RuPaul’s Drag Race Goes Historical

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YAAAAASSSS QUEENS!!! Season 2 of RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars had a historical challenge, so you know I am on that like flies on honey, gurl. Quick recap for those not in the know: this is a reality competition show for drag queens, started and judged by supermodel of the world RuPaul (who just won an Emmy as Best Reality TV Show Host!), and specifically this is the “all stars” version where past competitors compete to see who’s best of the best, with added twists and tricks, of course. It’s like a cross between Project Runway, America’s Top Model, and any TV talent shows, because the queens have to sew and/or assemble a complete outfit (with hair and makeup) by themselves, model it, and usually display some special talent such as singing, dancing, acting, or comedy.

Anyway, the challenge for season 2, episode 3, was titled “HERstory of the World,” and the queens had to perform in a lip-syncing dance number inspired by legendary historical women. It’s pretty obvious that the contestants were assigned the historical figures in advance, because they each brought their own costumes and only made minor adjustments in the workroom on the show. The focus of the episode was on the dance rehearsal. But I’m here for the costumes, henny! And they were tragic!  Now I don’t expect perfect historical accuracy from drag — these queens need to make something big, brash, wacky, and wild out of their historical characters — but some of them really needed WERK.

Category Is: Historical Queen Realness

In chronological order, the first legendary lady was frankly fictional, it’s the Biblical Eve, assigned to drag queen Alaska. Kind of an easy costume because she just needed some fig leaves.

RuPaul's Drag Race All Stars - Alaska

Inspiration: Naughty nudity!

RuPaul's Drag Race All Stars - Alaska

Adam and Eve and Steve.

RuPaul's Drag Race All Stars - Alaska

Ooo, snakes on a drag queen.

The next character was also mythical, serving face to launch those ships, Helen of Troy, given to Phi Phi O’Hara. I’ll give her props for making Helen battle-ready with an elaborate breastplate that Phi Phi said she crafted herself.

RuPaul's Drag Race All Stars - Phi Phi O'Hara

She could have just worn a toga, y’know!

RuPaul's Drag Race All Stars - Phi Phi O'Hara

In the workroom, Katya gave Phi Phi’s costume a test-drive.

RuPaul's Drag Race All Stars - Phi Phi O'Hara

Serving bitchy Roman face.

RuPaul's Drag Race All Stars - Phi Phi O'Hara

And then the show turned Helen of Troy into a headbanger – WTF?!?

RuPaul's Drag Race All Stars - Phi Phi O'Hara

Remarkably, her bouffant stayed in place. That’s a professional!

Finally, Mama Ru nominated some legit historical figures, beginning with Russian empress, Catherine the Great, portrayed by Ginger Minj. She was the only drag queen to really aim for a historical costume too. Slay, Ginger, slay!

RuPaul's Drag Race All Stars - Ginger Minj

If you’re gonna typecast the big girl, this is not a bad way to go at all!

RuPaul's Drag Race All Stars - Ginger Minj

I’m honestly impressed with this costume — all the basic elements were there, from the imperial sash and jewels to the cape of state and fur trim. Also, mad props for going with a full hoop and corseted bodice to give something close to the period shape.

RuPaul's Drag Race All Stars - Ginger Minj

And why Catherine the Great? So they could joke that she fucked her horse! Hello, it’s a drag show! We trade in the raunchy.

RuPaul's Drag Race All Stars - Ginger Minj

SHE OWNS EVERYTHING.

RuPaul's Drag Race All Stars - Ginger Minj

Comedy gold, awww yisss.

You can’t have HERstory and drag queens without the queen of cakes, Marie Antoinette. Detox was given this honor, but did a New Wave version that one judge called Neon Antoinette. Meh.

RuPaul's Drag Race All Stars - Detox

I’m sure it could have gone worse — just google “Marie Antoinette drag queen” for examples.

RuPaul's Drag Race All Stars - Detox

Um, it works with the stage lighting?

RuPaul's Drag Race All Stars - Detox

Can’t help it, I was comparing this to Raja, winner of RuPaul’s Drag Race season 3, who did a Vivienne Westwood 18th-century homage that was SO much better.

RuPaul's Drag Race All Stars - Detox

Pro tip: If you’re going to have servants in crappy 18th-c. wigs, make sure they’re buff and stripped down to their undies.

RuPaul's Drag Race All Stars - Detox

She didn’t have an actual 18th-c. dress; it was a corset + bolero with big cuffs. But if I squinted hard, that necklace bore a resemblance to the 18th-c. “Affair of the Necklace” one.

I guess we needed an American historical lady in this show, so Annie Oakley fit the bill. Drag queen Alyssa Edwards got the job, and instead of going 1880s Western, she went modern cowgirl cliche.

RuPaul's Drag Race All Stars - Alyssa Edwards

Wut? Don’t like this inspiration, squirrel friend?

RuPaul's Drag Race All Stars - Alyssa Edwards

Yee haw. Yawn.

RuPaul's Drag Race All Stars - Alyssa Edwards

At least she can dance.

Don’t cry for historical accuracy here, they’re drag queens, you know! That’s why Eva Perón was next up, and Roxxxy Andrews played her in an energetic movie-musical mashup.

