Sara Ramirez
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Op-Ed: Monet X Change Was Robbed of a Solo Win

Monet X Change

After four installments of RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars, RuPaul crowned a Black queen. It was something the fans have wanted for a while, especially since every winner since season eight’s Bob the Drag Queen has been white or white-presenting across the main series as well as All Stars. The outcry only heightened after a last-minute jury twist in All Stars 3 found the favorite to win, Shangela, left outside the top two — and without a crown. And while Monet X Change is the first Black queen to snatch the All Stars title, her victory has an asterisk next to it; That asterisk is Trinity the Tuck.

 

 

Both Monet and Trinity entered the final week with great score cards. Trinity the Tuck had four challenge wins and one trip to the bottom four while Monet X Change had three challenge wins and two stints in the bottom. Both entered the season with something to prove: Trinity, that she could be more vulnerable than your average pageant queen, and Monet, that she could match her high performance acumen with an equally high level of taste on the runway. And yet, though they were both worthy of a win, by the time they cleared the final hurdle — a lip sync to Christina Aguilera’s “Fighter” — it felt as if naming co-winners was a misstep that cheapened Monet’s victory.

Let’s be clear: both Drag Race and All Stars have proven that track record is not always the most important factor in determining a winner. In season nine, Sasha Velour bested the other top 3 queens, despite having fewer wins (and both of them shared wins) than Shea Coulee and Trinity. Records didn’t matter as much in All Stars 3, either, when Shangela was denied a place in the top two because a jury of her queers deemed her unworthy of the spot. (Let’s not talk about BendelaCreme, who had an unimpeachable record, but eliminated herself from the competition.)

So, there is evidence in the Drag Race history books that it’s not always about accumulating wins, but rather about what happens when you make it to the homestretch. What makes a winner varies from reality show to reality show, but these recent seasons of Drag Race have shown that as long as you can make it to the final two and turn a lip sync, you can earn a crown.

And that’s exactly what Monet did. Monet X Change’s “Fighter” lip sync was a stunner: a mix of humor, emotion and gaggery that is the hallmark of any great Drag Race lip sync. As opposed to rolling around on the floor, Monet connected with the words. And when it was appropriate to do a stunt, she did, leaping into the air dropping into a split, which has become a hallmark of hers. And then there was the piece de resistance: After a whole season of avoiding pussycat wigs — short-haired wigs that the judges often knocked her for on season 10 — she tore off her blonde pussycat wig to reveal another blonde pussycat wig underneath.

 

 

There’s a few reasons this wig reveal is so gag-worthy. Drag Race has a long history of queens using wig reveals to varying effect. As Bebe Zahara Benet learned in All Stars 3, doing a wig reveal that doesn’t have an appropriate gag in the post-Sasha Velour world could cost you a win, superior lip syncing skills be damned. Monet’s lip sync worked because it was novel: no other queen has removed a wig to unearth the same wig underneath. That reality made it funny. But, Drag Race is also a show that rewards queens who understand their individual brands, and Monet’s reveal did just that. In a season where the queen made several nods to her infamous sponge dress and “soak it up” brand, she withheld on the short-haired ‘dos. But to save a pussycat wig for her last hoorah, then rip it off to reveal the same one underneath underscored just how self-referential (and funny) she is. It was a winner’s move.

Alas, it didn’t result in a winner’s reward. Rather than rewarding Monet for emerging triumphant from the final challenge hurled at her, RuPaul announced (via a recorded voiceover clearly done at a later date) that Monet and Trinity would share the All Stars 4 title, in a Drag Race first — surprisingly they did not have to split the $100,000, meaning that the show had $200,000 to give out. Several people on Twitter complained that the double crowning felt anticlimactic. Why now? Hadn’t several seasons featured pairs and trios of deserving queens with similar records? And why turn to this stunt now when the show is aware that a sector of the fandom was growing tired of last-minute rule changes that left Black queens like Shea and Shangela without a victory?

The choice feels even more bizarre given an early scene in the finale when Monique Heart, who had a similar record to Monet’s, sat on the couch with her season 10 sister and shared how special it would be if they were able to enter the top two together. The early moment seemed to set up a narrative where the two queens — best friends who are Black, both from season 10 and both named Kevin — might end up in the last lipsync together.

Instead, what we got ultimately felt like a letdown, even despite Trinity’s many merits. A Black queen finally jumped every hurdle the show presented and slayed up to the last minute — slayed in the last minute, honestly. And it still was only enough to earn a shared All Stars crown.

Well, there’s always season 11.

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