Metro Weekly

RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 10 Finale Recap: Life and Death

Drag Race's finale offered nostalgia, eleganza, and a shocking lipsync elimination

Aquaria, Asia, Eureka, and Kameron — Photo: VH1

Have you watched the RuPaul’s Drag Race finale yet? If you haven’t, stop right here, go to your DVR or VH1’s website and watch it right now. Then come back here so we can discuss what the fuck happened.

For everyone else (and those rejoining us), WHAT. THE. FUCK. Let’s break it down.

After ten seasons of Drag Race and three seasons of All Stars, lipsyncs have become more about showmanship than technical skill. For every perfectly executed lip movement or dance routine, there’s Sasha Velour’s wig petal reveal, or Shangela’s fat suit, or Monét’s (brilliant) death drop fakeout. Lipsyncing now seems to be more about creating “moments” that will shock or delight the judges, searing the performer’s name into their memory when it comes time for the elimination.

Well, last night those moments finally jumped the shark — and it was Asia O’Hara, season 10’s most mature, sensible and seasoned performer, who found herself bearing the brunt of millions of simultaneous What The Fucks. Season nine’s infamous deathmatch lipsyncs returned, which saw the queens competing to be part of a final two that would ultimately determine the winner. Kameron Michaels was chosen by spin of a bedazzled wheel to be the first lipsyncer, and she chose Asia as her opponent.

Asia, her dress and hair covered in butterflies and with comically large breasts, started Janet Jackson’s “Nasty” amusingly — pulling out a sponge to pad her face, Monét style — but things quickly went downhill.

As Kameron busted out the same energetic moves that saw her through a record four lipsync battles, including an obvious reveal as she whipped off her kimono-style coat to reveal a sparkly bodysuit, Asia revealed that her dress contained live butterflies. Yes, live butterflies. Except, unfortunately, we use the term live incredibly loosely. In her bracelets and both oversized breasts, Asia had stored butterflies that she intended to reveal and set free, in a dramatic “moment” that would top even Sasha’s petals from last season.

Except, what really happened was Asia’s face quickly turned ashen as she realized the butterflies were dead or dying (Update: Asia has clarified that they weren’t dead, merely hibernating).

The mood in the theater quickly changed as the audience tried to figure out what she was blowing and tossing out of her costume. Then, when it became clear what was unraveling onstage, human emoji Monique Heart summed things up perfectly in this moment:

Photo: VH1

It was excruciating viewing, and not helped by the fact that, even if the butterflies had worked, it would have made absolutely no sense in the context of “Nasty.” Asia, who posted a lengthy and sincere apology on Instagram, said she had worked with a “professional company” and hoped it would be “an amazing and safe display of optimism.” Instead, the world watched — in HD — as the butterflies fell to the ground and stumbled around the stage.

It was a heartbreaking moment for Asia, who has been on something of a rollercoaster during her time on Drag Race, winning twice, lipsyncing once, and being a surrogate mother to some of the queens. To watch her fall that hard, that spectacularly, overshadowed everything else that happened during the finale.

And that’s a shame, because what was on offer elsewhere was pretty great. Recognizing ten seasons of Drag Race, the show’s producers brought back the original cast of the first season — notably, with HD cameras and better lighting — and minus Tammie, who is supporting All Stars 3 winner Trixie Mattel on her tour. It was a nice moment, and we got a fun, if slightly awkward, lipsync extravaganza between the original queens and the season 10 runners-up to fill some of the episode’s 90-minute runtime before the main event.

There was great filler elsewhere, too, including celebrity additions such as Sally Jessy Raphael narrating a history of Drag Race vignette, and words of encouragement on the show’s success from Dame Judi Dench and Oprah. Yes, future President Oprah Winfrey.

