Working Draft: RPDR Season 9 Ep. 12

Hello, hello, hello ladies and gays!

Top 4 Ladies and Gays!

This is the Top 4 we deserved: Shea, Sasha, Trinity and Peppermint. It may not be the top 4 I originally thought we’d have (Valentina and Eureka **ahem ahem**), but it’s our top 4. Overall, I’m pleased with the line up! These ladies have brought energy from the beginning.

Top of Show:

Ms. Michelle Visage arrives in the workroom following Alexis’ elimination. Can you follow in Ru’s footsteps, ladies? Literally, they have to follow his tempo by recording an original verse and learning choreography to Ru’s new song “Category Is.”
side: the big question on everyone’s mind is: “Who replaced Lucian?” Bye, girl, bye.
They’ll be coached an choreographed by All Star’s judge, Todrick Hall. The girls also guest star on the podcast “RuPaul: What’s the Tea? with Michelle Visage.” Oh, and they will perform the song live on the main stage prior to the final runway presentation.

In the Work Room

The girls always say funny things. Ah, the power of editing… They all decide that Peppermint has the most experience for a challenge like this one, and Trinity is the least comfortable singing and dancing, so she’ll probably struggle.
wait I’m confused: Trinity has been solid throughout this whole competition imho, and Peppermint needed some time to warm up. Or, are we not remembering it that way? I will say, however, that these girls are really pushing RuPaul’s Best Friend’s Race, because that’s about the shadiest thing said in the work room.

Recording and Choreo Session:

Damn. The girls are right. Trinity struggles to remember her… vocal schtick and stick to the choreography. Sasha also struggles, but really, Todrick? Those moves looked difficult.
fyi: my definition of diffficult being “anything I can’t do in my tiny living room while watching the show”… Anyway.
As for Sasha’s “rapping” she does openly say she’s going to perform “spoken word” over the rap. But, she’s just not entertaining.
Peppermint has a good memory for both her vocal performance and the choreography, improving their own confidence in the challenge while setting the bar even higher for the other queens.
Shea, in my mind, is in a league of her own for this challenge. She has probably the most difficult choreography featuring a triple pirouette. Todrick looked happy with her.

In the end, this live performance segment on the runway is one of the best editing jobs the crew has ever done. All the queens looked incredible, and were entertaining. It more than makes up for the cheer leading challenge earlier this season.

Runway Is: Eleganza Extravaganza

The final runway of the season, y’all! (scribble time)

Peppermint: Truly giving us Princess Anastasia/ Russian doll realness. Hair is the same wig she’s had, though…

Shea: A bit of a let down, honestly… I’m openly not a big fan of her’s (I was for her promo looks pre-show, but the second she came in screaming for her intro… nope- Boner Killer), but I typically appreciate the way she styles herself. Looks expensive! The dress just looked a little thrift store-y.

Sasha: Also, a wee bit predictable. It’s a Beyonce- inspired, high fashion swimsuit. But, she looks beautiful in it.

Trinity: The look of the night. Michelle says it’s the best she’s ever looked. She is giving 1940’s silent siren.

Who Should Stay?

Before this episode aired, I believed that Peppermint should go home. But, everyone did really well in this challenge. And, all in all, none of the looks were terrible, so I’m thinking that Peppermint is going to have to lip sync Trinity. Ru has other plans though, he has them all deliver encouraging speeches to their younger selves. One final group lip-sync later, and voila! The series’ third “shantay you all stay” and first-ever top four.

So, they’re all going to be in the finale. Who’s going to win? #TeamShea

Season 9 has thrown us a lot of curveballs. Like I said at the top, I don’t think if we had certain queens still in the mix over others at this point, Ru wouldn’t have kept all 4. I think this was the best way for Drag Race to consolidate its losses- If the best isn’t here, let’s give them more options to distract them from the mediocrity.

Next

Still #TeamShea!!

 

Tenore di Grazia

Stolen from VoiceTeacher.com trying to understand myself as a singer!!


One vocal fach that can be confusing even for the advanced diagnostic instructor, and one that must be addressed carefully during training is that of the leggiero Tenor. Often considered the male counterpart of the Coloratura Soprano, this type of Tenor voice is often taught or encouraged to employ too much chest voice connection in the middle and chest registers, causing major vocal problems in the upper register. The mistake of over-employment of the thicker vocal cord mass is often made due to the rounder color in the middle and low register, characteristic of this vocal fach

This type of singer often has an almost baritonal quality in the lower register, which can be confusing to even the more experienced instructors. So the first issue to address with such a singer is that of proper or correct diagnosis of vocal fach.

Because of a change in vocal timbre above the high A-flat, the leggiero Tenor is sometimes thought to be using falsetto because of the lighter quality as he ascends toward the high C and up to the E-flat above high C. Considering this range to be falsetto is a HUGE mistake, because in fact this is NOT a pure falsetto mechanism, but a mechanism that has full-voice connection. Even though there is a lighter timbre in the earlier stages of development, employing too much chest or heavy mechanism in this kind of voice does not allow for the upper register to develop properly. It also makes the strengthening of the thin edge function of the vocal folds difficult if not impossible. Sadly, many instructors hear this voice type as Baritone because the Leggiero Tenor usually has a strong and colorful chest register, often extending quite low. But like the Coloratura Soprano, it is not ethical to over-produce this part of the voice. If the cords are overly thickened, the singer will never realize the release of the high extension or higher register; a mechanism that must be nurtured and developed over time before it takes on the vocal timbre of the other registers. The dramatic change in timbre can be minimized with proper release of the tongue. Hearing the upper voice as falsetto might remind some instructors of the Bellini training of the tenor, yet in fact this is a characteristic of healthy registration of the leggiero Tenor. The main problems for this voice type are (1) use of too much breath pressure through the folds, often causing cracking and lack of register blend, and (2) over-production of the chest or heavy mechanism, making it impossible to go high. Remember that Caruso told Lindquest in 1914 that he always felt he sang below his vocal cords NOT through them. This minimized the possibility of over-blowing the vocal folds. Use of less breath pressure through the folds allows for the thinner edge function to be realized more easily.

