RuPaul’s Drag U – ‘Tomboy Meets Girl’
Come on, admit it, your summer so far has been lacking some fabulousness, hasn’t it? Well, all that is about to change as it’s time for the return of RuPaul and her delicious drag divas! And this time, they’re here to help save the world from frumpiness and flat shoes.
As the voiceover intones, “One by one they come, real women who stopped believing in miracles.” That miracle comes into their lives with the help of RuPaul and his fierce faculty, made up of some of the most popular and memorable drag queens from seasons one and two of RuPaul’s Drag Race who are here to school their students in “the art of being fabulous”. According to legend (well, actually the show’s opening credits), “deep in the Lake Titicaca valley, a school was formed by drag queens to help biological women unleash their inner diva.”
RuPaul begins the episode by meeting with her full faculty (or as Ru says it “fal-culty” – I have a feeling this will become as annoying as Ru’s mustache by the end of the season) – Ongina, Nina Flowers, Shannel, Raven, Pandora Boxx, Morgan McMichaels, Tammie Brown and Jujubee. For this week’s class, Ru selects Ongina (wearing one of the first of what we can be sure is many awesome hats, this one a black studded leather number that looks like something she picked up at a Ming the Merciless garage sale), Raven (wearing a fabulous black and white wig) and Jujubee (bearing crazy dragon lady nails). Today’s challenge involves tomboys who want to become cover girls.
It’s time to meet “the boy ladies”: Shaya is a 37-year-old bus driver. She feels that her looks embarrass her two kids and her lack of “oomph” has her marriage walking a precarious tightrope. 26-year-old Reyna says she’s dressed like a tomboy forever and feels vulnerable in a dress. 47-year-old Linda is the epitome of a biker chick (she looked like one of the extras from Mask – I was so hoping to see Gar and Rocky Dennis with her!) She works in receiving in a grocery store and hasn’t worn a dress or heels in 25 years. 25 years? She says she’d truly be surprised if Ru and her crew could make her look feminine. In orientation, Ru meets the ladies and tells them that women are supposed to be made of sugar and spice and that they’re “tough cookies”. His goal is for them to embrace their softer side. Ru reminds the girls that Drag U is a competition and that they’ll be graded on their DPA – Drag Point Average. D is for the Drag Transformation, P is for performance and A is for Attitude Adjustment. The gals have a mere 48 hours until their “draguation” and only one can be the class valedictorian. Class is in session! Ru and the gals enter the drag lab (“where the magic happens”) and the ladies look a bit overwhelmed when they get their first glimpse of their instructors and see – as Ru so eloquently puts it – “More dresses shoes and accessories than a Paris Hilton garage sale.” After taking in an eyeful of the feathers, sequins and stilettos, Reyna said it “looked like a drag queen blew up in there.” Ru matches Shaya up with Ongina (who wasn’t quite sure how to put her into a “drag situation”), Reyna with Juju (who noted that her best assets were her huge boobs, because she could “work” them) and Linda with Raven (Linda thought Raven could kick her ass. My money’s on Linda). Raven says Linda is the most masculine woman she’s encountered in a while (and she goes to gay bars. I’ve seen quite a few manly gals at drag shows myself, so that’s really saying something) and she’s up for the challenge. (Ummm, Raven…I LOVE that wig!) The gals get put through their entrance exams, consisting of some “very personal questions”. Ongina gets a reluctant Shaya to confess that it had been two years since she and the hubby did the horizontal mambo. Ong knows she’s going to have to overcome her low confidence level, but she’s confident she can do so. Juju gave Reyna the “Oh no you di’int” look when she told her that her boyfriend sometimes borrowed her shirts. Raven and Linda started the bonding early on when we discovered they both cussed to express anger. Raven said she cursed like a sailor and added “You are what you eat.” Linda looked puzzled. Juju can already see the diva in Reyna – despite the fact that she’s a sloucher. Ru comes back and subjects the ladies to the Dragulator. This highly sophisticated piece of technology will determine the ladies’ drag names