooks:
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