Training the Upper Extension: The Leggiero Tenor usually possesses a high extension that can easily climb to the E-flat above the high C, sometimes even higher. Usually the pivotal transition note into this extension is the A-flat above the staff. As stated before, the main confusion in teaching this voice type is that when first strengthening this extension, it can take on the quality of the male falsetto. Because some schools of training do not encourage development of falsetto (with healthy vocal fold adduction), this part of the voice might easily be overlooked.  How does an instructor learn to hear the difference between a Leggiero extension and falsetto? What are the differences if the sound is similar? This question is answered first and foremost in the fact that, if vocalized correctly, the leggiero Tenor upper extension has brilliance and strength, especially when working with a forward tongue position and a high/wide soft palate and open naso-pharynx. A strong amount of ring and sound is not a typical characteristic of the falsetto, especially in the undeveloped singer. The falsetto usually possesses a slightly hollow sound that does not encourage a large amount of high overtones. Instructors might need to consider themselves investigators and work this mechanism, using exercises that encourage proper closure of the vocal folds (see article on Garcia’s ‘coup de glotte’). Alan Lindquest worked the male falsetto (or in the Leggiero Tenor’s case the upper extension) in all the male voices using the rounded ‘i’ vowel with sunken cheeks at the molars and the jaw released slightly down and back. Working in training the closure of the glottis in falsetto is a basic characteristic of the Old Italian School. This type of training will diminish the possibility of a Leggiero Tenor being mistyped or placed in the incorrect vocal fach. These are tools that should make it easier for the experience teacher to place the singer in the correct vocal category.

Proper vocalization (with a healthy approximation of the vocal folds) and time will assist in a more complete sound over time. One cannot rush the process of development of the upper extension of the Leggiero Tenor. It can take a time period of up to 3 years of hard work. But using an approach that encourages healthy vocal fold adduction will strengthen this mechanism and the blending of the registers will begin to happen more naturally. Patience is the key word here. Lindquest’s philosophy was that proper falsetto development in both male and female voices was key in development of the high voice or upper register. Remember that in order for the upper register to release, the thin edge function of the folds must be employed in the middle and lower registers. Working the falsetto correctly with proper vocal fold adduction will allow for the thin edge function to develop properly.

Considering Passaggio Pitches During the Strengthening Process of the Upper Extension: As stated before, the pivotal or transitional note into the Leggiero upper extension is around the high A-flat above the staff. Experience teaches us that one must handle the passaggio differently for the leggiero Tenor, using much less fullness of chest connection and much less sound in the high E-flat to F-sharp range, especially in the early period of training. If too much chest is employed in this type of tenor, he will develop a large crack in the upper voice, much like a female singer who brings the chest register up high in the scale and does not exercise or strengthen the head voice function. If too much chest register is employed, the singer will use too much thicker cord mass in the passaggio area, making it impossible to go into the upper extension easily and smoothly without a large change in timbre and color. I use the term “shades of gray” in working the upper passaggio of this voice type, which is a result of the release of the larynx and the healthy vocal fold adduction. Working staccato chromatically in the upper passaggio area can teach the singer the proper amount of vocal weight for those pitches, thus assisting in register balance. (Light staccato may also be used in the middle and low registers to assist in healthy development of thin edge function.)

One term that can work successfully with the leggiero Tenor is the idea of ‘dropping the weight’ off the voice while keeping the body connection. BUT it is critical to explain to the singer that dropping the weight really means thinning out the cord mass (without closing the throat or pharynx) Correct dropping of vocal weight is something that does not necessarily happen naturally. In fact this voice type is often tempted to use this larger, more chest connected sound with too much breath pressure and cord mass. But if the dropping of the vocal weight is imaged correctly and carefully, the singer can transition into the upper voice without a break or crack in the voice. He must use the concept of the Italian School indicated in the statement of‘inhalare la voce’ (inhale the voice) in this most critical transitional area of the E-flat through high G. The leggiero Tenor will hear little sound inside his head from the high E-flat to the high A-flat, similar to the experience of the female singers in the lower head voice mechanism. Feeling for proper sensations instead of going for more inner sound is one key to dropping the weight in the voice so that a smooth transition can occur at the high A-flat. Again, this is similar to the Mezzo-Soprano when she needs to thin out the cords in the upper chest register in order to smoothly transition into lower head voice mechanism.

One approach that can assist the instructor is to train the leggiero Tenor’s upper passaggio much as one would train the female lower passaggio. While not exactly the same, this concept could offer some insight for the instructor on how to carefully approach the Leggiero’s upper passaggio, making it possible to transition into the upper voice correctly.

The Option of More Chest Connection: When is more chest connection into the upper range of the voice appropriate? There are some tenors of this type that develop into larger voices through the years, making it appropriate to use a fuller connection to the chest register. Personality and desire to sing specific roles can be major factors in making this type of decision. But the voice will be the final indicator for both singer and teacher. How is this done carefully and when is it appropriate? If the transition of register at the high A-flat does not smooth even though properly vocalized, the instructor needs to look at the possibility of the singer using more chest connection and a fuller sound. As stated before, there are some larger-voiced tenors that first develop as leggiero Tenors and then connect to more full chest connection to the high C. Again this must be done slowly and carefully, dropping the vocal weight at the upper passaggio area. In 1914, Lindquest traveled to Paris to study with Jean de Reske. Considered the first tenor to connect the high C in what is now considered more traditional training, Lindquest decided to pursue study with de Reske. Lindquest’s coachings with Enrich Caruso earlier that year had inspired him to seek more vocal information, resulting in his Paris trip.

It is appropriate to connect to a more traditional Lyric Tenor production when a singer feels that the upper extension has strengthened and reinforced to the point of sounding completely full voice or if the cracking persists in the upper transition. Remember that it is critical to develop the thin edge function (more head voice development) in the middle and low registers no matter which vocal path is followed. Using exercises to release the tongue can help this type of singer to connect more chest without weight in the voice. In some tenors, this training is a choice, not a requirement. Individual training is the key here. Every voice is different and every singer’s voice is not only a direct outgrowth of physical function, but also of personality. One major part of vocal training to consider is the tongue.

