‘RuPaul’s Drag Race UK’ S3E3 Recap: This Is What It Looks Like When Butterflies Cry (??)
Two sad exits in one episode.
On the plus side, I don’t have to worry about mixing up Victoria and Veronica’s names anymore: with one episode, two of my favourite queens are gone.
Unfortunately, Victoria’s knee pop from her first ep lip-sync got the better of her, and she had to leave the competition to heal. It’s an unceremonious end — and handled a little nonchalantly in the episode, as she literally just doesn’t appear in the werkroom after the title sequence.
Putting aside the disappointment of Drag Race‘s first cis-woman competitor leaving due to an injury, her absence is felt: I know Krystal has two wins to her name, but for me, Victoria was the clear front-runner.
But Drag Race stops for no queen, and we’ll probably be seeing her on S4: while it was only indirectly hinted at on the show, Victoria’s confirmed on Instagram live that she has an invitation for the next season (Maybe S4 hadn’t been ordered by the BBC when they were filming, so Ru couldn’t directly say it?).
Meanwhile, Veronica is writing on Instagram that, in hindsight, she probably shouldn’t have agreed to S3, as she wasn’t in a great place mentally — the season started filming shortly after S2 was announced, meaning she was doing press for that while preparing, all with little income.
My heart really goes out to Veronica. There is nothing quite as chilling as needing to kick your depression but being completely unable to snap out of it. And to know you’re failing to be yourself in front of a global audience, too — truly my nightmare scenario.
I’m sad to see her go so early (and I think she won that lip-sync, even while leaving her dress scattered across the stage), but it seems like it’s for the best. Hopefully she’s feeling the love (plus, she’s already been booked and blessed with a TV advert for Baileys!).
This week was an unconventional materials design challenge, with the queens using camping tools to make a ‘couture’ look, a word that truly means nothing anymore. Confusing judging aside (at this point, it’s a given), this was probably my favourite episode yet. Design challenges are probably the biggest test of talent the show has, and this week, some of the previously middling queens proved while they’re there.
Looking Camp Right In The Eye
I loved this week’s mini-challenge, where the queens dressed up butch to create dating profiles. Again, I’ll say it: Kitty Scott-Klaus is being overlooked! Continually funny and her drag aesthetic offers all the basic British girl I need, given I can no longer listen to the Gemma Collins podcast (whenever I try, half an hour passes and I’ve truly only absorbed one or two sentences).
Bless Veronica, who really misunderstood the assignment and dresses as an ‘ethically non-monogamous’ straight man, AKA a dude whose accessories alternate between a ferret, a fedora and a pleather cap. I love her mind.
It’s Scarlett who wins this mini-challenge, seemingly for no real reason, and she’s given a 15-second head-start on scavenging through the camping materials. Given her end look, it worked out for her: she grabs a plaid picnic rug that she transforms into a really beautiful (if not particularly ‘unconventional’) gown, nabbing two wins in an episode.
Raven appears in the werkroom alongside RuPaul to offer some make-up tips, and while she looks gorgeous, it’s pretty striking that she’s the same skin shade as Ru. Raven is white, and has long been a subject of debate around blackfishing — the act of adopting Black beauty features and presenting as a person of colour when you’re not (see: Kim/Khloe Kardashian, Ariana Grande, Rita Ora, Jesy from Little Mix). The conversation has reignited.
Like many others accused of blackfishing, Raven is naturally quite ‘tan’ (also: Drag Race España winner Carmen Farala), though there’s something to be said about that combination alongside her make-up and style, which is very indebted to Black fashion. For the record, she’s indirectly responded on Instagram to comments about her appearance this episode by posting a video about what foundation shades she uses, essentially a round-about way to say ‘my skin is this colour’.
