Canada’s Drag Race: Season 1, Episode 1 Recap – “Eh-laganza Eh-xtravaganza”

Hello and welcome to the first in a new series of posts that will recap the latest spin-off series of the hit reality TV competition RuPaul’s Drag Race. The show has headed north to assess the Charisma, Uniqueness, Nerve and Talent of the very best of Canadian drag in the debut season of Canada’s Drag Race. Across ten weeks, twelve drag performers will battle it out to win $100,000 and the title of “Canada’s First Drag Superstar”. Here is my recap of the very first episode of the series, starting with my initial thoughts on the twelve based on their entrances to the Werkroom.

The first ever queen to walk onto Canada’s Drag Race and she is young, loud and very energetic. Between her screams in realisation that she has arrived, we learn that she is relatively inexperienced (could be a help or a hindrance), she used to present children’s television (maybe she is recognisable to a lot of people, hence why she is first in) and that she treats herself as an icon. Maybe she is well known in Canada, but to an international viewer, the giant question mark stuck to her as she walks in is an amusing trope.
Ilona Verley
This performer’s introduction is “I’m Ilona Verley, and I’m a f***ing b*itch” and I am all for it, to a certain point. They are the social media/influencer performer of this season it seems, but compared to others in this category from previous seasons of Drag Race, Ilona is unashamedly shady but viewers are in on the joke. It is honestly refreshing and takes me to older seasons of the show where the drag stars weren’t cautious of how they were perceived. We will see whether they live up to their follower count, and whether they will rub the others up the wrong way.
This adorable and young queen enters in a colourful ensemble that feels slightly mismatched, but it is clear right off the bat that this performer’s toughest battle will be with the English language. However, compared to others from past seasons who have faced that battle, most prominently those whose primary language is Spanish, Kiara seems a bit shy, in spite of their claim that they can put on a show with somersaults, and that they are “Montreal’s next rising star”. It will be interesting to see whether they can compete with more experienced queens who don’t face a language barrier.
Juice Boxx
A lot of people on social media have been talking about this performer, but the walk-in is a rough start to their Drag Race journey. Appearing in angel wings and a silver mesh outfit that shows a lot of skin, Juice Boxx comes in as the sensual queen, making slight moaning noises as the others watch on in a mixture of admiration and amusement. The entrance takes a turn for the hilarious when her bracelet gets caught on her tights and she stands like a statue smizing as she tries to pull it off. Iconic, and at least she will be remembered for that.
Anastarzia Anaquway
Based on the reactions of the performers already entered, this pageant queen will be the one to beat. Entering in a very nice pink and white western-inspired outfit which you know she made herself, she goes on to list in confessionals every title she has won around the world – including Miss Black Continental, which is a massive deal. She also seems to not take herself too seriously either, judging by the interactions she has with the others, which is a recipe for success.
Another young dancing queen, Lemon lives in New York City and has boldly claimed that they have won every single competition there, especially considering the calibre of queens who have competed in – and won – Drag Race who have come from New York. I think compared to the others, she seems more of a fashion queen as she has walked in New York Fashion Week and she knows what her brand is. She even has a shirt with lemons on it in the confessional! I love the colour of her entrance look, but watching her drag a humungous train across the floor was amusing.
Scarlett BoBo
The reactions of the others make it clear that this performer, who looks like they have come straight from the circus, is going to be very tough competition. Even Anastarzia confesses that Scarlett is one of the headline entertainers in the Toronto scene. Doing drag for twelve years certainly makes them stand above many of these, especially when they have their style – circus freak mixed with punk rock – down to a tee. Apparently she is weird as hell, so we will see if this translates well in a drag competition.
Another social media queen with 100,000 YouTube subscribers who boldly claims she is here to “teach 11 more” how to do drag, Kyne is very young but appears to be a massive deal. Her entrance look is glamorous and beautiful, with a craft that is surprisingly good for her youth. She can apparently act and dance as well, so appears to have everything needed to become Canada’s First Drag Superstar, though vloggers have had a rough time in Drag Race herstory, with both Soju and Jaymes Mansfield being the first eliminated in their seasons, so we will see if Kyne can do better.
BOA stands for Bitch On Arrival, and based on the reactions of the others, this performer is going to be very good television. They apparently have a bad reputation in Toronto for being messy and annoying, but they have already made me laugh with some of the best lines, most notably “Splits, high kicks, jumps…. I do none of it” and “Because I am what? Constipated”. They enter in a cow-inspired outfit with udders on their stomach, and a spaceship headpiece, because why not? If the others underestimate BOA’s uniqueness, they could be a threat.
Rita Baga
One of the more experienced performers in the cast (though only 32, damn this is a young cast), Rita Baga enters with a strong French accent and uses that to hilarious effect in the way that they effortlessly play with both Kyne and Ilona (the latter coming off badly in the exchange). There is an interesting dynamic with the French speakers, Rita and Kiara, and the other competitors. I think at least one of these two will surprise in this season, in spite of the language barrier.
And I thought Scarlett BoBo and BOA were unique… this performer, who appears to be on some kind of drug, is both hilarious and terrifying at the same time. With a huge smile and wide eyes, they exclaim that they are going to spin in a circle and then that they can do magic to make their d**k disappear… this is definitely the Tammie Brown member of the cast, so out there that the others are bemused but maybe slightly alienated by them… let us see whether they are too unique for this competition.
Tynomi Banks
The final queen to walk into the Werkroom, Tynomi is treated as a big legend in this competition, with maybe the biggest reaction saved for her. She is funny in a softer way, throwing playful shade in a confident way instead of giving mean vibes. I love her entrance look, is simple but also beautiful and classy. Let’s see if she lives up to her reputation. As an aside, hers was my favourite promo look.