As stated before, if the desire to sing more dramatic roles is present, then it is the instructor’s job to assist the singer in careful development of the upper voice with proper head voice dominant training of the middle and low registers. Many Tenors have great difficulty controlling the small and even breath stream, a requirement in singing high without as much tension in the larynx. Singing with too much breath pressure through the folds is counter- productive during development and can actually cost a singer his voice and career. Use of too much breath pressure thickens the vocal fold function, making head voice development impossible. Lindquest taught the ng position of the tongue posture at inhalation and as home base in order for proper head voice development to occur. The tongue can be the major culprit in confusing the teacher and what he/she is hearing. However it is important to consider that the tongue is usually a result of breath pressure and if the singer is not truly body-connected, then the true voice will not be heard. True head voice has a great amount of color from the open pharynx with the tongue forward. But if the singer lines up against a wall and presses the lower back into the wall at the onset and throughout the vocal phrase, then the true instrument will reveal itself. This lessens the chances of thickening the vocal folds.

The steps to careful development of more chest connected voice stem from precise and healthy handling of the middle register. Working the thin edge function of the folds begins the safer journey to higher connection. I recommend staccato exercises imaging the thin edge function. Applying too much chest connection too early in the scale can rob a singer of his high notes. The middle voice must be vocalized in the position of ‘voce chiusa’ or ‘closed voice’. This can be accomplished using an oval mouth opening (with the jaw slightly back) and opening the pharynx simultaneously. This gets the singer to what one might call the acoustical protection of the throat.

According to Lindquest, who befriended Jussi Bjoerling in 1938, Joseph Hislop used the connected umlaut sound. Vocalization was accomplished using an arpeggio on this particular vowel sound.  Because the tongue is very forward, the singer has less of a chance of taking up too much chest, allowing the lighter or headier side of the voice to be present in the fuller voiced connection. Working between more connected sound and the lighter mechanism can keep the voice healthy during this process. The falsetto function should always be kept in tact with healthy adduction of the vocal folds.  Lindquest spoke of what he called ‘super head’ mechanism and how this mechanism would strengthen to the full voiced sound over time. This ‘super head’ mechanism is usually found above the high C.

Monitoring Laryngeal Function: One critical point to make is the monitoring of laryngeal function during vocalization. If the sidewalls of the larynx narrow, then the singer CANNOT transition into the head register healthily. If the instructor notices a narrowing of the muscles of the neck, then it is time to begin to find ways of releasing this tension. Having the singer feel the neck wide with the fingertips assists in accomplishing a more open and wide pharynx. Have the singer watch in the mirror for any muscles that suddenly jump or shift at register changes. This problem is something that needs to be corrected immediately and it is a characteristic that many career singers develop. Men develop this ‘narrow neck’ from pushing too much breath pressure, therefore pushing the larynx in too high of a position. Women can develop this over time, especially during menopause when the hormones are changing in the body quickly. MOST singers develop this problem in an attempt to sing high and soft without enough body connection. Whatever the cause, it is a vocal problem that can cut a career short.

Tongue Release in Training: Working on the proper release of the tongue is extremely useful in helping tenors to connect the upper voice without weight. Vocal weight is usually a result of a muscular reflex in the larynx and/or the tongue. The singer feels he is singing on a thickness rather than healthy vocal acoustics. Virgina Botkin had her tenors vocalize with the tongue hanging over the lower lip.  This helps the singer feel the open pharynx in the back of the mouth space and slightly above in the naso-pharynx, making proper head voice development more possible as the singer connects the upper voice with more dramatic sound.

Case Study #1: London Leggiero Tenor: Several years ago, a leggiero Tenor come to me after his London-based training. Tragically, he had been confused as a Baritone and had been taught to over-produce the chest register with a lot of false color using the root of the tongue. At age 25 this singer suffered from a tremendously wide vocal wobble (wide and slow vibrato). It had become almost impossible for him to sing within the core of the pitch and most of his voice was flat and out of tune. This is a typical case of a young singer who was damaged by being taught in the wrong focal fach. In today’s world, many instructors are not offered enough apprenticeship opportunities or the experience of hearing the vocal development of this type of singer. In order to learn how to hear and diagnose different vocal categories, there is no substitute for hearing an experienced master teacher work through the total process over time. I had the opportunity to watch Lindquest and his student Virginia Botkin over a period of years, an experience that would establish the foundation of my teaching career.

I immediately placed this young singer on the cuperto exercise that I had learned from Alan Lindquest in 1979. The purpose of this exercise is to blend the registration from the high voice downward and to work the thin edge function of the vocal folds from the highest singing pitch down to the lower register. The voice began to immediately respond, BUT the first thing I noticed was how smoothly he seemed to move from the falsetto into the fuller sound on the way down within the two-octave scale. It was at this moment that I knew he was not using pure falsetto, but a mechanism that was more full-voice connected. This upper extension gradually became fuller and more ringing with quite a lot of power. I then placed him on the Swedish umlaut sound that reinforced the ring in the upper voice while keeping the open pharynx and the forward tongue position. The result was amazing. A voice that suffered all kinds of registration issues suddenly had no breaks.

The second approach I used with him was to take less breath. It is often the case that when a Leggiero Tenor over-produces the chest register, then he must take a lot of breath and use a lot of breath to sing, something Caruso discouraged strongly.  Over-breathing and pushing too much breath pressure during phonation creates imbalance in registration, sometimes effecting vibrato speed. After the Swedish umlaut, the vibrato began to spin more and more quickly and the voice began to enjoy singing higher and higher. It was evident that this was not a Baritone voice, but a Leggiero Tenor. How sad that this singer had to suffer so much because of being heard as a Baritone. It is a common confusion, one that can cost a singer his vocal health and career.

Case Study #2: San Francisco Leggiero Tenor: About 3 years ago, I met a tenor singer who possessed the same ringing upper extension that is a characteristic of the leggiero Tenor. At first, it was difficult to diagnose his voice type because he had a mature (about age 44) and extremely colorful and round vocal tone that was baritonal in timbre. However, when he employed this rich tone (using more vocal cord mass than appropriate for middle and low voice pitches) there would be a resulting large break in the upper voice at high A-flat above the staff. We began to vocalize using far less cord mass or chest connection. Working staccato notes to sustained pitches in order for the cords to thin out before approaching the upper extension worked very well in this circumstance. In his case, the middle voice had to be completely re-evaluated and vocalized with much more head voice connection than chest. This is usually a non-satisfying sound for the singer because he will get little internal feedback in terms of actual volume of sound. Alan Lindquest used to tell me to “feel don’t listen” in all of my lessons with him.  The singer must learn to trust sensations that will allow easy access to the upper voice. Otherwise, an easy approach to the upper voice will never be realized. This could be considered a healthy philosophy for the training of all voice types for that matter IF the pharynx is opened first.

