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Ranking the House Down:
 The Queens of RuPaul’s Drag Race, from Worst to Best (Part Six: The Top 10!)

by Gregory Rosebrugh
February 24, 2014 11:56 AM
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Manila Luzon

8. Manila Luzon (Season 3, 2nd runner-up)

I was recently sitting through an overview of LGBT social issues, and at one point the instructor became tongue-tied about how to define and distinguish a bunch of gender-related, often conflated terms, one of which was “drag queen”. I almost hijacked the lecture and took the class through a series of Manila videos. This chick is high drag. She hits all the right citations, each with impeccable delivery. Every walk down that runway is tailored distinctly to whatever the theme of the week is. Let us look back at season three for a moment. Her Christmas couture look was totally Marie Osmond, as guest judge Vanessa Williams pointed out (Vanessa was remarkable guest judge, by the way), and she walked that Mrs. Claus look with a GIANT MUFF. I mean, she might as well have dangled a hundred dollar bill over our heads. Her space age outfit was totally Grace Jones meets Moonraker meets Anna Paquin in X-Men, and she worked that look like a classic sci-fi villainess, perhaps one who can transform into a panther. The Addams family ensemble with the thick black and white stripes was to die for—femme fatale realness! And the PINEAPPLE?! How did she come up with this stuff? Did Manila one day go strolling through the produce isle of a grocery store for inspiration, look at a pineapple and think, “What a ravishing fruit?” And that’s just the first four of her runway looks! Sadly, her final ensemble was underwhelming, but then so was Raja’s so it’s all good.

Of course, Manila’s genius was not limited to couture; she was also the queen of camp and comedy for all of season three. Her tasteless Japanese news reporter was thankfully more than a one-line gag. My only criticism there is that when Ru called on Manila to defend her joke, Manila beat around the bush too much. Manila, all you had to do was say back to Ru, “What would you say to all the cis- and trans- women at home who might take offense to this show’s parody of their gender identities?” I don’t mean to conflate oppressions; I just mean that if queens want thump identity politics they should be consistent (Shangela, you listening?).

Manila’s comedic prowess extends also to her impersonation of former Philippines leader Imelda Marcos on Snatch Game, her jibberish-spouting monkey in “Drag Queens from Outer Space”, and of course her outrageous lip-sync against Delta Work to “MacArthur Park”. How passionate and perfectly executed was that performance, right? One wonders if she had ever performed that song before, because the way she stood up with that cross-eyed scowl on her face, as the beat kicked in, was the talk of the whole next week.

Sadly, Manila’s return to Drag Race in the All Star season did not live up to the legacy she left behind after season three. I am still unsure about how fairly the queens were graded in that season. In fact, while I love All Stars for all the backstage banter I am still not sure how much I loved its format of combining the queens into pairs. You tell me, fans: how much do you value synergy? I think it was just a foil to save budget between the regular seasons (don’t cut me, Ru). Still, Manila had some priceless moments on All Stars, mostly when she touched her crotch and smelled her fingers in her lip-sync of “Nasty”. Best moment? I thought about providing a Manila quote here, because she has so many ready-to-wear slogans (“You can’t just go picking up drag queens!”), but then I forgot to acknowledge her Heatherness! So, at the expense of not providing another prize-winning Manila moment (though I kinda just did), I’m going to quote verbatim this entire segment. This one is dedicated to all the Heather and Boogers in the “Face, Face, Face of Cakes” showdown:

Rupaul: Shangela, one last question. Who do you think should go home tonight?

Shangela: Carmen Carrera. 

Carmen: I clearly have to disagree with Shangela. I mean, I think my outfit is a little bit more high fashion than hers. 

Rupaul: I’ll present the same question to Stacy.

Stacy: Carmen. There’s high fashion looks here, but I just don’t think she executed it. 

Rupaul: Same question, Delta Work. 

Delta: Stacy.

