Season 10 Premiere Recap: A Refreshing Return to Drag Race Roots

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It’s been a little over a week since RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars 3 ended and we’re already knee-deep in a new season. Some would say the premiere of Season 10 feels more than a little rushed; longtime fans are used to enduring an off-season of teasers and rumors. But perhaps after all of the twists and turns of All Stars, this is exactly what we need: a fresh batch of charming, talented queens in a classic throwback design challenge.

“10’s Across the Board” is a fitting name for this episode because the cast is stacked this season. Southern California drag legend Mayhem Miller is finally on the show after years of auditioning, and Eureka O’Hara is back in the race after injuring her knee in Season 9. This season continues the trend of featuring a significant number of New York queens (five, to be exact) — from the quirky, campy Yuhua Hamasaki to drag wunderkind Aquaria. However we also finally get to see Indianapolis, Kansas City and Albuquerque represented on the show for the first time (by Blair St. Clair, Monique Heart and Kalorie Karbdashian Williams, respectively). The cast is rounded out with New Yorkers Monet X Change and Dusty Ray Bottoms, Dallas drag legend Asia O’Hara, Kameron Michaels the “muscle queen” from Nashville, and Chicago’s The Vixen. We also have a couple of drag daughters this season, with Bob the Drag Queen protégé Miz Cracker and the fruit of Alexis Mateo’s tucked loins, Vanessa Vanjie Mateo.

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These, of course, are not our only nods to seasons past this episode. Both the mini challenge and mainstage look were refreshingly straightforward returns to a Drag Race that is more about the competition than the production. Each queen was asked to stomp the runway for an audience of past queens before creating “drag on a dime” with dollar store supplies. We’d love to see this become a staple of the first episode; let the contestants show us who they are on the runway in the mini challenge, then ask them to translate that understanding to a look made from scratch. RuPaul promotes the importance of knowing oneself; this is the perfect way to test that right out of the gate.

While we didn’t get the “queens who can’t sew” storyline that often accompanies design challenges, it was clear that Vanessa was in trouble as soon as she admitted to “winging it.” Otherwise, these queens seemed largely undaunted by the task at hand. We are introduced to what will likely be a running feud this season, a case of potential drag identity theft between young, white, skinny, artsy Miz Cracker and young, white, skinny, artsy Aquaria. But there is little evidence of this in this episode, spare some similar eyebrows at one point. (Aquaria’s blasé exasperation about it all sums up just how low the stakes feel with this conflict.)

Taking It to the Runway

Eyebrows aside, Aquaria’s burlesque Little Bo Peep and Cracker’s tragic silent film femme looks on the runway couldn’t have been more different. Mayhem and Blair both turned trash into treasure with black garbage bags, but the unofficial winning look of the night was Monique’s Queen of Hearts runway. While this should have put her in the top over Yuhua’s caution tape couture, perhaps the producers knew they needed Monique’s enthusiasm and gif-able reactions in Untucked from the start.

Mayhem won this week’s challenge and wasted no time showing us her vulnerability, shedding tears of gratitude both on stage and in the talking head interview. Between her backstory and her pitch perfect first impression, she already feels like a frontrunner this season. Meanwhile, under a busy bodice of flowers and Barbies, Vanessa looked like she was being eaten alive by the flora and fauna of it all, while Kalorie’s million dollar gown was counterfeit at best. Dusty was read for getting a little too costumey (imagine that, a drag queen in a costume!) but was deemed interesting enough to keep around for another challenge, even if Michelle wasn’t living for the trademark dots on her face.

Lipsyncing to “Ain’t No Other Man” in front of guest judge Christina Aguilera brought out the showgirl in Kalorie, who quickly shimmied out of her gown and into the spotlight with a fun, high energy performance. Vanessa got tangled early on in her tulle cape, and by the time her shoe went flying off, it was clear that this Mateo was not destined to follow in her drag mother’s footsteps. Vanessa’s snappy talking heads and ear for catchphrases (“Get these cookies!”) will be missed this season, and if there’s an opportunity to bring an eliminated queen back, we hope it’s her.

That said, we would have been sad to see any of these queens go first. It’s the downside of a good season of Drag Race; with a cast this strong, your favorites could go home at any point. While queens such as Mayhem and Aquaria have come into the competition with strong reputations, and we’ve gotten great first impressions from breaths of fresh air including Monique Heart and Yuhua Hamasaki, it’s just too soon to make firm predictions. Recent seasons of Drag Race have made a concerted effort to keep fans on their toes. Our only predication at this point is that Season 10 will be no exception.

Want to queen out each week on Season 10 with us? Alright Mary is a weekly recap podcast and deep dive into all things RuPaul’s Drag Race. We go in on the queens, behind the scenes, the larger social themes explored on the show and as much reddit T as we can get our mitts on. Subscribe on iTunes!

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Last modified: February 14, 2019