There’s a lot to unpack here about performances of race/the ability to wear ‘Blackness’ but still take it off, and I’m not the person to do it. Reddit/the fandom has chatted about this a lot over the years, and S2 winner James (fka Tyra Sanchez) called Raven out about it (among other allegations) a few years back: it’s definitely worth reading. You won’t find any discourse on Raven’s latest post though, as she’s limited comments. Anyway, she tells queens how to contour their noses, so that’s nice.
Moving on! There are some really lovely moments in the werkroom this week, but Charity’s candidness about becoming HIV+ at just 18 is really impactful. She details her depression post-diagnosis, and how drag became a lifeline for her: given how much stigma remains around HIV, it’s a really honourable thing to share to millions.
On AS6, Trinity told a story about how disclosing her status on S6 literally saved a recently diagnosed person’s life — it’s easy to feel a bit cynical about the ‘backstory of the week’, but this stuff really matters! Like Trinity, Charity uses this opportunity to educate those watching who don’t realise advancements in medicine mean that people with HIV are able to live without illness or impairment and without fear of transmission to sexual partners.
Sorry if this is all well-worn knowledge for you, but it isn’t for a lot of people (especially heteros, which is worrying given 23 percent of Australian HIV notifications in 2019 were attributed to heterosexual sex). I promise this is my last soapbox issue for this recap!
Free Drag Name: Susan Sonslag
Onwards to the runway: in addition to their picnic couture, the queens all brought a girl scout look to show off. Aquaria popped in too!
My favourite of the bunch is River’s asymmetrical map dress, which is the first time she really “clicked” for me even though I do really like her. If she brings more of this ingenuity, she could go really far.
The judges didn’t care for Veronica’s ‘hungover festival gal’, but I loved it. Very Viktor&Rolf, but unique enough to not be just a homage we’ve seen before. Plus finally some Joker representation.
Everyone else was fine, save for Charity who came dressed as a bloody bunny who had killed a girl scout and stole her fit. I can’t help but love it. Ella looked great as Jane from Tarzan, but I have made a mental note that she’s a Disney Gay: not a judgement per say, just a note.
Onto the real challenge. Scarlett nabs the win this week for her gown, and while it’s not the most imaginative look, it’s a great example of not overthinking things. She is radiant.
The other tops this week are Krystal and Ella, though I would have swapped out Ella for Charity. The judges really are sleeping on her, and I have a bad feeling they’re not gonna wake up anytime soon.
River easily could’ve made the top, too. This was a good week for her. At first glance, I thought Kitty Scott-Claus had this week in the bag, but I now realise I was blinded by bias: it gives me everything I want from her, but it’s not necessarily good.
In the bottom three are Choriza, Vanity and Veronica, with Choriza saving herself purely off her charm. I’m all for it: sure, she probably should have been in the bottom instead of Veronica (whose look was very detailed, even if not amazing), but the show would really suffer from losing such a funny presence.
Vanity’s look is the worst of the night: unfortunately, we’ve seen the roped-corset look before by Roxxxy Andrews in S5, and that was with candy! I’m rooting for Vanity, but she hasn’t had much screentime yet beyond being in the bottom twice: unless she turns it around next week, she could be next to go.
And then there’s ronny, who comes out wearing every single tent in the werkroom. Honestly, I like this: I get that she’s lost a bit of dimension in the torso, but I think it’s actually the wings that ruin it, as she has just glued two kites onto the back. It’s a classic case of not working to the time constraints or self-editing, though the fact that she helped the other queens so much didn’t help either.
The two lip-sync it out, and while I think Veronica slay queens it more, this isn’t Jared Richards’ Drag Race UK, and she’s the one to go. Next week is a pop-group challenge: will we get another banger on the level of ‘UK Hun?’. Does the Pope shit in the woods?
RuPaul’s Drag Race UK S3 is available on Stan, with episodes arriving each Friday 6am AEST.
Jared Richards is Junkee’s Drag Race recapper, and a freelance critic who has written for The Guardian, The Monthly, NME and more. He’s on Twitter @jrdjms