Like Violet Chachki in Season 7, and Alaska in “All-Stars 2,” the winning queen of “RuPaul’s Drag Race” is sometimes obvious from the get-go. There’s one contestant that’s so confident in herself, and so uniquely talented, that the true race becomes who will make it to the Top 3 — because who’s getting the crown is already a forgone conclusion.
Seems like this might be the case with Season 9 — and considering how long we’ve waited for this epically hyped season premiere, knowing Lady Gaga would he guest judge, and the large new audience that moving to VH1 gives this beloved series, we assumed the level of talent in Season 9 would be off the charts.
If we’re going to pour the tea, we have to say that this cast feels a little lackluster at the jump… However, if anyone knows how to keep a show fresh, it’s Emmy award winner and series host, RuPaul. Lady Gaga’s surprise entrance as “Ronnie” in the premiere is ever-ree-thang. And this gasping, hand to chest, I can’t believe she just did that kind of moment is a prime example of why this groundbreaking series continues to deliver.
“Oh look, it’s the season’s Derrick Barry,” one queen says, assuming whomever just waltzed in is a one-trick pony celebrity drag impersonator. But Ronnie’s body is a little too amazing, her outfit a little too impeccable. And where’s her tuck!?
Then Lady Gaga takes off her mask, and pretty much every contestant starts crying. Eureka says to Gaga, “You allow us to be who we are,” and together, all the queens share this emotional moment gratitude towards the “I was Born this Way” singer, serving as the perfect ice-breaker for the ladies of Season 9 to start their engines, and get this race going.
Perhaps, the reason so many of the queens seem run-of-the-mill is because the most recent season viewers watched, ‘All-Stars 2″ had such a high-caliber of competition. Any of the runners-up from that cycle such as Tatianna, Katya or Alyssa Edwards would easily sashay their the top of Season 9. Right now, we could cut half the queens without a second thought. It sounds harsh, but it’s the truth. We saw more impressive queens walking around Drag-Con last year than some these chosen contestants, at least here at the starting line. We want to believe!
Luckily there is one queen who comes in hot. The moment Nina Bonina Brown enters the work room, we are transfixed. She’s got that “it” quality that instantly sets her apart from the rest of the girls. Her work on the catwalk only further impresses on us that she’s the one to beat this season. Her “Georgia peach lewk” was anything but basic — and when she’s this week’s contestant winner, it feels a little like watching Simone Biles winning her first gold medal at the 2016 Summer Olympics, all her fans knowing she’s about to rack up many more before the competition is done.
To be fair, there are a few girls that could give Nina a run for her money — there’s a reason they’re all here and we get that. And of course, we’ve seen the stress of competition take even the most confident queen apart: So aside from Nina, there’s 52-year-old Charlie Hides. A seasoned queen! His experience, seasoned talent and naturally hilarious personality will make him an easy fan favorite.
Having the oldest contestant ever be named as “America’s Next Drag Superstar” would also exemplify all that is so great about this series — it would be very on-brand for the compassionate and inclusive philosophy of the way Ru looks at our humanity and our future to go for it with Charlie.
Drag baby Valentina, who’s only been working in the field for 10 months, wins our first impression rose for personality. She is a delight to watch. Valentina is probably too green to make it all the way to the Top 3, but we enjoy her presence in general.
This season’s Detoxxx, bald-headed beauty Sasha Velour, could be the dark horse of Season 9. We’re excited to see all the kinds of crazy this queen will send down the runway in the coming weeks.
And right when we’re ready to sashay away for the premiere, RuPaul announces there’s one more surprise. No, this isn’t a Steve Harvey mistake in naming Nina the winner of the Miss Charisma, Uniqueness, Never and Talent pageant… It’s to make way for a 14th contestant will be joining the series.
Who is she? We haven’t a clue! And though we’ve now watched that ending moment of the premiere a zillion times, we still can’t confidently figure out a solid guess.
But of course Ru would throw this wrench in the competition, just when it seems like the clear winners have already risen to the top. Oh, Mama Ru, you devious, fierce enigma of a human being. Well done as ever, we love you forever, see you next week!
“RuPaul’s Drag Race” airs on Friday nights at 8 p.m. ET/PT on VH1.