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RuPaul's Drag Race Season 9 Episode 1 - Power Rankings

C'mon Season 9 let's get GAGA!

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Last night, the ninth season of RuPau's Drag Race took off to a Gaga-worthy start. RuPaul sent shockwaves through the competition announcing that no queen would be going home this week. The queens were then challenged to compete in the Charisma, Uniqueness, Nerve and Talent Pageant, showcasing two looks. One frock inspired by their hometown, and the other showing off their best Lady Gaga drag, an homage to the episodes highly hyped guest judge. I'll be covering the competition every week, power ranking each queen based on how positive their edit was, how well they did in the challenge, and if they had storyline formation. Each of those criteria will be ranked from a score from 1-10.

1) Nina Bo'Nina Brown

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Nina completely SLAYED this entire episode. She had our hearts snatched right from the moment she walked into the workroom, dancing and singing her name "Nina Bo'Nina Fofana Osama Bin Laden Brown" in a both eerie and high-fashion Mickey Mouse inspired look. Nina feels raw and unfabricated, she's not playing the game of reality TV, she's here to show off her talent and pursue her dreams. This makes her an endearing character, one that the audience can totally relate to and empathize with. Her Georgia Peach and VMA Inspired Gaga looks were standouts, showcasing her individuality and also her technical and creative eye. It was no surprise that Miss Nina came out as the winner of the CUNT pageant, earning high praises from all the judges, and most important, Lady Gaga herself. Historically, every queen who wins the first challenge makes top three (except for Morgan McMichaels and arguably Ben DeLaCreme due to a split season 6 premiere). So, Nina established herself as a threat to the crown within the first episode.

Edit: 10

Challenge: 10

Storyline: 10

Nina checked every box this week, she won the challenge, and most importantly, she was a fully formed character. Nina's story has loads of different directions at this point, and it would be a disservice to the fans to not explore the intricacies that is Nina Bo'Nina Fofana Osama Bin Laden Brown.

2) Sasha Velour

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PROPS to Sasha this episode for standing out and making herself known! She screamed her way into the top three with an (overstuffed) queer art hometown look, and a gender bending Gaga ARTPOP look. We're getting lots of "art" from her, aren't we? Anyways, the challenge in the first episode is really all about standing out. When there's so many girls in the competition, it's about making a statement and letting the judges know who you are. Sasha excelled at all of this. Sasha came across likeable enough, and was even shown supporting her fellow NYC sisters like Aja. Sasha was a fan favourite pre-season, and so far, she's holding up that reputation by being a loving and caring queen.

Edit: 9

Challenge: 9

Storyline: 6

Sasha did extremely well this week, killed the runway, and showed us all that an alternative edge might just be what this competition needs. There wasn't any storyline being formed with Sasha this week, however, her "brainy and intellectual" attitude might start putting some girls off (and even the fanbase). There was a glimmer of friendship forming between her and Shea in Untucked, discussing how they both thought "outside the box" for their hometown looks. This could be a either a positive or a negative for Sasha. Them teaming up could result in a dynamic drag duo, the likes of Raven and Jujubee, or Kim and Naomi. However, Shea's personality seems to be a bit louder and out there than Sasha's, which might see her fading into the background.

3) Shea Couleé

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SLAY she did. She has a visual prowess that makes her standout from the rest of the girls, and she presents herself with a confidence that draws you into her. As she walked down the runway in her hot-dog inspired couture screaming "BITCH I'M FROM CHICAGO", I couldn't help but scream a loud YASSS. If you can reference the show and make fun of yourself, Ru and the judges will live for it. Although her Gaga look left something to be desired, Gaga said it in Untucked, she has an essence of Grace Jones. No matter what she wears you're in awe because she walks with such fierce confidence. For a visual queen, she was also shown to be quick witted and shady in a playful way. As of now, it seems like Shea can be versatile and adaptable to the challenges that will be thrown her way.

Edit: 9

Challenge: 8

Storyline: 6

Although she did not place in the top for the challenge, Shea showed us that she's a personality and a talent to be reckoned with. It is only the first episode, so it is difficult to develop every single queen (especially when this episode seemed very focused on Nina), so Shea did not really get a fully fleshed out background. However, based on her screen time and personality, I'm feeling that she might be a production favourite, and she's got the talent to back all that up.

