Third week into the competition, the remaining nine contestants has shown so much improvement since the last two preliminary rounds, some in leaps and bounds. Now it’s no longer about proving ones’ rightful place in the competition but rather becoming the most creative (and popular) contestant.
Aside from winning the much coveted title, the winner of The Search For Vancouver’s Next Drag Superstar 2017 will also receive two tickets to the RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 9 finale party, courtesy of TFD Presents, and a trip for two, including flights and accommodation, to the party venue, courtesy of Celebrities Nightclub and Cruisey T. The panel of judges (team coaches) includes Tommy D of TFD Presents, Raye Sunshine, one of Vancouver’s top makeup artist and drag entertainer, and Mila Dramatic, Vancouver’s Next Drag Superstar 2016 winner. The event is hosted by Jane Smoker, Vancouver’s Next Drag Superstar 2015 winner. Music provided by DJ DomTop. Choreography by Nate Fadear. The competition is held every Thursday at Celebrities Nightclub in Davie Village in downtown Vancouver. The finale on February 16th will feature guest judge Thorgy Thor, star from RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 8.
In a surprising turn of events, Cheryl Trade dropped out of the competition, for personal reasons, just days before the third round. This left her group, Team Mila, one member short and sent the whole competition into a tailspin! All the team effort and rehearsals went down the drain. I know, it’s so dramatic (dramaticized for extra effect). It’s like watching a reality show, but in real life! The organizers made the decision to reshuffle the teams. Eva Scarlett, a Team Tommy member, was reassigned to Team Mila. Now they have to pick a new song for their group number and choreography! Talking about under pressure! The new groups are now: ILONA, Jo Durée and Kendall Gender for team Tommy D; Molly Poppinz, Marianne Toilette and Eva Scarlett for Team Mila; and Anna May, Beth Amphetamine, and Cleopatra Compton for Team Raye.
First Runway Challenge
For the first runway challenge, the contestants were required to create a holiday-inspired look. Each contestant were assigned different holidays.
Anna May was serving Valentine’s Day. She was in all red, from head to foot. She didn’t walked onto the stage, nope. She was carried by a scruffy shirtless inked guy, possibly her valentines date… or sugar daddy… in character. He was nice enough to remain on stage to assist with her reveal – a lacey white undergarment and thigh high red high heel boots. Her hair and makeup was great, though her lips could be a little overdrawn for a sexier look. But it was a good execution all throughout.
Beth Amphetamine was serving Easter. She came out as a bunny girl carrying a basket full of Easter eggs, which she tossed some at the audience. She wore an oversize white see-through long sleeve shirt, bunny ears, and high heels covered with crumpled tin foil and with white feathers stuck on the back of the heels. It was a bit basic for me but she worked the runway.
Cleopatra Compton was serving Canada Day. She was all glammed up in with her white wavy hair and great makeup. She was wearing a long white dress, white gloves, and black high heels. Had they not announced her holiday, I would’ve thought she’s also assigned Valentine’s Day. Wearing red and white was not enough. Incorporating something patriotic would’ve completed the look… like the Canada flag for example. Of course a Canada flag dress would’ve aced it.
Jo Durée was assigned Pride. She had red hair, but her makeup was a bit too pale for the usually summer festivity. She wore a rainbow cape, leotard with the front covered with a rainbow cutout, and rainbow thigh high high heel boots. It was a very literal interpretation but it wasn’t so bad either.
ILONA was serving Thanksgiving. I immediately saw her first nation reference. Her hair and makeup was great and appropriate. Her earthy white cloak with rough fringes in front and fur shoulder covers, and a hand drum and stick to match was a great look. However, I wasn’t so sure about a few elements she incorporated in her look. Like the dream catcher on her chest, her chest wrapped with shrink wrap, half her face was also covered with shrink wrap – from the nose bridge to the neck, she marked her lips with x, and the black headband had a “not thankful” written on it. These are small nuances that she could do without because they don’t really add anything to the whole look aside from saying that she’s a “non-conformist,” and I think we are done with this… we know she is unique and creative. She worked the runway, which was great.
