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We love RuPaul’s Drag Race so much, that we’ll be covering it each week. But we won’t be going onto Reddit to find out which queens have been eliminated ahead of time. So all our opinions and predictions are based purely on viewing and we appreciate no one spoiling future eliminations in the comments — have fun, ladies!
Viewers of the RuPaul’s Drag Race season premiere caught a glimpse of the coming power battle between two forces competing for the soul of mainstream drag, a conflict best personified by last night’s two top queens: the acerbic but brilliant Acid Betty and the Asian-pop sweetheart Kim Chi. Acid is a vivid (even nightmarish) creature of her own imagination, Kim embodies comic book geekiness pushed to its real-life limit. But only one can win: the one who will best continue RuPaul’s brand.
Both have serious marketability, which is the true goal of Drag Race, a show that now perpetuates itself online through endless web clips, animated GIFs and photos; a show that partially chooses its winner throughits viewing audience’s hashtagged tweets; a show that produces stars who go onto churn out their own music videos and web series and appear in national tours under the Drag Race banner. America’s Next Drag Superstar is a brand, a market ambassador, one trained in camera-ready multimedia output and cultivated by Mama Ru herself. Acid Betty’s technicolor drag-trip and Kim Chi’s fantastic plastic both have enough appeal to draw a large fandom.
Both will have to perform outside of their comfort zones: veteran judge Michelle Visage will ask both to do glam at some point; both will endure quick-fire mini-challenges, a gauntlet of hammy acting challenges and a lip-synch (even if only during the final episode). In the end though, only one vision of drag will triumph.
Admittedly, it will quite likely be Betty; acidic queens win (look at Violet Chachki and Tyra Sanchez) and she reeks of irrepressible originality. Kim Chi would be nice — she’d be the second Asian queen to win (the first being the Indonesian-Dutch season three winner Raja) — but she seems more like a polished version of Trixie Mattel, the queen from last season who steeped her aesthetic in plastic toys and video games; novel, neat and nice to look at, but not altogether revolutionary. If she breaks out of the plastic mold, then she has a chance.
Though she’s a Brooklyn queen, Acid Betty’s aesthetic has a distinctly Burning Man, west-coast, drug-culture vibe: something Drag Race hasn’t seen just yet and which could compel new viewers to come and play in Ru’s digital queendom. For a ladyboy whose very name has become a name brand empire, there could be nothing better for RuPaul. The only potential misstep could be if Betty’s acid personality proves too toxic for Ru; the race is hers for the losing.