Three months of Branjie, “stolen” tree bark, missing wigs (hello, FBI!), and oppalens have all led up to this moment: RuPaul will crown one of four remaining season 11 queens as America’s Drag Superstar this Thursday night, but which lady will get the crown? Assuming the May 30 finale (airing at 9:00 p.m ET/PT on VH1) follows the lead of seasons 9 and 10 with three sets of lip-sync battles (two one-on-one pairings and a final showdown between the remaining duo), here’s how EW gauges the remaining RuPaul’s Drag Race season 11 contenders — from boundary-pushing beauty Yvie Oddly and Canadian dancer Brooke Lynn Hytes to pageant stunner A’Keria Chanel Davenport and munchy-crunchy goddess Silky Nutmeg Ganache — in terms of their chances of taking the crown:
4th: Silky Nutmeg Ganache
Aside from what certain fans might think (Silky’s larger-than-life personality hasn’t exactly received the warmest welcome from some viewers), RuPaul — and Drag Race — are clearly in love with the four-course meal of extra-extra-extra personality and glitz this beauty queen has served since episode 1. That being said, it’s likely that Silky’s made-for-TV attitude is what kept her around for so long, as her runway looks haven’t been (and the judges have said as much) up to par with what the other girls have produced — even girls like Ra’Jah O’Hara and Scarlet Envy, who went home many weeks before Silky cemented a spot in the finale.
For all the ways Silky has rubbed America wrong this season, it’s important to remember we’re simply watching a minuscule portion of a complete stranger’s life unfold via brief, heavily edited clips on a reality television show. Using Silky’s personality against her as a means to discredit her talent or invalidate her pursuit of the crown is naive, petty, and downright irresponsible. Silky is exactly what Drag Race ordered when it cast her: Confident, wildly charismatic, and totally entertaining to watch, whether you like her or not.
Still, this is a competition, and Silky’s technical skills haven’t measured up to her season 11 sisters on the runway or in acting challenges. She has shined brightest when it comes time for her to move as a dancer (see: Draglympics and the music video shoot from two weeks ago), but she’s also failed miserably when the pressure was on for her to deliver the epic lip-sync she promised several episodes back. So, that question mark over Silky’s head remains: Can she deliver a stellar lip-sync? With a finale built around lip-syncs on deck, we can only go based on what we know and have seen solely on the show, and the answer is: Perhaps not — especially when proven masters like Yvie Oddly and Brooke Lynn Hytes are in the hunt against her.
3rd: A’Keria Chanel Davenport
Sweet, curious, beautiful, and generally confused, Detective A’Keria Chanel Davenport made it her mission to get to the bottom of several mysteries throughout season 11, from the case of Plastique Tiara’s family history to the “What’s going on, here?” of it all when it came to the origins of Branjie. And it’s all (mostly) been a joy to watch, except when A’Keria’s sleuthing turned to meddling. (Ok, ok, so the Ra’Jah/Plastique pot-stirring situation was a bit much.)
Regardless of how you feel about A’Keria’s detective work, the pageant stunner skillfully transcended the “pageant queen” box in which many of her peers have suffocated across the past 10 seasons. Her runway looks have been diverse and, at times, mind-blowing (her All That Glitters gown out-RuPaul-ed RuPaul and her Fringe Fantasy had me gooped) if not always the most flattering (see: Monster Ball). But, A’Keria has also proven her might as a performer, with several performances breaking the stereotype that Dallas pageant queens are perpetually poised, rigid fembots. (Hello, L.A.D.P.!)
In the end, my projection for A’Keria’s third-place finish comes down to pure speculation; if she’s paired with Brooke or Yvie, both have a competitive and technical edge (Brooke’s a seasoned dancer, while Yvie can do this) that probably exceeds A’Keria’s natural talent simply on the level of pure spectacle alone.