Kendall Gender was serving Halloween. I like her yellow hair, contacts, and makeup. But I am not so sure about the costume. Was she some sort of headless woman who’s roaming around with her head in her hands? The whole look was neat, come to think of it, but I wish she would slow down and maybe acted it out a little more so it was obvious.
Eva Scarlett was serving Remembrance Day. It it was a great look. Her makeup and her short hair was perfect. Her black and red outfit, black gloves, black pumps, and beret with a veil was spot-on. And the poppy pin she wore was a nice touch. Her execution was perfect, she walked on the stage somber looking, she took her time working the stage, and when she walk to the center of the stage she placed her right hand over her heart… bingo! I’m so impressed that she takes all the challenges seriously and with such determination and perfection.
Marianne Toilette was serving Christmas. She was giving me 1800’s couture featuring A Christmas Carol realness… or a lady judge. Nothing about her look says Christmas.
And finally, Molly Poppinz closed the first runway challenge with her New Year’s Eve look. She was wearing ruffled lime coat and black tube dress. She was wearing a 2017 light goggles, and champagne in one hand for the strike at midnight toast. Her hair and makeup was right. It was a decent look.
My top picks for this challenge are: Eva Scarlett, Molly Poppinz, ILONA, Jo Dureé, and Kendall Gender.
Notes: As far as performance goes, they are all amazing. But as before, now it’s more about who can take the audience to church? Who can tell a great story? It’s great to add a little unpredictability in performances by starting from the audience, but that’s been done week after week. Incorporating random audience in the act is great, but it can get easily chaotic and confusing. The best place to do the full act, for everyone to see the whole story, is on the stage. Performers can still connect with the audience from there. There are extras? Great, put them on stage too. It’s also important to consider the venue size. The stage isn’t big, nor is the space between the front row and foot of the stage. More than two extras is already a lot. A great story and performance could be wasted if it gets too chaotic. What’s more, extras has the potential to take the focus away from the contestant. They may add value to the whole number but can also steal the spotlight.
The group where required to perform a song from a musical.
Team TommyD performed “Mama I’m a Big Girl Now” from the musical Hairspray. The contestants were joined by their moms: Jo Dureé with her drag mom Alma B Itches, ILONA with her real biological mom, and Kendall Gender with her drag mom, Jane Smoker. Their look were all nice and cute. Their moms dressed the part. So basically their moms wear some sort of robe at home? It was a fun number. Each contestant had their time in the spotlight. They had about the same intensity and didn’t outshine each other.
Team Mila performed “Time Warp” from Rocky Horror. They picked the perfect characters, Molly Poppinz as Riff Raff, Eva Scarlett as Magenta, and Marianne Toilette as Columbia. The intro where Riff Raff walked on stage was already great. I was impressed by their performance and choreography, especially that it was a last minute preparation. I have nothing but praise for their excellent characterization and tight performance.
Team Raye performed “Dancing Queen” from the musical Mama Mia. Cleopatra Compton took on the role as Tanya, Beth Amphetamine as Rosie, and Anna May as Donna. They dressed the part and pretty much re-enacted the whole mess in the musical. They mingled and danced with the audience, just like the musical when the three characters went out gallivanting with the local folks. I’m sure keeping it true to the real thing is best, but sometimes a big number won’t translate well in a smaller setting. It was great but overwhelming.
My ranking for the group challenge is Team Mila, Team Raye, and Team TommyD. Again, Broadway musical is not something I’m a huge fan of.
For the solo performances, the contestants were required to perform a song that portrays a Disney character.
Marianne Toilette performed “Someday My Prince Will Come” from the animation feature film Snow White. Great choice! I like her overall take on Snow White. Her hair and makeup was great, and the dress looked regal. I don’t think they have to be very literal about their interpretation of a character. So none of it bothered me as much as it did with some of the judges. I thought her spoken word intro was a great way to start the story telling. She acted really great…. even pretended the DJ as the Prince. She spent just the right amount of time off stage. She was very committed to her performance. I’m very impressed with the growth she has shown in the competition. Even her makeup has improved so much. She’s no longer just a burlesque performer… she’s a full fledged drag entertainer. But will it be enough to move her to the next level? Tribe size maybe her Achilles’ heels.
