Season 12 of “RuPaul’s Drag Race” came to a close on Friday, May 5th after a rollercoaster of a season that culminated in only three finalists competed in pre-recorded lip sync performances virtually from home. Finalists Crystal Methyd, Gigi Goode and Jaida Essence Hall were three of four queens that lasted until the end of a season taped prior to the COVID-19 pandemic stay-at-home orders. The fourth queen, Sherry Pie, was notoriously disqualified from taking her earned spot in the grand finale after admitting to catfishing allegations prior to the airing of the season.
Wondering what went down in the most unique grand finale the Emmy-winning series has ever produced? Read our play-by-play recap of the finale below to find out who RuPaul Charles selected as “America’s next drag superstar.”
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8:00 p.m. – OMG! Jumping right in we got presentations from each queen from their homes! They all put on finale-worthy gowns and recorded themselves in at-home glamour realness, sunni. Aiden Zhane and Brita went super glam while Jan and Widow Von’Du both took it dark with ghoulish looks. Crystal’s first look was as a piñata! Gigi looked typically gorgeous in a bright blue gown. Jaida got super creative with a huge headpiece that was the solar system over a black galactic dress. And then our host Ru donned a face mask again just like he did last week during the reunion.
8:04 p.m. – Ru gave us the rundown of the night’s events. First up they’d each serve an up close lip sync to serve “face, face, face” and then unveil a pre-recorded full performance that they made from home. Based on those two things, the judges (Ru is joined by Ross Mathews, Carson Kressley and Michelle Visage from home) would select a top two for a final side-by-side virtual lip sync to determine the winner.
8:06 p.m. – Yes! Ru got celebrities to cameo from home and give testimonial about how much the show has helped them through quarantine! We saw Rachel Bloom, Robyn, Kim Petras, Thandie Newton and even Adam Lambert!
8:12 p.m. – Prior to tonight Ru “sat down” with each of the finalists to recap their journey through the season. First up was her chat with Crystal. For the chat Crystal was painted pink as an odd mouse (or is that a kitten?) and Ru green-screened his face into a purple eyeball! Crystal was able to discuss how the criticisms from the judges allowed her to grow throughout the competition and that’s why there was an upward trajectory to the top. Ru also asked what Crystal’s strategy was for her finale performances–he promised to be weird and funny and “serve the emotions of the songs.”
8:19 p.m. – It was great to see the show devote some time to the entire cast showing some love and support for the heroes on the front lines and all at-risk essential workers through the pandemic with a montage of kind messages for them.
8:24 p.m. – When Ru spoke with Gigi it was made very clear that Gigi is still very much the proud and confident girl that she was during the season. I think a certain subset of the audience does think Gigi is a cocky queen, but Gigi says that she is humble while also being proud of the work she put in to her drag. I must say I’m let down by her look in this segment, mostly because I can’t tell what it is– a red dress, baby blue bows and big Target (literally the logo for the store) earrings? Okay gurl. She said her struggle for the finale is finding enough space in her small apartment to create the “fantasy” she envisioned.
8:30 p.m. – Meanwhile Jaida looked very Diana Ross in her conversation with Ru–all animal print and HUGE hair. I live. Jaida was able to open up about what it’s meant to her being on the show because of her past. She shared a touching moment of when her brother and dad started crying during a live watch of an episode where she won a challenge. I love seeing drag change the way people see the community and learning to love and support the queer people in their lives! Jaida also said that she had to make her small apartment work and joked that we might see her dancing across a couch!
8:42 p.m. – Prior to the finale performances, we got a special performance from Heidi N Closet, a “Guide to Social Distancing.” She’s become, without a doubt, the sweetheart of the season and by far the most lovable queen the series has had in many seasons. In the “Guide” we saw her try the impersonations and character-building that actually got her eliminated from the show LOL. She’s come such a long way in terms of personality and confidence and it’s made her drag so much more engaging.
8:44 p.m. – The first round of the final performances was the “Close Up Lip Sync” where they were each asked to prepare a face-only performance of Ru’s new single “Bring Back My Girls.” For the performance we got a three way split screen that sporadically divided into solo close ups. I’m glad to see that each of them practiced the lyrics and were on point in that regard, but I’d say Gigi won this round easily with the most animated performance, but Crystal was a close second (her pink makeup didn’t help) and Jaida was mostly one-note.