Later in this Leggiero Tenor’s development he strengthened the upper extension with a healthy adduction of the vocal folds. The upper extension, when vocalized carefully this way, takes on a round and tremendously ringing timbre that will carry in any opera house or concert hall.   Sometimes this voice type will gradually develop into a dramatic tenor, but this should not be the goal in daily training. If a larger vocal fach development is appropriate, usually the singer will possess quite a lot of color in the middle and low registers even when the back of the tongue is free and the thin edge function of the folds is employed.

Case Study #3: Chicago leggiero Tenor: I was contacted by a young graduate student whose first-year teacher heard him as a dramatic tenor. This was a HUGE mistake and this young man (age 23) suffered from a bowing of the vocal cords. As I stated before, leggiero tenors are often heard as Baritones or Dramatic Tenors, ONLY because they typically have a full and larger chest register than the Lyric Tenors. It took 3 sessions to determine this young man’s true vocal timbre and color. The only exercise that truly revealed his voice was the wall posture (lining up with the back to the wall) and using the ‘pressing in’ of the lower back at the onset or attack. Immediately the weight dropped from this voice and it was indeed a true leggiero Tenor. The fascinating aspect of this case study is that this young man instinctively knew he was a leggiero Tenor, but he could not access the proper coordination to get to the true voice.  The wall posture allowed him a tool that completely balanced his registration, a result of the release of the tongue, which was no longer responding with the gag reflex from the pushing of too much air through the folds. After vocalizing on the wall, then he could easily go up to the high D above the high C. His upper extension voice began to speak and he was then able to access the ring in the voice. This is yet another warning to instructors. If a voice does not go up easily with a fuller sound, then question whether or not it is a lighter instrument.

Analysis of Juan Diego Florez’ Vocal Production: One important young singer today who is quite well known is Juan Diego Florez. My personal evaluation of his singing is that he is a true leggiero Tenor who has wisely developed blend of registration. If one carefully studies the sound of his high C, it takes on a ‘headier’ approach than the standard Lyric Tenor. This is not something Mr. Florez is creating, but a result of a more perfect breath-balance which results in more registration balance. Also there is an acoustical release in his voice at high A-flat above the staff. Mr. Florez has been wise enough to develop a lot of head voice connection in the middle and lower registers; a result of holding back the breath pressure with the lower back muscles or the lower lumbars. He never allows himself to over-produce the middle voice, a philosophy that is critically important in the training of any voice. Agility is based on the thin edge function and Mr. Florez’s easy access to this function in his voice is reflective of the fact that he is well trained and an extremely intelligent singer. Many singers in this vocal fach push the top of the voice into a shrill sound. He does not make this mistake because he manages his breath balance so completely well. It is also extremely important when studying Mr. Florez’s singing to pay attention to his middle register. He never employs too much vocal weight or thicker cord mass in the middle register. He allows this sound to ring without trying to force a bigger sound. This is a truly intelligent singer worthy of careful study and analysis by both teacher and student.

Exercise #1: Dropping the Vocal Weight: Do the following exercise first staccato, then legato while attempting to capture the sensation of “yodeling” the weight off the voice as the singer goes higher and higher. A healthy yodel function will give the singer the sensation of yodeling into the soft palate or further into the naso-pharynx. This is only an image of course, but one that works beautifully. The singer will begin the process of going higher without vocal weight.

5……1………3……5……8……5……3……1

a……a………a……a……a……a……a……a (first staccato and then legato with similar sensation.)

Do this exercise all the way through the upper passaggio and into the upper extension, allowing for little breath through the cords at the transitional point.

Exercise #2: Working less cord mass in the middle register. Do this exercise imaging that the cords are only touching on the fine edges. The tonic is repeated on staccato function.

.     .     .      .

1…1…1….1….1…3….5…3….1

e…e….e….e….e……………….

Again, yodel the weight off the voice while ascending in pitch. (This will feel as though one is yodeling within the full voice.) The soft palate must be wide in order to feel this sensation. Be sure that the embouchure is rounded or oval, NOT spread. A spread embouchure will take up vocal weight even if the tone sounds lighter. This is the danger of the ‘smile technique’ (see article on “Damaging Vocal Techniques”). Also be sure that the larynx releases slightly downward at inhalation (without tongue depression) with the jaw slightly down and back.

Exercise #3: Line up against a wall with the feet slightly away from the wall. At the onset, press the small of the back or the lower curve of the back forward the wall. Immediately you should feel the lower abdominals engage as the back expands. This relationship between lower back and lower abdominals will work to balance the breath pressure, making it easier to stay on the thin edge function of the vocal cords.

Exercise #4: Use the voiced ‘v’ to get to the thin edge function of the vocal folds, making is easier to take the weight out of the middle register.

1…1….1….1…..1….2….3….4….5…4….3….2…1

vi, vi,   vi,   vi,    vi,    vo  vi    vo   vi   vo   vi    vo   vi….

Gradually add more and more sound, using the above exercise.  Do the exercise against the wall and press the lower back into the wall. This will give any singer the ability to sound ‘loud and light’ NOT loud and weighted or heavy.  The true vocal timbre will develop from this vocal exercise.

Final Thought: Remember that many tenors will want to connect full chest register to the highest singing note.  If he is truly a Leggiero Tenor, this type of training will not work and the singer will experience more and more register breaks in the voice and possibly further vocal damage. I ask the singer to make friends with the upper passaggio break and remember that the audience is getting about 3 to 4 times more sound than he is inside his head. I strongly recommend that teachers have the singer record his sessions so that he can experience how much sound is actually being produced with the upper mechanism. Inner hearing can be confusing to all singers because there is an internal sound that can be confusing. We must learn to sing by sensations NOT by sound. Once we establish the proper internal sensations, then and only then can the singer establish truly consistent and healthy singing.

In my experience, I have heard Leggiero Tenors who had a larger sound than their Lyric Tenor counterpart. These individuals may have attempted higher full connection, but the instrument did not respond positively to this type of training. The voice will tell you. If the weight is properly dropped off the voice and the voice still does not attain enough head voice coordination in full connection, then the decision has been made to continue development of the lighter mechanism and bring that function down lower in the voice.

