Gay people love to sit in front of their televisions and scream, “‘DRAG RACE’ LIP SYNC…BEST” into their Apple TV remotes.
In fact, they say that if you stand in front of your mirror on a Friday night and utter the words “Shut Up and Drive” three times in a row, five queer people will appear in your living room to queue up Alyssa Edwards and Tatianna’s All-Stars 2 battle royale. Nia DaCosta was due to write a movie depicting this phenomenon—a sequel to her Candyman remake called Sugar Walls—but production halted when RuPaul’s Drag Race began airing an annual Lip Sync tournament known as the “Lip Sync Lalaparuza Smackdown.” Attention had to be paid elsewhere!
All jokes aside, Drag Race lip syncs’ popularity and rewatch value are unparalleled. It’s why the show’s idea to simply make a lip sync tournament a recurring event was a stroke of genius. But until now, the Lip Sync Lalaparuza Smackdown (easier to say five times in a row than you might think) has only been implemented in the franchise as a twist. In Season 14, the queens all performed so abysmally in the Snatch Game that Ru co-opted an entire episode to make them fight against each on the mainstage as punishment.
But tonight, Drag Race Season 15 ushered in the Lip Sync Lalaparuza as an official maxi-challenge. And in a season stacked with sensationally skilled lip-syncers, it was bound to be a blood battle. As if that weren’t enough, the duel even revealed some unexpected lip sync assassins in the mix.
Because we’re still working with the abbreviated 42-minute episodes for a few more weeks, there’s no time wasted getting the queens into drag and out to the main stage to start the show. The rules are quite simple: Beloved Pit Crew hunk Bruno picks a ball out of a Bingo hopper with one of the queens’ names on it. That queen chooses their lip sync opponent, while their opponent gets to choose the song. This time around, there’s a nice mixture of random, modern pop songs (“Boys Don’t Cry” by Anitta) and drag revue classics (Celine Dion’s “It’s All Coming Back to Me Now,” the greatest ballad ever recorded). The winner of each lip sync will be safe to beat their face another day.
The first queen to have their ball fondled by Bruno was Malaysia Babydoll Foxx. If you’ve been keeping up with the simmering tensions between Malaysia and fellow contestant Mistress Isabelle Brooks, you know that a lip sync with both of them could’ve been Alyssa Edwards vs. Coco Montrese levels of iconic. Mistress said as much in her confessional, “Come on, give the girls what they want!” Instead, Malaysia selected Marcia Marcia Marcia, clearly because Malaysia believed that she can knock Marcia—110 pounds soaking wet—out with a single hair flip.
It was deeply the wrong choice. Marcia, all spindly and dressed for a kick-flipping catwalk clash, selected the upbeat, synthpop Anitta song as the first number of the night. By the end of the first chorus, Marcia had already backflipped her way to the win. “This bitch behind me doing backflips and shit!” Malaysia said in her confessional. “It’s time to get this leg up in the air.” In a last-ditch attempt to turn up the heat, Malaysia transformed into a swirling tornado of glitter and wig glue, hitting the rest of her moves as if the editors had sped her half of the stage up in post. It was hilarious to watch, and a little bit of sweet vindication for us Marcia fans. Since week one, I’ve had a good feeling about this twink!
The next couple of lip syncs flew right on by. Loosey LaDuca and Spice hashed it out over Joan Jett’s “Do You Want to Touch Me?” It was a wise song choice for Spice—dressed in flame-patterned rocker chic—but as a lip sync performer, the baby drag queen has quite a way to go compared to a seasoned queen like Loosey, who wiped the floor with her. After that, Salina Estitties and Luxx Noir London dug deep into their emotions for the highly anticipated (in my living room) Celine Dion number. Luxx played the song straight, while Salina astutely imbued a little camp into her hyperdramatic performance, winning out in the end.
