RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 9, Episode 1 Recap: Gagging for Gaga!

It’s back, ladies! RuPaul’s Drag Race has finally returned to our screens and I think we can all safely say our lives are that much better for it. And what a premiere it was! We got a pageant, we got laughs, we got drama, and most importantly – we got Gaga! Lady Gaga guest judging on this season’s opener was a true treat and she definitely didn’t disappoint. But let’s start from the top.

The season begins, as always, with the new queens entering the werkroom. This is always my favorite part of every premiere. Even having already gotten acquainted with the contestants in their Meet the Queens videos, it’s awesome to get to know them again through their entrances. Sasha Velour comes in screaming like a banshee, Nina Bo’nina Brown shows up as a mouse with massive hip pads, and Shea Couleé‘s entrance look involves Pearl merch. Yes, that Pearl.

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Right off the bat, Eureka positions herself as the resident shady queen, reading several of the new arrivals as they enter. Jaymes Mansfield looks highly uncomfortable coming in and Eureka wastes no time taking her down a peg – something she continues to do all the way throughout Untucked as well.

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Now how about that final entrance?! Gaga masquerading (literally) as one of the new queens in the werkroom was a genius move, and the girls’ reactions are priceless.

With that, RuPaul himself comes in to welcome the new queens to the season alongside Gaga. This week, he announces, no one will be going home. So often, the first queen to get the chop isn’t given a chance to showcase enough of herself for us to get a good idea of her talents. This way, the first episode gets to take its time presenting every queen and, rather than immediately send one packing, allows the very glamorous dust to settle before bringing down the axe.

The season begins with the Miss Charisma, Uniqueness, Nerve & Talent pageant, with two different looks asked of the queens from the get-go – similar to the fashion show challenge in the season 7 premiere, but with a little less haute couture and a little more crazy. Mama Ru herself stays – somewhat shockingly – out of drag for the entire episode, instead allowing the queens and Lady Gaga to take center stage.

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First up on the runway is “hometown frock” realness. Three out of four New York queens feature the Statue of Liberty in their outfits in some way, which, as the artsy Sasha Velour harshly points out later on in Untucked, was a bit too much of an obvious choice. The two Vegas queens, Kimora Blac and Farrah Moan, both get read by Michelle Visage for their looks not being true to Las Vegas. Oops. Nina Bo’nina Brown and Shea Couleé get top marks here for thinking outside the box and not being afraid to look a little weird – and Ross Mathews‘ uncontrollable condiment-related pun outburst was delightful. He really got jalapeño-business there. (I’m sorry.)

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Next up, the Gaga runway. Lady Gaga looks touched and teary-eyed throughout the whole thing and it’s so sweet. At the last second, Farrah Moan is sabotaged by her inner saboteur and decides not to go through with her fantastic tearaway look. Whyyyy girl why. When Sasha Velour comes in with her Applause-themed smudged makeup look, Lady Gaga references the Pearl-RuPaul feud from season 7 (“Do I have something on my face?”), proving how big a fan of the show she really is. Alexis Michelle, Trinity Taylor, and, once again, Nina Bo’nina Brown are huge standouts here.

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After a round of deliberations – and some shade being thrown around in Untucked – Nina Bo’nina Brown is crowned the winner of the pageant and the season’s first challenge. You go, girl! Watching her get a win after opening up to the other queens about her precarious situation backstage feels amazing.

But at the last second, RuPaul throws the whole competition with a Steve Harvey-like twist – a fourteenth queen is entering the race! Who could it be?!

With that out of the way, let’s do a quick run-down of each queen so far.

Peppermint – Her looks were solid, but nothing particularly stood out. That said, she’s given solid confessionals so far and may end up playing a big part because of how good she is with the camera.

Valentina – She is gorgeous. Really gorgeous. I can’t wait to see what she does next. I’m also highly amused by how she has to preface everything she says with “May I say something?” It’s adorable.

Eureka – This gal has a very big personality, and that plays in her favor. She gives great confessionals and is very funny, but she can also come across pretty shady. She’ll last long if she keeps toeing that line.

Charlie Hides – I feel like Charlie hasn’t yet shown what she’s really capable of, but she’s very promising. There’s a very “mother hen” feel about her, the way she tried to get Jaymes to open up in Untucked.

Farrah Moan – It would’ve been so easy for a queen with Farrah’s looks to be a Mean Girls-esque bitch, but Farrah is absolutely adorkable. She’s funny, relatable, and a total sweetheart. Hopefully, she overcomes that inner saboteur ASAP.

Sasha Velour – This one knows exactly what she’s doing. While I do agree she needs to edit her looks down whenever possible, Sasha seems like she really has a handle on the competition. I think (and hope!) she’ll go far.

Alexis Michelle – Alexis is a beautiful lady (and a handsome boy!) and is just very talented. Her Gaga look was stunning and she has a great personality to go with it.

Shea Couleé – So far, I am willing to put aside my annoyance at the misspelled name, because Shea is beautiful and doesn’t take herself too seriously, which is always a good thing. I’m looking forward to seeing more of her.

Trinity Taylor – Okay. I owe Trinity a heartfelt apology. I said in my Meet the Queens assessment that she seemed like a filler queen and that couldn’t seem further from the truth now. Trinity is polished, funny, and talented. Her Gaga looked slayed, literally. Please forgive me, Ms. Taylor!

Kimora Blac – Oof. For someone with such a high opinion of herself, Kimora is just not all that impressive so far. Her Gaga look was a little sloppy and she weirdly balked at the plastic surgery question in Untucked. Girl, if you’ve had it, own it like Trinity does!

Jaymes Mansfield – Poor Jaymes. I just want to hug her and tell her everything’s going to be okay. She’s funny, but she just really seems out of her element here. I hope she can pick herself up and prove everyone wrong.

Nina Bo’nina Brown – The rightful winner of the first challenge. Nina is a force to be reckoned with, and I think the other queens now know not to underestimate her. Ms. Brown is a fierce makeup artist and seems to have a great personality to boot. Top 3, here she comes!

Aja – I’m ambivalent about Aja. She comes highly recommended and seems like a talented gal, but her makeup so far has been a bit underwhelming. She’s either going to surprise everyone in the coming weeks or have an Adore Delano-esque storyline of the charismatic underdog rising through the ranks. We shall see.

And that’s it for this week, kittens! This looks like an amazing season so far and I can’t wait to tune in next week for more drag goodness. Ciao!

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