When the cast lineup of RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars 8 was announced, there were certainly a few unexpected queens in the mix. There were alumni like Jessica Wild, who had not competed on the show since Season 2; Jaymes Mansfield, who was eliminated first in Season 9; and Mrs. Kasha Davis, more known for her kindness than her competitive streak.
But there was one wildcard who really stood out to Drag Race aficionados: Alexis Michelle. The Season 9 queen finished in fifth place, which is certainly nothing to scoff at; countless queens in the show’s history would kill for that spot. But what was so surprising about Alexis was that she climbed her way up to that spot without much, well, how do I put this…blatantly visible talent.
No doubt Alexis was and is a skilled queen, you’ve got to be to make it that far. She even won one of the show’s most notoriously difficult recurring challenges, the Snatch Game. But her run on the show was often hampered by her runway looks, which were some of the worst that the show has seen since its post-Season 6 renaissance. But like all truly great reality television stars, Alexis never knew it. She was so hilariously self-consumed that the judges couldn’t give her a bad critique without it visibly dancing through one ear and out the other.
Delusion is one of the greatest gifts that a Drag Race queen can have. It either takes them all the way to the top, or sinks them in the end. In only four episodes of All Stars 8, Alexis Michelle has already proven that an upped runway game is merely a cover; she’s still the same merciless, competitive wolf in couture sheep’s clothing—and it is endlessly delicious to watch.
Alexis walked into the All Stars workroom as a queen on a mission. Her entrance look alone showed a cleaner, more thoughtful, and undeniably snatched Alexis. Of course, in her walk-in montage, the producers were kind enough to remind us of my all-time favorite Drag Race moments highlighting Alexis’ hilarious phantasmagorical run on the show. When Alexis made a truly horrendous corset out of plastic turquoise (which she pronounced ter-kwase) beads, she tried to stick up for herself against the judges. “I nearly went blind stoning this thing,” she protested. “Got it, still underwhelming,” responded judge Michelle Visage.
That’s the kind of delirium money can’t buy. And so far in All Stars 8, Alexis hasn’t had to use it much when it comes to defending her outfits. She’s been slaying the runway in beautiful gowns, and only stumbled once last week with an outfit that was a bit too pedestrian. But it’s her way of not-so-covertly clawing her way to the top that hasn’t changed a bit, god love her!
In the very first episode of this season, Alexis was deemed safe by the judges. In the series’ aftershow, Untucked, fellow contestant Monica Beverly Hillz—who had not been on the show since Season 5, and had a very tough run—poured her heart out to her castmates. During a brief lull, Alexis chimed in, crying along with Monica. It was the perfect opportunity to say something empowering, a vote of strength and confidence for a fierce queen who needed to pick up her falling crown. But in typical fashion, it was Alexis time.
“I feel very deeply for the girls that are in the position that you’re in right now, so that’s why I’m emotional,” Alexis began. “But also because…I wasn’t sure how I’d be received here. And I hoped that it would be well!” At that point, Alexis broke into full-on sobs. The rest of the queens around her all exchange priceless reactions, confused and mortified, as Alexis becomes practically inconsolable. It wasn’t dissimilar to the times in Season 9’s Untucked, when Alexis gathered her castmates to chide them about not telling her that her runway dress was ugly, or when she claimed everyone picked her to go home because that turquoise corset made her fierce competition.
But Alexis’ powers were at their strongest in this week’s episode, when her group fell into the bottom, after a sub-par job at the challenge assignment to create an original television pilot. In front of the judges, Alexis chimed in to say, “I have to apologize, because I did not come up with the concept for this, ultimately it was [Darienne Lake’s] idea.” In response, Darienne took Alexis’ remarks with grace, accepting the judges’ critiques without lashing out at Alexis.
In the Untucked, Alexis told Darienne, “I hope it didn’t feel like throwing you under [the bus],” to which Darienne calmly replied, “It did not feel like you were throwing me under the bus at all, it felt more like you were stepping back and letting me stand in front of the bus.” And the twisted thing is that Alexis’ maneuvering sort of worked: Darienne went home by the end of the episode. It might’ve been her third time in the bottom, and therefore most of her fellow queens likely voted her out. But Alexis saved her own ass by speaking up, even if it might not have been entirely true, depending on who you believe.
No doubt that Alexis was smiling a bit on the inside when her lipstick wasn’t drawn in the elimination. She remains in this competition to fight another day. And fight she certainly will. I’d bet money that Alexis makes it to the very top of this season, just on her shady maneuvering and reckless hubris alone. And to be clear: I hope she does. It makes great television! Alexis Michelle might be playing the game a bit too conspicuously, but this is a race, after all.
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