There are only so many songs in this world that Drag Race can get the rights to across its 261 franchise iterations, so there was bound to be some overlap eventually. “Tell It to My Heart” had a pretty good lip sync on All Stars 2 when Detox and Alyssa Edwards fought for the top spot, but it shined just as well here in an exciting Mistress and Jax face-off. Mistress gave Taylor Dayne’s classic some good old Texas drag: Big boobs, hair, and personality. It worked to clinch the win over Jax, who still put in a typically wonderful performance. Jax proved herself a bonafide lip sync assassin last week, but it was her second time in the bottom. And with one Lalaparuza loss under her belt, things already weren’t looking good.
The fates put Sasha Colby and Anetra head to head to close out the first round to Fifth Harmony’s “I’m in Love with a Monster.” I nearly got a Khloé Kardashian-level migraine the way my eyes darted back and forth between those two stars. They hit every beat, great to the very last second. But in the end, it was Sasha who gained sweet safety.
Round two began with an invigorating giggle. I kicked my feet in the air and was hooting and hollering when Malaysia and Spice hit the stage to Camila Cabello’s “Don’t Go Yet.” Spice chose the song because she knew that Malaysia didn’t know the words, only to get five seconds into the first verse and realize that she also didn’t have a grasp on Miss Cabello’s mousy mumbling. It was a treat to watch them both flounder—it’s some hater behavior, but watching failure is fun, especially in a challenge where the stakes were this high.
With only one song left and an odd number of queens remaining in the tournament, Ru selects Jax, Luxx, and Anetra to compete against each other to Vanessa Williams’ “The Right Stuff.” Each one of them was hitting splits, duck walks, and death drops, but Luxx brought the proper amount of attitude to clear her competitors. You might say she had…the right stuff. Thank you, you’ll receive an invoice for the copay I forked over to treat the eye you just hurled a tomato at.
Ru called Spice back to the front of the stage to join the remaining two queens, Jax and Anetra. Finally, Season 15 got a delicious twist! Bruno will choose one final Bingo ball from his golden hopper (the suggestive jokes alone are why Drag Race has won so many Emmys). In turn, that queen will choose one queen to redeem and send backstage to safety, and one to battle it out to stay in the competition.
Anetra’s name is drawn, and with a heavy heart and deep voice, she chooses to save Spice. “I can’t lip sync against Spice,” Anetra said. “Do y’all think that’s fair?” Mad respect to Anetra for choosing to give the viewers a show rather than saving a queen she was closer to. That’s lethal, that’s bloodthirsty, that is how you win a competition. And when Ru announced the final showdown song to be “Finally” by CeCe Peniston, I almost sprinted out of my third-floor window with excitement, Bird Box-style.
The minute Jax hit the Mortal Kombat combo move of a fakeout-neck-crack, 360-degree spin, and drop to the stage along with CeCe Peniston singing the first “Oh, no no!” I was sure that she had it in the bag. But that’s the problem with assumptions when two incredibly strong queens are going head to head: one absolutely insane move won’t be enough to win. It’s also why the Lalaparuza is such a fantastic challenge. It takes strategy and planning. You don’t want to reveal all of your cards in the first round in case you don’t win. The surprises and energy have to stay at the ready the entire time.
Jax and Anetra perform neck-and-neck, and if Jax hadn’t already been in the bottom twice before, I’m confident that RuPaul would’ve granted the rare Double Shantay. But things were stacked against poor Jax, and the numbers simply do not lie, leaving her to sashay away in a genuinely emotional moment.
From the moment she jump-roped with her own hair in the season premiere to last week’s lip sync massacre, Jax has proven herself a fierce and unforgettable performer. It’s tough to see her go. But when you feel a pang of sorrow for one of the contestants walking away, that’s when you know things are really heating up in the race. Jax may not have won $200,000, but she’ll collect that much in one night from tips alone if she keeps performing at this level. Without her, there’s no doubt that this Lalaparuza would’ve been much less sweet.
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