With 9 regular seasons and 2 All Star seasons already in the can, RuPaul’s Drag Race shows no signs of slowing down (season 10, All Stars 3 and more Untucked were announced this week). To date 113 very talented Drag Queens have sashayed and chantéed down the runway of the main stage on what might be the best reality competition series ever brought to our screens. There’s plenty of well-produced drama, biting comedy, over the top couture and gag-worthy hair that seems to defy gravity packed into every single episode. When the winning queen is crowned at the end of each season and the minute the cameras stop rolling is when things start ramping up. The queens begin a new life filled with more screaming fans than they could ever have imagined as they tour the world, taking it over, one stage at a time.
Last year Fierté Montreal brought 10 queens to Montreal for the first ever Drag Superstars and this year the show returns with just as much (maybe even a little more…) energy. While 12 Queens were booked for the second coming, two Queens dropped out due to unforeseen circumstances, there was plenty of glitz, glitter and sequin gowns to keep us standing, dancing and cheering for over 2 hours.
No matter what they did and who they booked for this year’s Drag Superstar show, Fierté had tasked themselves with exceeding expectations that might have seemed insurmountable. Earlier this year, just as the 9th season’s winner was crowned, Fierté began slowly revealing this year’s stellar line-up. Sasha Velour, Charlie Hides, Naomi Smalls and Raja were among those revealed while the local Queen of Sunday Night, Rita Baga was booked to host this year’s show. For the first time ever, a nationwide search called the 2017 MX Fierté Canada Pride competition was conducted to find Baga’s co-host and another local Queen, Barbada came out the winner. Six of the contest’s finalists made several roar-worthy appearances during the show.
To break down each of the Queen’s performances, let’s start at the beginning.
Nina Flowers (Season 1) set the energetic tone of evening as she played an extensive DJ set for over an hour before the show started. As the 15,000 + crowd arrived Nina made sure that we all knew what we were in for.
The Drag Superstars show kicked off with a rousing performance by our hostess for the evening, Rita Baga. Flanked by colourful dancers she showed us her moves before launching into a refreshing comedy routine. She would return between acts in costumes and wigs that defied logic and gravity and that’s what we came for!
RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 8 runner up, Kim Chi was the first Drag Queen out of the gates and lumbered gloriously around the stage and towards the crowd with a huge smile on her face as she lip-synced without her life being on the line. Her performance was enthralling and kept in line with what we have come to expect from her.
Season 9’s Charlie Hides was the first queen of the evening to sing live. She did it with style, teetering on heels that should come with their own oxygen mask they’re so high. Singing her hit single, THE DAME, she was in her glee performing for Montreal. If you haven’t seen her Lana Del Rey or her Madonna impressions, you need to check them out here.
At this point in the evening we were introduced to our co-host for the evening, Barbada. With a sense humour that synched perfectly with her co-host and a remarkable amount of energy, she didn’t steal the show but instead she shared the stage and went toe-to-toe with her peers. Being one of Montreal’s most famous Queens, it was lovely to see her strut her stuff for a crowd that size.
We may have met Tatianna in Season 2 but it was Season 2 of RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars that she redeemed herself while others didn’t quite get there. Showing amazing growth from season to season she was on the top of her game and had us all seeing her with them hands. She came out to the biggest roar of the crowd up to that point and gave a fabulous first performance.
Naomi Smalls was Season 8’s first runner up. During one of the most talked about runways of her season, she flourished and grew to become one of Drag Race’s most talked about Queens. Using the gifts God gave her, she slinked out onto the catwalk, jumped into the crowd, posed, lip-synced and trotted off after saying a few words.
Fresh off Season 9, Pepper Mint (her season’s runner-up) was the second Drag Queen to sing live during the performance. Pepper Mint’s presence on Drag Race was a significant step for the LGBT community when she came out as Transgender during her season. Bridging the gap between two communities who don’t often see eye to eye on what it can mean to do Drag, Pepper Mint is as much a kind soul as she is hilarious. You may want to check out her music for yourself.
Raja (Season 3 winner) knows what she is doing and she does it well. She was the next Queen to hit the stage and she sauntered out, killing the run way in a gold lame covered pantsuit that could have stolen the show all on its own. We never get sick of seeing Raja work the crowd and work us she did. With a few choice words for her President in French, she showed us that there’s as much passion to Raja as there is peace and seeing her live was golden.
Roxxxy Andrews was a polarizing Queen during her season, to say the least. Coming back to Season 2 of All Stars she was humbled, she had matured and she was a much better person overall. Winning the first challenge of All Stars Season 2 may have been her only big win, she stuck around to the end and this time around, it was great seeing her get so far. Sporting a very Canadian outfit for Canada Pride, She moved, hair-ographied and enchanted her way across the stage for her number.
Yara Sophia (Season 3, All Stars 1) does what Yara does best; she kills the show, does a medley of some of the most high-performance music of the night and doesn’t even break a sweat. Her style has always been a little out there and thank God that hasn’t changed. She did 3 costume reveals, stripping down to the bare essentials and had us gagging. She put on a great performance.
Sasha Velour seemed so quiet and demur at the beginning of Season 9 that it was almost impossible to think that she could get to the final, let alone win the crown (great editing on the show’s part). But she did and she deserves every accolade she gets. We knew there was something about Sasha first when she teamed up with BFF, Shea Coulée during an early episode of the season where they won the challenge for eating chocolate stuffed broccoli (among other shenangians) and second when became a highlight on her season’s Snatch Game. Sasha’s first number of the evening at Drag Superstars was a quiet version of I Am What I Am and as she lip-synched you could feel her excitement and energy bubble to the surface. It was delightful to see her in person.
Chad Michaels is an entertainer in every sense of the word. She does a better Cher than Cher can but she is far from a one trick pony. Winner of the first ever All Stars season, Chad Michaels gave us everything we wanted with a one-two punch of two of Cher’s biggest hits. She owned the stage, she was graceful and as always a perfectionist.
Several Queens returned to the stage for a 20 minute mega medley that allowed us to see them all shine one more time. Highlights included Charlie Hides interpreting Mika’s Grace Kelly, Kim Chi taking on Quebec’s reigning Queen, Celine Dion and Sasha giving us everything in a repeat performance of her winning Whitney lip-sync in THAT GOWN. They loved it as much as we did and their enthusiasm spread through the crowd. Here’s a look at the second go-round that could have went on forever and we’d still be there cheering.
An enormous thank you to Fierté Montréal for inviting us to come cover this year’s Pride festival which included this expertly put together show. It’s no small feat turning an unused park into a world-class music venue but they pulled it off perfectly. From the technical team to everyone working that night, you are owed your very own standing ovation.
Now that we’ve seen a second successful Drag Superstars show, it’s time to start thinking about how they are going to top this again next year. We will never get enough of these Superstars!
Image credit: David Major-Lapierre