‘RuPaul’s Drag Race’ Season 15 finale recap: ‘They will sing your praises loud’

America’s Next Drag Superstar is who we knew it would be from the start

If RuPaul’s Drag Race’s 15th season finale lacks suspense, you’ll have to forgive the show. Editing an obvious result to be anything but obvious, when all the evidence is pointing that way, is a difficult task. You can throw in solo performances and a Lip Sync for the Crown, but when you know how it’s all going to end, you’re really just marking time to get there.

Credit to Drag Race’s production team, then, for not hinging this finale too heavily on who’s going to win it all. Unlike the Season 14 finale, which still had over a third of its total cast in the race (never again give us a top five, Ru, please) and thus effectively had to be edited as a competitive affair, Drag Race instead takes this finale to look at the show’s impact—and at what’s happening outside its metaphorical walls. More than the show ever has before, even during the Trump administration, this Drag Race finale seems occupied with the real world. And rightfully so.

From the very start, with Nashville queen Aura Mayari revealing her fan that says “Drag Is Not a Crime,” the ugly reality of “drag ban” bills is brought to the forefront. These bills are transphobic, certainly unconstitutional and designed to both distract from politicians’ unwillingness to tackle actual threats and erase queer and trans communities. Drag Race, for all its foibles in trying to be political over the years, is making a real effort to bring awareness to what’s happening, actually driving fundraising for the ACLU Drag Defense Fund, and providing hope in a perilous time.

That last part manifests into ways that are touching (the shout-outs to bars in red states hosting Drag Race watch parties), well-meaning but mixed (the “Drag Fans” message in the middle of this episode—although I could personally do without the inclusion of police officers in the montage)—and sweet but tonally strange (the performance of Wigloose! songs by Leland and Orville Peck). But that’s Drag Race for you: it may not always do the right thing, but it knows the power of its platform, and it will try to lead in the right way with the understanding that no one involved is any kind of civil rights leader.

Luxx Noir London stuns in her finale runway look

Credit: Courtesy MTV

 

The show’s choice for America’s Next Drag Superstar, however, may be the most impactful thing we see all episode. Sasha Colby, a trans woman from Hawaii who has been doing drag for most of her life, is our champion! She absolutely decimated the competition this season, against some very skilled queens (including the rest of our final four: Anetra, Luxx Noir London and Mistress Isabelle Brooks), and she has been a triumphant presence both on and off the show. As she accepts her crown, Sasha seemingly recognizes the significance of her not just winning Drag Race, but winning it right now: “This goes to every trans person, past, present and future. Because we are not going anywhere!”

In truth, Sasha likely would’ve won almost any season she competed in: she’s a consummate professional and dominated in nearly every challenge type she encountered this season. But the kismet of her run coming at a time when her being a visible and outspoken champion will probably genuinely save lives makes this moment all the more impactful. She continues a run of trans winners on RuPaul’s Drag Race that started with her pandemic roommate, Kylie Sonique Love, winning All Stars 6, and continued with transfemme winner Willow Pill in Season 14 and our gender-fluid Queen of All Queens, Jinkx Monsoon, in All Stars 7. It’s a far cry from where we were in 2018, when RuPaul said trans women who were transitioning would “probably not” be able to compete on the show. What a difference five years makes.

Sasha once again proves why she deserves to win the crown in this finale, which once again features solo numbers to original songs (like Seasons 7, 8 and 14) that the queens themselves do not sing. I like this idea in theory, but the fact that the queens don’t write or record the songs takes so much out of their own hands. Why not let them pick a song of their own and do their own drag performance, like the Season 12 finale or Drag Race Thailand format? Or, if getting the rights to other songs is too complicated, why not let them write and record their own? It feels like Drag Race doesn’t want to give up too much control, or else wind up in a situation where a queen they want to win it all bombs the finale.

All the songs are solid enough—Luxx’s “It’s Giving Fashion” is probably my favourite, easily besting fashion-focused talent show songs like Milk’s “Touch the Fashion” and Naomi Smalls’s “It’s Fashion”—but it’s in the performances where we see just how far ahead Sasha is from her competition. Mistress struggles with some of her choreography on “Delusion,” while Anetra seems unusually low-energy on “Lotus.” Luxx does quite well, but Sasha is in another league on “Goddess.” She’s just a clear superstar, and between this and her sexy final lip sync performance, it’s obvious why she deserves to win it all.

Jinkx Monsoon performs “When You’re Good to Mama” from the musical Chicago

Credit: Courtesy MTV

After the solo performances, Ru declares a top two: Anetra and Sasha. If you saw this coming based on the season as a whole—well, I did say this finale doesn’t have much in the way of suspense. Both Mistress and Luxx don’t do a convincing job of hiding how frustrated they are to miss out on the final two, with Mistress in particular giving us some stone-faced reaction shots. I can’t blame them for their frustration: this top two was likely preordained way back when we saw the “I’m in Love with a Monster” lip sync. No matter how Luxx and Mistress did in this finale, they were likely destined to be cut in a joint third/fourth place. But I have faith that, if they want it, they have robust All Stars runs ahead of them.

Before we get to that final showdown between Anetra and Sasha, though, let’s talk about some of the other parts of this finale. Like Symone last season, Willow Pill gets to host a portion of the program, in which she comes out dressed as a literal willow (and looks stunning) and talks about her reign. Undoubtedly, it was a quieter one than we’ve seen from recent winners, particularly Symone and Jinkx. Willow alludes to some personal strife over the last year, but turns that into a moment of inspiration: if America’s Next Drag Superstar is struggling, then it’s okay if you are as well. Considering that context, it’s even greater to see her here looking in good spirits.

