Drag Race Down Under – Episode 1: The Recap
Are you up to speed with Episode 1 of Drag Race Down Under? Let’s get into it.
Is Drag Race Down Under worth watching? With Episode 1 now under our belts, the answer is clearly yes.
We’ve obviously not expecting to see anything groundbreaking, but this is a format we know and it’s a format that works.
Once again, it’s the cast that make this worth watching, and we’ve got an entertaining cast who bring an upbeat and positive energy to the show – there’s plenty of snappy one-liners flying about the work-room and a good mix of personalities.
The entrance looks
- Art: Getting that branding established from the get-go, Art gave us dripping paint and splashes of colour. Job done.
- Maxi: You want old-school? Maxi is here to give you old-school. A vision in purple.
- Jojo: Plastic and vinyl, Jojo gave us pop-art character brought to life.
- Elektra: This wasn’t great from Elektra. The wig hadn’t travelled well, and the look didn’t really feel like it had a point of view.
- Scarlet: A red power-suit. Scarlet says she’s the fashion queen. Okay.
- Coco: Fun and flouncy and sparkly – good choices from Coco.
- Kita: Sort of pop-art meets anime, Kita is not only leaning into camp, she’s greasing up to the elbow and plunging in deep.
- Etcetera: I’m not sure why Etcetera decided to go with the cockroach outfit for her entrance look, but she did. Apart from a slightly malfunctioning antenna, she looked cute.
- Anita: Sort of a circus ringmaster with a bit of a bondage fetish? Looked good.
- Karen: Karen is from Finance, and she dressed for that assignment. On brand.
Taika Waititi provided some pre-recorded banter for an auto-cue challenge with a bit of improv thrown in. It was solid, and everyone seemed to do a good job.
Elektra was declared the winner.
The main challenge
The main challenge this week was providing two runway looks.
First up was a nude illusion.
- Scarlet: A latex full-body suit was ambitious, but – even with the rips that she had to try and repair – it looked good on the runway.
- Maxi: A see-through plastic rain-mac over a nude illusion body-suit. A fairly safe bet, but it was well put-together and did the job.
- Elektra: This was an homage to a RuPaul look, featuring football shoulder-armour. It was a solid look but – as the judges noted – it didn’t read as nude illusion.
- Coco: You can see what Coco was going for here – putting a big drag face onto a body-suit to create and conceal the nude illusion. It just all felt a bit clunky.
- Etcetera: Celebrating her non-binary identity, Etcetera’s look was beautiful and hit the assignment.
- Jojo: It was a nude illusion body-suit that met the assignment.
- Karen: Clever work from Karen – giving us a character and some reveals down to a nude illusion body-suit.
- Anita: Giving us Eve in the Garden of Eden, Anita’s look worked.
- Kita: It was a cute look – a nude body-suit adorned with white fluffy balls. It didn’t really give me nude illusion.
- Art: Giving us duality with half nude and half painted and bedazzled. Looked good.
The second look was a hometown celebration look.
- Scarlet: Perfect choice by Scarlet – the black swan brought to life. Impressive.
- Maxi: Maxi is from Ballina where they have a statue of a giant prawn. That’s what Maxi gave us, and it was glorious.
- Elektra: When Elektra explained this look, you could see what she was going for. But, as a stand-alone look, it was a bit busy and messy.
- Coco: Coco is from Coffs Harbour where they have a statue of a giant banana. So, Coco dressed as King Kong. Surprisingly, it worked.
- Etcetera: From Canberra, Etcetera’s look was flowing grey fabric to represent the hills surrounding the city, and the boning on the outfit represented the city’s streets. It was beautiful, but you needed Etcetera to explain all that to get the references.
- Jojo: Jojo gave us an outfit that not only celebrated her indigenous identity, but also called out the colonisation of Australia and the dispossession of the indigenous people. Powerful and important.
- Karen: Melbourne is known for its racing carnivals where everyone dresses up and has a big day at the races. Karen gave us that character and really brought that to life.
- Anita: Anita gave us a sheep. I really liked this. Very cute.
- Kita: Kita took the famous jersey of the All Blacks and turned it into a gown. It looked great.
- Art: Art explained this perfectly, but you probably need to know Melbourne a bit to get the references. A serious black look that transformed into piece of colourful street art. Stunning.
