Week after week the contestants of The Search For Vancouver’s Next Drag Superstar 2017 have gone through intense challenges that tested their creative abilities, showmanship and will. From the twelve contestants only eight remain: Beth Amphetamine, Cleopatra Compton, Eva Scarlett, ILONA, Jo Durée, Kendall Gender, Marianne Toilette, and Molly Poppinz. They all have taken a lot of notes since week one. If they haven’t learned from them, it’s too late. The time for taking notes is over, now is the time to go full throttle. This week they’ll battle it out once more, for a spot in the grand final, and have a one in six chance of winning the title. Next week Thorgy Thor, star of RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 8, is the finale’s guest judge and headline performer.
This week, the contestants took the audience to church many times, and gave the audience so many unforgettable performances. And based on that I can say, yes, they’ve taken heed to their judges’ critiques. It is an intense week, judging from the strong emotions exhibited by some contestants on stage. The top three is emerging… or rather, is now more obvious.
The winner of 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, flights and accommodation, to the party venue, courtesy of Celebrities Nightclub and Cruisey T. The panel of judges/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. The competition is held at Celebrities Nightclub, one of Vancouver’s premiere nightclub.
“This contest has been going on for so long that these contestants are having children now.” –Jane Smoker
For the mini challenge, the contestants were asked to create a drag daughter for themselves. Where they put somebody, who has never done drag, into drag for the first time. Prior to the runway walk, I checked backstage to familiarize myself with the contestants’ drag daughters and see them before their full transformation. From the makeup progress photo, you can tell who has face painting down to a perfect ten.
Jo Durée did a wonderful job. The resemblance is striking. Great hair volume, amazing makeup, and perfect outfit. She even incorporated antler horns…. just for fun. Pretty good stage execution too.
Cleopatra Compton’s works was gorgeous. The way she paints, and her facial features, reminds me of Alyssa Edwards … it’s a good thing. And her drag daughter reminds me of Nebraska Thunderfuck, Alaska Thunderfuck’s drag daughter in Drag Race… it’s also a good thing. They both looked gorgeous and glamorous. Cleopatra Compton’s accessories were a nice touch, like her theater length cigarette holder & and choker. The faux fur was a perfect accessory for her drag daughter too, to help conceal his big strong arms. Pretty good stage presentation too.
Molly Poppinz did good in with her trash bag couture creation. I can see the resemblance from the eye makeup. But there was a bit of disconnect with the hair. I like how she attempted to make something tasteful out of the trash bag dresses, and that she was wearing black and her drag daughter white. But this has been done already. I think it’s important to show something new as the competition advances. What’s more, her drag daughter’s dress was hanging on her midrib.
Beth Amphetamine and her drag daughter looked cute. Thank you for wearing nails, finally! But her tube dress needs something sparkly because it looked too plain. Same goes with her drag daughter’s wardrobe. She wore very minimal accessories and her drag daughter wear none. Their hair could use extra volume… and styling perhaps? And both of their makeup was okay, but could be stronger. I mean, it’s drag after all.
ILONA’s creation was like a clone copy. Their makeup was perfect. You can see how fine the eyebrows were drawn and the smoothness of the contour blending. I like how they have matching outfits, shoes, and hair. It’s a very well put together look. And… thank you for wearing nails!
Marianne Toilette’s concept was good. I believe she was going for a period look. But it looked a bit unfinished. The only thing that seemed finished was their makeup and hair. Her blouse was coming off, her skirt was too plain – it reminded me of a school teacher – and she needed something between them, a belt perhaps? Her drag daughter (or son) looked almost perfect… but was she going for androgyny? If so, she achieved it. His/her red hair was fine, but his/her makeup could’ve been better. He/she didn’t need the choker and belt. His/her sleeves could’ve been hemmed. And the whole costume seem a bit too loose, or maybe that’s what she was going for?
Eva Scarlett, the theme Queen. She’s been on a food trip in this whole competition, costume-wise. And in the past weeks, she has executed themed challenges perfectly… but not this one. Hair and makeup… perfect ten. I see the resemblance there… immediately. And thank goodness for that because the outfits were a bit of a stretch. The only thing relatable was that they both wore leotards and leggings. Her drag daughter’s pizza fringe, lol cute, was fantastic. And the red jacket she wore and a slice of pizza for a broach was nice. But it all screamed…. week two. And the box of pizza they had for a prop…. and snack on stage was really unnecessary. So it wasn’t a bad look but not great either.
Kendall Gender, the slutty family taking a selfie on the runway … hilarious. Mini challenge aside… hair, makeup, and dress looked fine to me. Unfortunately, aside from the denim jacket they both wore… I didn’t see the resemblance. They both looked too different. They could just be friends who were going out werkin’ the streets … if you know what I mean. But they both looked nice.
