For six episodes straight, it was clear that BenDeLaCreme was the frontrunner of RuPaul’s Drag Race: All Stars 3. When she eliminated herself at the end of episode six, it became anybody’s game. At that point, Shangela had won two Lip Sync for Your Legacy battles. Bebe and Kennedy had both won one. Trixie was the only one in the top four that hadn’t won a lip sync yet. After Shangela won her third lip sync in the seventh episode, it became clear that she was on her way to snatch the crown.
But Shangela lost.
Because the Lip Sync for Your Legacy twist was adapted from All Stars 2, many expected that this season would follow the same format. The top four would compete in a final maxi challenge in episode eight; then Ru would eliminate one to form the final three. From there, they’d have one last chance to impress Ru and lip sync for the crown. Based on their performance in the season, Mother Ru would pick a winner from the three – who will join Chad and Alaska in the Drag Hall of Fame.
The gag is that we all fell for it. Ru threw us the biggest twist that would flip the table and spill all the tea at the last minute. Instead of eliminating one of the top four, a “Jury of Queer Peers” consisting of the season’s eliminated queens interviewed the four to vote on which two queens would lipsync for the crown (with their first vote worth two points, and second vote worth one). Kennedy led the polls, followed by Trixie, Bebe, and finally Shangela, with only one ironic vote from Thorgy Thor.
Let’s talk about this season. Yes, All Stars 3 is probably one of the most entertaining seasons in herstory. But it is also the most frustrating season ever.
The lipsync for your legacy gig is broken. There have been many times where it was clear that one of the safe or bottom girls performed better than the winner of that episode. It is also emotionally wrecking for the winner to pick a friend and sister to go home. Yes, the winning queen wins $10,000, but at what cost? We saw BenDeLaCreme in complete despair when Morgan came back. Friendships and sisterhoods became endangered, and the claws came out one way or another.
The return of the queens gig is also pretty broken. In-season returns from queens like Trixie, and post-season returns from queens like Cynthia Lee Fontaine in Season 9, Eureka O’Hara in Season 10, and even Shangela in Season 3 have had mixed reception. There’s also the problem of the “Curse of Returning Queens.” Returnees perform worse than the girls who have been in the game since the beginning because they were absent for episodes (which, during recording times, may be weeks or even months). In the end, these returns pretty much become a waste of time and make a mess of the season. I like Morgan McMichaels. But what if she’d performed well in episode seven and moved on to the top four? It would become the most unfair twist ever. Morgan would only be represented for two episodes and take a spot from a queen like Kennedy or even Aja who’d stayed longer and played the game, all because of a gag.
Yeah, sure, “it’s reality television.” But let’s be honest about the whole All Stars system: it’s busted, it’s messy, and most of all, it’s unfair.
If this were a regular Drag Race season, winnings would be based not only on charisma, uniqueness, nerve and talent, but also merit, hard work, determination and resilience. It was surprising to see Kennedy in the top two. Both Shangela and Bebe had better track records, but she ended up with the most votes.
It was even more surprising that Kennedy lost to Trixie.
Don’t @ me. You know what I mean. We all came into All Stars 3 wanting Trixie to snatch that crown. We all joked about it being Trixie’s season. Well, guess what, we got it. But at what cost?
Trixie didn’t win any Lip Sync for Your Legacy money this season. She cruised safely, bombed at Snatch Game with her cringe-worthy RuPaul impression, won a few challenges, lip synced the best she could, then snatched the crown. Listen, Trixie, I’m really happy for you and I’m going to let you finish, but as much as I love me some Trixie Mattel, I have to call rigga morris. Trixie did well, but she did not do the best.
Ben did. Then Shangela. Then Bebe. If All Stars 3 performance is what Ru is basing whom to crown on, then no, I don’t believe Trixie deserves that crown. If it’s the final lip sync to Miley Cyrus’s “Wrecking Ball” Ru is basing it on, then I still don’t think she deserves that crown. But if it’s post-Drag Race career Ru is basing it on, then maybe we can have a discussion. Trixie does have what may be the best career out of all four. Since her season just a few years back, she has released two folk albums (one of which topped iTunes charts) that became an internet sensation with Katya through Unhhhhhhh, which spun itself off to her own show on Viceland, The Trixie & Katya Show. If that is a big chunk of the rubric, then yes, perhaps she does deserve it.
We’ll never know if it is or not. After all, RuPaul makes it explicitly clear that she runs this show. If she wants to throw table tossing twists at us, then we just have to sit down, glue and fasten our wigs, then move on. Whatever she bases these decisions on, we’ll never know. She’s made a lot of controversial decisions in the past, but at the end of the day, Ru does give us some damn good reality television.
This is not a rant about how Trixie Mattel doesn’t deserve the All Stars 3 crown. Stop coming after her. She did what’s expected of her. This is about Shangela not going as far as she should have because of a stupid “twist:” Shangela deserved at least to lip sync against Trixie.
So, Trixie Mattel, condragulations. Prance the hell out of this crown. We do love you. But let’s not forget that Shangela performed the best out of all the all stars this season. She worked hard to advance from the little guppy who got into petty fights in the pond in Seasons 2 and 3 to the grown fish we met and loved in All Stars 3. Shangela is the queen who keeps coming back. While she may not have another shot at a crown from RuPaul, she doesn’t need to worry. After all, Trixie might be the winner of All Stars 3, but Shangela is still the Daenerys Targaryen of Drag. She may not be a crowned queen, but Shangela is the khaleesi.