Rupaul: Manila, I would like a serious answer from you. 

Manila: I would like to see Shangela go. She’s just a loud mouth and she’s always talking and ‘Hallelu’-ing... 

Rupaul: Raja?

Raja: Stacy and Shangela, get the fuck out!

Rupaul: Tell me why.

Raja: Ohh, Stacy—you know I’m not sure if she’s ready. And Shangela, although your personality shines, I think you should be on season five or six. That’s where you should be.

Shangela: That’s interesting, Ru, because Raja’s been in the game for twenty-plus years doing drag and I’ve only been in it for one, and we’re in the same competition here.

END SCENE. (Sweet Jesus.)


7. Jujubee (Season 2, 3rd place)

There was a time when Jujubee was my favourite queen, and to this day she is the one queen I most want to be best friends with. In particular, I want to walk the bar strip with her and watch her spread love and shade like holiday cheer. Granted, Jujubee has never won a challenge in season two, or as one half of Rujubee in All Stars, but there are many merits for which Jujubee should forever be acknowledged as a legendary drag queen, the first and foremost of which is her reads. At long last, here is Jujubee in the reading mini-challenge (forgive the shitty quality):

It’s enough that she reads all the girls to filth, but she adds extra spice to each dig with her intricate intonation and facial expression. I die when she raises her sunglasses. 

Of course, reading is not Jujubee’s only talent. Her lip-syncs are her other calling card. Everyone has a Jujubee number in their top five lip-syncs (I don’t want to know the awful person who doesn’t). One might prefer her range of lip-quivering and orgasmic howling to Aretha’s “Something He Can Feel” (Tatianna didn’t even try, for goodness sake!). Or someone might remember Jujubee most fondly for her on-stage meltdown to Robyn’s “Dancing on My Own” (I could handle it—I had already been jaded by Yara’s life-shattering elimination in season three). For me, it’s a toss-up between her renditions of “Black Velvet” and “Shake Your Love”. In the Alannah Myles number she gets her hair all knotted up in her face (life lesson: good wigs still look good when they’re messed up!) while she thrashes along the main stage, and it becomes unclear whether she is crying or getting off. We really feel like she’s transported us to a dive bar on Route 66. And during the Debbie Gibson tune she plays AIR KEYBOARD. 

The final thing I have to say for this queen is that there are no BFFs on Drag Race who match the awesome power (and yes, “synergy”) of Rujubee. Not Yara and Alexis, nor Detox and Roxxxy. The friendship on screen between Raven and Jujubee is the vacuum through which we recall season two. We don’t re-watch that season to see Tyra take the crown, or Tatianna make it to the top four, or Pandora get screwed time and again. No, in our memories it will always be the Raven and Jujubee season. Best line: “I’m Jujubee. I like long walks on the beach, big dicks, and fried chicken.”

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More: RuPaul's Drag Race


  • Storm131 | August 29, 2014 3:35 AMReply

    And a note on Raven: superb style and wit. As much as I think Raven's make up was the best of all competitors in the 6 seasons so far, I have to make an exception for the shading on the nose. It looked like skid marks. Sorry Raven x

  • Storm131 | August 14, 2014 9:45 PMReply

    I agree with some of your choices but Willam in the top 10? I just don't see the appeal. He looks more like a guy in drag than out of it and is nowhere near as funny as he thinks he is. As for his sense of style, don't get me started. I can't stand any of the drag queens who like to wear skimpy outfits yet don't see in the mirror that bra and panties on a manly body look wrong wrong wrong.

  • Jay | June 18, 2014 3:46 PMReply

    I LOVE Detox - Thedragstore dot com sells her autographed posters!!!

  • Aaron | May 30, 2014 9:40 PMReply

    Lmao raven got 2nd place AGAIN

  • TY | May 31, 2014 1:32 AM

    LMAO! I didn't even notice.

