Forget Manhattan... I'll Take Queens!
It's morning at Parsons, and Heidi is up to something. She has The Velvet Bag™ with her, but instead of bringing out the winning and losing models as usual, she announces a special guest! Everyone looks towards the scrim and a strange silhouette appears. Suede’s look sums up the general thoughts of the designers. But then a jolly laugh rings out, which can only mean one thing - it’s my favorite from last season, Chris March - in full Wagnerian regalia, with disco-ball boobs and a four-foot tall horned helmet that must weigh fifty pounds! His outfit makes me think of one of my most favorite Bugs Bunny cartoons ever (What's Opera, Doc?). Actually, Bugs was quite the drag queen at times. You just know that if they’d had disco balls in 1957 that he’d totally be wearing them as boobs too, bouncing rays of cartoon sunlight off off of them into Elmer Fudd’s eyes and getting away yet again.
Frau Chris gives out this week’s highly amusing challenge of designing a look for a drag queen, and has brought along some of his fabulous friends to be the models. YES! This is awesome. This is the designers’ chance to go as over-the-top and flamboyant as they want (and some of them are trying to go that way every week, so I hope we’ll see a lot of flash on the runway).
Now I don’t know a lot about the whole drag scene. I’ve seen a few movies, and I could be wrong, but it seems to me that there are basically two types: the costumey queens, like Hugo Weaving in Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, and the elegant queens, like Patrick Swayze in To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar.
We’ve got both types here, so this should be an interesting bunch of garments. The designers pick their queens, Heidi and Chris go out for biere, speitzel und braunschweiger, and it’s time to get this drag show on the road!
Back in the workroom, Tim tells the designers that they have to keep their ladies’ particular persona in mind while designing, and encourages them – nay, demands them – to have fun with it! (Because some of y’all are uptight - I’m looking at you, Daniel!) This is the one time they can break Tim’s rule of “make sure she can get into a taxi wearing the design” and not get the extremely concerened frown. He also reveals that all of the garments will be auctioned off to benefit Broadway Cares/Equity Fights Aids, a very worthy cause. He then sends in the queens!
My God, these are some tall ladies! The top of Kenley’s head barely comes up to the shoulder blade of her client, a Hollywood glamourpus called Farrah Moans. Daniel looks like a munchkin next to Annida Greenkard, his flamenco-themed client. (Oh, and the puns are flying thick in the room – we’ve also got Hedda Lettuce, Miss Understood, and Sharon Needles, to name a few.) It’s a good thing they have a bigger budget this week, because people this tall need a lot of fabric!
Joe - who is, of course, straight - is having a hard time getting his head around the drag queen concept, and decides to approach the whole thing like he’s making a Halloween costume for one of his little girls – and he’s probably grasped the idea better than he thinks! He suggests a tight-fitting catsuit for his Southern-belle-on-steroids client, Varla Jean Merman. Leanne, who has the aforementioned Ms. Needles, is going for a futuristic Jetsons look.
As the queens leave, one of them asks Tim to call her. Tim laughs politely, because THAT’S not happening, and then takes the designers off to MOOD. Once the store has been drained of sequins, satin and feathers, it’s back to Parsons.
Because these are men dressed up as women, the designers have to use male dressforms and put chests and butts on them.
Joe gets in touch with his feminine side at long last, dancing around in the bra and fake boobs left for him by Varla. Not all the designers have the same advantage – Daniel even tries to get Kenley’s bra but she’s not having any of that.
A few of the designers are lost – Korto sits and stares at blank sheets of paper for a while, hoping a design will just magically appear on it – while others, like Terri, have designed drag outfits before and know exactly what to do. There’s a lot of interesting fabric – Daniel has some kind of tye-dye stuff that looks like mangos in a blender, Jerell has some olive green and aqua sparkly material, and Joe’s table looks like a cotton candy maker threw up all over it.
Blayne parades around the tables with pink netting tied over his head, giving out drag queen names such as "Lethalicious," while Stella and Leanne show us how they feel about his overuse of that particular suffix. I'm betting most of the designers wish they could tie that netting a little bit tighter. Or maybe a lot.
