This post contains spoilers for the premiere episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race.
Viral TikToks, silly twins and an Ariana Grande-judged talent show packed the two-hour premiere of RuPaul’s Drag Race’s fifteenth season on MTV Friday. With a $200,000 prize and a coveted crown in play, RuPaul introduced the franchise’s largest crop of drag queens in a personality-filled first episode that ended with the wrong queen getting the chop.
Throughout the episode, Grande radiated as the episode’s star guest: “Ru, my pussy is on fire,” she joked in the Werk Room. And from behind the judge’s table, she gave punny one-liners and noteworthy critiques to some of the performers. “She’s ‘tulle for the summer!’” Grande exclaimed at one point, referencing the song by her pal Demi Lovato.
Amid the chaos of first-week Werk Room banter, Grande surprised the queens by entering the space disguised as Vivacious, who competed in an earlier season, sporting a mannequin head named Ornatia over her covered face. “Mother has arrived!” Grande exclaimed, before pep-talking the queens, who were gagged to see her. “Drag is the most infectious and joyous art form that there is,” she said. (Vivacious herself also made an appearance later in the episode.)
Grande’s hotly-anticipated Drag Race return came eight years after she guest-judged in Season Seven, when she told the queens she was “so drained” after recording the music video for “Bang Bang” with Nicki Minaj and Jessie J the night prior. This time, she said she was just here to have fun. (And she really did, wearing a shiny, cone-shaped bustier as she sat on the judge’s panel.)
“It was such an overwhelming time,” she said of her previous visit to the show. “I wasn’t fully present for it. Remember to take care of yourself and be present for yourself because all of your lives are changing.” Preach, Ari.
The season’s first episode made room for each queen to showcase their personality, as the 16 queens were divided into separate groups and competed in a mini-challenge photoshoot — a carwash and motorcycle theme — that paid homage to Drag Race’s first two trailblazing seasons.
After choreographing a massive dance number, and showcasing their individual talent (surprise, surprise: most of them lip-synced), the queens walked the runway in their best drag for “Who Is She?”-themed looks.
Throughout the episode, these are the queens who stood out most:
Sasha Colby called herself “your drag queen’s favorite drag queen” in a previous interview, and proved exactly why. The only trans competitor this season, Colby shined with performance art that reminded the other queens what true experience looks like. For the runway, she pulled out the gown she wore when she won the Miss Continental drag pageant 10 years prior. Watch out for this seasoned legend.
• Identical twins Sugar and Spice entered the Werk Room together, but are set to compete as individuals, making history as the first siblings on the show. After building a 7-million-follower TikTok account, the doll-inspired queens are some of the most inexperienced contestants, but their personalities made them quite lovable (and laughable) in the premiere. “The dolls are malfunctioning!” said one queen. “A hoot,” another used to describe them. Get ready for producers to milk the sister storyline.
• Construction worker-by-day Loosey LaDuca was the only queen to sing live for her talent show performance. Though it came off pitchy and unimpressive, the judges praised her runway look: a gown inspired by Britney Spears’ flight attendant outfit in the video for “Toxic.” LaDuca was giving Miss Congeniality from the second she walked in.
• After flying under the radar early in the episode, Las Vegas queen Anetra won the talent show competition with a jaw-dropping lip sync of an original song that incorporated Taekwondo (with a wood-breaking finale) — and ballroom — as she graced the runway with a smooth duckwalk that wowed the judges.
Among the other queens who made it to the next episode are the Selena Quintanilla-referencing Salina Estitties, City Girls’ hairstylist Malaysia Babydoll Foxx, this season’s trade (most handsome out of drag) Aura Mayari, and Jax, the “Simone Biles of drag,” who nearly won the maxi challenge by jump-roping with her braids.
There was also a crop of queens — aside from the twin pair — who got their start online. Luxx Noir London is the youngest of the group at 22, and Princess Poppy went viral for her “homo… phobic” dress in her native San Francisco. (Their lack of experience is sure to be clocked by some of the older queens.)
Then there were the queens at the bottom, including the two that lip-synced for their lives:
• Brady Bunch-referencing Marcia Marcia Marcia is the BFA weaponizer of the season. (There tends to be one queen with a BFA.) Thanks to silly choreography playing a braces-wearing teen that idolized judge Ross Mathews, she landed at the top of the episode. But Marcia’s drag left more to desire: no padding, basic makeup and simple hair that made her seem like just a cutesy twink who put on a wig.
• Irene Dubois, known for her alien-inspired drag, was one of the shadiest queens during this episode, reading her competitors as soon as they entered the Werk Room. Dubois flopped her comedy talent portion, poking fun at influencers by teaching the judges how to make ice water. (The idea behind the sketch was good, but the execution was horrible.)
• Amethyst entered the Werk Room with a lazy, cheap look she bought online. Amethyst called herself a “comedy queen” but didn’t draw a single laugh from the judges with a lip-sync performance where she disobeyed one of Ru’s Ten Commandments: Don’t wear sneakers on the fucking runway.
After a forgettable lip sync between Dubois and Amethyst to the tune of “7 Rings” in front of Grande, Dubois was unfairly sent home (she literally won the photoshoot mini-challenge!).
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Amethyst barely survived but will have to prove that she can do much more than an off-the-rack, first-time-at-a-rave outfit, and will hopefully draw a laugh from Michelle Visage and co. in the next episode.
With its stellar premiere, Season Fifteen of Drag Race is poised to be one of the Emmy-winning competition’s best yet. It successfully incorporated references to the show’s iconic past, but mixed in fresh elements and twists that will surely keep people coming back for more.