For history and information on the Swedish-Italian School, visit www.voiceteacher.com. David Jones’ Instructional CD, “An Introductory Lesson with David Jones, A Resource for Teachers and Singers” may be purchased on the homepage at www.voiceteacher.com.

Working Draft episode 11 RPDR Season 9

Pre Show Musings!

Hello, hello, hello ladies and gays!

The Top Five: Sasha, Shea, Alexis, Trinity, and Peppermint. Cue: “one of these things is not like the other”

We all know Miss Congeniality relies on our votes. Voting closes the 8th of June so, use your voices wisely, ladies and gays!!


Show Time!

In the Workroom
Mini Challenge

Because everyone loves a puppet, the girls have to shade their competitors using… Puppets! Shea as Peppermint, Trinity as Shea, Alexis as Sasha, Peppermint as Alexis, and Sasha as Trinity. Everyone got good laughs except… Alexis. Hopefully it’s just editing because, if not, all the other girls are making it clear they think she’s not worth being there. And, the winner is.. Sasha!!

Maxi Challenge

As a herstory for all the young’ns, Ru announces that “We’re throwing the #GayestBallEver”. Ru always references the iconic gay documentary, Paris is Burning, about the drag lifestyle in New York City and now the girls can bring it to life with their own ballz.

There are three runway categories required this week.

  • Rainbow-She-Betta-Do (Looks inspired by the rainbow flag)
  • Sexy Unicorn (A… sexy unicorn look)
  • Village People Eleganza Extravaganza (Pick one of the five Village People)

Overheard in the workroom

The workroom this week has taken on a new level of petty shadiness. I would expect nothing less and want more and more. We are down to the Top 5, and I want to know what they’re all thinking about each other. I would rather the reunion finale to be so awkward for these queens. My favorite shady duo would be Trinity and Peppermint, who decided to come for one another:

Trinity: Peppermint has… a nice personality…” and that’s it. OK. Is this editing? And, is this really what someone say next to
Peppermint: (paraphrased) Sasha puts a lot of thought into her drag. Which can be an advantage, but also it can be a disadvantage.
And, Alexis coins “Tur-kwahz” (Turquoise) as well as “Sasha’s rainbow look is very pedestrian.”

Ru also announces that the girls will have to perform an opening number featuring ribbons and rhythmic gymnastics. Because she won the mini challenge, Sasha choreographs.


Choreography Session

I’m not really sure what to expect. Because, choreographing a solo number for a trained dancer is hard enough. Having to be in charge of a group of five has got to be terrifyingly difficult. And, Sasha looks like she’s having a bit of a rough time. Shea and Alexis try to overpower her with suggestions. But, it makes the situation very tense.

Alexis: My ideas are just.. pushed to the side.
Shea: I see the claws coming out.
Sasha (to Shea): You straight up talked over me several times.

Sasha as the leader is too nice. But, she’s not very authoritative, which Alexis likes to highlight: “I’m just glad it wasn’t any longer


Runway Elimination Day
Guest judges are: Andie Macdowell and Joan Smalls

Scribbles and Judges critiques (Group Number and Runway Looks)

The rhythmic gymnastics group ribbon event is exactly what I thought it’d be: terrible but hilarious. But, the girls- specifically Alexis, look like they’re having a ball up there. Props to Ms. Sasha for somehow putting that all together. Because there were some great stage “pictures” created, and the judges think it is adorable and politely laugh throughout the routine.

(Scribbles time)

Trinity

  1.  Belts wrapped around her. Carson: (This is a) miss for me.
  2. A hilarious My Little Pony recreation. Andie: Wasn’t my favorite Ru: But she sold the f*** out of it.
  3. Strong leather policeman look. 

Sasha

  1. a nod to the Wizard of Oz. She wore a mini house on her head. Michelle: Flawless.
  2. Not my favorite look… it didn’t evoke My Little Pony. Carson: Medieval tapestries.
  3. I don’t love her all – red “Cowboy” look because I wouldn’t have gotten the reference. Carson: She’s chic as F****

As the choreographer of the opening number, she is given props for her work by Michelle for making it all come together.

Alexis

Before seeing her finished looks, I assumed all of her looks would be very… literal. And…

  1. She wore a literal pride flag.
  2. Literal Pony costume. Andie: liked it something childlike about it
  3. Alexis feels: “Current, Chic, and I feel like a million dollars.” She also tells the judges she almost went blind sewing and bedazzling her bodice. But, it just doesn’t really look high fashion… or finished. Joan: I could all ready find that (in stores).

Shea

  1. Graffiti drag. Ru: NOT A RAINBOW DRESS. Michelle: Not one color of the rainbow.
  2. Shea: “Call me Neigh Coulee.” These pony get ups are ridiculous.
  3. High Fashion! Joan says she’d wear that.
    RU: She came here to compete. And she does not disappoint (except for her non-rainbow colored rainbow dress. OOPS.)

Peppermint

  1. “Classic beauty with a classic booty.” Love the French Revolution-esque feel. I don’t get why Trinity and the other queens hate on her aesthetic. When she looks good, and isn’t wearing a pink, ill-fitting mini skirt… She’s gorgeous!!
  2. Pony look is fine.
  3. Too heavy on the lower face contour imho. but the judges disagree Joan: Empowering C.K.: You can tell She was living.

Ru asks the dreaded question: “Who deserves to go home tonight?”

Shea says Alexis

Sasha says Alexis

At this point, a betrayed Alexis laments: “They had nothing to say about it in the workroom.”

uhm: like, what did you think? It’s a competition. And, you can’t save basic…

Alexis keeps her cool on the mainstage by not retaliating… And, dejectedly suggests Peppermint.

Trinity says Peppermint because she doesn’t pay attention to detail. But, I think it’s because she’s a little jealous, right? Peppermint is a great personality and a drag legend.

Peppermint throws it back at Trinity, by suggesting her. She says Trinity is her biggest competition.


Power Tops

Sasha and Shea. However, Shea wins!! Going into the Top 4, Shea is “feeling invincible.”

Messy Bottom

Trinity is safe. Alexis: “Frankly, what I’m wearing…” I stopped listening. She just isn’t able to really look at her work with a critical eye. I know she has that critical eye because she constantly reads and critiques the other girls. I love it. But, she needs to be able to analyze her own work just as harshly. Because, girl, she just looks really crazy and unaware of herself.

imho: She’s this season’s Phi Phi O’Hara.