2nd: Brooke Lynn Hytes
In the broadest sense, there are two worlds of drag: One in the context of competitive reality television on RuPaul’s Drag Race, and the art form in its natural state in the “real” world. Canadian queen Brooke Lynn Hytes has proven she can excel in both respects without compromising her craft. She brings it on the runway every week (she’s one of the most consistently great fashion queens in Drag Race her-story) and masterfully married her background as a successful ballet dancer with the kinds of challenges only Drag Race could concoct. (Hi, Draglympics!)
She’s also played the “reality show” portion of Drag Race far wiser than some of her cast mates, as last week’s reunion showed us a different (perhaps darker) side of Brooke we’d yet to see, and made it seem like Brooke was perhaps knowingly brandishing her friendlier side for the cameras. (Is it just me, or did the way Brooke explained herself when questioned about things like the future of Branjie and the Scarlet/Roscoe’s drama leave anyone else feeling like she was being uncharacteristically distant?)
As much as she dominated in the areas of competition (three challenge wins, the most of anyone this year) and camera time (Branjie was genius. R.I.P.!), Brooke still got the “you need more edge” edit (unjustifiable, but she still got it) two weeks ago during the music video shoot. I have a feeling great things are coming from Brooke during the finale. She and Yvie are, without question, the season’s best lip-syncers. And they only did it once — against each other! But, despite her statistical advantage heading into the episode, there’s something out of Brooke’s control that makes her feel like the wrong winner at the wrong time, and it’s no fault of her own. She’s talented at what she does and we’ll undoubtedly see a new breed of drag show from her after the season wraps (can you imagine an elite drag-style ballet touring theaters around the world?), but, more often than not, Drag Race is in the business of pushing the envelope with its winners (Raja, Sharon Needles, Jinkx Monsoon, Bob the Drag Queen) instead of simply polishing the most dazzling queen in the bunch. Brooke doesn’t need a platform like Drag Race to appeal to the masses; she’s already a superstar on her own terms. Which brings me to…
Projected winner: Yvie Oddly
Yvie Oddly is everything RuPaul’s Drag Race needs right now: She’s hip, fresh, and she represents an exciting, boundary-blurring brand of hybrid drag that needs the glint of a larger spotlight to thrive — something increasingly difficult to do in a post-Sharon Needles landscape, which made any queen in a dingy Brooklyn bar think she can pass off cigarette ash as eyeliner and a scissor-slashed Fashion Nova top as avant-garde innovation. (What Sharon does has class, ladies! Learn! Don’t copy for the cheapest price!)
But, that’s not what Yvie’s doing: Her heart is firmly rooted in a desire to bring her own fantasies to life, without adhering to anyone else’s expectations or pre-established standards. She blossomed into everything from a muck-dwelling slime dragon to an ethereal jellyfish and a digital, steampunk lion straight out of a Wachowski sisters film on the Drag Race runway — and you’ve never seen anything like it before. Week after week, she joins these high-concept, imaginative costumes with palpable fashion savvy. Yes, she’ll serve you the squirming head of a monster on a goop-covered platter, but she’ll do it with a Versace glove, honey.
Consistently robbed of challenge wins she totally deserved, Yvie still found herself hovering around the top of the pack week after week. Comparing her report card to the rest of the final four, though, Yvie has the least amount of overall victories (one compared to Brooke’s three, while Silky and A’Keria round out the middle with two apiece). Statistically, that puts her at a disadvantage ahead of Thursday’s episode, but seeing as the finale has evolved to become more performance-oriented in recent years and Yvie slayed nearly every motion-based challenge thrown her way (two lip-sync battles should be cake for Yvie, given what we saw during her lip-sync against Brooke earlier this season), she’ll have the biggest stage yet upon which to prove that she’s not an underdog, she has simply been underrated at panel this entire time.
In the end, Yvie’s in her own lane, and has been for years; she just shared some of what she’s found along the way on her Drag Race pit stop. Now, it’s up to RuPaul to decide whether he wants to go along for the ride into the future — and help pave the rest of Yvie’s road to stardom — or not.
Tune in to the RuPaul’s Drag Race season 11 finale this Thursday, May 30 at 9:00 p.m. ET/PT on VH1 to find out which queen takes the crown.
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