and give them their first glimpse of their drag potential. (You can Dragulate yourself at http://www.Dragulator.com. I did and it wasn’t pretty!) Shaya is dragulated into Saline Dijon, complete with a purple sequined gown and long black locks. Reyna’s challenge is to become the funky, B52s-esque Candy Graham in what could best be described as a “Harlem Globetrotterette” dress and red afro wig. Reyna is a bit skeptical but Juju loves the fact that the outfit has a keyhole top that takes full advantage of “the twins”. Linda gets my favorite dragulation, becoming Paya La Renta or a more masculine Madonna as Breathless Mahoney from “Dick Tracy” (laugh if you want, but I’m right on the money with this one!) Linda doesn’t think it’s possible that she could ever look like Paya (maybe Paya-less?) Raven shares her sentiment. It’s time for Drag Performance 101. Dance is essential to this course because, as Raven says, it will help them bring out the femininity and get them loose. The gals meet their “Dean of Dance”, choreographer Frank Gatson Jr. Frank’s going to prepare the girls for their final drag-xamination – a lip synch performance in front of a live audience including their families and friends of “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun”. The girls are less than thrilled. Linda thinks getting her to sing and dance is a “big mistake”, Shaya is afraid of making an idiot of herself. They’ll be performing as a group, but will be graded on their individual performance. Frank starts the girls out with basic walking (and, after seeing them attempt to walk like Ru earlier, Frank maybe should have tried something easier, like breathing.) Ongina and Frank teach us that the secret to a sexy, feminine walk is to cross your feet over each other as you move forward. Frank demonstrates (slightly exaggerated, if you ask me. I’d like to think I’m a “girly-girl”, but if I walked like that, I’d be smacking into stuff on both sides of the aisle at the grocery store.) Shaya and Linda give walking a go, Shaya appearing to be a quick study, Linda…not so much. As Raven so eloquently put it, “She walks like a dude….there’s no feminine grace to her walk at all.” Frank adds a soundtrack to Reyna’s walk that sounds like “woonka, woonka”. I didn’t get it either. He does say that out of the three, she’s the best. Frank then has the gals get into their drag stance – he makes them spread their legs, turn one foot out and then sit back on the hip (it sounds awkward, but it does look fierce!) Once they’ve all got this ready position down, Frank launches right into the choreography – what a brave man! Linda says that it’s not going to be pretty, and I kinda have to agree with her. Ongina says “I see Shaya trying to move and it’s making me cringe a little bit.” Frank doesn’t want to look bad and tells them all he’s trying to do is channel a feminine quality and think “happy, fun and gay” – which elicits cheers from the faculty. The queens join their students on stage to show ‘em how it’s done. They stick with some basic moves, including patty-cakes, side steps, a cha cha and a side to side move (Raven looks so adorable doing this one!)Frank sees enough to put together a routine and sends everyone back to the drag lab to get their drag looks together. Reyna’s afraid that showing off her cleavage will take away her power – and that’s what has been holding her back. She likes being “one of the boys” because she feels that men see her as an equal. Reyna confesses that part of the reason she feels the way she does is because she’s been a victim of sexual assault. She feels “safe” in her t-shirt and jeans. JuJu says there’s no one better to show Reyna that she can be bad-ass in a dress than a drag queen – and you know she’s right! Juju gets Reyna into a skintight pink dress with silver go-go boots. Reyna thinks she looks like a sausage, but when prodded by Juju, she does admit it’s a powerful sausage. Juju sees the diva flowering before her eyes. Raven gets the unenviable task of putting Linda in the first pair of heels she’s worn in a quarter of a century. Raven: “Do they hurt?” Linda: “Not yet.” Raven: “Then you need a higher heel.” Amen, Raven! Linda, to her credit, doesn’t do that foal being born, wobbly walk in the shoes, but she does walk gingerly so as not to sprain an ankle. Juju and Reyna hit the wigs. Juju isn’t 100% sold on the afro so she also grabs a curly blond wig to try out. She decides the blond looks “hot” and sets both wigs on the table. Soon after begins the scandal I like to call “Wig-gate!” Raven grabs the blond wig and walks off with it. Juju catches her and some nasty looks and “Do you really want to do this?”