8:47 p.m. – We took a break from the festivities to hear from different queens throughout the years to share their memories of a producer Jacqueline Wilson who passed away shortly after the season finished wrapping. There were really great statements about what a strong woman she was for each of them, helping them in their hardest times during filming but also inspiring them with her fierce attitude and fashions. Rest in power, queen!
8:56 p.m. – In keeping with the political themes of the season, the cast assembled to encourage everyone in the audience to register to vote and get out there in November to make their voice heard! Don’t worry, Jackie Cox made sure to remind us that she can’t vote because she’s Canadian.
8:57 p.m. – For the second round of the Lip Sync for the Crown, each queen shared their pre-recorded number. First up was Crystal with “I’m Like a Bird” by Nelly Furtado. Naturally she was costumed as an actual bird — a sort of puppet sequence — but she was smart enough to edit it into two different bird characters that were seemingly having a conversation with each other. She included some great moments like throwing up into her own mouth (as birds do), but I can’t help feeling like her strategy amounted to a second face-only performance. Overall, on brand and wonderful!
9:03 p.m. – Next up was Gigi with her performance of “Take On Me” by A-ha. Her set up was a hand-drawn white and black stage that complemented her white and black get-up. She served a much more traditional performance that you might see in a bar so she didn’t quite make the most of the opportunity to be creative like Crystal did. That being said, she’s a great performer and looked gorgeous.
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9:05 p.m. – Jaida finished the round off with her version of “Get Up” by Ciara. And, yes, her couch was used! She didn’t create an elaborate stage like the others, instead focusing on providing us with some fantastic choreo in the spirit of Ciara. She was filmed really well which made it more exciting than just a cam in a living room. Three very different approaches!
9:07 p.m. – Carson was a huge fan of Crystal’s lip sync from home because of its creativity. The other judges were less enthusiastic, but loved that she put so much of herself into her performances. They all seemed to agree that Gigi was strong in the close up and Michelle thought Gigi was “amazing” in the lip sync from home. As for Jaida, the judges liked that she used her full room and that she performed the hell out of the song, but they didn’t have much to say about her close up.
9:14 p.m. – After a commercial, Ru announced that the top two is… a top three! She wants to see all of them perform in the final! Ugh, I’m getting flashbacks to the All Stars 4 tie.
9:15 p.m. – Prior to seeing that performance, Nina West joined the broadcast with Dolly Parton to announce this season’s Miss Congeniality prize. She actually surprised the reunion moment, but we didn’t see the announcement today that based on their own votes Heidi is Miss Congeniality! We knew it would happen! But that wasn’t all — Nina also announced that sponsor Pantene was giving them each a $2000 tip!
9:18 p.m. – Next we saw Yvie Oddly from home to prepare to pass the crown to this year’s champion. For this performance, Ru disclosed that each of them was sent identical props to assemble the same exact stage in their homes to even the playing field. They’d be filmed by someone close to them at home from the same camera phone so that none of them would have an edge up in that regard either.
9:25 p.m. – The final performance was to Destiny’s Child‘s “Survivor.” Crystal was in a glorious clown outfit, Jaida was in an orange cape (reveal incoming!) and Gigi looked like a gray Dorothy. Each of them worked their outfits to create a mood. After two great performances earlier, Gigi was mostly muted in this round while Jaida was dancing her butt off and (yep, reveal!). But toward the end, Gigi even had a reveal to twist her gray dress into Dorothy’s iconic blue and then revealed her ruby slippers. Crystal remained one note throughout, but offered up her quirky personality as best she could.
9:28 p.m. – Ultimately, the decision was Ru’s and Ru’s alone. The winner of season 12 is Jaida Essence Hall! Her speech was “If you can’t love yourself then how the hell are you gonna look over there!” Iconic.
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NEXT WEEK: It’s the All Stars 5 premiere with guest judge Ricky Martin and the promise of “all stars rules are suspended” so that each challenge winner will lip sync against an assassin from season’s past. Can’t wait!