The next day, Suede recounts a bizarre "visit" from his dead grandfather who stops by and mistakes Suede's green fabric for a garden plot and starts growing salad fixins on it. So Suede decides to make tiny little fabric lettuces and sew them all over the dress. He's sure Hedda is going to love it, but I am not so sure. (I would like some salad, though.) Keith has decided to make a black and white dress that looks like it got caught in a wood chipper. The other designers titter about this behind his back. His client specifically said "sex kitten" not "shredded by a kitten". I think Keith needs to have his ears cleaned out.
There are nine hours remaining in the day, and the queens return for a fitting. They come in sans makeup and are pretty ordinary-looking guys. At this point, I have to stop the DVR and have the following conversation.
My Daughter (who is nine): Um, Mom? I thought the models were coming in. Who are those guys?
Me: Those are the drag queens.
My Daughter: But...they're guys.
Me: Yes, but they're entertainers. They put on costumes and sing and dance and do shows and people come to see them.
My Daughter: (ponders this) Oh. You mean like at Chuck E. Cheese.
I'm so glad my kids have outgrown that place. I could just see my daughter yelling "Hey look Mom! It's a drag queen!" when Chuck E. comes out to stroll around the restaurant. (And... come to think of it, wasn't one of Chuck's animatronic friends a drag queen?)
Speaking of restaurants, let's check out Suede's salad bar dress. Hedda, as I suspected, is not loving the outfit. She looks like a stuffed dinosaur. She also isn't digging the elbow-length gloves with the tiny lettuces, and accuses Suede of making gloves because he was too lazy to make sleeves. But fear not, Suede is not going to let himself or his design be roughed up by roughage!
Chris admires Korto's sculptured flame neckline and gives her some advice on her skirt. Next up, Blayne. It's neon and sparkly and has these big fringy triangles coming out of the back. Tim cracks up everyone in the room when he describes it as "a pterydactyl out of a gay Jurassic Park" which is one of the best things I've ever heard Tim say. (Blayne thinks so too!) And I love hearing Chris's laugh in the workroom again. It's much nicer than Kenley's little giggle-burp thing.
Joe, despite his obvious discomfort with this entire challenge, has apparently nailed it - Chris knows exactly which drag queen the garment is for, without being told. He assures Joe that it's perfect for Varla. He also validates Suede's garment and says the gloves are "funny" - which is good because Hedda is a comedienne, after all. Chris isn't too hip on Keith's shredded mess, and while he says he likes the skirt on Daniel's flouncy fruit-colored frock, you can tell he's kinda worried about the rest of it. All too soon, it's time to bid Chris a fond farewell, and get back to sewing.
The next morning, Jerell quips "I can't wait to see Keith's Wookiee onesie come down the runway!" and Blayne responds with a dead-on Chewbacca imitation. But there's no time to lay in bed and quote Star Wars - there's a lot of work to be done!
There's a flurry of activity in the workroom as Tim sends in the drag queens. Usually the models are sent into hair and makeup, but most of the queens already did their own, since it involves giant wigs and very theatrical makeup in most cases.
But since L'Oreal and TreSemme are sponsors of the show, they HAVE to have their screen time, and they put some finishing touches on the drag queens.
The drama of the morning - Suede's confrontation with Hedda over his design - turns out to be very anti-dramatic after all, as Suede very professionally explains his case and Hedda seems quite surprised at the fact that he took offense at her 'lazy' remark (or she could be acting, I don't know). In the end they cheek-kiss and make up, Suede gets his way, and Hedda wears the lettuce gloves.
Out on the runway, Heidi introduces this week's guest judge, RuPaul - an extremely tall drag queen who used to have a TV talk show and I think recorded an album, even. I'm kind of surprised by how... bland she looks. You'd think for a show like this one, she'd be more made up and glamourous-looking, instead of looking like she just rolled out of bed after a long night of partying. Maybe she didn't want to take the focus away from the queens, or something, but dang girl! You look kinda scary. And I'm wondering, is Wishbone a silent sponsor of this episode? First we have lettuce and now, RuPaul is wearing a necklace made out of grape tomatoes. Anyway, enough about RuPaul, send in the queens!
The safe designers
Kenley (Farrah Moans) - This is very Marilyn Monroe, which is exactly the look her queen was going for. It's pretty, and well-made.
Blayne (Miss Understood) - Boy, did he pick the right client! If you compare it to his other garments, it really screams Blayne. I think he's got a bright future as a drag queen costumer.