Peppermint is also chosen to lip sync.


Lip Sync

Alexis and Peppermint are pitted against each other lip syncing the Village People’s “Macho Man.” Both put on a good performance, but there’s no question. As the dust settles, Ru chooses Peppermint to stay, and Alexis hears the two darkest words a Drag Race contestant can hear: Sashay away.

Alexis’ parting words are “Grieve me, my girls.” I’ll squeeze out some crocodile tears for you, girl.

I wasn’t surprised and, in fact, really needed this to happen. She had outstayed her welcome by a few episodes.

Next!

Working draft

Pre-show Musings…

The Aftermath: One Week Later

VH1 aired episode 9 beforehand and I’m still flabbergasted. Valentina was supposed to win it all. She was supposed to overtake Shea, and prove all these bitches that being new to drag doesn’t mean being busted. She certainly is about as put together as the rest of the remaining queens, but she truly did fuck it up last week. Valentina’s lack of preparation for the lip sync speaks volumes- “I’m pretty, I’m staying.” Valentina: “I never imagined this was the way it was to going end.”

Even though it’s Valentina, and I am forever obsessed, I know Ru was the right decision sending her home. You know a few things coming into drag race as  a contestant- there’s gonna be snatch fame, you have to sew (or at least construct) outfits and you will have to lip sync. Also, the whole of episode 9 was pretty awful.

Who’s Left?

So… With Valentina out… Who does everybody think is in the Top 3? For me, there’s such a clear divide the between good and bad of this season that I’m almost over watching this season ’til the semi-finals. What other shenanigans are there to be had in one season?

imho: Shea, Trinity, and Sasha are the clear leaders at this point. They win the challenges, they bring energy, and they are stylish fish. On the other hand, from the girls left, Peppermint has really grown on me and grown as a performer during the competition. I don’t think she’ll end up Top 3 but if she did she’d replace Sasha. Nina and Alexis are lucky. Alexis because… well, I just don’t think she’s at the same level as the other girls and Nina because she literally isn’t worth the energy it takes to make her feel good.


Showtime!!

In The Workroom

OK, so it’s 7pm and this is really the start of the episode. I am at JR’s with my gays, and we’re all really wondering what the other queens are going to say about Valentina… Their interviews prior to Valentina’s elimination are rough. Of course they were. They were so jealous of that baby drag superstar. Surprisingly, they’re all just as shocked as we are. But, there’s no real time to dwell on Val’s departure because Nina literally sucks the empathetic energy out of the room. She feels horrible for sending Valentina home, and feels like she probably was the one who deserved to go.

imho: I mean, I get it… We all do… It’s her self doubt manifesting itself in these really self deprecating comments she likes to state as fact. But, this is also a com-pe-ti-tion. Even Alexis and Farrah had heaps more confidence. If you can’t love yourself… how in the hell are you gonna love anybody else, right? Oh. Also. It’s episode 10… There are only 5 other girls left. C’mon… Oh, and from the way it’s edited anyway… She is belligerent about vocalizing her paranoia “let me finish before you curse me out…” so it all seems just a little manipulative. Girl, tell me what happened in Atlanta? I want to know why you hurt so.

The other girls try to root for her until Peppermint abruptly ends the conversation and walks away. “I need to make you feel good because you did a great job?” It doesn’t make sense. Sasha chimes in: “This is not group therapy. We cannot fight for her.” And, Ms. Trinity, always concise: “She needs to go home… I’m over it.”

You’re on your own, Nina Bo’Nina Brown Kennedy Onassis.

Maxi Challenge #RuCrewMakeovers

Another episode senza Mini Challenge (sigh…) but, I love Ru’s grape vine suit that he wears to announce the Maxi. The girls are going to makeover the PA’s of the show! #RuCrewMakeovers

Because they won the previous challenge, Shea and Sasha pair up the queens and the PAs.

Peppermint + Sarge (stocky, very sassy)
Sarge: “I love document these life stories.” Hes open. Here’s sassy. Ru seems to love him.

Nina + Aaron
Nina wants to bring out both of their artistic sides. However, despite actual sewing skill and knowledge, she wants to create their outfits by… sewing them. (Trinity: This is not the time to learn to sew) Shea, despite their beef, decides to help as much as she can because she knows this is a little beyond Nina’s comfort level... Nina wants to do more prosthetics- White Rabbit themed looks. HMM. Aaron tells Nina she’s jeopardizing yourself. “have you always been this way growing up?” 

Trinity + Rizzo
She’s so nasty! “how do you feel about tucking?” Her number one is a FIERCE TUCK. WITH DUCT TAPE. They’re both really cute and acting silly. Ru remarks about how she’s proud that Trinity, despite being a pageant queen, was able to teach and engage a non-drag gay in drag. 

Alexis + Brady
Hes straight but has learned about that drag is more than just a dude in a dress. It’s cute, actually. There’s “Comedic drag… Runway drag… Fish!” which elicits the coveted giggles from Ru. But, he’s partnered with Alexis… We’ll see.

Shea + Josh
Shea chose Josh for the family resemblance. However, Josh cannot walk in heels. Like… Not at all. Trinity asks, “Have you ever seen a dog walk in snow?” Which… is not far from the truth. 

Sasha + Duncan
Handpicked for herself because she wants to bring out the playful side of this brave daddy. Ooh. But, Duncan does warn her not to over intellectualize things. But, Duncan also seems very happy to be paired with Sasha: “Duncan’s feeling the fantasy” as he examines his face with a Little Mermaid red wig. It’s adorable.

A Twist!

As a duet, a lip sync to Ru’s “Click Clack”  must be prepared.

legitimate question: do you think Ru added that little bit in after last episode? Like a warning: “Bitches, you better not any parts of your c.u.n.t. and you better remember the basics.”

Runway:
This is the BEST Mama Ru has looked all season. A one-of-a-kind hand painted gown by guest judge, Zaldy. What is this look? It’s really quite breathtaking. The Japanese on the gown is a collection of Drag Race sayings. Worthy of a spot at the Met Gala…

The judges this episode are Michelle Visage, Ross Matthews, Zaldy and America’s favorite, Kesha.

