In the still-nascent latest season of RuPaul’s Drag Race, the competition should still be anyone’s game. But as Symone has now won main challenges in two out of four episodes—three if you count the winning lip-sync in the opener—it is difficult to imagine who might have charisma, uniqueness, etc. to unseat someone who perhaps could have landed top three from the very first moment she slipped into her fuchsia evening gown (which Symone revealed in episode four was also the night of her high school prom).
Symone told the queens in the workroom that she “had no fear” of walking to a high school prom in small-town Arkansas wearing full drag. And I believe her because, at 25, Symone seems like someone who has been doing drag for 30 years while simultaneously managing to surprise judges who have ostensibly seen it all. With details like a flowing sateen do-rag train or by simply pronouncing words like “flag factory” so delightfully “stupidly,” as Ross put it, it is almost difficult to notice the performances of the other queens—despite this being the strongest batch of competitors in years.
So as Kahmora Hall sashays away from last week’s lipstick thespian RuPaullmark movie challenge—a victim of impeccable tailoring that left her unable to move in the lip-sync challenge, as esteemed Drag Race thought leader Harron Walker posits, but absolutely felled by her own inability to comprehend tree-related puns—let us ask ourselves: Who among these remaining queens can stop Symone?
Possibly? The other wildly innovative queen this season, Gottmik is also young but almost preternaturally sophisticated, much like Symone. While her acting in the Rupaulmark challenge was just a bit better than fine, Gottmik’s meticulous attention to styling and details is truly stunning. Not only did she deliver a perfect drag parody of “cold big-city businesswoman” for the part, she did it in Pantone’s colors of the year—a slate grey suit with lemony accents coordinated perfectly between eyelids, press-ons, and button-down blouse. Her runway look was a gorgeous, flowing tribute to the trans flag. Gottmik thinks through her looks with the care of someone plotting a novel, and it’s that sort of thoughtfulness that lands one in the top three.
The problem: Symone is innovative as hell too. The do-rag train that so delighted Loni Love and the rest of the judges this week follows a gorgeous, yet charmingly campy prizefighter look last week, not to mention a ’90s-inspired power suit that she may have actually killed Linda Evangelista for.
Chances: Gottmik will really have to work to stand out as a queen who is more than impeccable, but she is wildly charming in her confessionals. If that can translate to the challenges, Gottmik is definitely a contender for the finals.
Possibly? Rosé is obviously a professional who got her ego knocked down a peg or two by losing the first lip-sync, though she’s been in the top two of every challenge since. Though most of her lines got cut in the RuPaulmark challenge, she obviously nailed it during the taping.
The problem: Rosé still has her head in New York and believes local celebrity Tina Burner is her biggest competition. But while that may be true on 2nd Avenue, on Season 13 of Drag Race, Rosé is going to have to be more than a consummate professional if she wants to do more than simply outlast Tina. Even Michelle noted Rosé’s ’80s business suit in the front/tulle party in the back runway look was “good, but I just want it more, more, more.” For example, her mullet wig could have also been a train to really drive her idea home. These are the details Symone and Gottmik are bringing while Rosé seems to be sticking with what worked back home.
Chances: Despite the opinions of everyone I text while watching Drag Race, I think Rosé stands to do pretty well this season, though she clearly was not ready for Symone.
Olivia is already a fan favorite, and it’s easy to see why. That absolutely delightful sweetness that comes through in her confessionals follows her to the challenges and the runway. But that sweetness can turn saccharine real quick if it comes off purely one-note in challenges. This week she was supposed to play a grandmother but came off as adorable little Liv wearing an old lady wig.
Tina is the opposite. She brings an incredibly self-assured (dare I make the reference) Sherry Pie energy to challenges she seems to believe she’s meeting easily. That straight out of the gate confidence has rapidly turned to overconfidence in past seasons and then subsequent bafflement over not doing as well as she thinks she should.
As Shea Couleé can attest, shit happens and sometimes the person who should win gets splashed with some rose petal vomit in the final round and has to postpone their win until All-Stars. Next week’s episode teases the potential for Symone being set back a bit by the fact that she can’t sew; perhaps that means that there is at least one path to victory around someone who has, thus far, yet to reveal a weakness. Or maybe Symone invents a whole new way of creating garments and changes the very concept of what clothes are for everyone forever. At this point, I wouldn’t be surprised.