RuPaul’s Drag Race, for all its flaws, has become a staple of the reality television calendar. Mixing pop culture with petty drama, Drag Race provides light entertainment to audiences regardless of sexuality and gender – and highlights some of the greatest talents of the queer community at the same time. The show may have become more mainstream, but one thing has remained: the infamous lip-sync for your life, a two minute battle between contestants to establish who truly has the charisma, uniqueness, nerve and talent to impress the all-seeing, all-powerful RuPaul.
To celebrate ten fantastic seasons of the show, I’m taking a trip down memory lane and counting down my favourite lip-syncs in Drag Race her-story.
10. Roxxxy Andrews v Alyssa Edwards (Season 5)
Wigs on wigs on wigs. The choice of Whip My Hair for this lip-sync was always going to be an interesting one, but nothing could have prepared us for Roxxxy hooking her fingers under her wig and launching it off to reveal another fucking wig. Alyssa then attempts to self-inflict whiplash, because the only way to perform this song is to go beyond over-the-top, and the whole thing ends in a double shantay. Excellent.
9. Kennedy Davenport v Katya Zamolodchikova (Season 7)
Five seasons prior, classically trained dancer and official lip-sync assassin Sahara Davenport launched herself off the stage in a wedding dress and landed in the splits. Sahara tragically passed away from heart failure in 2012, but her spirit lives on in the show – perhaps best evidenced by Kennedy’s subtle but heartfelt tribute to her late drag sister. Kennedy repeats the same move as Sahara once did, with the same dramatic resolve. Talent clearly runs in the Davenport family, as demonstrated by Kennedy’s win, proving her worth against fan favourite Katya.
8. Manila Luzon v Delta Work (Season 3)
This particular showdown is heartbreaking because Manila and Delta are great friends, but exemplary because they’re great queens.
MacArthur Park is a pretty theatrical song, and who better to serve up some melodramatic Broadway realness than eventual runner-up Manila, a beautiful, elegant queen who is not at all afraid to go completely batshit when needed. On the other side of the spectrum, Delta is reserved in her interpretation of the words, with much more poised, controlled movements. Of course, this is drag race, so Manila wins this one hands-down, but I’d be lying if I said the sight of the pair hugging each other hasn’t brought the odd tear to my eye. Long live the Heathers.
7. Joslyn Fox v Laganja Estranja (Season 6)
Joslyn pushing up her fake tits, Laganja rolling around on the floor, the girls jumping into a split on the exact same beat of the song, it’s all great stuff here. Joslyn acts her little heart out (Stupid Girl as a music choice requires a certain level of comedic ability), whilst Laganja throws her wig off and death drops a few times. Jos wins in the eyes of Ru, but we’re all winners here: whether you see them as irritating or endearing, you cannot deny the entertainment value of these two.
6. Literally All of TKB’s Lip Syncs
Admittedly, this is cheating, but it isn’t fair to dedicate three whole spaces to Trinity K Bonet’s talents, as much as she deserves it. Trinity may have been petulant and difficult to work with in challenges, but once she hit the stage she completely transformed. Give her a track, an opponent and a “don’t fuck it up”, and she’ll slaughter any competition. Her rendition of Whatta Man versus Milk is a highlight of her resume, showing Trinity in all her gorgeous, legendary glory.
5. Chi Chi DeVayne v Thorgy Thor (Season 8)
And I Am Telling You is one of the best lip-sync songs ever, period. It requires a level of performance beyond flipping around the stage and jumping into splits; a display of emotion bordering on desperation is required to truly reach the heights the song deserves. At this point in the competition, Chi Chi is downtrodden. As the queen with the least amount of money behind her, she’s always at a disadvantage, and this lip-sync is her chance to prove you don’t need cash to be a star. Chi Chi embodies everything the song is about, providing a raw, unparalleled take on the classic. When the beads of her dress shatter and break, she takes it in her stride, and the wardrobe malfunction actually makes the whole routine even better, adding to an air of urgency and recklessness.
4. Sasha Velour v Shea Coulee (Season 9)
As a Shea Coulee fan, this one hurts a bit. Shea and Sasha had been neck and neck throughout Season 9, and it was all to play for in the finale. Whilst both finalists brought their all, it was Sasha that had the trick up her sleeve (or up her wig, as it were), producing one of the most memorable lip-syncs of all time and guaranteeing her the crown. So Emotional, indeed.
3. Alyssa Edwards v Tatianna (All Stars Season 2)
Who is ecstatic that Tati got her second chance? WE ARE. A deserved double shantay, this LSFYL is a masterclass in the art of lip-syncing. Each queen respects the other’s space whilst keeping good control of the stage, and putting their all into the performance. Shut Up and Drive is the perfect song for the occasion, providing the right beats for both dancers to excel. A tight lip-sync – neither queen misses a word – and a perfect routine makes for one of the best showdowns drag race has ever had; it’s so good, it’s impossible to pick a winner.
2. Carmen v Raja (Season 3)
“This is just soft porn. It’s kinda hot.”
Alexis Mateo said it best. Carmen and Raja’s seductive take on Paula Abdul’s Straight Up served us pure drag lesbian foreplay, pitting a queen known for her nudity against a queen unafraid to push the boundaries in order to win. Over the course of the battle, the two strip down further and further, until Carmen is pretty much naked. Not satisfied with simply stripping, however, the pair then decide to take it to the floor, and Raja ends up on top of Carmen, in a kind of voyeuristic demonstration that will test any and all sexualities. (Seriously, every time I watch this I have to re-evaluate my entire life.)
This lip sync works so well because the two are completely in sync with each other, and their affection for each other is plain to see even beyond the story they’re putting on for the audience. It’s soft porn, but it’s soft porn with a heart. Aw.
1. Monet X-Change v Dusty Ray Bottoms (Season 10)
Maybe I’ve awarded this one top place because it’s recent and on my mind, or maybe it’s because I’m still bitter Monet ever left the competition – whatever the reason, this lip-sync is more than worthy of its place at the top of this list. Every single choice Monet makes here is pure genius, ticking all the boxes for the charisma, uniqueness, nerve and talent that Ru (and the audience) is looking for. Mixing her trademark comedic timing with energised spurts of dancing, Monet aims high, hits every single mark, and leaves Dusty, well…in the dust. Not that she doesn’t give it her all – she’s pretty much a live-wire zipping across the stage – but this is Monet’s show, hands down. She may not have won the show, but she’s won a place in the Drag Race memory books, and sometimes that means more than a crown.