Kia ora queens! Drag Race Down Under is back, and so are our power rankings.
This recap is for season two, episode one of RuPaul’s Drag Race Down Under, available to watch on TVNZ+ now. If you’re waiting for the broadcast on Friday night please don’t read any further until then.
One of the first things that happens on season two of Drag Race Down Under is classic Drag Race: RuPaul debunks the rumour that he wasn’t actually in New Zealand last season by getting one of the queens, Spankie Jackzon, to come up to him. And then he stage slaps her right across the face. It’s self-referential, it’s camp, it’s wild. We’re back, and I couldn’t be happier. Well, until… you’ll see.
The first episode is business as usual for Drag Race as well. We meet the queens one by one, watch them size each other up in the workroom (and in direct-to camera comments), and then get onto an appropriately bonkers mini-challenge. It’s a sausage sizzler photo shoot, directed by RuPaul, whose acting notes include “More bogan, more bogan!” and “Is that big enough for you?”. I’ve never heard so many meat puns in such a short few minutes, and I’ve definitely never heard “We’re the Sausage Destroyers, baby!”.
After a pre-filmed message from Robert and Bindi Irwin, we get the main challenge. And… oof.
As a longtime Drag Race watcher, I find that there’s a good rule of thumb to judge a challenge: if one or two of the contestants mess it up, that’s on them. If nearly an entire cast messes it up, that’s on production. And this first episode, a spin on that classic Drag Race challenge of creating a garment out of unconventional materials, feels like – if you’ll excuse the pun – an absolute stitch-up.
That’s because the “unconventional” materials used for this challenge aren’t just unconventional, they’re straight up unusable in the time the queens are given. Let’s take a look at them:
These materials include bike tyres, electrical wiring, paper bags, tarpaulins and windshield sunshades, plus punga tree branches, toi toi and harakeke (which I can only presume went entirely unblessed). Of course you can make a garment out of anything with enough time, but these materials mixed with that schedule meant we got some of the worse runway looks to ever appear on Drag Race.
We get two sets of three outfits that look more or less the same (some foliage, some windshield sunshades and see-through plastic), one outfit that stands clear above the rest despite a runway mess-up, one solid success that glides to a “OK, sure!” win, and Spankie Jackzon’s plumbing mishaps.
Very few of the garments feel finished, and the amount of underwear we see on the stage, entirely unintentionally, is kind of jaw-dropping. I think these queens would’ve done better with either a different first challenge or different materials that weren’t grabbed from Mitre 10 or the midst of the Waitakeres.
To be clear, this early disaster is not enough to write the season off. Not even close. There are some classic Drag Race conflicts brewing – namely those between the more traditional club queens and the fashion queens – and I’m particularly interested in how this season will capture the unique forms of Australian and New Zealand drag, and how those queens who straddle both sides of the Tasman handle it.
Anyway, Faúx Fúr and Spankie Jackzon end up lip-syncing to Kylie Minogue’s 2010 track ‘Get Outta My Way’, and Faúx Fúr becomes the first, unceremonious, sashay of the season. We barely knew she.
Onto the power rankings!
ELIMINATED: Faúx Fúr
Faúx Fúr’s claim to fame in the media release was that she’s the loudest queen. She was indeed a loud presence on the show, an eager talking head, and not much else, unfortunately. Them’s the breaks of going home first. Alas, she’s a RuGirl for life, so I doubt we’ve seen the last of this unreal fúr.
9. Spankie Jackzon
I have to say straight up that I love Spankie Jackzon. The New Zealander deservedly won the TVNZ+ contest House of Drag season 2, and she brings a rough edge to the competition that I really love to see.
However, come on. There have been nearly 400 contestants on the show, and I’m not sure if anybody has ever come out onstage with completely bare legs (although there are probably 401 people on the Drag Race reddit who will correct me if they have). There’s rough in a club in Palmy, and there’s rough on Drag Race in 2022, and the former isn’t quite on the level of the latter.
In saying that, Spankie gets a lot of screentime. She’s great value (the hubris of trying to make a dress out of plumbing aside), and already a solid presence on the show. I hope she stays around for a long time.
8. Hannah Conda
OK, this franchise has been going for a decade now. There are going to be sewing challenges. There are going to be challenges that require you to do more than be fierce, sis. It’s beyond point where you shouldn’t come on the show if you don’t know how to at least make a basic outfit – you shouldn’t even audition if you can’t do that. Or at the very least, don’t admit it to the producers when you get there. Just grit your teeth and pray for safety.
Anyway, Hannah Conda.
7. Aubrey Haive
Middle of the pack! Fine, lovely, excited to see this Timaru-born queen who has only been doing drag for a year do more.
6. Pomara Fifth
I actually kind of liked Pomara Fifth’s look! The textures were interesting, and I can’t hate a big hat. She didn’t get a lot of screen time this episode, but let’s see how she does!
5. Beverly Kills
Beverly Kills is clearly talented, and both of her looks this week were among my favourites. However, she’s shady about the other queens and almost all of their outfits, and is the most dubious of the older queens in the competition. Let’s see how she does against them in a performance challenge.
4. Kween Kong
Kween Kong might have floundered a bit in the main challenge, but there’s absolutely no question that she’s one of the best contenders here. She’s funny (quipping that they pulled the siren just as she was about to talk about her home, South Auckland), and judging by how she sold one of the worst garments of the week (flax on a corset), she’s going to be able to kill runway after runway. When she says “I’m a fucking legend, I don’t deserve to be sent home on a shitty design challenge,” I felt it. The audience felt it.
These queens better be shaking in their Fay Wray/Jessica Lange/Naomi Watts boots, because Kween Kong is 100% going to climb to the top of the competition.
3. Yuri Guai
Yuri Guai definitely had the most ambitious look on the runway, a dress made from plastic sheeting and some kind of wiring. It’s just a shame she couldn’t quite walk in it towards the end. Still, Yuri is a look queen who also has the performance chops to go further than that. As with most of these queens, excited to see more!
2. Minnie Cooper
“Are you really 50? You look amazing!”
“Yeah, I know! More than I can say for the rest of you.”
I tend to like the older and more experienced queens on this show. Anybody can arrive with a good suitcase, but I really appreciate the level of experience, poise and polish the older queens can bring. Minnie Cooper brings all of that, and a wicked sense of humour. Was her outfit one of the better ones? Nope, and I will ponder for the rest of my days why she had a monitor with her on the runway (and also where she got it). But did she sell it, and by extension herself? Absolutely.
WINNER: Molly Poppinz
Molly Poppinz won the challenge, by little more than default, but I didn’t get a huge sense of her as a queen. She seemed the most prepared to work with the materials she was given, and her garment is the one that most looked like something that could actually be worn again outside of this particular challenge. A low bar to clear, but that’s where we are!
She won, and that’s why she’s here. Cs get degrees, winners of challenges get top-billed in the power rankings. See you next week.
RuPaul’s Drag Race Down Under drops on TVNZ+ on Saturdays at 6pm, and airs the following Friday on TVNZ2 at 9.30pm.