Anna May performed “Hey Now” by Hillary Duff. She is one queen who has a lot of potential. Her personality alone is great! However, for her solo performance she has committed too many mistakes. First is the song choice. I think she may have misread the memo. Kinda like Mystique Summers Madison’s choice for country look. Hillary Duff only worked for Disney, she’s not a Disney character … no matter how many ways you twist the logic, okay? Second, her costume wasn’t iconic… both before and after. Her reveal costume lacked pizazz, and her fly was open the whole time. Her hair and makeup was more Gia Metric than Hillary Duff. And third, she was overshadowed by her backup dancers, who had little to wear but looked more in drag… not to mention delicious. There’s no point talking about the choreography and lip sync… three strikes already. But… I like her humor and energy.
Molly Poppinz performed “Zero To Hero” from Hercules. I like her look… from head to foot. She was one of the singing vixens…. not Hercules. At first I was curious how she’s going to pull off a female Hercules, lol. For Hercules she brought on stage a half-naked guy with long lush hair, barefoot, and wearing nothing but a white towel. He’s a bit thin for Hercules…. but maybe Hercules in his pre-teens? Anyway, it worked for her. It solved the character choice and it gave her all the latitude she needed to drag the crap out of the character that suited her – the vixen. The scrawny Hercules also worked to her favor, because he didn’t became a huge distraction. So it was all about her and her performance. Her lip sync and act was also great. She has continued to progress in the competition to become one of the top competitors. As an import from Australia, who originated from New Zealand, her major weakness could possibly be tribe size.
ILONA performed “Cruella De Vil” by Selena Gomez, based on the original track of the same title from The Hundred and One Dalmatians… and uhm, more on this later. Her look was perfection. She was painted for the gods. She slayed the character. I like her cute dalmatian stuffed toys, a very fitting prop for the number. So… now, this is what I worry about her act. She tends to do more than what’s needed … she don’t just take the extra mile but an extra five hundred miles. So all the excess and fire (no pun intended) makes her performance a hit and miss…. and chaotic. At times she’s focused in one particular stunt that the rest of the number turns out flat. I think it’s critical that performances in the competition has a narrative, and not like a regular drag gig. It needs to have a beginning, a middle, and an end. And it needs to be focus and precise. The first song was already enough… but she mixed it with “I Steal Pets” by Rachel Bloom…. who is she? Last year, my issue? Relatability. I think the song was a bit of a tangent, and it’s has nothing to do with Disney. She has great energy, very creative, and her look is amazing… if only she can fine tune her acts and really polish it so it’s intense and meaningful … there’s no doubt in my mind she can take the crown. So yes, after her performance I got worried that we’re back to the same notes in VNDS 2016!
Kendall Gender performed “Circle of Life” from The Lion King. She had a full production. She had a palm tree, a bush, a backdrop to mimic the rising sun…. and a few extras to play the zebra, Zazu, and, if I’m not mistaken, Mufasa. Kendall Gender took on the character Rafiki. Her look was amazing! Subtle cues but enough to know which character she’s portraying. It was totally unexpected. Her entrance alone gave me chills. I don’t think she could’ve fully realize the number without extras but it did served her purpose. The stage didn’t got crowded, which was important to keep the audience’s attention. And thank goodness they didn’t spill over onto the audience. She remained the focal point of the entire performance. Her commitment to the character was excellent. The act had a story and it was delivered on a silver platter to the audience. Bravo!
Cleopatra Compton performed as Maleficent to the song “Once Upon a Dream” from the Disney motion picture “Maleficent.” Her look was terrific! Great makeup and contacts. Her horns and hair was awesome, and so was her costume. She started her act with the lights dimmed. All the audience can see was the Maleficent silhouette with her horns sticking out from the backlight from the LED lights behind that bares her name…. it was stunning. She glided and danced so subtlety… with just the right amount of emotional intensity. But after a while it almost felt too long. Additional props could’ve helped create a more solid story in her performance, like a baby crib or even a spindle… and she could’ve acted out the whole story from her point of view. A lady in white briefly interacted with her from the audience but she didn’t came across as part of the act, but more of a tipper. Nonetheless, it was not a bad performance.