4) Valentina

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For queer Latinx people, the representation that Valentina brings to the public is immensely important. Her simply being on the show, showcasing and celebrating Mexican culture in the way that she does, speaks volumes, especially in today's harsh political climate. Paired with her sweet and innocent personality, this instantly made her a fan favourite. Challenge wise, she had one of the best hometown looks. She DEFINITELY does not present herself like an amateur drag queen, especially considering that she says that she's only been doing drag for ten months. However, although the judges were living for her Gaga look, I couldn't help but be distracted by that Party City turquoise wig. Had the hair been a little more extravagant, I have no doubt that Valentina could have won this week.

Edit: 7

Challenge: 7

Storyline: 8

Valentina killed it this week, I hope her edit continues to remain strong. She brings a Latina flair to the competition with a polish that we've never seen. There were small glimpses of storyline being formed, most notably her "only doing drag for ten months comment. As of now, the fanbase is in love with her, but I can see instances of her personality coming across as self-absorbed and sort of grating. There's lots of competition left to play so things could get interesting.

5) Farrah Moan

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Another fascinating reality character, Farrah "Blonde Benet Glamsey" stood out for all the right reasons. Pre-season, I was expecting her to come across as "bitchy" with an attitude of "I'm better than everyone else". However, Farrah proved me wrong. She was humble, sweet and willing to learn from her mistakes. Although the personality might be lacking, she makes up for it in fierceness. Her runways were stunning, even if they did eat her up a bit. In Untucked, we see that she had a reveal underneath her Alejandro look, which would've made the look perfect! It was a moment that needed to happen, but Farrah got in her head too much.

Edit: 7

Challenge: 6

Storyline: 8

Farrah completely won me over this week, she's adorable, willing and GORGEOUS. There were also instances of hints of a storyline starting to form, her being a relatively young queen, and her awkwardness makes me believe that we're going to be getting a fleshed out "overcoming your inner saboteur" storyline from Farrah.

6) Trinity Taylor

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I think the fanbase is definitely underestimating Trinity. She is a fierce and talented competitor, she is someone who might be in it for the long haul. Her edit, however, was extremely negative, she was set up as a villain right from the start. She seems to have more of a polish to her as opposed to someone like Eureka, so I expect Trinity to stay in as a long term villain throughout the season. Michelle had me gagging with the description of Trinity's "anal sun" hometown look, but her Gaga look blew me away. She had the details of the Countess down to a T. Unfortunately for her, that hometown runway brought her way down score-wise.

Edit: 4

Challenge: 8

Storyline: 9

Her and Eureka's storyline is going to continue being one of the main focus points of the season. Hopefully for Trinity, the her v. Eureka storyline doesn't play out for too long because it could distract from her talent. Based on this episode, Trinity seems to be a bit more cutthroat and ready to slay than a good chunk of her competition.

7) Eureka

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I was a bit torn on Eureka. I think she's been set up to be an early season villain. At first I thought her comments were shady and funny, but as the episode went on, they just seemed downright mean. The way she treated Jaymes in Untucked, refusing to learn her name and putting her more down than she already was, was horrible. However, she did pretty well in the challenge, securing a spot for herself in the top three this week. Her hometown look was a brave and hilarious take on southern drag. Her Gaga look was executed to perfection as well. It's refreshing to see a larger queen try different silhouettes and break the mould of what most larger girls in previous seasons have presented on the runway

Edit: 4

Challenge: 8

Storyline: 9

The strongest aspect of Eureka this week was her storyline emphasis with Trinity. I'm curious to see how all of this will play out as it's starting to shape up like an Alyssa vs. Coco part two. Definitely expect a lip sync between the two of them sometime in the near future.

