RuPaul’s Drag Race UK Episode 3: Ooh, the nerve!

Warning, this piece contains spoilers!

It’s safe to say that this week’s episode of Drag Race UK was saturated with twists and turns: to quote Welsh icon Tayce, “the cheek, the nerve, the audacity, the gall and the gumption” of it all. Shock eliminations aside, it made for delightful viewing.

Jodie Harsh’s appearance was certainly a welcome surprise, tasked with getting the contestants to shimmy, limbo-style, as low under a pole as they could muster. It comes as no surprise that East London’s self-professed “bendiest bitch” Bimini Bon Boulash did exceedingly well, with Ellie Diamond deserving an honourable mention for, well, trying.

The sheer number of berets present in this week’s episode was overwhelming, to say the least. A’Whora, Ginny, Bimini, Asttina, and Tayce all graced the workroom, de-dragged, in berets, which certainly says something about British gay stereotypes. With a furry leopard-print edition, Bimini would win the RuPeter badge for this one.

In one of the most heart-warming moments in Drag Race Herstory, Bimini and Ginny had a heart-wrenching chat about identifying as non-binary. With Gottmik, a trans man, appearing on season thirteen of Drag Race US, representation is certainly improving: Ginny revealed that one of the reasons they wear yellow is because it’s part of the non-binary flag. Twitter broke at this watershed moment, with many non-binary fans confessing that last night’s episode allowed them to come out to their family.

Bimini stated: “Non-binary isn’t a new thing, it’s just a new term. It’s just basically someone that doesn’t feel like they’re either masculine or feminine. They kind of float between the two. As humans, we’re so complex that having a binary to fit everyone into, whether it’s just male or female, just doesn’t make sense.”     

Bimini and Ginny’s heart-to-heart was certainly an overwhelmingly progressive moment for the show in terms of non-binary representation, but Ru’s comments regarding Ginny’s lack of “sexiness” puzzled me. British drag and American drag are two entirely different camps, if you’ll pardon the pun. American drag emerged from the ballrooms of New York City, in which poor Black and Latinx gay men and trans women would try to emulate “realness”, be that executive realness, or rich white woman realness. The goal was very much about convincing onlookers that you “passed” as whichever category you were walking in: this has facilitated a perception that modern-day drag, albeit vastly different in purpose to the ballrooms enshrined in Paris Is Burning, is about gay men impersonating women. Modern-day British drag is nothing of the sort: for the most part, it’s much more gender fuck, much less about creating that feminine, “fishy”, illusion.

British drag is infinitely creative, queering the lines of the definition of drag itself: characters like Ginny Lemon perfectly encapsulate this sentiment. Ginny dances to the beat of their own drum, described by fellow contestant Joe Black as “doing” drag rather than owning that “drag queen” status. Ginny doesn’t do sexy, and that’s perfectly okay. Drag cannot be confined to one small space: it’s a million things, and it’s down to individual interpretation.

I found it quite problematic that RuPaul, the embodiment of American capitalist drag, swanned into a British workroom and suggested that Ginny do “sexy”, causing her to end up in the bottom three; tried to tease the “supermodel” out of Tia, and made jokes about Asttina’s “broad shoulders.” Why get an individually amazing, unique character like Ginny on the show knowing they don’t conform to the norms of drag, only to suggest that they throw it all away and start acting fishy? In the words of Alyssa Edwards: I smell a stunt.

Reads aside, I have to say: I was slightly disappointed by the looks turnt on the runway for the sewing challenge. Lawrence was a personal highlight, and Bimini’s punky, Westwood-inspired garment was everything. Not bad for a bitch whose strong point ain’t construction, hey? Sister Sister deserves an honourable mention for that gorgeous blue mug, too.

With this week’s twist, those that weren’t in the top were in the bottom, which left many feeling that they were at risk of sending home the person they were closest to, as Veronica expressed. Luckily, her partner in Tia lived to see another day, but sadly, it became Asttina’s turn to sashay away.

Drag Race UK doesn’t pit girls against each other, and that’s a real pleasure to see. The response from the fanbase was overwhelmingly positive, and rather than turning into a catfight about who deserved to stay and who deserved to go, the conversation remained firmly dedicated to giving both Tia and Asttina the love they deserve.

Image: via Lawrence Chaney on Twitter @ShadyLawrence.