    (I also gave her the runner-up spot)

  • Ty | May 27, 2014 10:17 PMReply

    My List:

    #1 Sharon Needles (All stars 2...please!!!)
    #2 Raven (Should have won All-Stars and Season 2)
    #3 Manilla Luzon
    #4 Alyssa Edwards
    #5 Raja
    #6 Jinxx Monsoon
    #7 Alaska
    #8 Latrice Royale
    #9 Nina Flowers
    # 10 Willam

    Adding season 6:
    - Bianca Del Rio places #2 (it's hard to choose between her and Sharon!)
    - Willam knocked out of top ten :(

    - So...why is Detox in the top 10?
    - Roxxxy? Top 20? lmao
    - I like Jujubee and Chad, but I'd place them in the 11-20 range.

  • SB | May 24, 2014 5:45 AMReply

    Your clearly an idiot for placing roxxy andrews in the top 20.

  • Stephen | May 21, 2014 1:06 AMReply

    So, tell me... Where does Bianca Del Rio fall on your list?? How closely does she come to shaking Sharon Needles off that throne??

    (I'm curious where on this list you'd insert all of season six's queens?? Please, oh please, an addendum?!?)

  • Glenn | April 7, 2014 3:35 PMReply

    I love Raven so much she is my fav of the six season!!!

  • Johnny | March 5, 2014 12:17 PMReply

    I dig the list but you're missing Nina Flowers, Tammie Brown and Raja! Three of the greatest!

  • Abby | March 4, 2014 9:33 PMReply

    GREAT list - as a Drag Race obsessive, I can't believe how much I agree with your assessment. Yes Dida served the BEST LIP SYNC IN DRAG RACE HERSTORY. Yes Phi Phi ruined the duet with Sharon. Yes Sharon is the best queen to have graced the show. I could go on. (End note: Can we now say that Magnolia Crawford is the worst queen in six seasons?)

  • Megs | March 3, 2014 8:20 AMReply

    I get you re: Detox. I thought the judges just read attitude from her and while sometimes that was true, I think she was engaging with what they were saying - she just didn't always agree, but she had the insight to see where they were coming from. It wasn't just attitude for attitude's sake, like our newbie LaGanja.

  • gato | February 26, 2014 9:02 PMReply

    OOPS meant **could READ your writing all day

  • gato | February 26, 2014 9:01 PMReply

    I could your writing about Drag Race ALL DAY. Don't agree with everything, but LOVED these articles. GREAT WORK

  • Raven | February 25, 2014 6:38 PMReply

    RUNNER UP AGAIN?! HA HA HA! Just kidding! Thank you love, I was following this article the entire time. Not only did you rank, you also have good reason as to why you ranked and where. I truly do appreciate your kind words! XOXO

  • Mikhael | February 25, 2014 8:02 AMReply

    Great list (although I missed Pandora Boxx in the top 10). As a correction, Latrice's infamous line is "Get those nuts away from my face" complete with Abby Lee head-shaking sass.

  • Dominique | February 24, 2014 11:28 PMReply

    No Raja?! No Alyssa Edwards?? No Carmen Carrera?? No Shannel from Season One??!!! This is a sham, everyone walk away slowly...........#smokingonthatgood #theymustbe #fromourbitchpleasedesk

  • Tom | February 24, 2014 8:57 PMReply

    Awesome top 10! So excited for the new series, just not sure how I'm going to watch it out here in Australia...

  • Julio | February 24, 2014 8:43 PMReply

    So a top ten list without Nina Flowers??.....

  • Storm131 | August 14, 2014 9:48 PM

    I like Nina but the truth is she isn't versatile enough to be in the top 10.

  • Paul | February 24, 2014 6:18 PMReply

    Having just watched sesion 5 afain I have to say I am so glad that Jinx was the winner.
    Roxie and Detox are 2 bitter qyeens that were nothing but ignorant all through the show. Detox os uglu, Roxie may be pretty once in awhile.l but her persoanlity ruins it..

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