-es are exchanged. A cat fight is averted when Raven remembers, “We are professors and we should be setting an example.” And then tells Juju to go put the afro wig on Reyna because that was the wig on “her f@#*ing Dragulator picture”! Example made. Raven says she’s going to do whatever it takes for her girl Linda to win and she hides the blond wig from Juju’s dragon lady-nailed grasp. Meanwhile, Shaya has picked out an orange, football jersey fabric for her dress. This ain’t flying with Ongina. She grabs a bolt of purple sequined fabric – and Shaya finds orange sequined fabric. She puts them together and declares, “Hey, orange and purple go good together.” Ongina sagely replies, “No they don’t!”Linda shows Raven a picture of her niece, who she says has always been a girly girl. They’re the same age (really?) and they’re more like sisters. Raven says “They say makeup ages you, do I look old?” Linda had a moment where she looked like she wasn’t sure what the answer was and says no. Raven jokes that she doesn’t wear makeup either…”it’s tinted moisturizer.” I’m loving Raven so much! Ru comes to check on everyone’s progress. He’s glad to see that Ongina and Shaya found the purple fabric and wigs to match the Dragulator photo and Shaya calls Ongina “Angina” – which is fine with Ong – she just calls Shaya “vagina” Ru joins in the fun and says he wants to be called “Mangina”. Can they all come to my house right this minute? Raven also is close to the Dragulator look with Linda (red fabric, blond wig which will be styled asymmetrically and promises that the carpet’s going to match the drapes. (I hope we’re not going to see that…) Ru seems surprised that Reyna’s going with the afro, but fears the wig they picked wasn’t big enough. Ru shares the secret of hair proportions – if you’re a bigger girl, you need bigger hair. (Actually, the wig sitting on the wig stand looks remarkably like Richard Simmons.) Ru notices too…to which Juju says “Aw, hell no!” and asks everyone in the lab “Do you see Richard Simmons in this?” Raven snarkily says “I do”, which draws the ire of one Jujubee. Ru takes the queens with him, leaving the gals to fend for themselves (they looked so lost!) and work with what they’ve got in preparation for the final drag-xamination. The next day, the girls still appear lost in wigs and sequins. The queens arrive (Juju’s channeling Kimora without the neck makeup, Raven’s in THATWIG and Ongina is sporting an awesome, exaggerated white top hat). JuJu is surprised to see Reyna styling a new blond wig – apparently she doesn’t want to look like Richard Simmons (can you blame her?) Shaya is also having second thoughts about her wig. Ongina tells her to stick with the original black wig, as it’s more “volumptuous”. Shaya’s afraid she’ll look washed out (See? They’re already thinking of how to look more beautiful! These queens are masters!). While Juju and Ongina are working on their students’ looks, Raven decides to work with Linda on her attitude, as she’s not seeing any emotion from Linda. Raven wants some positive affirmations, so Linda declares that she walks great in heels. Encouraged, Raven makes Linda announce this to the room which gets a sarcastic “What?” from Juju. Each of the girls meets with Ru for a pep talk and some more affirmations. Linda goes first and tells Ru that being on her bike gives her ecstatic, woo-hoo moments. Ru makes Linda repeat the affirmation “I am a beautiful woman.”, and Linda’s facial expression changes, which leads me to believe that she’s really starting to believe it. In keeping with Ru’s self-promotion (her book Workin’ It! RuPaul’s Guide to Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Style in the background), she dismissed Linda with a line from one of her songs, “A Shade Shady (Now Prance)”, “Now, prance I said.” This might replace “Sashay away” in my personal drag-cabulary! Linda was glad that Ru was confident in her abilities. Ru said “At least she doesn’t have to tuck.” Raven decided to “scope out the competition”, which basically consisted on getting on Juju’s last nerve. She’s concerned to see that they’re