For most “Drag Race” fans, the first iteration of “All Stars” is a season mostly forgotten. The six episodes felt rushed, thanks to the show’s device of pairing the competing All-Stars together, and though Chad Michaels was the eventual winner, and her crowning well deserved, it was a lackluster season overall. “All Stars 2” proved, as it needed to, that RuPaul took note.
Hopes were high for “All Stars 2,” as the cast was a collection of past villains, underdogs, queens looking for redemption and fan-favorites: Twists, tears, early exits, meltdowns and confrontations all led to a nearly perfect season, and one that sets the bar for every show in the franchise moving forward.
“Drag Race’s” popularity grows every season, but really picked up after the first “All Stars.” That year earned RuPaul her first Emmy win last month for Outstanding Host for a Reality-Competition Program, and so coming off Season 8, it wasn’t lost on anyone that “All Stars 2” needed to capitalize on that, transform itself.
The second installment of “All Stars” represented an open bid to change the narrative for a lot of queens. For some, it was an opportunity to no longer be the villain; for others, a chance to show how far they’ve come. It was also a chance to play judge, as the queens spent most of the competition deliberating eliminations.
Putting the contestants in control of the competition was a great way to acknowledge their development — and throw a lot of chaos into the mix.
It started with Adore Delano’s early exit, due to harsh criticism from the judges, which got so intense that Adore and judge Michelle Visage had an on-camera confrontation about her comments. For Adore, it was a moment of realization: Returning wasn’t the right move, for either her style of drag or her mental health.
And while some couldn’t handle returning to the show, others went about it the wrong way: For Phi Phi O’Hara, it was a chance at redemption gone wrong. A villain in Season 4, Phi Phi came into “All Stars 2” hoping for a different storyline… And then gave editors little, if anything, to work with.
Stirring most of the drama this season, Phi Phi topped it off with editor-blaming — a classic drama move — was scandalously unfollowed by RuPaul on Twitter and declined to return for the show’s Oct. 27 reunion.
“All Stars 2” didn’t work out for everyone, but fans do love an underdog. Returning queen Tatiana got a chance back in the spotlight and, as the only contestant returning from Season 2, introduced herself to whole a new fanbase. Eliminated early on, Tatiana won her way back into the competition thanks to one of the many twists, became a part of the season’s most iconic lip-syncs and released her own single, smartly capitalizing on her newfound success.
In the most revealing moment of the season, Alaska Thunderf**k’s breakdown in the penultimate episode made it clear how important the show can become for those who need that high profile for their careers. Ripping her wig and earrings off backstage after finding herself in the bottom two for the first time in either season she’s appeared, the backstage breakdown was nearly the ultimate humiliation.
Once you find yourself offering ten thousand dollar bribes to stay in the game, on-camera, you have clearly lost yourself in the sauce. Luckily, Alaska was able to get back into our good graces — a challenge so maxi it may be the final proof she was the greatest queen all along.
“All Stars 2” brought national attention to the impact of “RuPaul’s Drag Race” on drag culture, in both queer and mainstream spaces. In the historical narrative of the show, it clearly showed how much the contest and exposure mean to the queens, their own transformations over time and the show’s effect on their respective careers.
With a revamped episode format, a solid cast of returnees and the show’s new heights of popularity, “All Stars 2” showed us not only what “RuPaul’s Drag Race” could and should be… But used this time to take stock, reflect upon itself and deliver a starkly uncompromising, dramatic and clever reading on exactly what that means.
“RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars 2” airs its reunion Thursday, Oct. 27, at 8:00 p.m. ET/PT on Logo & Vh1.