6. Jinkx Monsoon (Season 5, WINNER)
I’m tired of singing praises about Jinkxy. Don’t get me wrong, she deserves all the credit she receives—I’ve just grown exhausted of this subject and I’m ready for season six to start. I’m exhausted because there isn’t a Drag Race fan on this Earth who doesn’t adore Jinkx, and won’t stop talking about it. The Jinkx love is that widespread. And what still stands out about Jinkx, that we have seldom seen a queen pull off (especially a young queen), is that she has so consistently brought her ‘A’ game in the main challenges, almost week after week. To list, there was: the impersonation of Mimi Imfurst (mixed with Barney Gumble from the Simpsons?); her touchstone rendition of Little Edie in Snatch Game (Bruce LaBruce called it “good contemporary gay camp”); her riffing in “Can I Get an Amen?”; her roast of Rupaul (“Michelle Visage is so full of semen—period”); her orgasm in the telenovella competition (not to mention her Day of the Dead runway number); and her performance in the video of “The Beginning” that seemed to recall the history of women in comedy. Then, of course, there was her delightful lip-sync to Yma Sumac’s “Malambo no. 1” (we knew Detox was going home as soon as Alaska called it).
5. Chad Michaels (Season 4, 2nd runner up; All Stars, WINNER)We all get so caught up in discussing season four in terms of the rivalry between Sharon and Phi Phi; the wild theatrics of Willam; and the holy scripture that is every word spoken by Latrice Royale; that we tend to forget about Chad Michaels (for various reasons, we do the same to Alaska Thunderfuck in discussions of season five). Even though Chad killed the runway in season four, over and over—even her “safe” weeks were way above-par—and was a wild comedienne in the main challenges (the wrestling challenge with Madame LaQueer, the Soul Train presidential platform, CHER), our worship of Sharon, Latrice and Willam has often upstaged her. This is why All Stars was so important.
For the first few episodes of All Stars, all the entertaining cattiness and diva worship accounted for, there was a general feeling that it was a throwaway season, and much of it is to do with the “synergy” bullshit (don’t cut me, Ru). I mean, by the end of the first episode when we saw Pandora Boxx get sent home, there was a sense that we weren’t seeing queens fairly graded for their charisma-uniqueness-nerve-talent. Why should Pandora be punished because no other queens but Mimi wanted to be her teammate? Why did Manila get sent home because Latrice didn’t bring her ‘A’ game, and how was that Manila’s fault? And how on Earth did Shannel get to the top four?! With all these problems in the brief All Stars season, there were still reasons for us to stay tuned: 1) It’s still Drag Race, so of course we’d watch it; 2) Rujubee; and 3) Chad Michaels.
There was a sense throughout All Stars that Chad was dragging Shannel along with her in the competition (that’s not synergy, Hunty, that’s just babysitting), and that made Chad’s induction into the Hall of Fame even more impressive. Chad in All Stars built upon the star narrative of Chad in season four, and for many of us she outdid herself in the later season. For instance, we all knew from the moment she walked into the workroom in season four that she could do Cher, so when she won Snatch Game we were impressed but not exactly elated. There was a general feeling that she was playing it safe, and that challenge win in a way represents how she played all of season four: very calculated and safe, not in general but for her capacity. We never got the feeling that Chad was taking serious risks, and neither did the judges for that matter. (Sharon, on the other hand, looked nerve-wrecked when preparing her Michelle Visage impersonation—and what a worthwhile risk that was!) Chad makes up for this in season four. Her Bettie Davis was a serious risk, in the sense that it was Bettie Fucking Davis (see also: Mariah Balenciaga in season three Snatch Game), but look at how she pulled that off! The raised eyebrow, the so-over-it dancing, the mug! We had waited so long, really since Pandora did Carol Channing, for a queen to blow dust off the drag herstory books and whip out some classic camp. Up to this point, we had endured so many impersonations of contemporary pop starlets it eerily recalled that scene in Paris is Burning when Dorian Corey talks about how all the new queens are trying to look like Christie Brinkley and Maud Adams, with that air of “this too shall pass”.