The Search For Vancouver’s Next Drag Superstar 2016, Round 1 – Hunger Games Of Drag

The Search For Vancouver’s Next Drag Superstar 2016 is off to a great start. Seventeen queens and kings compete in a four-week event to win the much coveted title of Vancouver’s Next Drag Superstar, and the opportunity to take part in the much anticipated RuPaul’s Drag Race Season Eight Finale party.

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Contestants, judges, and sponsors backstage pre-show, (L-R) James Steck, Eva Scarlett, Iona Whipp (back), Teayana, Glitteris (back), Karmella Barr, ILONA (back), Adam Zapple, Jack Slayer, Lea Ven Detta (back), Owen, Synder Starr, Salem Witchburn, Coco Klein, Dynasty, Shay Dior, Sativa Divine, Jane Smoker, Cashmeré, and Tommy D. Not in picture Mila Dramatic.

The event is sponsored by Celebrities NightclubTFD Presents and CruiseyT, and hosted by Iona Whipp, Vancouver’s Next Drag Superstar 2012 winner. Music from last Thursday’s event was provided by DJ DomTop.

Since I started to follow this drag competition in 2013, its’ second iteration, I’ve seen it progressed and improved in leaps and bounds. For one thing, the contestants this year are overall more polished than last year, hungrier, and more entertaining. It’s great to see a diverse line-up of drag queens and drag kings compete.

For the preliminary round, it’s all about first impressions and personality. Each contestants did their first runway walk and performed their first “solo” number. When it comes to drag entertainment, I’m a big fan of tight lip sync and high-octane choreography, show me a death drop any day and my thrill-level goes up! To each his own, I guess? The competition sure didn’t disappoint. Choreography, theatrics, pop, and good ol’karaoke-ish numbers … there’s something for everyone.

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Coco Klein

The competition is not without its’ drama and gag-worthy moments. Dynasty kicked off the performance portion with a very revealing number – it’s not what you think, well, it is actually. I haven’t seen a big tuck malfunction until last Thursday. It wasn’t just a bubblegum, no … I think the jewels decided on her mid-performance that their vacation was over and decided to leave the cabin. Perhaps the lesson here is, no “half-tucking,” batten down the hatches gurr. :) His genderfuck look was cool nevertheless. Lea Ven Detta,  make-up artist and funny gal, gave me a little bit of “American Horror Story : Asylum” and “Eyes Wide Shut” moment with her wheelchair entrance. She was accompanied by two guys wearing all black and white masks. She walked on canes, spit blood, and walked (with some assistance) on ballet heels. I enjoyed it, although I was hoping she’d surprise me with something unexpected, like a quick ballet performance or a high kick lol. Coco Klein did a ritualistic number. Wrapped in a plastic bag, and dragged on stage, with a rope tied on her ankles, by a couple of women with a cross drawn on their face … that’s enough to give anyone nightmares. It was a great number and great look, even though one of her backup dancers kept flaunt her wares to the audience. Synder Starr followed with a tight lip sync to a Whitney Houston classic. Her long dress and corset was song-appropriate. I enjoyed it, although it seemed a bit more like a karaoke number to me, it didn’t have enough pizzazz I was hoping for. It was just … safe. Karmella Barr, the pop Princess, Hollywood starlet, I get it. Her Britney Spears (?) and Adele medley was interesting. Paparazzo, personal assistants, production crew, a bodyguard, and backup dancers … how can you go wrong? Great energy and her outfit wasn’t bad, but it could’ve been better. Eva Scarlett did a dance number and plenty of hair flipping. I’m a big fan of hair flipping, so I have no complaints here. I have to give her props for her polished mug and tight outfit. On Drag Race they often say, “where’s the silhouette?” For a full gurl, she served some great curves and proportion. I’m sure she padded, and it looked professional.

Judges (L-R); Tommy D, Jane Smoker, and Zain Meghji

Owen, the cute drag king, I think if this competition was only based on cuteness, he’d win it by a landslide. His strut and bouncy footwork showed a lot of cool as he lip sync to Missy Elliot’s hit. He did a reveal attempt from one jacket to … another jacket. The golden mic towards the end was a nice touch, though it was hard to appreciate his look with his face covered by his white cap for the most part of the number. And for someone his size, he sure exudes a lot of energy.

Then came Glitteris, the Preacher’s daughter gone bad … really really bad, lol. Whenever I see a drag performer holding a Bible on stage, I always assume that it’s going to go batshit crazy before the number is over. Oops, did I just implied “predictable?” Accidentally. It was a very fun pefrormance. I mean, there’s nothing more religious than the face of god imprinted on a white towel. When I say god, I mean poop track and smear of blood from anal sex, allegedly. Her mug was flawless, because she’s also a make-up artist. Her good-daughter outfit was very true to her character, the perfect image of a virginal daughter, right before she gets slammed on the tush on the stage. Yes, there was a re-enactment of sorts.

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Lip sync battle (L-R): Dynasty and Salem Witchburn

Teayana just blew me away with her high octane lip sync and choreography. Dancing to a medley of Janet Jackson hits, was tight! She and her two backup dancers killed it. She projected a lot of sass, energy, and confidence as she destroyed the stage with non-stop kickass choreography. She lit that stage on fire. And the audience responded accordingly. Sativa Divine eased down the energy level with her curious number. She walked onto the stage with a black cape – cue: reveal is coming. But then, after she took it off of her shoulders she didn’t toss it, she just sort of kept it. Which was a bit distracting to watch. So it was a half-reveal then? Even though I’m not familiar with the song she choose, it wasn’t all that bad. I think I would appreciate it more if things were a little bit more … polished. That is, in comparison to some of the contestants, it wasn’t very competitive. Mila Dramatic umped up the energy level again with a great dance number. She’s one of the very fishy queens in the competition, even though she has a very prominent adam’s apple and a more muscular build, her tomboy-drag (is there such a thing?) is worth the tips.

