It’s here! The Grand Finale of RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 12. Each of the girls heads into this finale with their own strengths and weaknesses: Crystal Methyd only has had one Maxi Challenge win, but has the most broad Social Media support and passion; Gigi Goode has the best report card with four Maxi Challenge wins (and the runner-up in the first week of the competition) including Snatch Game and the Ball (Aquaria route to the crown?), but has the least fan support and a negative edit; Jaida Essence Hall has three Maxi Challenge wins and already feels like the personification of America’s Next Drag Superstar (a talented, polished, seasoned professional), but this show consistently pays Pageant Queens dust. Who will be coronated this evening?
En route to the culmination of one queen’s hard work and artistry being rewarded with a title and $100,000 this evening, we’ll get to see three lip syncs from all of the Top Three Queens, the announcement of Season 12’s Miss Congeniality, and a beautifully moving tribute to a departed Drag Race superfan/Emmy-winning producer of the show.
Lip Sync: RuPaul’s “Bring Back My Girls”
This will likely prove to be the best showcase of the girls’ technique: after all, it’s in close-up the entire time! Each girl is making love to the camera, and spitting Ru’s words as if they sang them themselves. They all look great in the lewks they already came with, and their performances are great. No one really outshines any of the others: whoever will be eliminated before the top two is really going to come down to the next round of lip syncs.
In Memoriam: Jacqueline Wilson
Jacqueline Wilson, part of the RuPaul’s Drag Race family since Season 2, and a two-time Emmy Award-winning co-executive producer/supervising producer since Season 4, passed away on September 11, 2019, shortly after the filming of Season 12 wrapped, and in this finale, we see a wonderful tribute to her memory. Previous winners (Bianca Del Rio, Bob The Drag Queen, Sasha Velour and Monét X Change) and various alumni (Latrice Royale, Alyssa Edwards, Adore Delano, Vivacious, Peppermint, Scarlet Envy, Aiden Zhane, Vanessa Vanjie Mateo, and Jan) share personal anecdotes about their experiences working with her (Wilson served as a story producer for a lot of these queens), remembering her passion for drag, her function as a would-be-therapist and pillar of strength to them in their seasons, and her sense of humour and style. It’s one of the most moving, effective, effortless moments in this show’s history (that sometimes tries a little too hard to often haphazardly insert the queens’ personal narratives), and drips with sincerity and gratitude. Moving forward, it would be welcomed if the show were to include more behind the scene looks into the work of the artists behind the camera to celebrate the hard work that is required to mount a season of one of our favourite shows.
Frock the Vote!
The tribute to producer Jacqueline Wilson is followed by an exhortation to vote (a fitting transition, since Wilson served as a supervising producer on Season 4’s iconic “Frock the Vote!” episode) in this tumultuous general election year in the USA, set to RuPaul’s “Cover Girl (Put the Bass in Your Walk).” In the past, many of these parodies have come across as navel-gazing promotional odes to RuPaul’s musical output, but this one, while appropriately corny, has some really clever rhymes (“Oscar nominee” replaced by “mail in or absentee” and “support your nominee?” Gag!) and is a very fun way to build enthusiasm for the most important exertion of our voice: our vote.
Lip Syncs: Round Two
It’s a shame that it took a pandemic to come up with one of the more inspired finale ideas we’ve ever seen on this show: after the brutal performances of songs written for the Top Three queens in Seasons 7 and 8, or preparations to bop to some of RuPaul’s favourite jams in lip sync battles for the crown in Seasons 9-11, having the queens strut their stuff to some of their own favourites is a development that probably should have happened long ago. These three lip-syncs are phenomenal, on-brand showcases of what these queens do well: Crystal Methyd’s rendition of Nelly Furtado’s “I’m Like a Bird” features the hilarious imagery of Crystal dressed up like a puppet bird serenading a freshly hatched chick; Gigi Goode has mounted a nostalgic/retro homage to A-ha’s music video in her performance of “Take on Me” that highlights her attention to detail recreation; Jaida Essence Hall’s performance of Ciara’s “Get Up” works every inch of her apartment living room, and shows what a fierce-ass entertainter she is, and feels remarkably accessible: it’s reminiscent of whenever you see a queen in a bar who can perform the house down boots yas gawd, but one who evokes a conviction that she was born to be a star! This was a concept that really worked, and they should seriously consider letting the show’s top entertainers pick their own material for future finales. RuPaul, who had warned that she would eliminate one of the queens after these performances, reneges on this promise (all three will advance), and while it’s expected that she’d “want to see more,” it’s a decision that is wholly justified.
Miss Heidi “Hydrates” “Afrodite” N. Closet has always seemed like a no-brainer shoo-in for that prestigious Miss Congeniality sash: who on earth could possibly usurp her? So, it wasn’t a surprise by any means when Season 11 Miss Congeniality winner Nina West (after a charming little virtual tête-à-tête with country music legend and “I Will Always Love You” songwriter Dolly Parton) announced her as the winner. This bumpkin from Ramseur, North Carolina is now $10,000 richer! But the prize money doesn’t end there: as a token of appreciation for their “spirit and commitment to entertaining the world over these last, several, many weeks” each of the other queens will receive a $2,000 tip courtesy of Pantene Nutrient Blends.
Final Lip Sync: Destiny’s Child’s “Survivor”
It’s interesting to see how the queens are dressed for their final impression before the coronation of Season 12’s Next Drag Superstar: Crystal appears to be the only one dressed for the win (her she’s already wearing a crown); Gigi Goode is serving a Dorothy Gale fantasy with hooker boots; Jaida’s wearing a caftan that screams “Ruveal” the way that Season 11 runner-up Brooke Lynn Hytes was for her final lip sync. The subsequent lip sync isn’t some of the tightest technique we’ve ever seen, but they all seem to be giving it their all and having fun. Jaida gives us the Ruveal we’ve been promised from the first glance of her; Gigi pulls out her pig tails, reveals ruby slippers, and a blue checked dress reveals… another blue checked dress; Crystal is twirling the ribbons that are tied to her wrists like she’s Coco Montrese.
AND THE WINNER IS…
Jaida Essence Hall! Such an inspired pick for the crown. She always looked perfect, always had a great attitude, always showed that she had a sense of humour, while still feeling like a fierce ass, sassy, shady drag queen. She murdered a makeover challenge (did Jazz ever press charges for Jaida beating her face?), proved her acting and comedy chops in her presidential debate, and made a hell of a first impression winning the Maxi in her first appearance on this season. She was always laser focused on winning the crown, but without ever appearing too cocky or arrogant or “confident” or gratingly thirsty for it. In short, she’s one of the best (if not the best) pageant queens this show has ever showcased, and it’s about time that it finally translated into a win for one. What on earth took so long? It seems that they were patiently waiting to get it RIGHT.