My top picks for this challenge are: ILONA, Jo Durée, and Cleopatra Compton.
The contestants were pair up for a duet performance. Some were paired with a member of another group. The original groups was set aside for this challenge.
Jo Durée and ILONA performed “I Love U”, a k-pop song by the South Korean group 2NE1. I thought their look and costumes were amazing. The choreography was pretty good and very entertaining. The piece of long fabric matching their skirt that they tied to their wrist added a nice visual flow to their movement. Even though the song is in Korean, both of them still nailed the lip sync. I like how both of them were on even keel the whole time.
Kendall Gender and Cleopatra Compton performed “The Runways” by Cherry Bomb. They dressed up like rock stars with matching hair color. They both had microphone on a stand for props. They pretty much rocked the stage like legit superstars. Cleopatra Compton was whipping her hair like a pro. Then Kendall Gender grabbed a real electric guitar and started strumming it. There wasn’t any obvious choreography because they were sort of just jamming. But they were channeling great rock star energy and the audience loved it.
Eva Scarlett and Molly Poppinz performed “Slumber Party” by Britney Spears. First of all, I like their look. It was the second best put together look for the duet challenge. Eva Scarlett’s makeup and hair was amazing. Molly Poppinz was almost just as good. Then their crew setup an inflatable mattress on the stage and propped a camera and tripod on the side. The camera was aimed at the mattress. I was thinking, ok a photo shoot. But no… it was a kinky hookup reenactment of two women. I may have mentally blocked the performance when it got too raunchy… like the crotch-on-crotch rubbing action, kissing, and doggy style dry humping. I don’t know if it was a good interpretation of the song or if it was semi-final material.
Beth Amphetamine and Marianne Toilette performed “It’s Raining Men.” I think they were trying to out do the previous duo. Ok, hair and makeup… it was fine both of them. I wasn’t a big fan of the secretary-inspired outfits. And I totally don’t know why Marianne Toilette wore a shiny corset underneath an open blouse. Their high heels were office secretary appropriate. Their outfits could’ve worked, but then they had two naked men blow-up dolls for props. Both extremely engorged. Then they proceeded to do all sorts of dirty things to it. A bit shocking and funny… and awkward. So I don’t know. It was a fail for me.
My top pick for the duet is: Jo Durée and ILONA. If I have to really put a lot of leeway … Kendall Gender and Cleopatra Compton too.
For the solo performances, the contestants were required to impersonate celebrity divas.
I have to point it out now that with the exception of Beth Amphetamine, none of them really looked like the celebrity they’ve chosen. ILONA got Bette Midler’s hair right and Eva Scarlett sort of look like Adel. Jo Durée’s makeup didn’t scream Kylie, nor were Kendall Gender’s and Marianne Toilette’s with their respective celebrity. So it was up to them to sell the whole package as the celebrity in question through their performance.
Jo Durée as Kylie Minogue. She performed the singer’s hit single “Can’t Get You Out of My Head.” The whole performance was a 10. Her makeup was immaculate. She didn’t look like Kylie Minogue but she was still radiant. Her outfit was iconic and right. She did have four backup dancers, but I’m very sure all eyes were on her. Her costume was all white while her backup dancers had white tops and black shorts or something. She stood out. The choreography… also a 10.
Cleopatra Compton as Beyoncé. She performed the singer’s hit song “Drunk In Love.” She looked gorgeous…. from head to foot in her signature sexy skimpy look. I am not sure why she picked a voluptuous woman to impersonate when she’s very petite. Why not Christina Aguilera … before the pregnancy? I actually enjoyed the performance. It was very captivating and she was gorgeous. It was a great performance. Unfortunately, based on the criteria of the challenge… she missed the mark.
Molly Poppinz as Kesha. She performed Kesha’s cover of Cyndi Lauper’s single “True Colors.” Her look was loosely based on Kesha’s music video for the song. She looked alright in her white dress and blonde hair. She had a couple of backup dancers and some wind effect going on. But the whole performance came across as interpretative dancing of LGBT rights movement. At least that’s what I got from it, especially with the Pride flag they unfurled towards the end. Performance alone, it was great. I enjoyed it. But, again, given the criteria for the challenge, she too missed the mark. I didn’t saw Kesha nor was it a recreation or a spoof of the song’s music video.
Beth Amphetamine as Amy Winehouse. She performed the singer’s single “Back To Black.” I appreciate so much that she did a great job with her impersonation, look-wise. As soon as she walked on stage I saw Amy Winehouse. I also appreciate that she was wearing nails. I thought her wardrobe was good too. But that’s about it. Much of her entire performance she just stood in front of her microphone stand. She didn’t emote as much. And when she did it came across as reserved. She paced around briefly and in a coy manner. Her mic was also set high that it covered her face. And when she clasp onto it, her face was totally blocked. I wish she exaggerated the performance or put extra energy to it. There was no stage presence. It was almost like people were just waiting for the song to finish.
