It was beginning to feel as though we’d never reach the end of RuPaul’s Drag Race, but the show’s 13th season finally came to a conclusion this weekend after four months, 16 episodes, 22 lip-syncs, five non-eliminations and one documentary special (*gasps for air*).
Season 13’s long-awaited season finale aired last night in the States before arriving on Netflix for sleepy UK fans early this morning, and while it wasn’t the best nor the most surprising final Drag Race has ever seen (will anything post-season nine live up to Sasha Velour’s rose petal reveal?), watching the phenomenal final four perform in front of a live audience via live-stream felt like a huge treat in and of itself. Plus, absolutely anything would be better than last year’s Zoom final – I’m hoping we never see a bare-faced RuPaul don a luchador-esque mask on Drag Race ever again.
A pandemic-adjusted episode like no other, Drag Race received the drive-in treatment for this year’s final, with masked-up fans watching a livestream of the show’s events from the comfort of their cars while RuPaul and her finalists stormed the empty stage of Downton Los Angeles’s Ace Hotel. Season 12 winner Jaida Essence Hall made a welcome return as a correspondent reporting from the audience, with RuPaul periodically checking in throughout the show with Jaida, who would not-so-subtly slip the final’s sponsor, Bubbly Bounce Sparkling Water, into her piece to camera whilst swanning through the crowd in a gorgeous black ensemble.
RuPaul opened the show with a performance of her new single New Friends Silver, Old Friends Gold – as of course it wouldn’t be an episode of Drag Race if the Emmy winner didn’t plug her discography at any given chance. With her signature big hair, a cinched waist and a face that was “beat for the gods”, the glamazon bopped about on stage to her track, surrounded by topless male backing dancers sporting the shiniest metallic trousers I’ve ever seen.
Our finalists – Symone, Rosé, Gottmik and Kandy Muse – then took to the stage for the first time with not one, not two but three stunning runway looks, all of which looked eye-wateringly expensive. From Black and White and Red All Over, to Grand Finale Eleganza Extravaganza, the queens pulled out all the stops for their final runway categories, with Gottmik and Symone standing out with looks that screamed high fashion.
As per most Drag Race finals, everything before the lip-syncs tended to be classic filler that you’ll most likely skip through, from interviews with the finalists and good luck messages from their families, to cameos from the odd celebrity (Paris Hilton dropped by this time to praise Gottmik’s Snatch Game performance, while US senator Cory Booker – who it turns out is RuPaul’s cousin – also appeared via video link). However, with the last year being incredibly difficult and awfully sad for so many, the show hit home the importance of friendship during the pandemic with a pre-recorded performance which saw the finalists lip-sync Bette Midler’s Friends, a song that took on a whole new meaning in the wake of the AIDS crisis.
Another touching moment during the show was its tribute to Drag Race season high star Chi Chi DeVayne, who died from pneumonia aged 34 in August last year. The likes of Bob the Drag Queen, Kennedy Davenport, Thorgy Thor, Eureka and Latrice Royale paid their respects to the talented queen in a video package about her career, reminding audience just how talented she was.
Around 40 minutes in, the moment we’d all been waiting for had finally arrived – the final lip-syncs, all of which would be Britney Spears-themed. After spinning a huge wheel with all the finalists’ faces on it, RuPaul announced that New York queens Rosé and Kandy Muse would face off against one another first to the seminal classic: Work B***h. While we were treated to a reveal from both the queens, it wasn’t the most high-stakes lip-sync, likely due to the fact that Rosé disclosed beforehand that she was dealing with an ankle injury. However, in a surprising decision, RuPaul declared Kandy Muse as the lip-sync’s winner, sending her through to the final performance.
Then came Symone and Gottmik – the competition’s two front-runners who’d be competing for a spot in the final lip-sync. Absolutely burning the floor to Britney’s Gimme More, their lip-sync was arguably the best of the night, full of breath-taking outfit changes. However, it was Symone’s outstanding transformation that sent her through to the last lip-sync against Kandy Muse.
Of course, before we saw the top two battle it out once last time, RuPaul crowned the season’s Miss Congeniality – an award that goes to the nicest queen, voted by the contestants. Atlanta’s LaLa Ri took home the title and £10,000, which will hopefully go towards improving that meme-worthy paper bag look from episode five, before Kandy Muse and Symone took to the stage for the final time.
Dancing to Britney’s Till the World Ends, they both dominated the stage with energetic performances, with Kandy is an all-white jumpsuit and Symone in a shimmery yellow number – but it was Symone’s confetti-expelling wig that stole the show and in a result people were predicting from episode one, RuPaul declared the 26-year-old to be America’s Next Drag Superstar.
While fans were placing their bets on Symone from the very beginning, season 13 was hugely entertaining nonetheless. Yes, it was the longest season the show has ever seen but why would anyone complain about having too much Drag Race content to watch? Full of celebrity cameos, touching tributes and fun performances, the season 13 finale was a fitting end to a fabulous series.