RuPaul’s “Untucked”


You know by now how absorbed I am by every new season of “RuPaul’s Drag Race.”  We are getting very close to the end of Season Four, and have our final four drag queens (although, in a not-so-surprise twist, they’re bringing back an eliminated contestant next week, just to extend our agony.  And it had better not be Kenya Michaels.)



Everyone has a favorite reality show / competition; this is mine. Partner doesn’t share my fascination with Ru and the goils (though I’ve caught him watching the show once or twice).  So I have to gossip about it with the only person in my office who’s also a RuManiac: my friend Tab.  Tab is about twenty-five years younger than me, and much more in touch with the modern gay world (he just made a sweep of Washington DC, Baltimore, and Philadelphia, and gave me a critique of the gay / social scene in each city).  We swoon and flutter over every week’s drama: Sharon NeedlesPhi Phi O’HaraLatrice Royale! Chad Michaels! DiDa Ritz! “I like Latrice,” I said the other day.  “I can see her winning.”



Tab looked at me very severely.  “Latrice will not win,” he said definitively.  He’s probably right.  It’s gonna be a gunfight between Sharon and Phi Phi at the end, with Chad as the spoiler. 



But every week’s episode of “Drag Race” has its own outtakes reel, shown immediately afterward: a half-hour show called “Untucked.”  It’s a montage of backstage gossip between the contestants, with a lot more personal revelations and a lot less makeup and sequins.  Tab told me that he thinks “Untucked” is more interesting than “Drag Race,” and I have to admit that I’ve begun to fall under its spell.



This week’s “Untucked” was terrific.  We were down to five drag queens.  One – Phi Phi – is really no one’s friend.  The others – Dida, Latrice, Sharon, and Chad – were sharing stories about being bullied and beaten up in school.  Dida was surprised with a video of her mother wishing her luck, which moved her to tears.  Chad said that the bullies who’d made her school life hell were now trying to reconnect with her on Facebook (I’ve had the same experience), and that she had no interest in reconnecting with them.  Latrice said that she’d been approached in the same way, but that he’d been reminded that there had been some good times in school too, and that it wasn’t necessarily a bad thing.



It was a profoundly human conversation.



Growing up gay is tough, believe me, I know, I was there.  But most of us, gay or straight, were mocked and bullied as kids.  It’s therapeutic to hear people talk about it – the good and the bad – and think about our own situations, and try to relate.



Maybe Tab is right.  Maybe the gowns and makeup and heels on “RuPaul’s Drag Race” are the less important things.  Maybe the heart-to-heart personal stuff on “Untucked” is actually more vital.



(But the gowns and shoes and makeup are fun too.)



Life lessons from “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” season three


I managed to survive the third season of “RuPaul’s Drag Race” without a (serious) cardiac event.  


If you’ve never seen it: it’s a musical-comedy version of Dante’s Inferno, with a guaranteed happy ending.


And it’s extremely educational.



Here are some of the lessons I gleaned from Season Three:



It’s not enough to look fabulous; you have to be fabulous. Case in point: Carmen Carrera. She was easily the most beautiful drag queen on the runway. Sadly, she had the personality of uncooked brisket. Ten points for looks; minus nine points for lack of charisma.


Reading is fundamental. “Reading,” for all you drag neophytes, is scathing/funny criticism of your friends and enemies. “Don’t make me read you, girl!” It’s phrased amusingly and pointedly; it teaches you to accept criticism, and not to have a thin skin, and to laugh at yourself. Sadly, some of this year’s contestants did not seem to understand this. Raja, the winner of the competition, got read by the others constantly: she was mean to the other girls, she was older than they were, blah blah blah. She soldiered on, and she won, girlfriend, she won. Hallaloo!


There’s a fine line between eccentric and unflattering. Alexis Mateo, one of this year’s finalists, had a very unique style: tight Barbie-doll outfits, extreme makeup. It was well-done, and Alexis had a big personality and a lot of determination. But some of her outfits were downright ugly and ill-considered. She looked like a sequined blimp a lot of the time. And that will never do.



If you’re a judge, be a mean judge. Santino Rice: I love you.


If you’re a judge, be a funny judge. Johnny Weir: I love you too.


If you’re a judge, be a stern judge. Michelle VisageI love you most of all.


It never hurts to be talented. Shangela, though I disliked her intensely, was a hysterically funny comedienne. Raja, the winner, was a very experienced model. Manila Luzon, the first runner-up, could do both funny and glam, and even both at the same time, and could easily have won.


And finally:



Don’t talk too much about “keeping it real” when you’re a drag queen. I think this is obvious.


(Unless this is a koan of some kind, in which case I might actually achieve enlightenment.)


(And if I do, it will be thanks to RuPaul.)


(And, if so, once again: hallaloo!)




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