ILONA as Bette Midler. She performed the classic song “The Rose.” Her overall look was great. Although, aside from her outfit and hair, I didn’t see any obvious hint of Bette Midler. The star don’t really have any iconic hair, like Jennifer Aniston, as far as I know, at leat. She covered the tattoos on her forearms and hands with makeup for her solo performance. She was also wearing pretty nails … thank you. The lights were dimmed and only a spotlight that was aimed at her on the ground from the audience illuminated her on stage. Her lip sync was a 10. She was animated but subtle. She used her hands as she emotes through the song. It was so moving, it gave me chills. The audience was intensely focused on her. She took everyone to church! That made up for the look.
Marianne Toilette as Dolly Parton. She performed “Shine Like The Sun.” The minute she walked on stage I immediately saw country. But I didn’t saw any hint of Dolly Parton. Her boobs weren’t huge, her lips weren’t big and overdrawn, and no Dolly silhouette either. I liked her curly golden locks, and her makeup wasn’t so bad… but I didn’t saw the celebrity. She was highly energetic, and I saw a lot of confidence in her performance. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough to pass as Dolly Parton.
Eva Scarlett as Adel. She lip sync to “Skyfall.” Lucky for her, her facial features are great for Adel impersonation. Her celebrity pick was a great choice. Her makeup and hair was fabulous. I saw a lot of Adel in her look the more I saw her on stage. She wore a pretty see through black dress. She also wore nails, thank you. She only had a spotlight for lighting, about the same setup as ILONA. What’s more, she had the lighting technician create a shooting star effect from the overhead LED lights. It was magical. “Skyfall,” was great song choice for her too. The song is very popular, iconic, and moving. She just stood there behind the mic, but she used her hands and she gave good face. It was a very high impact ballad. She aced it and took the audience to church… again. She sold it, everyone bought it.
Kendall Gender as Jennifer Hudson. She performed a very powerful ballad, “I Am Telling You.” I like her blue jacket and skirt. The black ruffles on her lapel and sleeves added sophisticated to her costume. Her makeup and hair were pretty good, but it didn’t scream, “Jennifer Hudson!” Her performance though was stellar. Her commitment to the song was unquestionable. She connected with the audience and utilized the whole stage. The overhead warm spotlight gave her performance a dramatic edge. It was intense, and a great closing act. And yet again, she took the audience to church… and this time, all by herself.
My top picks for the solo performance are: Eva Scarlett, ILONA, Kendall Gender, and Jo Durée.
ILONA won the mini challenge. Kendall Gender was declared the top contestant of the week. Marianne Toilette garnered the lowest score and was immediately eliminated.
Beth Amphetamine and Cleopatra Compton were the bottom two contestants and had to lip sync to remain in the competition. The pair lip sync to RuPaul’s hit song, “Champion.” Beth Amphetamine was giving it her all, but Cleopatra Compton was serving fierce to the max. And to make clear her determination, she executed a flawless death drop! A first in the competition! With that, the judges made their decision. Beth Amphetamine was eliminated from the competition and Cleopatra Compton moves on to the finals!
And then there were six. Intense!
Top Six and Favorites
With the prospect of competing in Montreal, I hope that the winner is a seasoned who has all the skill set and proven creativity to produce and deliver all the requirements in the upcoming competition. If not for this major twist, I would be happy if any of the top six wins the crown — more or less. Just the honor of being able to compete sounds also good, but winning or going far would be sweet. I suspect Vancouver’s representative will not have unlimited resources unlike competing locally, but hopefully the sponsors got that covered.
So with that, here’s my last word for the contestants:
Cleopatra Compton – she is one most gorgeous queen in the competition. She can dance, got cool moves, and project on stage. She is an intense performer. Oh, don’t forget the death drop. Are we going to see a split too? Her dance abilities are amazing. For the past four weeks, for one reason or another, she seemed to get stuck with “relying on that body” in the solo challenges. We have seen fierce looks for the mini challenges, though, creatively, her costumes may not be as polished or well thought out as the other contestants but she knows how to deliver and sell to the audience. Is there enough time for her to show another side of her drag and be enough to secure the title? If there’s anything we can count on her is deliver a gorgeous mug and hair. She’s a talented Queen, and if she can pull a show-stopper in the grand final, she could potentially take the title.
