Gentlemen, start your engines…
The smell of charisma, uniqueness, nerve, and talent filled the Alex Theater courtyard as the queens of “RuPaul’s Drag Race” Season 9 prepared to film their finale at the Glendale landmark. After a season of shocking eliminations, a questionable choice for Miss Congeniality, and the first-ever final four, the time has come for RuPaul to crown either Peppermint, Sasha Velour, Shea Couleé, or Trinity Taylor as America’s Next Drag Superstar.
But before the ceremonies can commence, all 14 queens, a handful of Logo alumni, and judges Ross Mathews and Carson Kressley graced the ruby red carpet one at a time, taking a pit stop for pictures before hitting a pileup with reporters (the budget upgrade to VH1 was clearly all allocated onstage).
For the series’ first 103 episodes — not including “All Star” iterations — Ru, co-host Michelle Visage, and the rest of the pit crew called Logo their home turf. However, for March’s Season 9 premiere, “RPDR” was promoted to VH1-status to accommodate the addition of guest judge Lady Gaga, and that pesky Emmy. Luckily, the contestants don’t seem to mind the extra attention.
“Anytime something that is niche becomes more mainstream, particularly with this particular genre, it’s progress, it’s a good thing,” claimed Charlie Hides. “The more people that see our interesting colorful lives, the more their lives will be touched by us.”
But did the larger audience make things easier on the judges? “I think it’s very confusing this season, because we have four queens who are very much on par with each other,” said Kressley. “Every task we put them through in the [penultimate] episode was just like, ‘Oh, this will separate the queens.’ And then they all do a great runway look, and then they all answer a great question, and then they all tell us great stories about their childhood. So it is really neck-and-neck.”
Shh … don’t tell, but he still picks Couleé as his one true winner. The other girls disagree, though — Velour is a clear front-runner in her competitors’ eyes, with Taylor trailing in second place.
As the more classically congenial queen, Peppermint took a break from the competition to comment on her transgender awareness PSA with reigning queen Bob the Drag Queen. “I’m happy to participate in anything that helps educate people on trans issues,” said Peppermint after coming out as transgender herself on the show. “It was [VH1]’s idea, it felt great.”
A little farther down the line, Alexis Michelle, who was just one episode shy of making finale night, still seemed proud of her placement — especially during Pride month. “My message to the LGBTQ children and all the rest is ‘Stay together, bind together,'” said Michelle. “There’s a real instinct among young people to bully and to be catty and to be really rough to one another on social media, and I urge everybody to stop doing that.”
“F— heteronormativity,” echoed Aja. “I don’t believe in having to fit a gender role or a script. Bitch, it’s your life, it’s your script, live it the way you want, and no one can tell you any different.”
“We as human beings need to treat everyone as human beings,” behested Taylor. “RuPaul says it best, ‘Everybody say “Love!”‘”
Contestants Farrah Moan, Kimora Blac, Eureka O’Hara, Cynthia Lee Fontaine, Jaymes Mansfield, Nina Bo’Nina Brown, and Miss Congeniality Valentina also donned their best drag for the red carpet. “RuPaul’s Drag Race” Season 9 runs its final lap tonight, Friday June 23, at 8 p.m. ET on VH1.
Oh — and may the best woman win.