The first season of RuPaul’s Drag Race Down Under will showcase a uniquely antipodean style of drag.

RuPaul’s Drag Race Down Under Episode 1: Reputation is Everything

Written by Mackenzie Stolp

WARNING: This recap contains spoilers for episode 1 of RuPaul’s Drag Race Down Under

RuPaul’s Drag Race is an international phenomenon and has lifted the art of drag to the international stage – bringing drag into pop culture, mainstream status. The original series has had 13 seasons with spin-offs such as All Stars, Thailand, Canada, UK, Holland and Celebrity. I feel so lucky to be recapping (or Ru-Capping) the first season of RuPaul’s Drag Race Down Under! 

There’s an eclectic mix of queens from both Australia and New Zeeland competing. They are Art Simone, Maxi Shield, Jojo Zaho, Elektra Shock, Scarlet Adams, Coco Jumbo, Kita Mean, Etcetera Etcetera, Anita Wig’lit, Karen from Finance. Unfortunately, there is only one First Nations queen this season, Jojo Zaho who is a proud Biribi Worimi queen, so hopefully there is a better representation in coming seasons. Most of these queens are well known, so we will see if their reputations hold true. This will be a polished season, each of the queens looks polished, unique, and tough competition, except for maybe Elektra Shock (sorry). 

Our first mini-challenge sees our queens try their hand at acting, in auditions for RuPaul’s Thor mockery – Thar. The challenge was messy but was a nice way to connect Taika Waititi for the show, however it did feel stunted and awkward as Waititi wasn’t physically present (which is obviously a COVID related decision, but it felt strange to watch). Elekta Shock won the mini challenge, which is a not-so-subtle way to tell us to not ‘underestimate her’. 

The main challenge of the episode is a ball with two looks; Born Naked and the second is No Place Like Home – a homage to the queen’s hometowns. This provided JoJo Zaho an opportunity to talk about her indigenous identity and living on a mission. This is an incredibly important first talking point of the show – to give international viewers some insight into vital Australian history. 

Disaster Strikes when Scarlet Adam’s Born Naked look rips open – a costume malfunction is a tried-and-true Drag Race catastrophe that never fails to shock (like good god girl have a back-up). The repair was underwhelming as she merely sewed it back up, but every episode needs a ‘this could send me home’ moment. 

The Born Naked section of the ball divided the queens – from the ‘chuck on a bodysuit’ queens to the queens who proved this was the opportunity to push boundaries. Etcetera Etcetera explored the non-binary expression and the intersection of masculinity and femineity, whereas Anita Wig’lit wore a basic Eve costume (never seen that before…). 

No Place Like Home is always a good way to introduce the queens, however as the majority of the queens dressed like animals, it wasn’t very telling. Jojo Zaho’s ‘Always was and Always Will Be’ was a powerful showcase of an Australian truth – however the look suffered due to her messy display of the outfit. It was, unfortunately, the least polished look of the night, with poor construction and attention to detail. I did have to laugh at Art Simone’s Hosier Lane inspired look – I wonder if she smelled like pee too. 

It’s no shock that Karen from Finance won the first episode, but it’s genuinely heartbreaking to see Jojo Zaho leave first – ‘Colonise their Colons’ might be one of the greatest lines spoken in drag race history and I can’t imagine whatever whips should have delivered to us.  

It’s clear that this is going to be a good season of Drag Race; the ‘down under’ quips are funny, the queens are refreshing and overall a high standard of drag. I’m ready for it. 

The next episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race Down Under drops 4pm on Saturday 8 May.

Catalyst has been the student publication of RMIT University since 1944. We may be older than your parents but we’re still going strong!

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