8) Peppermint

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Peppermint is a gorgeous and legendary queen. Unfortunately for her, this week wasn't much of a standout, so she falls somewhere in the middle of the pack. Granted, she was first in the workroom, which usually indicates a queen who's going to have a fully fledged storyline (unless you're poor Tempest DuJour). Peppermint did come across as extremely likeable though, her confessionals were congenial and she came across as a sort of motherly figure for the other girls. Her David Bowie inspired Gaga runway was one of my instant favourites, and personally thought the earring critique was just nitpicky. Her NYC inspired drag however, could have been much more creative. As Sasha said in Untucked, Statue of Liberty drag is the most obvious route to go. Peppermint has to prove that she can be more creative than that.

Edit: 8

Challenge: 6

Storyline: 6

Peppermint has a lot of potential to be an intriguing reality character. As the first openly trans queen to be featured on the show, I am expecting some emotional moments and fully fleshed character development from the loveable NYC queen.

9) Aja

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Aja also fell somewhere in the middle of the pack this week. She didn't really standout from some the other girls. Her edit was overall pretty positive however, she was fun enough in her confessionals, and not causing any riffs with any other queens. Challenge-wise, she also fell somewhere in the middle. Her NYC drag, although well put together, was nothing to gag over. Her Gaga inspired Comme Des Garcons look was a highlight for Aja, but it just didn't scream "Gaga".

Edit: 7

Challenge: 6

Storyline: 6

Aja is a fan favourite going into this season, so I'm sure her storyline will pick up as the episodes go on. There were little moments with her getting critiqued by the queens for her makeup skills, which might continue to be a recurring theme with Aja. She has potential for a "growth" storyline.

10) Charlie Hides

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Besides her jaw-dropping Gaga look, I don't really remember anything else from Charlie this episode. OH wait, that absolutely cringey attempt at a tearaway reveal. righttt.

Edit: 7

Challenge: 7

Storyline: 5

Again, hard to see any large storylines forming with most of the queens with just one episode, so Charlie did fade into the background story wise. She did have a brief moment discussing her celebrity impersonations and harsh sense of humour, which might play out in further episodes.

11) Alexis Michelle

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Alexis definitely got a positive edit and came across as likeable. In fact, she's the hottest boy out of drag this season, and for that reason alone I expect her to have lots of fans. She did sort of fade into the background like Charlie. Challenge wise, she excelled at the Gaga runway, looking absolutely stunning and well put together. I think that it played to Alexis' strengths, as she isn't really an avant-garde queen. Her hometown look was tragic though, definitely one of the weaker hometown looks of the episode.

Edit: 8

Challenge: 6

Storyline: 5

This wasn't Alexis' episode, however, I think her personality might shine a bit later on. Unfortunately, she didn't capitalize on the first episode and failed to make and memorable impression.

12) Kimora Blac

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Oh Kimora... we all had such high expectations for you to start Bad Girls Club Drag Race style. Unfortunately, the high expectations of her being a cutthroat bitch made her seem sort of underwhelming. Her personality didn't really come across in any of her confessionals, let alone her looks. I though both of her challenge looks were safe, but compared to all the other girls who knocked it out of the park with at least one of them, Kimora paled in comparison.

Edit: 5

Challenge: 5

Storyline: 5

Pre-season, I would have thought Kimora to be set up for a huge villain storyline. However, it doesn't seem to be the case any longer. It has only been one episode though, so this might turn around next week.

13) Jaymes Mansfield

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Poor Jaymes. Extremely talented, but she doesn't really work within the structure and format of Drag Race, and this is evident in just one episode. She came across as nervous and unprepared. Challenge wise, both looks sort of flopped. The Gaga Vogue cover look was well put together I would say, but it was just such an obscure look to choose that it failed to leave an impression. In Untucked, you feel sort of feel bad for her, as you could tell she was thrown off her game when she didn't get a sewing challenge sent her way.

Edit: 4

Challenge: 4

Storyline: 5

Unfortunately, as sweet as Jaymes is, I don't see her lasting very long in this competition. She just does not stack up to the rest of the girls, and she seems way too in her own head. She is a super talented queen, but I think she just needed more prep time for this show.

Alright Kitty Girls, that's it for this week. We got Nina coming out on top with Jaymes at the bottom this week. Drag Race, as always, is UNPREDICTABLE. We could have Nina at the bottom next and Jaymes get a massive redemption edit! Also, next week we're going to be introduced to a 14th queen. Who do you think is the 14th mystery queen?

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