Some Thoughts on ‘Canada’s Drag Race’ Season Premiere

After the success of spin-offs Drag Race UK and Drag Race Thailand – not to mention a still wildly successful original twelve season strong RuPaul’s Drag Race and five seasons of the All Stars format – the competitive drag series gains another branch – Canada’s Drag Race. The new North American series manages to find a fresh voice with enough format changes from its American counterpart and a pleasing familiarity in its challenges, cattiness, and structural routines. Unlike the BBC co-produced Drag Race UK – the series does not feature RuPaul as host and head-judge, instead opting for a trio of equally weighted regulars featuring Drag Race alumni Brooke Lynn Hytes. We’ve had a quick run down of our thoughts from Episode One below – taking note of some of the successes of this new addition to the Drag Race family.

*Spoilers ahead*

The Hosts

As noted above Brooke Lynn Hytes makes up one third of our trio of regular hosts. A bold move as Ru has never allowed another queen on the panel of Drag Race – other than priestess of high camp Elvira – let alone had a former contestant spearheading the show. However, it is worth noting that this is NOT Brooke Lynn Hytes’ Drag Race and episode one of the new incarnation gives all three of our hosts equal significance. Brooke Lynn was a fan favourite as runner up of Season 11 as the queen who made no secret of her love for her Canadian homeland – therefore the perfect choice to join the panel of Canada’s Drag Race. Unreal star Jeffrey Bowyer-Chapman (a guest judge on Season 9 of RPDR) and Canada’s Next Top Model’s Stacey McKenzie fill the other regular judging panel seats.

The season premiere struck us with the brutal honesty in the critiques of Bowyer-Chapman and Hytes in particular. Constructive and certainly not mincing their words contestants were picked up on their walk (Kyne) and Juice Boxx’s CD-inspired outfit is described as “sloppy”, “unpolished” and “unfinished” by the Unreal star and “basic” by Hytes. Of course positive criticism was dished out in spadeloads – but we appreciated the directness witnessed in the first episode critiques.

Perhaps the strangest deviation from the American and British formats is the “guest host” role with 24 star Elisha Cuthbert taking the reins on episode one. With no RuPaul in sight (other than a quick introductory video) – the guest host introduces us to the panel and introduces the runway segment of the show. The guest does not have a vote in the now democratically decided bottom two lip-sync results. Bowyer-Chapman, McKenzie, and Hytes discreetly vote on a piece of card for their weakest queen who is eliminated after the final lip-sync.

Other rumoured guest hosts include Michelle Visage, Allie X, Deborah Cox, Tom Green, Jade Hassouné, and Mary Walsh.

The Workroom

Bright colours and a giant sparkling red maple leaf adorn the workroom. Kitsch glamour is added from brass moose antlers and red crystal-coated lighting which deliver some Canadian sparkle to the new workroom, whilst portraits of Hytes, Bowyer-Chapman, and McKenzie sit in gold-coated frames against the traditional brick backdrop of the queen’s new home from home. Of course a portrait of Mother Ru also sits, casting a watchful eye over Canada’s up and coming new Drag Race freshers.

The Challenges

Episode one Eh-Leganza Eh-xtravaganza opens with a mini-challenge familiar to Drag Race fans – a wind-machine powered photoshoot. With contestants expected to climb a sloped structure and plant the Drag Race flag atop whilst delivering their most elegant pose, the challenge allows for a mass of comic material and a showcase for each of the queen’s comic and/or fashion chops.

A design task as the opening maxi challenge saw the Queens assigned a box by mini-challenge winner Kyne and tasked with crafting an outfit from this. Categories included: Yukon Gold Digger, Canada Gay, Québec-Froid, Man of Green Gay-bles, and Like A Prairie, being some of the categories which pay homage to some classic Canuck history. The challenge also allows us to quickly identify the Queens who cannot sew – despite knowing it is an integral part of any Drag Race experience.

The Queens

There was no shortage of big personalities in the workroom. Essex, Ontario based Juice Boxx made the bottom two with her Ru-sic video inspired outfit, joined by Canadian-born, New York based Lemon with her Jock Scraps outfit. Lemon unfortunately landed in the bottom two, despite a stunning yellow caped entrance outfit – yet is perhaps likely to attract some Farrah Moan comparisons with something of a sulky attitude in the workroom. Another queen heading towards the villain edit is twenty-one year old Kyne from Ontario who brought a bit of feistiness in her rebuttals to the judges’ critiques – perhaps struggling after being knocked off her high horse after a mini challenge win.

An eclectic mix of queens from a range of backgrounds, locations and ages is one of the key ingredients in a successful season and we have no doubt the producers have assembled that for Canada’s Drag Race. Challenge winner Rita Baga looks like a force to be reckoned with, whilst cookie Jimbo is gearing up to be another fan favourite serving a chaotic Tammie Brown energy, and Anastarzia Anaquway had us sold through her witty sass in the confessionals.

A mix of other stars including BOA, Ilona Verley, Kiara, Priyanka, Scarlett Bobo, and Tynomi Banks look set to unveil more secrets and skill as the series progresses.

The Lip Syncs

Our hope is that Canadian pop classics make up the bulk of the lip-sync soundtracks. Episode one saw Juice Boxx and Lemon face-off to Carly Rae Jepsen’s I Really Like You and thus made us hopeful about the further music selections. RuPaul’s Drag Race UK stuck with the British soundtrack with Dua Lipa, WHAM, Bananarama, Cheryl, Spice Girls, Eurythmics and Amy Winehouse making up the lip-sync soundtracks, so we have high hopes that Canada will follow suit. Shania? Avril Lavigne? Celine? Kiesza? Nelly Furtado? The potential is endless!

Canada’s Drag Race drops on BBC iPlayer every Friday. Watch here.

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