Eva Scarlett performed “Everybody Wants To be a Cat” by Dimie Cat, a cover of the track from the Disney movie “The Aristocrats.” It’s a good song choice but there’s nothing really very iconic about the movie or characters. It’s one of Disney’s generic animation feature film. She was full on sexy cat. Her look was flawless. The spotlight that was focused on her from off stage towards the second half of her number, where she sat on the cushioned chair with her backup dancers in cat outfits and huddled around to her, was a great dramatic touch. She wasn’t overshadowed by her backup dancers, and they were just a good addition to the whole act. But like what one of the judges said during the critiques… she really didn’t need them. It was a good number and I enjoyed it.
Beth Amphetamine performed as Ursula in “Poor Unfortunate Soul” from the feature film Little Mermaid. The resemblance of Ursula with her hair and makeup was amazing. She really did a great job on that. But her lacey dress didn’t scream octopus. However, she brought back the famous cauldron as a prop… to hold her artificial red smoke. Now that was neat…. if only it didn’t give the audience breathing problems. The smoke was thick which made it hard to watch her at times, but the effect worked! But I think she did good overall.
Jo Durée performed as Mary Poppins to a medley of Mary Poppins songs. She had a lot going on. But to begin with… she had a great look. Great hair and makeup. Her outfits were great, and her props were appropriate. She started off from the judges end of the aisle. Open umbrella in hand and a bag in tow, she walked on the center aisle towards the stage. A warm spotlight was aimed to the stage, like the sunrise. She stopped at the foot of the stage, throw candies, and interacted with fake cardinals dangling on sticks…. practical effects. She did a wardrobe change and continued her performance on stage. Her drag mom stood at the foot of the stage. But since back was towards the audience and she was wearing black, it’s hard to really make sense of it all. Why did’t she just went on stage? Anyway, Jo Durée had another extra whom she delightfully interacted on stage … who then pushed her and off to the ground she tumbled. It was a nice stunt. Overall it was great performance. Although I thought she could’ve just walked directly on stage from her entrance and did the whole thing there. But that’s a very negligible detail.
My top picks for the solo acts are: Kendall Gender, Jo Durée, ILONA, Cleopatra Compton, and Marianne Toilette.
Since one contestant bowed out, no one was immediately eliminated. There was only going to be a lip sync battle withf the bottom two contestants. Of which the losing Queen will leave the competition. Kendall Gender, Jo Durée, and ILONA were the top three contestants of the week. The top team of the week is Team Tommy. They each also won a ticket to Kinky Boots.
Marianne Toilette and Anna May end up in the bottom two. They both had to do a lip sync battle to Lady Gaga’s single “The Edge of Glory” to remain in the competition. Midway to the song one of the judges called out to stopped the music and declared Marianne Toilette the winner. With that Anna May was sent home packing.
And Yet Another Twist!
After the lip sync challenge of the bottom two contestants and after the losing queen left the stage , James Steck of Celebrities Nightclub walked up on stage for a little surprise. He said, “The person that wins this competition won’t only be going to RuPaul’s Drag Race. You’ll also be going Montreal.” Some people in the audience, and the contestants reacted with a curious, “What?!” He continued, “You’ll be competing in Canada’s Best Drag…..” Everyone erupted into applause and cheers. Some contestants visibly shocked and gagged, possibly also from the realization that the five-week competition just got extended for the winner and stakes got too real. The winner of VNDS 2017 will fly to Montreal, Quebec, with the city’s contingent on February 26th. The winner in Montreal will receive $3,000, a dedicated float in Montreal Pride parade, gifts with wigs and dresses, etc., and will be participating in two other shows in Canada, James explained. He concluded, “You didn’t think this competition is real? It just got a little more real.”
Stakes Got Higher
With the opportunity to compete in a national level, the importance of being able to deliver a captivating solo performance just got critical. Will they be able to deliver the same performance intensity without their backup dancers? Will they be able to create the illusion with minimal props? The remaining nine contestants are the best of this cycle. Each brings a unique style of drag. Through the challenges they have demonstrated their creative range and unique abilities.