RuPaul's Drag Race All Stars - Roxxy Andrews

It’s better than Cats!

RuPaul's Drag Race All Stars - Roxxy Andrews

She’s relying on that body, ody, ody.

RuPaul's Drag Race All Stars - Roxxy Andrews

Much more Madonna than Perón.

The last legendary lady was Princess Diana of Wales — the only one any of these queens (or the judges!) actually knew what she looked like IRL — which was a bit of a drawback for Katya.

RuPaul's Drag Race All Stars - Katya

Are we not amused?

RuPaul's Drag Race All Stars - Katya

This wedding gown screams 1940s, not 1980s. Couldn’t Katya have just hit up a thrift store for one of the millions of castoff ’80s poufy wedding dresses? This was so limp and sad — drag needs to be BIG, baby!

RuPaul's Drag Race All Stars - Katya

Ditto the hair — the wig wasn’t bad, but it was super-limp by the time her solo came around. Girlfriend needed some hairspray.

RuPaul's Drag Race All Stars - Katya

Shy Di!

RuPaul's Drag Race All Stars - Katya

Taking the piss out of the whole thing.

Katya was the only one who was really nailed by the judges for a weak performance and costume in the HERstory challenge, which I agreed with on both counts. I also thought Phi Phi and Detox’s performances were muddled and not terribly engaging, while I found their costumes decent for the effect but not great. Ginger’s costume and performance were tops in my book, Roxxy was solid in both categories, and Alaska was just OK in both. Alyssa’s costume was the worst even though she had a great dance routine.

RuPaul's Drag Race All Stars

Of course, this stage show was only half the queens’ score for the episode, and they were also judged on runway looks with a futuristic theme (get it? half the show was history, half was the future; clever, no?). Alas, Ginger Minj had a crappy-enough runway look to land her in the bottom, and after a convoluted elimination round, she was booted off the show. Alyssa Edwards won this episode, don’t ask me how, I don’t understand.

You can sign-in and watch RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars, season 2, episode 3, for yourself online at LogoTV.com here, if you want to sort it all out for yourself.

 

Are you a RuPaul’s Drag Race fan? What did you think of the drag queens’ attempts at historical costume?

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About the author

Trystan L. Bass

Twitter Website

A self-described ElderGoth, Trystan has been haunting the internet since the early 1990s. Always passionate about costume, from everyday office wear to outrageous twisted historical creations, she has maintained some of the earliest online costuming-focused resources on the web. When she’s not dressing up in costumes, she can be found traveling the world with her sweetie and, occasionally, Kendra and Sarah. Her costuming and travel adventures are chronicled on her website, TrystanCraft. She also maintains a popular fashion blog, This Is CorpGoth, dedicated to her “office drag.”

11 Responses

  1. Caroline

    That was fun. But surely drag queens are ‘he’? Isn’t it the point that we KNOW they’re men in drag?

    Reply
    • Trystan L. Bass

      It’s up to the individual, of course. But on this show, the contestants are all called “she” & referred to by their drag names, even when out of drag. Of course, there are a few queens who use boy names professionally, like Chad Michaels who was on season 4 & won the 1st All Stars season. As RuPaul says, “you can call me he, you can call me she, you call me Regis & Cathy Lee, I don’t care, just call me!”

      Reply
  2. Nina

    GIrl, I love Drag Race! I agree about Ginger 100%, I thought her outfit was the only one that tried to attempt to be historical. I wasn’t living for the Marie Antoinette in neon- I think it could be done as a fantasy drag outfit, and it could be really cool, but this just wasn’t it. It was too plain for starters.

    Reply
    • MoHub

      I’m surprised Cleopatra wasn’t one of the historical figures chosen. Might have worked better than Annie Oakley.

      And if I didn’t know that was supposed to be Annie Oakley, I’d have thought it was Dolly Parton circa Nine to Five.

      Reply
  3. Anna

    Helen was Greek, not Roman! She would have worn a chiton! In fact, she was Bronze Age(-ish), so you’d have to look to Mycenaean art to get an idea of what she’d wear. And she’d NEVER damage a nail by going into battle; she even keeps Paris from battle (the better to entertain her). Honestly, they should have gone with Artemis. Or Camilla. Or Boadicea. We have CHOICES if we want breastplates!

    Reply
  4. Indie

    Ohhh, I loved this write up! I keep meaning to get into RPDR but never seem to do it.
    Bizarre fun fact? According to legend, Princess Diana was chummy with Freddie Mercury who sneaked her into a “notorious” gay bar in London in the late ’80s, dressed as a male model (source:http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/03/31/freddie-mercury-princess-diana-gay-bar_n_2989139.html). If that story’s true, she probably would’ve have a great laugh at this and been quite flattered.

    Reply
    • Trystan L. Bass

      Hah! I wouldn’t be surprised if that story’s true. After all, she had many gay friends & was an early supporter of AIDS charities before it was common (shocking ppl by hugging AIDS patients & such).

      If you don’t get the Logo channel, you may be able to watch Drag Race on Logo’s website :)

      Reply

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