Now that all twelve of the contestants have entered the Werkroom, they are treated to their very first RuMail – but it isn’t RuPaul who will be judging them this season. In a similar format to Drag Race Thailand, there are three regular judges who between them will decide who stays and who sashays away. They are catwalk legend Stacey McKenzie, actor Jeffrey Bowyer-Chapman, and Drag Race alumni and original Queen of the North, Brooke Lynn Hytes.

It is now time for the photoshoot segment of the first episode, which thankfully has returned, and harks all the way back to Season 2 of the original series. The queens have to strike a stunning pose whilst being blown by fans, but the twist is that they have to climb a small (fake) mountain to get to the peak and take the shot. It is extremely fun but also harks true to the identity of Canada’s Drag Race, in a similar way that was down with Drag Race UK. There were some dramatic shots and it was a great chance for viewers to get to know the twelve better, but in the end, the winner was Kyne, with her joyful expression, winning $1,000 of latex couture.

Canada’s Drag Race Season 1 Promo (Crave/Out TV, 2020)
(L to R, Anastarzia, BOA, Ilona, Jimbo, Scarlett, Rita, Kyne, Kiara, Priyanka, Lemon, Tynomi, Juice)

The maxi-challenge is another classic one that will really help to showcase the strengths (and weaknesses) of the twelve; it’s time for the first design challenge of the season! Each contestant is assigned a box by mini-challenge winner Kyne, each with links to Canada’s identity, and must create a sickening outfit that screams their own personal style. Thankfully, a large portion of time is spent on the opening of these boxes by each of the contestants; it really helps going towards showing who they truly are. We find out that Ilona is First Nation and two-spirit, which makes an important discussion towards gender within different societies and how that is represented in drag. BOA and Juice Boxx also have a brief discussion about having a drinking problem while in drag. BOA, Lemon and Juice Boxx are all having some difficulties with finding things to do with the materials in their boxes, forgetting that this challenge is as much showcasing who they are as well as bringing the materials to life. Kyne’s confidence is also rubbing others up the wrong way.

For the introduction to the runway, this show does something very different. Instead of the three judges introducing the panel in RuPaul’s place, there will be a guest host every week who introduces the three. This week it is actress Elisha Cuthbert. I guess it gives more exposure to the guest judges but will it work when the host is at front of house? Anyway, it is time for the runway challenge and here is how the twelve did:

Anasarzia, Kiara, Ilona, Priyanka, Tynomi and Scarlett were all declared as safe. In the judges critiques, Lemon’s presentation and energy were praised but her outfit looked unfinished. Kyne’s bell-bottoms were falling apart on the runway and her walk was affected, so she was torn to shreds, with her confidence in her outfit coming off as very misplaced. Jimbo was praised for not being a one-trick pony and for the amount of work put into their outfit. BOA’s campy presentation, including having potatoes stuck on to boobs, was also praised. Rita Baga received unanimous praise for how polished she looked and for harking back to the cabaret style of drag that Montreal does well. Juice Boxx was critiqued on the sloppiness of the finish to the outfit, despite staying on brand with her pop aesthetic. Before the judging was over though, Juice Boxx had a panic attack and had to be treated by the crew; Canada’s Drag Race already appears to have more heart and be more real than its American counterpart, as can be seen in only the first episode.

Backstage, Juice Boxx is in tears after having a panic attack. Kyne’s delusion and passive-aggressive outbursts towards BOA launch her into a full-blown argument with several other members of the cast; how the tables have turned. Rita Baga was named as the winner of the first ever challenge on Canada’s Drag Race, which I think was the right decision. She, along with Jimbo and BOA, are all safe from elimination. Shockingly, Kyne was also called as safe above Lemon, which means the latter will have to lip-sync against Juice Boxx.

The lip-sync, to Carly Rae Jepsen’s “I Really Like You”, was a fiery and spectacular one, with Juice Boxx serving face and pop star realness. Lemon, perhaps angered by being in the bottom two, did not hold back, and did two jump sprints to send herself into next week. Juice Boxx thus becomes Canada’s Porkchop and is the first to leave Canada’s Drag Race. That leaves eleven to fight for $100,000 and the title of “Canada’s Next Drag Superstar”.

Next week, the drag stars will be overacting in two teams, but who will face the chop next? You can read my recap of Episode 2 next week!

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