Which ‘RuPaul’s Drag Race’ Season 11 queens shined brightest in the premiere?

Welcome to Drag Race Power Rankings! Every Friday, we’ll debrief the previous night’s new episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 11 to determine which queens are riding high and which need she-mergency care. Buckle up — we’ve got 15 girls to rank based on the season premiere!


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I feel bad for Soju, a perfectly lovely queen who was nonetheless tremendously out of her depth here. Queens who analyze Drag Race, either as part of their work or to try and “crack the code” (miss you, Sasha Belle), have a bad track record on the show itself. This is why you’ll never see me on Drag Race — that, and I don’t actually do drag. Minor technicality. Anyway, the Shot With Soju star fell victim to the same curse, and I can’t really dispute how poorly she did in the challenge. Still, no one deserves to go out talking about their oozing cyst.

14. Mercedes Iman Diamond

I’m putting Mercedes a touch below Kahanna Montrese because holy hell, I’ve never seen less personality in a Drag Race queen. I’m sure Mercedes is a delight in real life, and I enjoyed hearing her talk about her Muslim faith in her Meet the Queens video. But boy, she just does not pop in this format. From her aimless direction in the photo shoot mini-challenge to her timid runway presentation, she all but blended in with the wallpaper at every opportunity.

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13. Kahanna Montrese

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You could see drag mother Coco Montrese’s spirit in Kahanna’s lip sync to “Best of Both Worlds,” though it wasn’t nearly as polished as we came to expect of the Season 5 veteran. Kahanna seems sadly destined to stand in Coco’s shadow. That’s particularly unfortunate, considering Kahanna explained the difficulty of being a Drag Race girl’s daughter on the runway. Maybe she’ll surprise! (I don’t think she’ll surprise.)


12. Ariel Versace

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Hoo boy, this one. I’ll admit I’m coming in biased against Ariel, because I think her infamous 9/11-inspired performance was ghastly, and her defences of it even more so. But girl did absolutely nothing to win me over in this premiere — from her deeply fine challenge performances to her constant whining about Silky Ganache in the workroom. If you’re not standing out, that’s on you, not the person who remembers she’s on a goddamn TV show. Ugh.

11. Nina West

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Nina’s got a solid storyline set up for herself moving forward: the drag legend nonetheless intimidated by the bright lights and the big stage of Drag Race. It’s a wise place to start, because it gives her the room to grow that her wide range of experience might not otherwise allow. That said, no matter how promising her potential, I gotta knock her into the bottom rungs for her truly heinous dress.

10. Honey Davenport

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I’m going to be 100 percent honest with you all: I’ve watched the premiere episode three times, and I can’t remember anything about Honey Davenport. When there are 15 girls, you cannot be this nondescript. It doesn’t help that she is one of THREE Davenports this season.

9. Ra’jah Davenport O’Hara

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Oh look, here’s another. She’s a Davenport and an O’Hara, somehow? A friend of mine has pored over the Davenport family tree, and can’t quite see how she connects, though. All I can find is the suggestion that her connection to her drag mother, Silike O’Hara Monroe, makes her distantly related to the Davenports, but it’s not clear how. So who knows! Hopefully she’ll explain at some point this season. Anyway, Ra’jah’s outfit is pretty good, so that puts her a skosh above Honey. Still, girl needs to learn to secure her damn earrings.

8. Scarlet Envy

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I was deeply disturbed by Scarlet’s energy and drag in her Meet the Queens video, and her entrance look did nothing to change my perception. But I gotta admit: her runway look was really striking. I’d have put her in the top over Vanessa Vanjie Mateo. Points off for so poorly reading the room that she came for Brooke Lynn Hytes’s drag during the entrances.

7. Shuga Cain

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Shuga Cain, embrace that you’re 40! You’re a hot daddy! I’m kind of floored that Shuga only started doing drag professionally a short time before filming, because she’s got the energy of a veteran queen. (And that’s not just a joke about her age.) Her runway look wasn’t spectacular, but it was the exact kind of week one entry to make sure you get to week two. We stan strategic deployment of talent!

6. Yvie Oddly

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Alaska was a perfect fashion inspiration for Yvie, a deeply weird queen with a ton of talent. Adore Delano was, too, during the mini-challenge. Loved both her entrance look and her plastic jacket-centric runway. The strange girls have a good history on Drag Race — look at Sharon Needles and Sasha Velour — so I think Yvie’s set up to go the distance.

5. Vanessa Vanjie Mateo

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The producers are throwing Vanessa plot after Vanessa plot at us this season! Redemption arc! She knows how to sew now! She and Brooke Lynn are into each other! It’s a whole lot, and what it primarily tells us is that Miss Vanjie ain’t going anywhere for the foreseeable future. Her Valentina-inspired runway look this week is decent, but I think putting it in the top is less about the look and more about the judges wanting to give her a spot on the stage this first week. I’ll admit, I’m allergic to when queens feel particularly, shall we say, impressed on us by the show, so I’m reserving my enthusiasm for Vanessa for the time being.

4. Plastique Tiara

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Okay, positives: Plastique’s hair in her entrance look was amazing. Her professionalism the whole episode was remarkable: she handled Silky outright refusing to give her Violet Chachki the right way, just letting it go immediately. And she designed a very solid first garment that would get her positive notices, but not make her out to be too much of a threat too quickly. Also, I appreciate that she didn’t rest on being Alyssa Edwards’ drag daughter, while several of the other queens hauled out every potential connection to a Drag Race girl they could. That all said: Plastique read somewhat robotic all episode. If she can’t break out of this perfectionist mode quickly, I think the judges will read her for not being vulnerable. That’s a tough label to come back from.

3. A’keria Chanel Davenport

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A’keria reigns supreme in this season’s Battle of the Davenports so far, nearly winning this challenge with a wigged-out take on Bebe Zahara Benet’s wardrobe. I like her energy a lot. She seems focused but not egotistical. I hope she sticks around for a while, because I’d like to learn more about her than her family name.

2. Silky Nutmeg Ganache

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With a mini-challenge win and the bulk of the screen time in the premiere, Silky makes out like a bandit this week. Who cares if the other queens think she’s extra? They’re drag queens! Extra is the point, Yolanda! Still, I’d be a bad Drag Race herstorian if I didn’t note that the editors are clearly setting up some kind of storyline for Silky here. Will it be that she learns to calm down, or that she’s done in by her own over-the-top nature? Only Ru and Drag Race know — for now.

1. Brooke Lynn Hytes

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Winner! I really like Brooke Lynn so far. I think she’s got a fun vibe, kind of a grand dame in a bodysuit. Her being delightfully Canadian keeps it from being too much, though; she’s nicely grounded. Her runway look was fantastic for how well it balanced both hers and Detox’s aesthetics.

She also got out ahead of a potentially very sticky situation regarding an old photo posing with a queen in blackface. She issued a full and outright apology that showed depth of understanding of the situation. That’s no small thing, considering how much of modern Drag Race is based on negotiating a very volatile fanbase with long memories.

First challenge winners either go far (Violet Chachki, Raja) or bomb out (Mayhem Miller). Let’s hope for both her sake and ours that she belongs to the prior group. We need more of those Canadian Os on the Drag Race stage.

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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