Challenge Execution + Judges’ Critiques (Scribbles) 
Trinity and her sister, Glittafa Dayz Ru is impressed that Trinity really took Glittafa under her wing, and taught her sister so well. They are adorable. And, showing a lot of ass in their swimsuits… illuminating their immaculate tucks. Glittafa: “The Pain is real.” They look like they’re having fun lip syncing to Click Clack. 

Shea and Bae Coulee: while Kesha says it’s “old Hollywood glam”, Michelle says it reads more “star sister and the other sister” yikes. Throughout the runway and the lipsync, it’s actually a bit a of a mess. Bae’s wig was all over the place on her face. But, Bae also says Shea did great. Gotta get support from your sisters if anything…
Oh, no… Shea underwhelmed.

Alexis + Ry Anne Stardust: MADE HER LOOK LIKE THE OLD SISTER. Ru “the nails scream I am a slut” which is about the nicest thing said about their performance… Zaldy “Halloween costume in a bag” and “unfresh“. Ross says “she should go” is anyone else thinking that Ry Anne’s hair and jumpsuit was all ready worn in a previous episode? #clockable

Nina +Ariana as Bunny Rabbits
Ru:”A family that drags together slays together”, but, all of them think there’s a huge disconnect within the whole look. It’s not particularly thought out, or very clean. Ross is hopeful that she’ll “bring it at a 10” while Michelle is no longer charmed- “I’m done with it” Kesha “the ears look like they’ve been rained on” I think it’s a little sloppy… And, you can’t do camp/prosthetic drag sloppily because it ruins the whole illusion.

Sasha + DONATELLA VELOUR.
They look like sisters because of those iconic eyebrows. Kesha: so high fashion. Zaldy loves it and Ross comments on how Sasha’s finally having fun in the competition and letting loose. She did look more relaxed. During the lip sync, she had fun! But, can she do a “sexy” lip sync haha? 

Peppermint +Winter Green. Feeling their fantasea even though I hate the outfits. Michelle “the outfits clash but I don’t care. You should thank Winter Green.”Ru says Winter Green is the MVP of the episode. She made Peppermint look better- Ross says: “Peppermint better be kissing feet.”

sidenote: Completely forgot about Valentina by now. You? The show did, surprisingly go on! And, it’s better than before. We fans have a lot of love to give, but we’re fickle as fuck.

The Top:

Trinity wins! I think it was close between Trinity and Peppermint. But, the judges like what Winter Green, or Sarge did with Peppermint’s drag and not how Peppermint transformed Sarge.

Sasha is safe.

Bottoms

At the bottom: Alexis, Nina, and Shea.

Lip Sync:

Nina looks annoyed. But, she has to lip sync… And, I booed the screen when they announced it was Shea against her. Alexis should thank her lucky stars for one more week. However, when Demi’s Cool of The Summer track begins, and they’re lip syncing. They’re both kind of boring. I’m thinking “oh.. is Ru going to say that neither has the passion or drive to continue?” But, of the two, I guess Nina looks like she is more over it. At least, Shea is throwing in a few tricks… Just not very exciting tricks for this song.

In the end, Nina gets her wish to be eliminated…

imho: Ru needs to make an announcement. Do NOT throw these lip syncs. Such expensive douchebaggery. Just save the performance fee and walk off the stage.
Next!!

Working Draft: Recap RuPaul’s Drag Race Ep. 8, #RuPaulsRoast

Hello hello hello, ladies and gays!

Last episode we lost Aja in a tragic but fierce lip sync against Nina Bo’Nina Brown Rodham Clinton. It was simply her time. But, now… it’s Farrah’s time. If it’s not this episode I just can’t watch anymore. Keep reading to see if that’s a spoiler.

“If you haven’t won a challenge… Why Are You Here?”

It’s a fair question posed by Peppermint. Back in the workroom, the girls keep score. Let’s see. Shea and Trinity are in the lead tied with the most wins- 2 each. On the other end of the spectrum, tied with 0 wins are Peppermint and Farrah.

Reading Is Fundamental

The Mini Challenge is the baby version of the roast (the queens don’t know that at this point, though). It happens every season- The Reading Challenge. Because reading is what? (beat) fundamental! Where the divide between shady and mean become blurred and everybody has to have a thick skin. But, not “thick skin” like the way all the queens keep reading Alexis for. I’m kidding, Alexis!

please note: Alexis Michelle is not fat, y’bitches. As the world’s first and only  @Petiteplussizedmalesupermodel, I actually commiserate with her self consciousness (which, yes, annoys me). And all of the other queens are so skinny. It must be hard to be the biggest girl by default.

(Scribbles)

Sasha: I’m always nervous because she prides herself in being so prim and proper… and not funny. But, her character really lends itself to her shade here. Good!

Peppermint: She must be good at public speaking during her shows. She has a really great rhythm to her reads. I don’t feel uncomfortable for her reads.

Valentina: Of course, Valentina gets the most airtime!! Ru shows the majority of her reads. She does make a fat joke about Alexis.

Nina: BMW Body Made Wrong toward Alexis.

Farrah: another fat joke. She’s the last, and she runs over to hug Alexis. But, Alexis is not accepting.

Alexis is really miffed about the fat jokes. She is visibly pissed.

Valentina wins the Reading Challenge. Yay!

MAXI CHALLENGE: THE RUPAUL ROAST

Ru announces the Maxi Challenge!! We all know from the preview that it is the #RuPaulRoast. But, the Guest or Honor is Michelle Visage! I love it. What a great way to honor Ru’s right hand woman.

Mini Challenge winner, Valentina gets to choose the order of the roast.

I volunteer as tribute

Alexis is salted from the mini challenge: “I just would have preferred to not deal with body image.” But, she still suggests she go first or last due to the high pressured nature of the position. This is where Alexis loses me. She so wants to be seen as first pick and leader of the pack when her track record just doesn’t hold up. And, I so want her to fill that position because of her Broadway love. But, I’m also thinking a roast is right up her alley…

In The Work Room

This is a tough challenge. How do you prepare for a roast? For one of your judges… At least with someone like Momma Visage you know she’d want the savage factor turned all the way up. Then, for some of the… less funny queens, how do you make it funny?

Nina: “Aja may have been lucky to get out of here…”

The mentoring session is with Ru and Ross Matthews. I was hoping there’d be a coaching session or at least a rehearsal on stage… but, I guess the budget didn’t allow.

