An excited crowd is screaming, booing, jaw-dropping and head-shaking nonstop as each player makes their moves. Some score, some foul out. A call is made, resulting in deafening cheers and jeers. The fandom is fervent, and there's a lot of support and loyalty for each team as they battle it out. It may sound like the World Cup or the Super Bowl, but this is a game of glamour and gab: the finale of RuPaul's Drag Race Season 10, which airs tonight. At the live audience taping at the Ace Hotel three weeks ago, we spoke with the competition's wigged warriors about their game plans. Here's a (spoiler-free) play-by-play.
Drag Race is in its 10th season but this edition proved the franchise is anything but stale. Aside from fabulous runways, riveting lip syncs and exciting challenges, the season tackled relevant subjects including race and white privilege, conversion therapy and even rape. The show, therefore, is more than just a reality show to many fans, especially those in the LGBTQ community. So when they show up for the live finale, it's more than just a regular TV taping. After a drama-filled and tumultuous reunion last week, the final four contestants (Aquaria, Asia O'Hara, Eureka O'Hara and Kameron Michaels) are ready to "plead their cases" as they prepare for, as the promo put it, a "herstoric sudden-death lip sync for the crown," similar to Season 9's finale.
On the red carpet prior to the show, contestants showed off their dazzling looks and shared their excitement. "I know every last breath of the songs we're doing, I know every beat," says Aquaria, the youngest of the final four, about the most important lip sync of her career. "I have some sort of 'Aquarian something' [for every instance] so there's not going to be a moment that the camera's not going to want to come to me."
Aquaria's finale look nodded to both the fashion and pop worlds. "I'm always inspired by anything in Vogue, anything that's been in Vogue," she says. "And I'm also always inspired by pop stars like Gaga and Madonna. I mean, I am just a good little white twink, so that's pretty much where my references lean toward. ... I can hardly breathe and feel my toes [in this outfit], but isn't that what drag is all about?"
Eureka O'Hara, who was on Season 9 but left early due to an injury before returning for Season 10, decided to go all out with her presentation. "What I did to prepare for tonight was spent a lot of money. I also begged, borrowed and stole from all of my friends as well as cashed in any I.O.U.'s to designers," Eureka says. "As soon as I came back from filming, I called my two favorite designers and was like, this is what I want to do, we're making it happen, I'll work on the money. I made the money, I sent the money, I had it made and I'm here tonight."
Eureka put together a look inspired by a fictional character close to her heart: Scarlett O'Hara. "My grandmother was extremely obsessed with Gone With the Wind, so when I came into drag, Scarlett was always that fashion icon that I thought about, and that's where the O'Hara comes from," Eureka says. "My drag father that I had, his name was Bubbles O'Hara ... so when we came together as father and daughter, it was only natural that I would take his last name. So [I chose this look] to represent where I come from ... and also just represent myself — I'm a fucking Southern belle."
Another O'Hara (no relation) made the final four. Asia O'Hara expressed how glad she was to be there. "It's a surreal moment. It feels exciting to have made it this far [and] it feels perfect. It feels like the right things are happening to the right people at the right time. There better not be [any surprises tonight]! If there are surprises, I'm going to fight. I'm hoping there aren't surprises but if you stay ready, you ain't got to get ready."
Unfortunately for Asia (but fortunately for us in the audience), the finale is full of surprises and unexpected twists, which only made the crowd go wilder than they already were. The stakes may be high for the contestants but are just as high for Team Aquaria, Team Eureka, Team Asia and Team Kameron.
Almost as exciting as the main event, the crowd was eager to see which queen would be crowned this season's Miss Congeniality, a title voted on by the fans. While last year's winner, Valentina, was quite controversial among the other queens in her season (they called her a "fan favorite" rather than Miss Congeniality), this year is even more controversial as word got out that 'bots had begun placing votes for certain queens. How would this be handled? We were on the edge of our seats to find out. Before the taping, most queens on the red carpet said that they hoped Monet X Change would be the winner.
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"That's so funny because I want to win too," Monet says. "Yeah, I wanted to win [the whole season], I wanted to be crowned, I wanted to win all the challenges. But aside from that, I wanted to have a good time. There was no reason to be a nasty cunt to the other girls, we all want those same things. I try my best to be as friendly to everyone, but not in a fake, inauthentic way. That's who I naturally am, so if they felt that, I'm glad."
Seeing the sudden-death lip syncs live was quite an experience. Sure, many people have seen a drag queen lip sync at a club or in a theater. But here, the audience could really feel what was at stake as these four queens took their one shot at performing their final lip sync in front of Mama Ru. The pressure was on, especially after the very memorable finale lip syncs last year from Peppermint and Sasha Velour. While the audience may have found out some of the lip-sync results, the crowning of the ultimate Season 10 winner is still under wraps, as the show shot multiple endings.
No matter who wins, the energy in the Theatre at Ace Hotel was palpable — something the queens themselves definitely felt. "Anytime people are that passionate about something that they wait in the sun in line to see people or to tell you how much they love something that you've done, that is great," Asia says. "One of the wonderful things about drag, about Drag Race, DragCon, the world of drag, is that it has an ability to bring people together, like-minded people [who] in other circumstances would have never crossed paths." Can she get an amen up in here?