‘Ru Pauls’ Drag Race’ Finale: The Winner Walked Into The Club Purse First

It’s official. Ru Paul’s Drag Race finally emerged from the fringes. It is a force to be reckoned with – the little show that could, should and did walk all over the competition in six inch heels. Think of your favorite reality shows from years past. Project Runway, a previous juggernaut in the merit-based competition reality show field started off strong and now feels like a weird, irrelevant footnote, a show that lost its snap once Tim Gunn and Michael Kors and the inimitable Nina Garcia left. The beauty of reality television is watching otherwise unremarkable human beings perform remarkable tasks in a close approximation of real time.

Drag Race is literal transformation, acknowledging from the jump that gender is a flimsy construct at best and it gives the contestants the space to fully explore that construct, however they see fit. Last night’s season finale of the eighth season  proved that in a reality tv landscape littered with shows that are devoid of soul, the contestants on Drag Race and the show itself is one of the most exciting things on television. It feels new and fresh and exciting. Last night’s finale and this entire season proved that this show is a force to be reckoned with.

This season is the first season I’ve watched where I would’ve been pleased with whatever the outcome was. Bob The Drag Queen, Kim Chi and Naomi Smalls were all worthy of the crown. But Bob, she studied. She read. She knew. And she won.

Did you expect anything less? Were you really pulling for another one of your faves to win? Bob The Drag Queen snatching the crown was an inevitability from the start.

Yes, her Lewks weren’t as involved as some of the other girls,  but she was the full package, like a more palatable Bianca with a dash of Sharon Needles’ sly wit. I could fill an entire tribute Tumblr with Bob’s best moments, but for me, she shone the most during this season’s Snatch Game, where she turned out a pitch perfect Uzo Aduba followed by the best Carol Channing I’ve seen any draq queen do. The nerve! The nerve to take on Carol Channing and then murder the interpretation, to wipe the floor with the competition and earn praise from the old bag herself? Bob, you canny queen, you deserved this win.

Naomi Smalls, the little supermodel that could, was no slouch, either. Early episodes saw Naomi taking her sweet time to come out of her shell, but when she did, she proved to be a formidable competitor, with “legs up to her asshole,” a baby fawn learning how to fully inhabit her drag and stretch her limits. So much of drag — all of it, really — is creativity. It is a literal transformation, erasing the societally imposed boundaries of gender and rewriting the rules. Naomi had creativity in spades, but it was only evident after the judges read her one too many times for trotting out a chiffon dressing gown and a bra and panty set on the runway and calling it couture. But, even the scourge of Derrick Berry, the Britney Spears impersonator that wrecked the showroom with her sour attitude and shade so cold it was brute mean girl bitchery couldn’t keep our girl down.

And what of Kim Chi? Sweet, lisping, sharp as a tack, Kim Chi’s successes felt personal and her losses cut just as deep. It is a testament to Ru Paul’s genius and the kindness inherent in the production of this show that any of the things Kim Chi worked to suppress in her real life, out of drag, were not played for cruelty but for celebration. I will say it now and I mean it from the bottom of my heart: There has never been a queen on this show as creative or as inspired as Kim Chi. Her makeup, garish and jarring on her sister Trixie Mattel, looked beautifully unnatural, like an irridescent alien dropped upon this planet in a cloud of spun sugar and icicles, all sweetness with hidden sharps. Where Bob and Naomi give strength to the skinny ones and the loud ones that don’t know when to be quiet, Kim Chi’s greatest superpower is hope.

Every episode of the show ends with a powerful exhortation, one so oft=repeated in the context of the show that its meaning is easily forgotten. “If you can’t love yourself, how in the hell are you gonna love somebody else?” Ru Paul asks, a housemother shimmering in sequins. Her children throw their hands up in salvation, shimmying as the music plays them out. It’s a fitting end to the best show on television — one that proves that there’s a place for everyone: the weird, fat, the femme, the Asian and the woefully misunderstood. For that, we are grateful. For that, we are blessed.