Valentina says she can’t do it but we all know she can! The other queens are still not convinced of her perfection. Shea: “Guadalupe isnt going to write those jokes for you.”

about shea: No shade, no tea, no facts to back this up… But, I think Shea is going to win this season. Or, at least top 3. I’m on her side. She’s gorgeous. She’s funny. She can dance. And, the producers obviously love her because she’s about half of the sound bites per episode. But, I also low key hate her because she seems to really think Valentina is not at her level. You’re wrong for it, Shady Shea! You know you are!

Alexis admits to Ru that she’s “disappointed” because it seems all her sisters couldn’t come up with reading material not dealing with her weight. She has had self image issues which she’s revealed to the girls, so it’s a low blow…

Ru’s not really having it.

This isn’t RuPaul’s Best Friends Race!

Do you think Ru had seen all the raw footage at this point? Alexis says some cra-a-a-azy things about herself and her competitors virtually every episode. So, I’m sure it was very surprising to see that she couldn’t handle being read. I mean, I kind of think the sensitive subject of weight was the nicer topics they could’ve brought up. Off the top of my head I can think of 4 other clockable things about Alexis. One of them being her ego.

Ru poses the thought on everybody’s mind: “You think it’s ok to make fun of other people but, not make fun of you.”

R.I.P. I can’t believe Ru said that. But, I’m glad she did!

Ross tells Farrah to make it work. Basically telling her to make her “personality” work in the challenge. Ru: “You might come on the bottom.” #Phrasing

Peppermint: both Ru and Ross warn her that she’s missed the mark every acting challenge. She has to do well in this one.

Sasha: Serious and Analytical drag. I didn’t know that was a thing. I’ve kinda fallen out of love with Sasha but she’s growing on me. “Make sure you make us laugh.”

In The Workroom

I’m beginning to zone out during this part of the episode. These stories VH1 is force feeding us. They sometimes enhance the story. Typically, one of the queens will tell a story that relates to a hot topic issue within the LGBTQIA community. Sometimes, however, these stories are simply shoved into this part of the show because it’s… that part of the show. It’s a bit formulaic, VH1… And, tonight… on first viewing I was so annoyed that I knew they’d do this segment I didn’t watch.

I forced myself the second time. Sasha lived in Russia off and on for 2 years. So, she couldn’t do drag. Peppermint had to de-wig to prove her identity at a Russian airport holding center because her passport photo is her in boy drag, and she presents herself as a woman.

Runway

THERE’S NO RUNWAY THEME THIS EPISODE. Gross.

I like Ru’s wrapping paper dress, and her Dolly Parton wig is everything.T

Guest Judges are Tamar Baxton and Fortune Feimster

Michelle looks genuinely surprised and honored to be the Guest of Honor. I love her!

These are my scribbles.

Shea opens he show with ZINGERS. Good energy. Sets up vibe well.

SASHA IS GOOD. They show a lot of her segment. And her Ladies Who Lunch vibe is killing it with the audience. Also, that chapeau is everything.

Valentina goes there. Tells Ross she wants a hamster version of him shoved up her ass.

Trinity comes out in trailer trash drag and a large tooth gap. Ends with a poop joke.

Farrah actually makes the audience groan. So… We all know now, right? Farrah’s not good. Isn’t this… proof? She relies on pretty! She’s sighing after every joke.

PEPPERMINT MAKES TAMAR SCREAM. SHE IS GOOD. What “experience” are you lacking, again? She looks gorgeous, too.

NINA is doing great aunt drag. This bitch painted on glasses. Makes Tamar laugh.

Alexis closes the show. I couldn’t watch. I could barely listen. Not one joke lands. 😦 And she’s painted green. Is she Elphaba?

Tops and Bottoms

The safe queens are Shea, Valentina and Nina!!

Sasha: All the judges gush over her performance. And, it’s true. She made “serious” really entertaining.

Trinity is called out for not ever looking comfortable, which she attributes to the Botox.

Farrah: Michelle tries to be nice, but Ross: “I would call it fucked up.” Because she didn’t commit to any one direction or character.

Peppermint: They gush. Ross: “You brought the energy.” Tamar says she was amazing.

Alexis: Michelle is savage! “I literally forgot there’s was an audience here. They were so quiet.” I love it. It just didn’t work at all.

Deliberations 

Sasha: Tamar “she was smart about being smart.”

Trinity: Fortune “The Father, Son and Holy Ghost were not with Trinity.”

Farrah: The judges come to the concensus (finally) that “she doesn’t know who he is.” And I LOVE that Tamar agrees with “Not at all.”

Peppermint: Tamar “She was the highlight of my night.”

Alexis: Tamar hates her green paint! “Who in the hell left the gate open” HAHAHA and Ross shows he drew a of a bomb for his notes on her performance. Savage!

Winner

PEPPERMINT wins her first challenge!

THE LIP SYNC

Ru tells Farrah she made us Moan for all the wrong reasons.

Alexis will lip sync against her.

At the beginning, I think it’s obvious. But, as it goes along, I think Ru must’ve suddenly been thinking “Oh, God… This is close…” But, then Alexis did a running split slide and I think the competition was over.

Alexis stays. She looks shaken. Which means one of two things, she’s either reached the end of her rope or she’s going to be reborn like a Nina Bo’Nina Pheonixes Rise Out Of The Ashes Brown.

Bye, Farrah!!

Next.

Met Gala Looks 2017: Rei Kawakubo and Commes des Garcons

Rei Kuwakubo
Hello hello! It’s the first Monday of May, y’all. So, you know what that means?

The Annual Met Gala has arrived. Christians have Easter. The (non-fashion) gays have Pride. Texans have the Rodeo. And the East Coast and Fashion’s elite have The Met Gala AKA The Costume Institue Gala AKA The Met Ball.

I always love the themes. This year’s theme honors a living legend: Rei Kuwakubo and her design house, Comme des Garçons.

Martin Margiela, Ann Demeulemeester and Helmut Lang all name Rei Kuwakubo as an inspiration. And designers such as Junya Watanabe and Tao Kurihara owe their career to her. 

Perhaps because of her lack of formal fashion design education, her clothes are innovative, though, she told The New Yorker “I never intended to start a revolution.”

Start a revolution she did. And, the fashion world is forever thankful for it.

All the photos below are sourced from Vogue.

Continue reading “Met Gala Looks 2017: Rei Kawakubo and Commes des Garcons”