A Winner, Transformed from Legend to Superstar

After eight long years—I kid, three and a half months—America’s Next Drag Superstar has been crowned. Season 15 of RuPaul’s Drag Race kicked the Emmy-winning competition show back into high gear after a handful of rather forgettable seasons (which were still more entertaining than most other offerings in the consistently saturated reality television landscape). This season’s cast was the perfect mixture of baby queens and seasoned drag vets—all with personalities that could barely fit through the doors of the workroom.

All of that attitude and confidence successfully made Season 15 into the monumental, supersized season that host RuPaul claimed it would be in January’s season premiere. But it’s this round’s Top 4 queens who really exemplify a winner’s must-have qualities: Charisma, Uniqueness, Nerve, and Talent. Sasha Colby, Mistress Isabelle Brooks, Luxx Noir London, and Anetra all brought something completely unique to the competition. To walk into a show boasting over 200 contestants in its history so far, and be so remarkably gifted that you cannot be directly compared to anyone who came before you? Now, that’s a feat about as big as a BoobsForQueens breastplate.

Like Season 14, Friday’s episode mixed an old(er)-school Drag Race finale style, with the competitive format of more recent seasons. Each of the final four queens was tasked with writing (but not necessarily singing) an original song, and performing it on the main stage. These performances would then dictate which two queens would ultimately compete in the final lip sync for the crown. While this eliminates the outrage of a four-person lip sync tournament—which was the format that ran for five seasons, starting in Season 9—it does leave something to be desired. Each and every one of these queens has such incredible skills on stage, that it came down to tiny nitpicking when choosing who would battle it out for the crown.

After the reintroduction of the eliminated Season 15 queens, the finale wasted no time getting right into the original performances. Up first was Anetra, who preceded her original song “Lotus,” by saying, “I think it’s important to represent for drag and drag artists right now, because drag is freedom … It’s place where we get to erase ourselves and build ourselves up again, and be whoever we want to be.”

That’s exactly what Anetra did, stepping out of her natural shyness and into full drag character for her performance. Anetra was followed by Luxx, who slayed her original number titled, “It’s Giving Fashion.” After Luxx, Mistress Isabelle Brooks—whose momentum and fiercely funny candor has kept the season perfectly paced—dropped her guard to talk about how important it was for her to represent for people like herself.

“I represent for the plus sized girls. I put on for Houston, Texas. But, most importantly, I’m representing for anyone who’s ever been told they couldn’t. In typically hilarious fashion, Mistress killed her song, “Delusion,” closing the chapter on the now-legendary phrase “drag delusion,” which she coined early in the season.

The producers saved the fan-favorite for last. When a team of dancers brought Sasha Colby onstage clad in a fabric snake-tail, lifting her out of it to perform the absolutely jaw-dropping number “GODDESS,” it was no question that Sasha would be one of the final contestants fighting for the prize. But all four performances confirmed exactly what we already knew: Each one of these four queens is a mother-tucking star.

But this is Drag Race, and there are 90 minutes to fill, millions of eyeballs watching, and sponsors to please. It was no surprise that the finale was padded about as much as Sasha and her new sister Ferocity were just a few weeks back.

This season was all about keeping drag political, and rallying in the face of its detractors. So much so that almost half of my recaps for you had some sort of topical slant. And that’s a good thing! Visibility is paramount in a world that so vocally wants drag artists and queer people to be snuffed out. Unfortunately, this culminated in a cringey performance between singers Leland and Orville Peck, with vague lyrics about the power of drag, which ended in a “We Are the World”-esque, hand-holding singalong with all of this season’s queens. I’m sure Loosey LaDuca was honored to be a part of it.

But enough about all that filler! (Something Detox has never said. *Shade sound effect.*) I know what you’re really here for. Who were the final two queens?

In a legitimately shocking twist—given how much she has remained the name on everybody’s lips and created meme after meme—Mistress Isabelle Brooks was not chosen by RuPaul to compete for the crown. I have been openly campaigning for a Mistress win for months; it would’ve been historic! A plus-sized queen still has not won the main franchise. But, even though Mistress seems like she’s been in the game for decades, she’s only 24 years old. She’s got plenty of glory ahead of her, and will surely be the person that makes every other queen shake in their platform shoes on a future season of All-Stars.

Luxx Noir London was also given the shaft, meaning that Anetra and Sasha Colby would be the final two to compete. With those two running backstage to prepare, Luxx and Mistress were left to take their bows—and both of them looked ready to grab the mic and claim Rigor Morris. Honestly, that’s what made this finale so intense. But it’s also what made it irritating. Each one of these queens was so talented, and deserved their chance to fight. Especially because this was never supposed to a finale with four queens in the first place.

When it finally came time for their fight to the death—sorry, for the crown—Anetra and Sasha Colby were tasked with a pretty lackluster song: “Knock On Wood” by Amii Stewart. Don’t get me wrong here, this is a classic. But for a Drag Race finale? And when Emma Stone and a shirtless Penn Badgley already slayed the house down boots with it in Easy A? Underwhelming!

That said, both queens annihilated what they were given. In retrospect, we should’ve seen this coming from the minute Sasha and Anetra left every sequin on the stage during their LalaPaRuza lip sync. Sasha had a series of reveals that were so well-executed that they managed to not be eye-roll-worthy (a tough ask, after no one was able to top Sasha Velour in Season 9). Anetra, however, was a fierce opponent, who was ribbon twirling, kick-flipping, and spinning for her life the entire time.

Like Mistress joked a few weeks back, we really were at the Sasha Colby meet-and-greet this whole time. When Sasha’s name bounced off of Ru’s lips, I don’t think anyone in the world was surprised. Sasha came into this competition trailing an already iconic drag legacy behind her. She hit every mark along the way, and was the only queen in the Top 4 to never fall into the bottom, or lip sync for her life. Quite simply, that crown was hers from the moment she laid eyes on the fake brick in the workroom.

But what really cinched her win was managing to do all of that while remaining an absolute force for what drag means in this world. Sasha is a legend, but her art and existence remain subversive. Crowning a trans queen in the current political climate is the ultimate middle finger to anyone and everyone who thinks they can eradicate drag and transness from this world. But no one can say it better than Sasha, herself.

“This goes to every trans person, past, present, and future,” she said. “Because we are not going anywhere.”

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