Judging This Season’s “Drag Race” Names
I may be late to the appointment-viewing phenomenon of “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” however I have long been a fan of Queen Ru and her impact on our world. Her brand is smart in a million ways, not the least of which is a deep need for laughter, joy and fun. She’s elegant and salty in the same breath, and therefore captivating. That she has also lapped up waves of mainstream popularity and success with a drag queen showdown—that’s not just fun, but socially constructive—well, more power to her.
With Season 10 (the duct tape anniversary) approaching, I thought I’d give a preliminary assessment of this cycle’s queens by looking at their branding—starting with their names. Celebrities are people, but they’re also brands and businesses. In drag, the funnier the name the better. (Same for professional athletes.) Other criteria: are they clever, are they surprising, are they original, are they cunning, and are they viable. As a control subject, I point you to one of my favorite drag names—Susan Saranwrap—to indicate what makes me laugh uncontrollably in public.
These are my knee-jerk reactions, made without having attached names with faces. I’m not sure what to say about some of them… but I’ll try.
Aquaria—Okay, I like this. She sounds like a soothing plug-in appliance in your therapist’s waiting room, and also a 1990s Miami nightclub with a prominent water feature. She’s gonna have to do better than a likely “Little Mermaid” number, but I’ll give her a chance. I like themes and everything, but if Kahunaville taught us anything, it’s to reign it in. Bonus praise for the mononym. (6/10)
Asia O’Hara—This doesn’t scream originality (a branding sin, and trademark-search nightmare), but I’m digging the cross-cultural vibe. Makes me think of Maureen O’Hara having dim sum. I appreciate you, Asia. I miss you. Maureen. (5/10)
Blair St. Clair—This is less punny than it could be, but maybe that’s the new trend: the anti-pun. She rhymes, yes, and sure, it’s easy to say. But I don’t gasp at this cleverness. This is rhyming-dictionary clever, which…isn’t. Most importantly, I don’t know what Blair St. Clair’s brand is. I imagine she’s cute, innocent and secretly evil. I’m in. Also, how’s Selma Blair doin’? (6/10)
Dusty Ray Bottoms—Now we’re talking. Any queen who can pay homage to Ms. Springfield and make a sexual reference that will force some of you to new-tab Urban Dictionary right now is A-OK in my book. I don’t know who Ray is, but I bet he’s having fun between those buns. (7/10)
Eureka O’Hara—[Ten-second pause.] Sorry, I was washing my eyes out. I thought I was seeing double. Oh yes. I was. There are two O’Haras this season? And not one of them is Catherine? Granted, if these O’Haras are following in the tradition of ball culture, where drag elders and their drag minions all use the same surname, then I’m all for it. Ladies and gents, I present: Eureka O’Hara, of the Vacuum Dynasty. But if it’s just a casting error, then this is weird. I think the real mistake is that this name misses the great opportunity to pun-tify “Eureka” with an insulting surname. Consider this: Eureka Trash; Eureka Greed; Eurek’a Shade. (See what I’a did there?) The branding lesson here: Always take your ideas farther than you think they can go; there’s a reason you’re paid the big bucks. And it ain’t first drafts. (6/10)
Kalorie Karbdashian-Williams—We’re getting closer to something recognizably stupid. This. Is what you call. Extra. Kalorie Karbdashian? Hyphen-Williams? This drag name has everything: pizza comas, breaking E! News scrolls, excessive syllables, a second marriage. K kope ke kan keep kup kith ker. (Bonus Pitch: Can a future queen make the verbalized “Hyphen” a thing? You can Venmo me the residuals.) (8/10)
Kameron Michaels—Puppies… rainbows… puppies riding rainbows… puppies eating Dippin’ Dots riding rainbows… …with puppies of their own… now there’s cats… …no, my bad: “Cats”… …oh sorry, just waking up from an Inception nap. When’s lunch. (2/10)
Mayhem Miller—I hope she comes with a gym coach whistle and a prison backstory. Don’t mess with Miller. I’m picturing Béyóncé in Gaga’s “Telephone” video here, and not minding it. (8/10)
Miz Cracker—Without knowing this queen’s race, I’d say that this would be a shadier, smarter name for a DQOC—Drag Queen of Color—to own than a white queen, but I can appreciate the attempt at something socially relevant and deviant-with-a-Z. This is an intriguing name, but hopefully for the right reasons. (Also, what if this is Mike “The Miz” from “The Real World: Back to New York” but in a dress? I’m here with popcorn.) (5/10)
Monique Heart—Tame, but possibly devious. Like Blair St. Clair, I think Ms. Heart has a few tricks up her sleeves. Perhaps she’s heartless? Maybe she’s Academy Award-winning actress Monique in disguise? If this were the name of a cookie bakery, I’d buy stock. But for a drag queen brand name, I’m not so sure yet. Let’s wait and see. (6/10)
Monét X Change—Okay, okay, I feel this. She wants money. Who doesn’t. And deep down, she’s French. Who isn’t. I hope she throws cash into the air while lip-synching for her life. This name communicates a whole brand to me, and flaunts lots of personality. A middle name of just “X”? Where do I sign? (8/10)
Vanessa Vanjie Mateo—I don’t get it. I can’t escape it. I love it. I’ve divorced it, and re-married it. (8/10) (Some ratings aren’t scientific.)
The Vixen—Wake me up for the finale. Anybody with a first name of “The” should be a statue. (10 million/10)
Yuhua Hamasaki—The closer I read this, the more I recall my bar mitzvah. Faint memories of a bagel-catered reception and vowel-less Hebrew written on ancient Torah scrolls that I was supposed to memorize but mostly fudged my way through, much to everyone’s applause. I dunno. I can only expect great expectations from such a queen. (7/10)