Jack Slayer, another great drag king addition to the competition, is among the cutest in the bunch. But for the whole show all that I could think of was Pearl, Pearl, Pearl, of RuPaul’s Drag Race Season Seven – resting bitch face. It’s not a bad thing, it’s just a look, but I don’t know what to make of it. It’s difficult really to gauge someone’s personality if you can’t tell which way they swing, lol. Does this make any sense? I’m like, are you happy, silly, temperament, loud? … gimme a damn clue! :D His performance was subdued, and all I can remember was him making a mess on stage with all the glitter. Shay Dior’s performance was interesting. I’m not familiar with the character she was channeling, but I get the space and alien reference. She was very animated, and I dig the look and the props. It was fun to watch. Salem Witchburn, reminds me so much of Fairuza Balk character in “The Craft” (1996). To me, it didn’t look drag … at all. Halloween, yes. It was very costumey and I didn’t get the illusion she/he was trying to pull off.

I remember posting a comment on Cashmeré’s introductory video for the competition, it’s something about giving her a hug to raise her energy. Her biggest competitor in the competition is her self-confidence. Her performance was entertaining to me, not because it was great but because she was reluctant. I think if she meant it to be like that, like that of Lisa Kudrow – the master of awkward comedy – it would’ve been genuinely hilarious. I had a huge giggle (inside) when she sat on a stool on the side of the stage mid-performance and sort of like telling the audience, “that’s my name on the digital display. Yah, enjoy it while I sit here. It’s free.” lol If only. Her mug was good, but her hair and outfit reminds me of Adore Delano – t-shirt drag which I’m not a big fan of.

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ILONA

Ilona’s performance was one of the most intense number of the bunch. It was very theatrical, emotional, and captivating. She has come a long way since competing last year. Back then she was a tad better than Salem Witchburn, though more avant garde than traditional. Her passion for drag continue to propel her to perfection. Her makeup is comparable to the top local makeup artists, and her drive is reminiscent of Jane Smoker, Vancouver’s Next Drag Superstar 2015 winner. Her drag is very daring, and her performance was a great testament to her commitment … and her hunger. It was amazing to watch.

Adam Zapple closed the first round of performance with his riveting “deranged” number. With his eyes closed, restrained in a white straitjacket, bound by chains, and escorted by two guards in black … it was an intense intro. Then he opened his white eyes, like an evil awakening in a classic thriller, the audience reacted with a standing ovation. Whatever character he was channeling it came though. He committed to the act 100% and it was believable. Like an icing to the cake, he closed his number with one of the guards shoving an apple to his mouth like a jawbreaker. Nice.

The entertainment wasn’t confined to the stage. No. The judges panel was also in it for the show. Judges panel was composed regular judges Tommy D, and Jane Smoker, and guest judge Zain Meghji. Shots were fired so many times, it’s like “Britain’s Got Talent” with two Piers Morgans. It’s fun to watch when judges disagree passionately amongst themselves, and at times with the audience. Notions about what is entertaining, making an artistic choice to please the audience versus being true to oneself, … and what is our place in the universe (that’s just me). There was no dull moment. Even the malfunctioning microphone added to the drama. The show must go on, and it did … because what? We’re professionals.  There was decent media coverage, and I can only assume it will get more intense towards the finale. Which is great for the competition, the talents, and for the local LGBT community as a whole. After the bad press of late, we need this kind of event to show solidarity and a bit of good press.

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Bottom four (L-R): Cashmeré, Dynasty, Sativa Divine, and Salem Witchburn

The audience cast their vote and the judges tallied their scores. Four contestants fell to the bottom. Three contestants where to be eliminated. Two contestants with the lowest scores were eliminated immediately; Sativa Devine and Cashmeré.  Salem Witchburn and Dynasty fight for their chance to remain in the competition in a lip sync battle. It was a tight lip sync, but when the glitter settled … Dynasty won and Salem Witchburn exited the competition for good. Fourteen contestants remain, who will get the ax next?

Based on the first runway look and performances, my picks for top six are: Ilona, Glitteris, Teayana, Adam Zapple, Lea Ven Detta, and Eva Scarlett. And my top three picks are: Glitteris, Ilona, and Adam Zapple. Of course, this can change each week. I remember when I was rooting for Detox on RuPaul’s Drag Race Season Five, then she just sort of fizzled and got eliminated. So who knows?

VNDS2016_R1_17-ContestantsSecond round is this Thursday, February 11th. The finale will be on Thursday February 25th, with guest judge Trixie Mattel, conestant of RuPaul’s Drag Season Seven.

Photos from the preliminary round is available here or on Facebook.

 

 

 

 

One thought on “The Search For Vancouver’s Next Drag Superstar 2016, Round 1 – Hunger Games Of Drag

  1. February 2016 at 6:04 pm

    I look absolutely thrilled in that bottom four shot. #KnowYourAnglesCashmere (ps. this is a wonderful review of Round One! Cashmere, the Lisa Kudrow of Drag!)

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