‘RuPaul’s Drag Race UK’ 2 premiere recap: Which queen comes up short in the second season first impressions?

The premiere of “RuPaul’s Drag Race UK” season 2 expanded the RuPaul Cinematic Universe with the addition of 12 new queens into the family. The girls competing for the chance to inherit season 1 winner The Vivienne‘s crown are the first Scottish girls to appear on the series Ellie Diamond and Lawrence Chaney, Welsh queen Tayce, and the nine stars all hailing from different parts of England: A’Whora, Asttina MandellaBimini Bon BoulashCherry ValentineGinny LemonJoe BlackSister SisterTia Kofi, and Veronica Green.

RuPaul Charles is back again to host the series alongside her longtime friend and collaborator Michelle Visage. They’re joined on the panel by U.K. entertainment legends Alan Carr and Graham Norton, as well as a collection of guest judges throughout the season. Read below for our recap of the season 2 premiere

We began with the always memorable introductory parade as the queens entered the werkroom for first impressions of each other. In the group were new characters of the usual suspects. There’s the self-described “I’m not a look queen, I’m an entertainer” girls (Tia and Asttina), the quirky one (Sister) and the proudly villainous (Tayce). We also have the queen declaring upfront that she’s not at all comedic (Cherry) and some others that made their mark by cracking shady jokes and taking early jabs (Lawrence and Ginny). Then there were the ones so into their own sex appeal and Instagram readiness they could barely function (Bimini, A’Whora and Ellie). And while one entered with a big reputation of her own as a cabaret legend (Joe), another entered with no reputation whatsoever but is a big fan of all the others (Veronica).

It wasn’t long before Ru arrived to welcome the girls to the show and present them with their first challenge, a tennis-themed photo shoot “Wimbled’Hun” with celebrity photographer Kevin McDaid. To set the queens off their game, Ru had the Brit Crew boys toss balls at them while they attempted their best poses. As is typically the case with challenges, the goal wasn’t necessarily to be the next top model, but instead to make Ru howl with laughter. The queen that managed to do both best and win the first mini challenge was Lawrence.

In honor of the 50th anniversary of the Gay Liberation Front in the U.K., Ru asked that for the first maxi challenge the queens pay tribute on the runway to a gay British icon of their choice. And as a bonus, they’d have to serve a second look that shows off the pride they have for their own hometown. While the queens prepared for the challenge, they also took time to get to know each other as they settled into their spaces in the werkroom. Lawrence admitted to others that he still suffers from the anxiety and vulnerability of being out of drag while Joe told A’Whora about seeing the first season and knowing that the show was something she needed to do in order to push her art forward.

On elimination day, Tayce and Asttina learned that they were both planning to present a Naomi Campbell look on the runway. In talking about it they realized that they both grew up with a severe lack of Black icons to look up to and that for them Naomi was one of the few. They agreed they’d both move forward with their plans, as well as vowing to become icons of their own.

For the first runway presentation, Ru was joined by Michelle and Graham as well as special guest judge Elizabeth Hurley. They looked on as Tayce and Asttina walked as Naomi, Joe came down as David Bowie, Ginny as Kate Bush, Tia as Alan Turing, Bimini as Princess Julia, Lawrence as Diana Rigg, Cherry as Freddie Mercury, Veronica as Boy George, A’Whora as Vivienne Westwood, Sister as Dusty Springfield, and Ellie as Lily Savage. In the second walk, Joe walked in a regal golden gown, Asttina served as a rude East London girl, Ginny came out in a mustard suit as a drag king, Tia took on a Robin Hood inspired look, Bimini went sporty in a footballers bodysuit, Lawrence was inspired by stained glass art, Cherry was in an ashy black outfit, Veronica was in a red gown, A’Whora also walked as a Robin Hood interpretation, Sister arrived in pink satin pajamas, Ellie wore red and black faux-latex (“cheap plastic”), and Tayce closed the evening in an ostrich feather dragon dress.

Based on their presentations, Ru declared Ginny, Tia, Cherry, Veronica, A’Whora, and Tayce safe for the night. That left the other queens on stage to receive critiques from the judges as the tops and bottoms of the week. Michelle placed Joe as one of the bottoms for her vague references in both the Bowie and hometown looks and Elizabeth clocked her misinterpretation of what the royalty in her hometown were actually known for. Bimini was dinged by Michelle for not paying attention to the details and Graham thought she lacked personality on the runway. Sister was the third bottom queen, disappointing the judges by not taking either of her looks far enough given the over-the-top subjects of both. On top were Asttina, Lawrence and Ellie. Asttina earned high marks from Graham and Elizabeth for remaining committed to her looks while also showing variety. Elizabeth thought Lawrence also showed variety and Michelle called her “one to watch” in the competition for her polish. Ru told Ellie her face was gorgeously painted and Graham loved her vampy interpretation of Dennis the Menace.

Backstage the safe queens discussed the tops and bottoms as if they weren’t in the room (they weren’t). A’Whora was not impressed by Asttina (“she came out in an ASOS jacket”), but Ginny countered her by suggesting that they’re all just threatened by how talented Asttina is. It wasn’t long before the other queens joined them and learned that Asttina was actually loved by the judges. As pressed as that made A’Whora and Tia, Joe was more pressed that she had fallen into the bottom and feared having to lip sync in a big gown.

After deliberating with the other judges, Ru made her decision: the winner of the first week was Asttina. On the flip side, the two that were singled out to lip sync for their lives were Joe and Bimini. They went head-to-head in a performance of Frankie Goes to Hollywood‘s “Relax.” It’s a high energy, theatrical track that allowed both queens to really put their best foot forward with dramatic armography. Eventually their interpretations took two very different directions with Bimini getting sexually suggestive with acrobatics and Joe doing a miming sequence that seemed to confuse Ru and Elizabeth. Ultimately, Ru deemed Bimini worthy of a shantay while Joe was asked to sashay away.

NEXT WEEK: The queens are asked to sing live in “Rats: The Rusical.”

You can catch RPDR UK each Thursday at 11am PT / 2pm ET on WOW Presents Plus in the US and select territories worldwide, day-and-date with its airing on BBCiPlayer in the UK. This season is paired with the 13th season of the US version which unveils a new episode each Friday night at 8 pm ET on VH1.

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