Willow brings out Kornbread “The Snack” Jeté, who is dressed as a lion (iconic), to present Olay’s Miss Congeniality prize. In an incredible twist, Kornbread performs an Ariana DeBose-esque number about all the queens of Season 15—she does the thing! And then she gives MC to Malaysia Babydoll Foxx, in a delightful surprise (I was sure the twins had this.) Malaysia is clearly touched, and I’m glad one of the most entertaining queens of the season gets the honour. Olay also gives out their customary $2,000 prize to all the queens this season, which I’m glad has become a tradition.

We then get a performance from Jinkx, fresh off a genuinely record-breaking run in Chicago as Mama Morton. She sings “When You’re Good to Mama,” and she smashes it. She then gets a truly lovely moment with Ru, who shows her the clip of their Tic Tac lunch way back in 2013, when Jinkx said she wanted to be on Broadway in drag. Dreams really do come true! What a moment from our reigning Queen of All Queens—and it’s a delight to see a gagged audience reaction from Kylie Sonique Love, our other reigning All Stars winner.

Sasha Colby is America’s Next Drag Superstar XV

Credit: Courtesy MTV

Back to our final two: it’s time for Anetra and Sasha to rematch, this time to “Knock on Wood.” (This has actually been a LSFYL song before: Alexis Mateo beat Stacy Layne Matthews to it in Season 3.) Anetra goes dance-heavy in the performance, giving us many of the moves we’ve seen from her before. She unfortunately fails a pretty ambitious 360-degree dip, and her seemingly obligatory duck-walking makes for a bad fit with the song.

Conversely, while “Knock on Wood” isn’t the sexiest song ever, Sasha makes it so with a couple of dynamite costume reveals. She’s practically naked by song’s end, and there’s something just truly incredible about watching her lie on her own coat and spank herself to the beat of the song. She is as transfixing as ever. And, after Ru announces the winner, she is also America’s Next Drag Superstar.

With that, Season 15 has come to an end, and we have finished the first season of the MTV era. Plenty of Drag Race is still to come this year—Belgique has already wrapped their first run, while Sverige has a couple of episodes still to go. In the U.S., next up is All Stars 8, which returns us to the non-All Winners format last seen in 2021. Until then, let’s take the time to bask in the final “era” of Season 15: the Sasha Colby Era.

Untucking our final thoughts

Really nice to be back in the Theatre at the Ace Hotel in Los Angeles, and to have a full crowd in attendance. We haven’t had both of those things since Season 11! Props to Drag Race for hustling as necessary to keep the finales going the last few years—and I will always stan the Season 12 Zoom finale—but there’s no place like this home.

Lots of good crowd reaction shots in this finale, but my personal favourite is Gigi Goode and Symone positively losing it as Sasha walks out. Legends supporting legends!

Loosey LaDuca’s finale runway look is a Dragula audition, and you can’t convince me otherwise.

So it wasn’t included in this episode’s edit, but as has been reported elsewhere, there was apparently an incident involving one of the dancers for the group numbers. Anetra went first, and a dancer got injured while performing a move with her. Because this dancer was expected to be in every number, this required quick thinking and changes in choreography for all of the solos. I get why this is edited out of the episode, but it does provide some crucial context of just how much the queens and producers were thinking on their feet.

RUPAUL: “What’s your superpower?”
ANETRA: Leaping over women with BFAs!”

Glad to see all four of the judges in attendance, after a season where Carson Kressley and Ts Madison made only occasional appearances. I know it’s too soon to change anything heading into All Stars 8, but I will renew my call for the producers to revisit the panel. This was a remarkably ineffective season of judging, owing largely to the removal of deliberations for over half of the episodes. We need to bring back smart, incisive critiques, and I’m not sure that can happen with this panel.

Speaking of All Stars 8, what on earth was that blink-or-you’ll-miss-it advertisement announcing the season is premiering on May 12? I almost missed it! Regardless, I’m ready to play the fame games—I’m hoping for an All Stars 6-level season.

You can watch the top four queens’ live reaction to Sasha’s win here. Really dignified and lovely, I’d say. Also, absolutely love that Luxx is dressed in tribute to Alaska’s look from her own winner reaction in Season 5.

Cannot wait to see who else gets the “Giving Us Lifetime Achievement Award” in the future, now that Bob Mackie has won the first. Can we get his muse Cher to finally appear on Drag Race in exchange for one?

Gotta say, Sasha responding to Mistress calling her “Dumbledore” by calling Mistress a “Muggle” is hilarious.

Thank you all so much for joining me once again on this journey! While Season 15 certainly ended well, and its harder edges made it a preferable experience for me than the recent seasons of RuPaul’s Best Friends Race, the editing in the first half of the season kept this one from hitting the upper echelons of my ranking of RuPaul’s Drag Race seasons. I’d place it pretty firmly in the middle of the pack, with the all-time greats (in chronological order: 5, AS2, 9, UK2, AS6) unbothered. Will All Stars’ eighth outing manage to break into the higher tier? We’ll just have to find out when the season premieres in just under a month!

The premiere of RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars 8 will stream on May 12 on Paramount+ in the U.S. and Crave in Canada. Until then, you can subscribe to our drag newsletter Wig! for exclusive Drag Race content delivered straight to your inbox every Tuesday afternoon.

Kevin O’Keeffe is a writer, host, instructor, and RuPaul’s Drag Race herstorian living in Los Angeles, California. His favourite pastime is watching a perfect lip sync.

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Culture, Drag Race, Analysis, Drag

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