The permanent judging panel for the series is RuPaul, Michelle Visage, and Rhys Nicholson.
Rhys is a comedian and he seems a natural fit for this format – he seems to be enjoying himself.
There are also going to be some guest judges, just none this episode.
In what seemed to be an unexpected twist, RuPaul did the judging in his boy look and then filmed the intro and some links in drag at a later date. There was some story about the makeup that didn’t quite make sense.
Overall, the judging seemed fairly gentle. There was a lot of uncertainty about this series – it was filmed while things were fairly fluid during the pandemic, and production had to be moved from Sydney to Auckland at relatively short notice. It’s not clear what impact this has had on the cast’s ability to prepare for the show.
Top 3 were Karen, Art, and Scarlet. Karen was declared the winner. I probably would have given it to Art, but I’m not mad.
Bottom 3 were Jojo, Elektra, and Coco. Coco was declared safe – which seemed logical based on what we were presented with – leaving Jojo and Elektra in the Bottom 2.
The track was Tragedy by the Bee Gees. Seems like a good option.
Jojo and Elektra both did a good job, but Elektra had stunts and she pulled them all out.
Ultimately, it was Elektra who was declared the winner and Jojo was eliminated.
One one hand, sure – that makes sense in the narrative we’ve been presented with by the show. Jojo’s looks weren’t the strongest, and Elektra’s lip-sync stunts make better TV.
But losing Jojo in Episode 1 really feels like a missed opportunity.
It’s only a small cast, but it’s surprising that we seem to only have two non-white cast members, and Jojo is the only cast-member from an indigenous culture.
Representation is really important, particularly with the racist and genocidal history that Australia is still grappling with. It would have been really powerful for Jojo to have more screen-time. Losing Jojo in Episode 1 feels like an unforced error by the production team.
But, here we are. Episode 1, done.
USP: Killer drag name and a big reputation.
Current Ranking: Coming into the show, Karen is one of the bigger names in this cast. She had a great first week – she looked comfortable and confident both on camera and on stage and she took the win.
USP: An established queen with a big presence on social media.
Current Ranking: Art had a good start to the series. She comes into the show with a big reputation and high expectations. With a strong Episode 1, she clearly knows what she’s doing.
USP: Skinny legend.
Current Ranking: She’s a tall skinny white girl and she’s using that to her advantage. A top-three finish in Episode 1 means that Scarlet has got our attention.
USP: A seasoned performer
Current Ranking: A solid start to the show from Maxi. She’s been in this business for a long time, so it will be interesting to see if she can translate her experience into the format of the show.
USP: Usually works as a double-act with Anita.
Current Ranking: Lots of experience, and seems determined to make the most of her time on the show.
USP: Usually works as a double-act with Kita.
Current Ranking: We’re waiting for the inevitable Anita versus Kita lip-sync. At this stage, my money is on Kita. Anita seems happy to be there, while Kita seems like she’s taking no prisoners.
USP: Young and fun.
Current Ranking: We haven’t seem much of Etcetera yet, but she’s got a great energy on camera. One to keep an eye on.
USP: Big and beautiful.
Current Ranking: I really like Coco, but a Bottom 3 finish in Episode 1 means that she’s got off to a shaky start and now has to prove that she can cut it in this competition.
USP: She works for Kita and Anita. From what we’ve seen so far, Elektra seems a bit rough and ready but can certainly put on a show.
Current Ranking: Elektra describes herself as the underdog in the competition, and that does seem to be the storyline that she’s been given. It was a bit of a roller-coaster first episode for Elektra – winning the mini-challenge and then ending up in the Bottom 2. She beat Jojo in the lip-sync and Elektra pulled out some impressive stunts. The trouble with that is that we’ve now seen the stunts. Will Elektra have anything else up her sleeve to keep us entertained? I think Episode 2 might be the end of Elektra’s journey on the show.
USP: Representing Australia’s indigenous people, Jojo describes herself as Faboriginal.
Final Ranking: Eliminated in Episode 1, Jojo is the Pork Chop of Season 1 – losing the lip-sync to Elektra. Representation is really important, particularly with the racist and genocidal history that Australia is still grappling with. It would have been really powerful for Jojo to have more screen-time – it feels like an unforced error by the producers to eliminate her in Episode 1.