RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 13, Episode 5: The Bag Ball
Disclaimer: This is a joyful recap and not strict objective journalism. Please consider enjoying this piece with a steaming cup of tea at your side, perhaps giving the source links a visit to support the dolls in their journey to world domination. Let’s go!
We begin the episode with high tensions between Kandy Muse and Tamisha Iman. The main challenge this week is The Bag Ball, so the queens must showcase three distinct looks to represent three distinct categories: Mixed Bags, Money Bags, and From Scratch. In the highest tops, we have Gottmik who wins her first challenge! But lip-syncing in the bottom we got Lala Ri and Joey Jay, with Lala coming out victorious, and sending Joey back home.
Baby Got Back Mini-Challenge…
In a plunging fashion low point for the episode, the queens are asked to get into quick baby drag and show out in their campiest baby outfits. We’ll make this quick, highlights: Olivia’s pink onesie, Utica’s fashion baby silhouette, Joey Jay in basically no drag apart from a huge diaper, and the winner LaLa Ri! Her hilarious dancing was everything.
Hot Glueing & Design Werkroom Time!
Not much to see here, but we do find out LaLa Ri is Tamisha Ima’s drag daughter. We also discover Symone is not a seamstress, and the pressure of winning two challenges right away is officially catching up to her. We get a bit of around the way flirting from Kandy Muse who has developed a crush on Joey Jay, and a very compelling conversation around the murder of George Floyd and the subsequent protests.
LaLa Ri has a very vulnerable moment shedding tears in her interviews. Her emotion is a stark reminder that behind the glitz and glamour of drag, Black queens remain Black people in a country that targets them and their communities with disproportionate violence. Tamisha Iman points out Black Trans lives are in particular danger with their murder rate being among the highest of any demographic. Overall the conversation felt like a vital injection of reality and queer resilience against deeply flawed power structures; All Black Lives Still Matter.
First Category Is… Mixed Bags!
We got looks to get through on this day, so let’s get to it. This category is for queens with looks that relate to a bag phrase or pun! I was pleasantly surprised by Denali’s ode to safe driving with her airbag suit by Loren J. It was robotic, and campy in the best sense.
Some may wonder whether Symone is in fact everything, I’m just here to report: she might be. Her interpretation was fun bags, a subtle homage to Diana Ross, and her sparkling dress was designed by frequent collaborator Marko Monroe. For second servings, our ebony enchantress gives us an arty IGTV dancing to The Boss in full regalia, check that out! (and shout out to Trixie v Bebe on AS3 for a fab The Boss lip sync).
Okay. So Kandy Muse was a highlight for me in this category, her tight-fitting latex magician look was really tailored, very elevated, her interpretation was, of course, a bag of tricks. The design was by Wilbert Gonzales (who’s worked with S12 queen Dahlia Sin as of recent too) and her patent leather latex top hat by Tommy Cobau; we’re here for the details.
Lastly, a personal favourite in this category was Utica Queen! Her interpretation was a doggie bag, and she wore everything a human poodle would wear. There was a beret, pants, a frills top, teased hair, sheer black gloves, silver chains; and hey, she made it work.
Second Category Is… Miss Money Bags! or Executive Realness.
In perhaps the most fashion-forward moment of the entire ball, Gottmik impressed the judges with a Swarovski pinstriped suit by Bryan Hearns, an LA-based designer also responsible for working with Megan Thee Stallion, Cardi B, and Doja Cat. Michelle Visage called it remarkable and unbelievable, in Mik’s comment section the likes of Detox, Scarlet Bobo and Divina de Campo have all sang its praises, and we can’t help but stan an iconic fashion moment.
Again, Symone continues to stun giving a futuristic executive realness situation by KAIMIN, the NYC creative collective responsible for one Lady Gaga’s main look on her Stupid Love video. Her red hair was a standout piece as well and it was by Zach Kilian, who was responsible for Trinity The Tuck’s Curves & Swerves hair look on All-Stars 4; talent on talent.
Lastly, two unlikely highlights that were not picked by the judges were Tina Burner’s houndstooth suit and Denali with her Cruella de Vil’s cosplay. We didn’t hear a lot from them this episode but they sailed through the challenge with relative ease.
Final Category Is… 100% Bag Drag.
This was the moment of truth for several queens, and I thought this was truest of Elliott with Two Ts who possibly looked the chicest she’s looked all season here. She rocked a coat, bra and skirt set fully reconstructed from a bean bag chair, which featured pink stains all over it. It could’ve been my favourite look…
If it wasn’t for Gottmik! Whose fashion design background came in handy putting together her winning Joan Jett-Matrix strappy futuristic moment. In the same vein, Utica Queen received a remarkable amount of compliments from the judges for her sleeping bag couture creation. This week could’ve very well been her week.
Lastly, Kandy Muse in her college girl fantasy which I felt was a subtle nod to Suzie from the Rugrats as far as hair choices go. She did not get critiqued, but I felt she had a mostly strong showing this week.
Lowlights of the Week
Kandy Muse’s mostly strong showing ends here for her Executive Realness look. Kandy thrills me, and the outfit itself was gorge! But pink lingerie and a blazer to the office? I don’t think. Of course, also as a lowlight has to be LaLa Ri’s Bag Drag… design challenges can bring out the very worst on the runway, and unfortunately, this was one of those times.
Lip Sync… For Your Lifeee!
This week’s song was Fancy by Iggy Azalea & Charli XCX and our bottoming queens were LaLa Ri and Joey Jay, who both gave a fairly engaging lip sync. LaLa definitely embodied the song the hardest making us look past her crumbling outfit; as much as she possibly could anyway. Joey Jay put up a brave fight but ultimately sashayed away, leaving LaLa Ri to fight another day.
Werkroom Moment of Grace!
Tamisha Iman makes it to this section often, but her fangirling about ballroom culture was such a pure educational moment. Utica who has never attended a ball got a lovely showcase by the queens in the room, and Tamisha gave a shout out to ballroom legends Willi Ninja (The Godfather of Vogueing) and Leiomy (The Wonder Woman of Vogue).
Quote of the Week
RuPaul: “This is something that happens in this room a lot, it’s the negotiating the other voice in your head, and knowing to not listen to it. […] What you have to focus on is what you know to be the truth. And I hope that these other girls are listening to this conversation because I’ve been standing at this table for 100 years and it comes up every single time… What are your musings on that Kandy?”
Kandy Muse: I love it.
RuPaul: *Uncontrollable Echoing Cackle*
– RuPaul giving his seasonal inner saboteur speech and dying at Kandy’s response
Unseen Lewk of the Week
The incomparable Kahmora Hall showed us her um, douche bag interpretation for her bag pun look. It is gay and fashion, and an immediate sadness to know it did not walk the runway. I’d also like to bring attention to Denali’s Chicago Drag Excellence Youtube video. It is a who’s who of Chicago drag legends, including Dida Ritz, The Vixen, the Maison Couleé, and many others.
Images from Utica Queen, Gottmilk & Symone