This post contains spoilers for RuPaul’s Drag Race season 12. You’ve been warned!!!
I am relatively new to watching RuPaul’s Drag Race. My sister, who was obsessed with Trixie Mattel when they returned from college in December 2017, got me onto the show. After a long day of news churning for me and food deliveries for them, they’d come over to my apartment with dinner for both of us, and we’d log on to VH1 using our parents’ cable account. They moved away a few months later, but I kept the tradition going with my friend Mitchell.
My boyfriend joined us last year on the evenings Mitchell would come over, and we even managed to catch the first episode of this year’s season together before my boyfriend and I had to self-quarantine. My pop culture discussions with my sister these days mostly gravitate toward Animal Crossing: New Horizons, so I’m not even sure if they’ve been watching. I put off watching the show myself after that first episode, my boyfriend and I cycling through series that he or I haven’t watched before, like the latest part of Terrace House, before finally catching up.
Perhaps I put off watching for so long because part of me thought this season would feel overrated to watch, given the catfishing allegations against contestant Sherry Pie (which she admitted to), and the revelation that RuPaul is fracking, and the reminder that RuPaul used a joke about watching a man drown to explain and justify market economics (his train of thought is really quite remarkable, do a search for the word “Hudson”).
Alas, I was so wrong. Season 12 has been grand. Yes, deeply marred by Sherry’s alleged behavior and subsequent pared-down screen time, but still so entertaining and delightful between the other queens. The only thing missing from next week’s season finale will be Jackie Cox, a contestant who placed 5th after being beat out by Sherry, Crystal Methyd, Gigi Goode, and Jaida Essence Hall.
After the second episode of the season, when Sherry admitted to allegations that she posed as a casting agent to solicit videos of colleagues performing sexual acts, VH1 issued an announcement, which it also broadcast before and after each episode of season 12: they’d air the season “out of respect for the hard work of the other queens” (lol), but Sherry wouldn’t be allowed to appear in the finale. It was a near dead giveaway that she made it to the finale, and last week we watched her do so. Now, without a fourth queen, it’s obvious to me and anyone else who’s paid an inkling of attention to this season that Jackie should be able to join Crystal, Gigi, and Jaida for the virtual lip sync finale.
Jackie’s performance stands on its own: she’s funny and charming, and campy without being a caricature. Her look was chic and inspired, a Jackie O meets Iranian teen beauty queen. She wore ensembles that embodied her retro character but also dared to punch above her weight to be more daring and bold, swinging hard with her Michelle Visage look and her “flying purple people eater” number. She bore her identity as an Iranian-Canadian proudly through her time on the show, and seamlessly incorporated the identity into her high-fashion looks.
She gracefully handled Jeff Goldblum’s bullshit question about squaring her identity with people who use Islam to oppress women and LGBTQ people — weird how you don’t see as many questions about the use of Christianity to oppress those same groups of people in the U.S. (by our government and white supremacist hate groups at that!). Her tried and true Lisa Rinna impression, while not the winner, was the most flawless and entertaining, and I’m still thinking about her merkin commercial (which I couldn’t find online, unfortunately). The I Dream of Jeannie jump cuts? HER VISION!!!!!
Most importantly, Jackie has the talent and range that some of the queens who made the top 4 can’t even claim for themselves, and it was mind-numbing watching those contestants get passes regardless of their stale performances.
Gigi Goode isn’t just a looks queen, but for so much of this season that’s all she was portrayed to be. Her runway looks are impeccable and hot, but she relied so much on her hotness that her self-confidence wobbled when she received criticism. This isn’t surprising on Drag Race — conventionally attractive contestants can go far even when they’re otherwise lackluster. Again, Gigi had good days — her Snatch Game impression of Sophia the Robot was hilarious and her bit as an airline stewardess on the flight to hell was witty — but her stagnant days were worthy of a lip sync. For her to have remained safe on the “superfan makeover” episode while Jackie lip synced against Heidi N Closet was egregious. Gigi’s look for her and her drag sister was far more safe and boring than Jackie’s look for her drag daughter. Gigi is a strong competitor in her own ways, but Jesus Christ did Ru and the judges let her get away with being pretty when little else counted.
And then there was Sherry Pie. I’m sure she would have received a much more favorable, personable edit had the allegations not surfaced. But even then, Sherry’s performance showed she knew how to do one thing — dress up and play a shallow impression of an older woman.
Sherry was one-note the entire season — same silhouette, same style of dress, nothing that seemed to push her artistically and improve her craft. She arrived to Drag Race polished and impressive, but she didn’t get any better. Her acting performances were worse, relying on an exaggerated old hag schtick that revealed she had no business boasting about her theater chops, let alone interrogating Filipino-Vietnamese drag queen Rock M. Sakura on her knowledge of Fosse. Take your misplaced assumptions and fuck all the way off, Sherry!!!
And then there was the episode where Sherry’s five-minute timed performance went 12 minutes over. There’s no fucking way in hell she didn’t know how long she had gone over — again, she’s supposed to be a fucking theater veteran! All of that shit is timed! Michelle Visage was right to call her selfish, and Ru should have made her lip sync against Jaida Essence Hall instead of throwing in Heidi N Closet. Alas, once again, there is a type of queen who does well in Drag Race, regardless of their lack of improvement, and Sherry was one of those girls. And, again, a reminder, this is my assessment of her regardless of her being a predator, something that got her rightfully disqualified. She showed little progress and deserved to get clocked.
Which brings me back to Jackie. Jackie is the finale hero we need, not because there’s an open spot or because Sherry is a predator and a narcissist, but because Jackie deserved that spot in the first place. At the very least she deserved to fight Sherry, who plateaued early in the season and remained in the cast as one of Ru’s favorites, immune to critique (also, fuck putting Crystal in that bottom two with Jackie, by the way!!!). Let Jackie lip sync for the crown, you cowards!! She’s a versatile queen who has all the makings of a triple threat, and this season would have been all the more dry without her.
Photo via vh1press.com; Remix by Samantha Grasso