As is customary, we had interviews with all four of the finale queens prior to the lipsyncs, and they were pleasant enough. Asia got emotional when asked what she thought her parents would say about her success, Aquaria stayed on brand as the overconfident (and, seemingly deservedly so) queen she is, Eureka turned off her obnoxiousness just long enough for a sweet moment where she said she would donate her prize money to her mother to clear her debts, and… well, then there was Kameron.

After last week’s reunion saw the other queens attack Kameron for pretending to be quiet and reserved, but really playing a shady game, RuPaul peeled those layers back a little further, revealing that Kameron’s triumph in the Cher Rusical challenge was no surprise — she performs Cher in her Vegas show! Clearly, Kameron is much more than the quiet, reserved queen she seemed to be all season. It does beg the question as to what would have happened had she let her true nature show — would she be in the finale? Would she be the presumptive winner, rather than a presumptive runner-up? Who knows.

Back to the main lipsyncs, and we have to once again go back to reveals. Aquaria versus Eureka was a classic example of an obvious reveal — Aquaria looked like a flower waiting to blossom, Eureka looked twice her size. Shock of shocks, both queens had outfits underneath as they worked their way through Janet Jackson’s “If.” That said, both were pretty flawless, whether Aquaria throwing down her covering to reveal a spiky bodysuit, then ripping off her bra to reveal bedazzled breasts at the end, or Eureka doing two costume changes and a wig reveal to end up in a sparkly bodysuit.

What made this particularly notable was finally getting to see Aquaria lipsync — she is the only one in the top four to not lipsync this season (though she came very close a few times, and deserved to at least once). And, perhaps unsurprisingly by now, she turned it out, proving she’s far more than just a “fashion queen,” but a strong, confident performer as well. Really, this has been Aquaria’s season to lose for the last few weeks, and watching her lipsync only confirmed that.

That said, Eureka worked her way across the stage equally well, so it wasn’t overly shocking when RuPaul announced they’d both be moving to the final lipsync. Yes, Aquaria got that double save she’d bitched so much about! That meant the final was a three-way between Aquaria, Eureka, and Kameron.

It would be unfair to discount Kameron from the off, but, frankly, she was simply outclassed in the third battle, which was set to “Bang Bang” by Jessie J, Ariana Grande, and Nicki Minaj. Her sixth lipsync this season, Kameron’s go-to moves are readily apparent by now, and Aquaria and Eureka quickly commanded the audience’s attention.

However, this was Aquaria’s stage. Eureka was strong, offering an amusing corset reveal that said “The Big Girl” with “Wins” hidden underneath. However, her flair for leg kicks, split drops, and stomping across the stage paled in comparison to Aquaria, who started the song with sparks coming out of her hands and punctuated two key moments with a confetti cannon that was concealed within her costume — the main drop two-thirds of the way through the song, and right at the end, pulling all attention to her. It was masterfully conceived.

After all that, it’s no surprise that RuPaul declared Aquaria to be season 10’s winner. Amid a wealth of charismatic and memorable queens — Monét X Change (who walked away with a deserved Miss Congeniality), Monique Heart, and Miz Cracker, to name a few — Aquaria powered her way to the crown on a mixture of outsized confidence, a surprising sense of humor, and powerful runway looks.

Yes, she left Kingsley high and dry in the social media makeover challenge and she was shaky in the Cher Rusical, but she also had some of the top moments of the season —  her Melania Trump in Snatch Game, her oil-spilled mermaid, her tight lyrics to “American.”

Sure, we could have happily watched Ru crown Asia — and it no doubt cuts deeper that Kameron and Eureka are runners-up, whereas she is the sole “Eliminated” — but there’s no denying Aquaria deserved her win.

Photo: VH1

And that was season 10 of RuPaul’s Drag Race. What did you think? Did you gag over any moments we missed? Did Aquaria deserve to win? Are you still in shock over Asia’s dramatic fall? Who should return for a future All Stars? Let us know in the comments!

Rhuaridh Marr is Metro Weekly's managing editor. He can be reached at rmarr@metroweekly.com.

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