There have been more than a few unfortunate, let’s call them… “efforts” made by contestants of RuPaul’s Drag Race over the years, that now live somewhat embarrassingly (and iconically) in television infamy.
Whether it was LaLa Ri trying to sell a corset with gift bags stuck all over it as couture or Detox thinking she would kill an impression of her colleague, Kesha, in Snatch Game, plenty of queens have managed to put their stilettoed foot in it. But there has yet to be an instance of overconfidence that tops Eureka O’Hara’s finale outfit.
In the three-way lip-sync for the crown in Season 10’s grand finale, Eureka wore a corset emblazoned with the words, “THE BIG GIRL” in bold, block letters. Halfway through the song, she pulled off the tearaway words to reveal “…WINS.” Minutes later, she would find out that the big girl did not win, and the look would become a meme for the fanbase’s most toxic participants.
After 14 seasons of crowned winners, not one of America’s Next Drag Superstars has been a plus-sized queen. Competitors like Eureka and Ginger Minj have come close to snatching the crown—both multiple times over—but it has almost always ended up in the hands of someone who could pull off the look of a conventional high-fashion model as well as they could a drag queen.
In Season 15, it’s high time for a plus-sized queen to collect her crown. And that queen should be Mistress Isabelle Brooks.
The Reign of Misstress Isabelle Brooks
In just five weeks, Mistress has managed to prove herself a competition frontrunner by being the voice of reason and shade with equal measure—all without a single challenge win. Despite performing well in the mini and maxi-challenges (hello, her cuckoo amalgamation of Rosie O’Donnell and Abby Lee Miller in Snatch Game was inspired!), Mistress has only been ruled safe every time. And yet, she holds firm as Season 15’s most commanding presence.
Because she brings it to you every ball, tonight’s episode was no exception. If you haven’t noticed Mistress guiding the drama over the last few weeks, you just haven’t been paying attention. But tonight, she made no qualms about being loud and proud of her unique brand of outspoken messiness. As Malaysia Babydoll Foxx lamented her lack of a win in last week’s design challenge, Mistress laid it all out in her confessional. “I think Malaysia lacks a certain taste level,” Mistress said, tossing sequins along the launchpad of this week’s battle royale fight. “She has a severe case of drag delusion!”
Once the queens are split into three groups of four for this week’s maxi-challenge, things between Mistress and Malaysia go from a light simmer to a stovetop-crusting boil in two seconds flat. Each of the teams has to choose the genre of a song that they want to record as an elderly girl group: metal, country, or hip-hop. As Mistress’ teammate Marcia Marcia Marcia notes, metal would be the biggest genre juxtaposition for a group of spry senior citizens. Unsurprisingly, Malaysia’s group has the same thing in mind.
When the third team decides to take the leftover hip-hop song, Mistress chimes back in to say, “Okay, well we’re doing metal so I guess that leaves them with country.” Mistress leads her group in an unflinching struggle, repeatedly trying to bulldoze Malaysia’s team. “I think that we should just get metal, period.” Yes, it’s the kind of playground-style, wildly childish way to put their foot down, but as Anetra notes, it’s absolutely hilarious to watch.
The heat of the argument is so scorching that it lasts past an entire commercial break. By the time we land back in the workroom, the two warring teams are still going at it! And thank god, this is just the kind of old-school drama that Drag Race 3.0: The Kindness Era occasionally needs to rekindle some of the essential oomph of yesteryear.
Sasha Colby, whose eyes stay planted on the prize, isn’t here for the game of it all. “I have a problem with the reason why y’all think you have a right to choose first,” she asserts. Luxx Noir London fires back with an equally emphatic, “We already chose that we’re gonna do metal, so you just adapt to the situation and make country fierce!” Eventually, the two teams decide to play fair and draw their genre from a hat. Malaysia’s team gets metal, and Mistress’ is stuck with country.
A cut back to Mistress in her confessional highlights the genius of her extended gag. “Girl, we were just cuttin’ up, why are y’all so serious?” Mistress comes from a class of old-school drag performers, whose presence is as grand as their humor. She shows her love through little digs that she doesn’t really mean, but isn’t afraid to be a genuine motherly figure either. Hell, after starting off the season suspicious of their talent level, Mistress has even adopted Sugar and Spice as her drag daughters.
It’s clear that Malaysia understands that Mistress means no harm. While prepping their old lady drag in the workroom before their mainstage performances, Mistress and Malaysia engage in another verbal dressing down. “Oh, you look…lovely” Mistress says, dripping in sarcasm. “You know, the challenge was old ladies, not clowns,” Malaysia responds. Ever the raconteur, Mistress caps off with, “Is that what you went for?” I’d happily watch these two go tit-for-tat in lieu of the actual challenge.
Still, the group performances are a lot of fun, if a little reductive. Even after all that contention, both the metal and country groups slayed their numbers. Mistress remains safe for another week with a solid turn on the mainstage and a runway look that the judges fawn over. But it’s quite clear that, even though she hasn’t won yet, Mistress Isabelle Brooks is not just coasting through the competition.
The judges absolutely adore Mistress, and a large portion of the Drag Race fandom does too. (Though, like any season, she’s had to face unwarranted backlash from internet trolls.) Each week, her caustic confessionals make waves on Twitter, with more and more fans coming out to voice their support of Mistress winning the entire competition. If there are four things that Mistress has already proven she has in droves over the first few weeks of Season 15, it’s charisma, uniqueness, nerve, and talent.
All of that isn’t even to touch on the fact that it’s time for a plus-size queen to win Drag Race. Drag is an art form built by queens of all sizes, with drag pioneers like Divine and the late, great Lady Red Couture leading the pack of icons across the decades. Sure, Lawrence Cheney took home the crown across the pond in the second season of Drag Race U.K. But not having a single plus-sized queen in the history of Drag Race’s original franchise is egregious. Mistress embodies all of the qualities of a winner, and would certainly be a more formative and positive voice in the community than some crowned queens of the past.
In the first week of Season 15, Mistress took the stage at the talent show and laid out plainly in her song. “There’s never been a chubby girl to take the win,” she sang. “Get ready, bitches, take a look. I’m the next of kin.” Here’s hoping that this year, that’s a premonition and not an impossibility.
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