actually doing a good job and grabbed the opportunity to sabotage them by hiding the new blonde wig to (hopefully) put them behind. Meanwhile Shaya visits with Ru. Shaya confesses that her own insecurities have made her the was she was but she’s been learning to let go since being at Drag U. Shaya says she’s going to try to incorporate Saline into her everyday life and Ru offers the sage advice, “A diva a day keeps the tomboy away.” Reyna and JuJu realize that the wig is missing and Juju knows who’s responsible. Raven plays dumb, but JuJu gets to the bottom of things. Reyna goes to visit Ru – he tells her that unlike her, he dresses in women’s clothes to feel more powerful. She’s finding a power in Candy Graham. Ru tells her that she must use what you have to get what you want and added “you can’t lose your power; you can only give it away.” It’s only the first episode, but Ru has given more good advice that my guidance counselor in high school ever did. As the audience files in – excited at the prospect of seeing their transformed moms, wives and girlfriends, the girls are getting their makeup done. Raven has a little drag queen secret up her sleeve for Linda. It’s an instant facelift using adhesive bands and elastic. (Mark Traynor, if you’re interested. Raven told me that RuPaul got them for her, as she’s still in the flower of her youth!) I gotta get me some of those, as it took 20 years off Linda. The whole thing was a little overwhelming to Linda and she teared up. Hey, there’s no crying in drag competitions! Linda said that she came to shake things up, and we should now consider her shaken. It’s draguation! Ru introduces us to the faculty who will be grading the gals – Dean of Drag, the legendary Lady Bunny (wearing literally pounds of hair), Frank and model/ rock star spawn Mia Tyler. Ongina introduces Shaya – now Saline Dijon – and she looks great – almost a mirror image of her Dragulator picture. JuJu introduces the new Reyna as Candy Graham. Candy was quite the confection in the blond wig with pink netting making poufs and a pink dress. She learned the importance of getting outside of her comfort zone and showed off the twins (kept the silver boots too, which caused an unfortunate stumble as she left the runway.) Last but not least, it’s Paya La Renta – and she looks exactly like her picture – kudos to Raven! She still needed to work on that walk, but she looked completely different (although not quite unlike Gene Hackman at the end of The Birdcage.)
See all of the dramatic transformations!The ladies now take their oral exam. Saline was asked if she could take this look/attitude with her. She said yes as she hoped it might improve her marriage. Her hubby’s face clearly let us know that the sexy thing was working. Candy said she’ll be wearing more dresses, as power to her now means having people’s eyes on her. Paya succeeded in shaking up her life and really asserted that she was a beautiful woman. The faculty submits their grades for Drag Transformation and Attitude Adjustment:Shaya/Saline:Lady Bunny- AFrank- B+Mia- A (She said Shaya “owned the runway”)DPA 3.77Reyna/Candy:Lady Bunny- C (She told Reyna she had the “elegance and poise of a grizzly bear”) Frank- B- (He expected a better walk) Mia- B (She thought she was a little shaky)DPA 2.55Linda/Paya:Lady Bunny- B-Frank- B (He noted that she was the most improved)Mia- BDPA 2.88Now it’s down to the performance, which counts for half of the girls’ final DPA. Whoever kills it can rise to the top of the class. Well, it’s certainly not on par with the “Lip Synch for Your Life” from Drag Race, but these girls really did look like they were having fun (especially Linda). The grades are in:Shaya/Saline:Lady Bunny- C (She was underwhelmed)Frank- C (“For fine”…uhh, Frank, wouldn’t that be an “F”?)Mia- BReyna/Candy:Lady Bunny- A (She kept eyes on her even though she didn’t have the choreography down)Frank- C+ (She was aggressive and brought it, but tripped) Mia- A (She carried everybody and owned the stage)Linda/Paya:Lady Bunny- CFrank- C (for effort)Mia- B-The winner and head of the class, with a 3.05 is Miss Saline Dijon! Ongina gives her a purple and orange boa – and she’s definitely right, those colors don’t go together at all! And so concludes the premiere of your new favorite summer show. Until next week, everybody say love!Watch RuPaul’s Drag U every Monday night at 9/8c on Logo!