It was, as my dear friend Antoine Gregory calls it, one of my favorite things that day.
The RuPaul's Drag Race season 14 finale was a lot. For it, the franchise relocated to Las Vegas, in what was a cross-promotion with the ongoing RuPaul's Drag Race: Live residency at the Flamingo Las Vegas. In celebration, the city dubbed April 22, 2022 as RuPaul Day on The Strip. For the first time in herstory there were five finalists and all put on "showgirl-esque" routines (much in the way of Drag Race Thailand finale but shortened) and over $200,000 was awarded. Oh, and Symone finally made her return to the series.
During season 13, the Arkansas-born Symone made an impression early as a look queen. It was a point she hammered home week after week. She became the living embodiment of Rihanna's famous line: "she can beat me but she cannot beat my outfit." The looks were always top-tier and their inspirations reflected the clear intention and care she put behind her art form, working in collaboration with her family, the House of Avalon. Turning up on the Main Stage for her final walk as America's Next Drag Superstar in jeans and a t-shirt, it's clear that she's still got the stuff.
Let's be frank: RuPaul's Drag Race is basically the world's most-watched drag pageant. As such, for the step-down most queens go the pageant route. We're talking gowns, honey. None have topped Violet Chachki's hand-off, though it seems many have tried. To that point, Symone decided to beat out a new path.
While she turned up on pink carpet in Vegas wearing a poufy red gown from Monsoori — it was a couture gown that Nicole Scherzinger has worn for a magazine cover and from a brand that has dressed Beyonce, Megan Thee Stallion, Angela Bassett, Celine Dion and more — onstage she appeared in a glammed-up version of jeans and a t-shirt. And while some will call it "just" jeans and a t-shirt, it, too, was couture.
Styled by House of Avalon members Marko Monroe and Grant Vanderbilt, the custom look's top is a resin-saturated t-shirt created to give the appearance of a wet t-shirt. This, paired with crystal-encrusted deconstructed jeans. It was all created by Michael Schmidt Studios.
Symone decided to not compete with Chachki, or frankly any other queen's step down. She went in a direction all her own and pulled it off in a supremely unique way. It was her version of Jasmine Kennedie's "and this is just the entrance look," that was both casual as well as exquisitely done. That is thoughtfulness.
We have seen the core of this look before. Every pop star of the 2000s and quite a number in the 90s have done the jeans and t-shirt look. Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, Beyonce, Janet Jackson, Rihanna, they've all done it. It's likely that Lil Kim was a key inspiration point here. When Symone covered our Out100 issue she named the rapper as one of six Black women who are “always on the moodboards, always on my mind.” But the bottom line is it stamps Symone as an individual, as someone who is going to give you what you need but possibly not in the way you think you want it.
For the purposes of the Drag Race Universe, Symone's final look stamps her as a fashion icon. And for the larger fashion space — which has already shown signs of acceptance with a Maybelline ad, front row seats to fashion shows, and brand deals — it cements her as an up and coming star who doesn't mind taking risks, and as a result, has the potential to bring something new.