Canada’s Drag Race: Smile, Wave, and Look Pretty

S1/Ep 7

Rita Baga and Jeffrey Bowyer-Chapman; photo from Bell Media

“This is just like homecoming, but so gay.”

You’re right, Principal of Degrassi High Stefan Brogren, it is so gay! Welcome back to Canada’s Drag Race, where things are kicking into high gear with the first-ever Drag Race pageant. Today, ladies, we’re skipping the Mini Challenge and going straight to the Maxi, where the queens have to compete in the Miss Loose Jaw Pageant — complete with all your favourite categories: Talent, Swimsuit, and Interview.

But first, the dramatic cold open, where two key storylines are set up, the first being, of course, the girls’ immense dislike of Lemon. At this point, it’s been made clear that calling out Lemon’s name at the end of the last episode (in response to “who should go home tonight?”) came from personal reasons, as opposed to the critiques. Storyline number two is Scarlett BoBo’s growing sense of irritation at consistently being safe, even when she (rightfully) expected to net her first win last week.

The next day in the werkroom, Brooke Lynn announces the challenge, since Rita Baga was last week’s winner, she gets to assign the “characters.” See, this is technically a pageant, but it’s really another improv challenge, as the queens have to stay in character and bring out the laughs.

The roll call: Miss Behavin’ (Jimbo), Miss Demeanor (Priyanka), Miss Erable (Ilona), Miss Informed (Scarlett, who wanted Jimbo’s character), Miss Fits (Lemon), which leaves Rita with Miss Match’d.

As the queens build their characters, Brooke Lynn takes a little walk around the room and scopes out the scene. I’m not sure if it’s the editing, or if she really sits down next to Ilona and says hello by asking “how does it feel to be the first First Nation, Two-Spirited person here?” because that’s a very heavy question to just blurt out of the blue.

“It’s not always my job to educate,’ Ilona explains, ‘as it is to be present, to represent.” The burden placed on BIPOCs is always to educate, to call out, and to correct the mistakes. It’s exhausting, because even being in the room, being present, comes with its own pressure.

Rita Baga, Jimbo, Scarlett BoBom and Lemon; photo from Bell Media

Jeffrey Bowyer-Chapman hosts the pageant, which is the best thing he’s done all season; the panel features CDR’s Squirrel Friend Traci Melchor, drag legend Michelle DuBarry, and Stefan Brogren as judges. Highlights include Scarlett’s Miss Informed — it may not have been her first choice, but the character is hilariously neurotic, as well as Lemon, who once again wields her impressive acting ability with a character who doesn’t have talent outside of… pageant-ing.

Cue the Miss Congeniality references. There’s a lot of them. A lot.

Rita Baga also tries to tap into her inner actress and play up a Miss Congeniality character… far less effectively.

The judges love Jimbo’s obnoxiously sexed-up Miss Behavin’, which I wouldn't mind at all… except they blast Ilona and Priyanka for being way too one-dimensional with their characters.

Once again, it just doesn’t make sense. You can call Priyanka’s character one-note (and a not-very-vague caricature of an angry Black woman, but that’s a whole other conversation), but Jimbo’s performance is just “look at me, I’m a wh*re.” It’s equally as one-note — and even more egregious? It’s boring.

The category on the runway is Pageant Perfection, and the moment I hear Ilona say her bedazzled top is “putting Beyonce to shame” is the moment I know she’s going home tonight. Rita’s Thierry Mugler-inspired gown is a show-stopper, but the judges (with guest judge Allie X) focus too much on her half-assed wig to appreciate it. Priyanka’s Bollywood-inspired dress looks brilliant on her, but the judges note a lack of confidence on the catwalk, and clock her for that.

Jimbo on the runway; photo from Bell Media

Lemon, continuing to play to her strengths, appears as some Honey Boo Boo (remember her?) inspired character, complete with a tiny tiara — the judges love it. They also love love love Scarlet BoBo, who’s never looked more glamorous, but still with that signature edge.

You know who they don’t love? Jimbo. Jimbo the pink pom-pom. The judges tear into the poor girl like sharks, unable to find one positive thing to say about the look. Jimbo, understandably, loses it when the girlies go back to untuck.

“Jeffrey said I don’t look glamorous at all. It’s one thing to say, I think you should be more glamorous, or my version of glamour. But to say that I’m not glamorous at all — that’s like saying ‘always never.’ I think he maybe needs to look up the word glamour. You question my taste level? I question your knowledge of the English language.”

Poor Rita Baga attempts to peacefully offer her input on the debacle only to be met with “Your lace line looks like barf, your hair is fried” — Rita reacts as though someone spat on her.

On the runway, controversial decisions are made. Jimbo and Rita get thrown into the middle as safe, Priyanka and Ilona are the bottoms of the week, which leaves Scarlett and Lemon as the top two. Remember when I said that Scarlett’s storyline was set up in the cold open? All episode long, we’ve been teased with a long-overdue Scarlett BoBo win; Allie X even says that tonight could be hers for the taking. In that moment of truth, the judges call out… Lemon. Lemon takes her second Maxi win. I almost expect Scarlett to scream.

But we can’t worry about that right now because Priyanka and Ilona have to lipsync to “Hello,” by Allie X! Priyanka establishes herself as the newest lipsync assassin, but honestly, it’s high time Ilona gets the boot. We’ve entered a new phase of the competition.

Canada’s Drag Race airs Thursday nights at 9 PM EST on CraveTV

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