“RuPaul’s Drag Race” returned to the States Friday night with the first of two premiere episodes of America’s season 14, introducing seven of the 14 queens that will compete for the most sought after crown in television herstory. Alyssa Hunter, Bosco, June Jambalaya, Kerri Colby, Kornbread “The Snack” Jeté, Orion Story, and Willow Pill were the first to enter the Werk Room and to meet series judges RuPaul Charles, Michelle Visage, and Ross Mathews, as well as the night’s guest judge, Lizzo.
To test their charisma, nerve and talent, Ru asked the queens to showcase their own uniqueness in a talent show. Read below for our recap of episode 1 to find out which queen in “Big Opening #1”:
The night began with the parade of queens as they entered the Werk Room for the first time. Once a season staple on the show, Puerto Rico was finally represented again after a six season absence with the entrance of Alyssa Hunter, a pageant queen claiming to have won the four most important contests on the island. She was followed by the self-described “skanky alternative girl from Seattle” Bosco and all three of the season’s queens hailing from Los Angeles: Kornbread, Kerri Colby, and June Jambalaya. Kornbread is a southern girl originally from South Carolina, Kerri is proudly representing as a “bodacious” transfemale and June who likens herself to the baby of Megan Thee Stallion and Phaedra Parks. They were joined by Willow Pill sporting platform flip flops and an angelic tee that said “angle” and Orion Story, the first queen in the series to come from Michigan.
When Ru sounded the alarm early it became clear to the queens that it’d be a split premiere, but what they didn’t expect is for him to announce that after this episode’s challenges one of them would be asked to “sashay away.” Kicking off their introductions, Ru wanted them to pop over to the studio for a quick and “freaky” photoshoot mini challenge. Capturing the queens while they spun around on the grand final lipsync wheel was celebrity photographer Albert Sanchez. While none of the queens were thrown off the wheel, they were thrown off by the dizzying wheel. Impressing Ru the most with enough steady to keep her face ready was Kerri, who won a cash prize of $2500.
For their maxi challenge, Ru introduced the CNTs, the Charisma, Nerve & Talent Show, and asked that they use the show as a chance to show the world and the judges what it is that they do best. Before solidifying their plans for the talent show, the queens met with Ru one on one for a bit of a meet and to discuss what talent they might show on stage. Ru was introduced to the concept “competitive jump roping” by Kerri and the term “clatchet” (classy and ratchet) by June, neither of which he had never heard of. Orion explained that she grew up with a lot of loneliness that pushed her into introspective drag while Willow’s sense of humor came from her own places of “darkness.”
As the queens got ready for the show the next morning, Alyssa surprised the group with the revelation that she’d be playing the guitar and Bosco explained that the goal with her burlesque routine is to combine “sexy” and “stupid” in one act. The LA queens, specifically Kornbread and Kerri, also told stories about when they first met and how they immediately recognized the spirit of one another as their own. And prior to stepping on to the stage, Lizzo surprised them with a visit to congratulate them on the journey they were about to begin and give them a boost of confidence and energy for their performances.
After Ru’s own talented performance of her song “Catwalk,” the queens themselves took the stage to follow what couldn’t possibly be followed. June was up first with an African dance routine that, while exciting to watch, was dampened by a headband that kept dropping to her eyes. Bosco’s burlesque sequence saw her stripping away the petals of a flower-shaped gown until she was completely naked. Alyssa’s guitar and lipsync showed a different and edgier side of herself, but as it turns out she wasn’t actually playing the fake guitar. Kerri gave us a slow rollout of her talent, from generic dancing to Nicki Minaj to an impressively quick and tricky jumping rope sequence. Orion’s comedy skit was delivered in the character of a “trailer park aerobics instructor” whose punchlines didn’t quite hit hard enough. Kornbread presented a lipsync to her own original song that showed off her incredible personality and Willow brought us a comedy skit lipsync to Enya’s “Only Time” that was supposed to be a lesson in self-care, but was really just a lesson in how to make Ru howl with laughter.
After their performances, the queens walked the catwalk for the first time in a “Signature Showstopping Drag” runway. June wore a shimmering golden and nude jumpsuit with two cape-sleeves, Bosco returned in another all black and horned design, Alyssa delivered Southern glamor in an ostrich feather gown, Kerri began in a fur coat and revealed a sexy hot pink harness bikini, Orion had a red and white jumpsuit and capelette that revealed a three-boob breast plate, Kornbread went full Lizzo in a skimpy silver body suit, and Willow took it mod in a bright green and blue outfit that she called “glamour with a touch of ugly.”
Because there were only seven queens to critique, the judges gave notes to each of them. Ross and Michelle found June’s talent meaningful, but took issue with the lack of attention to detail in both of her outfits. Ross found Bosco’s talent “whimsical” and Lizzo saw a spark of comedic genius in her. Michelle called Alyssa’s talent “one note and flat,” but overall they thought she showed too many sides of herself when she should have showed her true self. Though they liked both of Kerri’s presentations they thought she could have pushed it a little further. Michelle thought Orion needs to “workshop” her comedy more and Ross pointed out that the jokes didn’t land. Michelle clocked every missed detail of Kornbread’s outfit, but Lizzo and Ru defended everything about her and called her a “superstar.” Lizzo and Michelle didn’t like the colors of Willow’s runway look, but they acknowledged that her talent performance was so fun and Ross said it hooked them in. Ru noted that Willow showed the absurdity in things that so many people take seriously and was very passionate about telling her how proud she should be.
After deliberating with the other judges, Ru proclaimed Bosco and Willow safe for the week and gave Kornbread the “condragulations” as this week’s “winner, winner chicken necklace” for a cash prize of $5,000. From the remaining four, Kerri was called safe and Alyssa given the barely safe spot of a bottom three placement, leaving June and Orion as the bottom two.
To save themselves, the bottom two lipsynced to Lizzo‘s “Water Me.” June’s caped sleeves provided an added boost to her armography, easily drawing attention away from Orion’s wig removals and comparatively lifeless rendition of the self-empowerment song. The decision was a “shantay” to stay for June and a “sashay away” for Orion, whose “story is only beginning” per Ru.
NEXT WEEK: The second seven set of queens make their own entrance and are greeted by guest judge Alicia Keys for their CNT performances.
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