You know what I hate? When a RuPaul’s Drag Race fan says “[Insert queen here] didn’t deserve to win!” Total bullsh!t. First off, if Ru didn’t think a queen didn’t have it in her to win, she wouldn’t be on the show. Second, more often then not the criticism is coming from someone who’s never done drag, or attempted to perform or entertain in any way. And third, Drag Race is a game of choices. A queen may be weak in certain areas, but can save themselves with one killer choice. The flip-side of that coin, however, is that a queen can send herself home with just one bad decision. With that in mind, I give you six lip-syncs that, by virtue of good choices and bad choices, turned into a straight-up steamroll. (And oh yeah, spoiler alerts I guess.)
Raven v. Nicole Paige Brooks – En Vogue’s “My Lovin’ (You’re Never Gonna Get It)”
The true sign of a one-sided lip sync is when the editors cut to one queen almost exclusively. Believe me, if you can get them on your side, congrats! You live to fight another day. And that’s exactly what happened in the battle between Raven and Nicole. Raven is a queen whose best features are her sultriness and her face; giving her a song like “My Lovin'” to work with plays specifically to those strengths. Nicole may be insanely experienced and polished, but slow-burn songs are Raven’s wheelhouse.
Chad Michaels v. Mimi Imfurst – Paula Abdul’s “Opposites Attract”
It’s not often that the winner of a season ends up being one of the first queens to lip-sync. Hell, before All-Stars, that NEVER happened. And yet the premiere of All-Stars saw eventual champion Chad taking on underdog Mimi to the tune of MC Skat Kat. Comparative to her last lip-sync, Mimi definitely improved; she brought out a lot of good decisions, but just didn’t quite execute them as well as she could have. Chief among them was a mid-song costume change (good idea!) into a cute but kinda uneventful dress (cue Manila Luzon: “Oh, that’s it?”) Chad on the other hand brought the kind of polish and precision she was known for, and bounced Mandora from the competition. To her credit, Mimi ended up hosting the elimination brunches with Michelle Visage, and she really is a delightful co-host.
Shangela v. Carmen Carrera – Cher’s “Believe”
It’s always interesting when two queen with drastically differing lip-sync styles go head to head. In the case of season three’s RuPaulapalooza, Shangela’s high-energy dancing took on Carmen’s seductive body-ody-ody. A few small problems with that: First, Carmen’s body-ody-ody was mostly covered, which kinda put a damper on her secret weapon. Second, Cher’s “Believe” was a high-energy song, and that meant a whole lot of dancing was required. Shangela ended-up taking the win, but to Carmen’s credit, she ended up returning a couple weeks later, soooooooo … I guess you can call this one a wash?
Tammie Brown v. Akashia – Michelle Williams’ “We Break The Dawn”
While a queen has never OFFICIALLY quit the competition, season one (aka The Lost Season) saw both Tammie and Shannel come pretty damn close. In the case of Tammie, she handed Akashia a freebie at the end of the Girl Groups challenge by choosing not to lip-sync. While Tammie is one hell of a performer — her showdown with Latrice is a clear indication of the talent she’s packing — she does have hard limits, and she’ll stick to her guns if pushed. Ultimately, she did end up becoming one of the show’s most memorable queens, and even made a return to All-Stars, so she’s doing pretty well for herself.
Latrice Royale v. Kenya Michaels – Aretha Franklin’s “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman”
Remember when I said one killer choice can either save you or send you packing? Well, never was that clearer than in this battle. Granted, we all knew Latrice was going to crush it on an Aretha number, but I don’t think anyone could have seen how thoroughly she could nail a lip-sync just by standing still. Kenya, on the other hand, went full-blown tiny dancer, performing some sort of weird pregnant ballerina number and tossing her wig for no discernible reason. You know things are going badly for you when the judges are looking at you with visible sympathy. Kenya may be an incredible dancer, but as I said: All it takes is one choice to either make you shine or send you packing.
The Princess v. Dida Ritz – Natalie Cole’s “This Will Be”
There are a number of factors that go into who will win a lip-sync. Sometimes it’s a matter of judges opinion. Sometimes it’s song choice. It can be dancing ability, a queen forgetting the words, sheer luck, an extra bobby pin to hold the wig on … anything can completely sway the balance of a ‘Lip-sync For Your Life.’ And sometimes, all those variables favour one queen in particular and she just crushes it.
Such was the case in Dida v. Princess. To be honest, I had kinda written Dida off after her performance in season four’s Champions vs. Glamazons challenge. I thought she had killer legs and a great attitude, but there was a sense that she just wasn’t quite bringing it as well as she should have. And then Natalie Cole’s “This Will Be” kicked up and she F*CKING DESTROYED IT. Credit to The Princess here, she tried her best and did a good job, but Dida’s performance was so gawddamn legendary, it actually had Natalie calling out to her from the judge’s panel. She nailed it. Completely and utterly nailed it.