Stella (Luisa Verde) - One thing Stella has been good at is managing to get her style into every garment she's made so far, while still basically keeping with the theme. Stella managed to do glamour AND grommets in the same outfit. It's nice to see her using a color other than black, but I'm not sure if she thought Luisa was Scottish, or what. All in all, this would be an excellent choice when one is deciding what to wear to the annual Edinburgh Biker Ball.
Suede (Hedda Lettuce) - It's really... green! I thought it turned out pretty good, and the lettuces don't really stand out all that much - a very subtle touch. What does stand out is her chocolate-colored hosiery and clear shoes, which makes it look as if she's barefoot. Out on the runway she minced and twirled and sashayed like she was trying out for the Ziegfield Follies.
Leanne (Sharon Needles) - I am so distracted by the way the gal is standing in this picture! Whose idea was THAT? As far as the design, Leanne was going for futuristic and she got it - but I'm concerned that her chest appears to be halfway between her shoulders and her waist. A drag queen, unlike an actual woman, can put her 'girls' anywhere she wants them, so why make them saggy-looking? (And if that's the way they're going to tweeze eyebrows in the future then I'm really scared.)
Who's left on the runway
Joe (Varla Jean Merman) - "Ann-Margaret on the Love Boat" indeed! For being way out of his comfort zone, Joe really knocked this one out. Yes, originally the collar had been up and it looked like Elvis, but Joe was smart enough to take Varla's advice to leave it down and go for a sailor look. It's over-the-top enough for a drag outfit, but not so much that the performer is lost. The judges are really impressed that he managed to show off the good parts and hide "the candy," as RuPaul so eloquently puts it.
Daniel (Annida Greenkard) - Yeah, it's kinda ho-hum as far as a drag queen dress, but in fairness to Daniel, it's what the client wanted. She said, during the consultaion, that she was not into sparkles and sequins, so he didn't go that route. The judges were all over him for it, though. Daniel is all about the elegance, and he didn't want to make her look like she's on the Vegas Strip, because he hates that. But I do think that he could have found some other way to give it some oomph! besides glitter, and while the basic design is nice, there's no pizazz to it. I think poor Daniel is about thirty seconds away from having an anxiety attack right there on the runway.
Terri (Acid Betty) - Whoa. This is waaaaay out there, but it fits Betty's persona perfectly. At first I wasn't quite getting where she pulled the blue from, but the more I look at it, the more I like how it balances out all the warm colors. I could have done without the yellow ribbons at the bottom, though. The judges love it, saying it's a cross between kabuki, KISS, and Diana Ross in Mahogany. Oh, and MK wants the boots.
Jerell (LeMay) - Hey, it's Liza Minelli, all suited up and getting ready to play football! I don't hate this design but I don't particularly like the colors he used. I guess I am just not a big fan of olive green (unless it is on an actual olive) and I'm confused as to why he decided to pair it with aqua and midnight blue. The big collar that pops up is a nice dramatic touch, even though it reminds me of this. The judges are concerned that the dress is too long, makes her look very long-waisted, and is too normal. MK quips that one of his aunts would have worn it to a bat mitzvah (and actually, that explains a LOT).
Korto - First thing I thought when I saw this was "Ronald McDonald's got a really stylish mom!" I like the flame detailing but I'm not too crazy about the long sleeve/no sleeve combination on, well, anything. Either put sleeves on it or don't. On the runway Sweetie took the skirt off and it turned into a mini-dress, which RuPaul really liked. Nina felt that Korto really had fun with the challenge. MK says the dress makes her look like Heidi Klum, and I'm wondering how much MK has had to drink before the show, 'cause Sweetie's got a nice shape in this dress but it's NOT Heidi Klum's.
Keith - I really hate this. Instead of 'sex kitten' it looks more like a working girl who has a rough corner. The judges pretty much hate it too. MK refers to it as a "sad chicken" and Nina simply calls it "messy." The entire time the judges are talking, Keith has this look on his face like, "How are they not getting this??" You know who would like this, though? Dee Snider.
Surprisingly, the winner is the one person whom nobody would have expected, because he was as uncomfortable as hell during most of the process - Joe! But he really had the right approach to the challenge in treating it like a costume, which is exactly what it is. And boy, is Terri pissed that she didn't win.
As for the loser, I think they took pity on poor close-to-a-breakdown Daniel and sent him off to calm down before they had to commit him to a psych ward. I think Daniel is a talented designer, but this show was just not for him. So adieu, classy Daniel; you can now ride off into the sunset with Wesley and live happily ever after.