Eva Scarlett – I want to call her the demure Queen. There’s no doubt in my mind that her makeup skills and creativity is one of the top three (or two) in the competition. Her vision and execution is one of the best in the competition. And she can perform, there’s no doubt about that. But for all the VNDS cycles I’ve seen her compete, she seem to be struggling in one department – self-confidence. I’m sure she has confidence, but she often comes across as shy or reserved on stage. And it shows in her performance. I think Queens should be bigger than life. Maybe that’s just how she is. But in order for her to snatch the title, and really make it far in Montreal, she needs to show some exuberance … if not, then fake it until you make it. If we look at the past winners of VNDS, they’re all outrageous, in a good way. But hey, RuPaul is shy, but he fakes being an extrovert in social settings.
ILONA – she’s one of my favorite to win this competition, for so many reasons. She’s one of my top three contestant to win, just based on talent, creativity, and sheer will. Her drag is top notch! And her creativity is intense, with a personality to match. She definitely has a great stage presence. And if she wins this competition and go to Montreal, I think she’ll go a very very long way. My only worry with her is just like last year, being “too ILONA.” What that means is, she’s different, she’s unique, she thinks outside the box, she’s strange, she’s shocking, she’s …. the BOMB! She’s all that. After three years of competing in VNDS and performing everywhere in town, we know she’s a force to be reckoned with. So … she doesn’t have to really make a statement in every challenge to say, “hey, this is me, and I’m this” … because we know. I’m already blown away. I think what needs to happen now is … tuning. Be intense but not 203.5%. Be relatable and still stay true to yourself. There’s no need to jam-pack everything in one song, because the story will be lost, reserve that for Pride or some major crazy event. Captivate the audience from 0 seconds to 180 seconds … keep the intensity at an even keel with a start, middle, and end. Tell us a story … make the audience cry… give them goosebumps. It doesn’t have to be a Broadway musical, just something different from a club act. That’s a lot of notes, yes, because … dammit, I’ve placed my bets already. lol
Jo Durée – I’m utterly shocked by this Queen. I remember meeting her for the first time at Queens Care IX. And immediately I saw the charisma. First impression was, shes very well put together and pretty. I am shocked because as a neophyte Queen, she has grown so much in such a relatively short amount of time … with quality. Her creativity and progress is like on steroids. And that’s admirable and worrisome at the same time – you know, getting burnt. I suppose my only reservation if she wins is, will she be able to compete in Montreal at this stage in her drag career? This question is becoming trivial each week in this competition. I think she is a complete package, she just needs to be seasoned more … but is that even a question? Again, read previous statement. Her creativity and concepts so far are pretty damn good, except for her Pride outfit maybe. But she has awed the audience consistently in this competition. I spoke to her about what I think great drag performances should be in the competition. Let’s just say I was impressed and happy with the answer I got from her. Win VNDS2017? Why not?
Kendall Gender – As one of the most popular contestant in the competition (very likely), with all the insider connections and support there is to be had, it’s easy to become comfortable. Remember Adore Delano? In so many ways, Kendall Gender reminds me of her. She’s a seasoned drag entertainer. And based on her third week performance, she’s super talented and creative. She is an intense performer … and sometimes over the top. It’s fun to rouse the audience, especially when you have backup dancers to help out, but what was the point? I was so happy she performed solo this week, by herself, and did a home run because it showed that she is actually fabulous on her own! She has also come a long way, since she first competed in VNDS. And if she wins this year, I think she’ll also do well in Montreal. But let’s be honest, she’s got very tough competitors. It won’t be a walk in the park.
Molly Poppinz – she’s my most unexpected Queen to reach the finale. First impression from week one, I thought she was too basic, pedestrian, … potty mouth, and a little bit of slutty-drag … hoping to win hearts with her Australian accent. Some of her performances kind of validated my thoughts. But then week three, she improved so much! To me she’s like a completely different contestant from week one. I thought she was going to be eliminated the first week! But she kept stealing the spotlight and making everyone’s head reel with her outrageous … and Rated-R acts. I like her energy and her personality. I’m still trying to figure out what her drag is. She has a lot of potential. And who knows, she might shock everyone again by winning he competition. I’ve casually polled people in social media, and she sure has a lot of fans out there. Will that translate to actual votes? Who knows?
Likely top four: Eva Scarlett, ILONA, Kendall Gender, and Jo Durée
Likely top three: ILONA, Jo Durée, and Kendall Gender
Likely top two: ILONA and Jo Durée
Likely top two (factoring tribe size): ILONA and Kendall Gender
Likely dark horse: Molly Poppinz
Likely upset: ILONA
Likely winner: ILONA
Likely winner based on consistency from week 1-4: Jo Durée
Pick to win: ILONA
Pick to win (and make it far in Montreal): ILONA or Kendall Gender
Good luck! And may the best top six, win!
Performance and other photos will be release after the grand final, click here for the partial album.