The Best Looks of Drag Race UK (Season 1)

I’m a mega-fan of RuPaul’s Drag Race. While I love all the different elements of drag, my favourite is always going to be the costume design and creation. As a hobbyist costume designer and cosplayer, I love seeing queens come to life on the runway living their fantasy. With the season finale of Season 12 airing tonight, I thought I’d combine my love of Drag Race and my current perspectives on British culture by revisiting and rating all the looks of Season 1 of Ru Paul’s Drag Race UK!

I’ll start off with a bit about drag in the UK. I think that Drag has a much richer history in the UK than it does in North America, by nature of being more accepted as mainstream culture. This isn’t to say that North America doesn’t have a long and vibrant history of drag, but rather that it is kind of set apart in its own scene. Drag, particularly camp drag, is much more incorporated into British stage, television, and film productions – think Monty Python, or Christmas pantomimes (which traditionally have a comedic female role performed by a man in drag). American drag is more polished, has more roots in pageant culture, and more emphasis is placed on glamour. This isn’t to say that American drag doesn’t have camp or comedy or weirdness, because it does, but rather that it just feels a bit more put together. I’m not claiming to be an expert in drag history, but these are just some things that I’ve noticed. I think that this tweet says it all:

Anyway, without further ado, here are my picks for the best of RuPaul’s Drag Race UK!

Week 1: Queen of Your Hometown

Cheryl Hole

I thought this Essex Girl look was such a fun and cheeky representation of Cheryl’s hometown. While it’s not the most detailed or over-the-top look, but it’s a uniquely British charicature, and the sheer amount of toungue-in-cheek details and Cheryl’s performance on the runway really sell it.

Week 1: Queen Elizabeth Realness

The Vivienne

This was a great choice for a first category on Drag Race UK. A literal British Queen. There were a lot of really creative interpretations of the challenge, and it was hard to pick a favourite! Crystal’s “Pound Coin” Queen and Sum Ting Wong’s “Stamp” Queen were close to the top for me. Ultimately, my favourite was Queen Elizabeth as she would be at Balmoral Estate. I think it was just such a unique and choice that complemented British camp/comedy drag, and was very well executed. A bold choice to go on the first runway as a 93-year-old woman in a tartan coat and wellies, but that’s what makes it so good.

Week 2: Bond Girl Looks

Cheryl Hole

What a great choice for a runway category. An iconic British franchise, but make it fashion! I like this one the best for it’s classic style and homage to the early films. The reason why I choose this one as best of the week is because a lot of the other queens had more villainous characters. Bond Girls are the love interests and side-kick of 007, and while some of them are femme fatales, they don’t tend to be straight-up villains. While it’s up to each competitor to interpret the category as they will, I think that Cheryl represented it best. Is this nit-picky? Yes, yes it is. But it’s my blog, so that’s my stance.

Week 3: Posh on a Penny

Sum Ting Wong

A classic Drag Race challenge. Sum Ting Wong looked amazing and I will fight you. It’s polished, nicely tailored, and tells a story. Cheryl Hole’s pot scrubber dress should have made the bottom two instead. And yes, there were some beautiful haute couture looks on this runway. But the challenge is posh, which isn’t necessarily haute couture. It has more connotations of being fancy and looking smart, which are notes that I think this look definitely hits. Obviously it’s just a British-slang take on the classic “Drag on a Dime” challenge, so the “posh” element isn’t really key here, but like, if my challenge brief was Posh I would put together something smart and polished too!

Week 4: Snatch Game

Baga Chipz

Another classic category. Another category that was difficult to choose a favourite. I chose Baga Chipz’s Margaret Thatcher over The Vivienne’s amazing Donald Trump for two reasons:

  1. Margaret Thatcher is a British woman, and I liked seeing British public figures being lampooned. I don’t think you necessarily have to choose women for snatch game (I liked Sum Ting Wong’s Sir David Attenborough and, previously, Kim Chi’s “Kimmy” Jong Un). However, I think that Baga’s Margaret Thatcher was good drag impersonation, wheras The Vivienne’s Donald Trump was just a good impersonation. My list, my rules!
  2. I liked the visual interpretation of Margaret Thatcher with the red eyes because she is an evil, evil woman. And the house slippers. Again, this just further emphasizes that this Snatch Game character was a more unique interpretation, and I liked that.

Week 4: Weird Science

I didn’t love this theme for the runway. , but it was a good chance for the queens to represent the weird and club-kid elements of drag. I just didn’t vibe with a lot of the looks this week. I think it had potential given the right set of queens, but this wasn’t it.

Blu Hydrangea

That being said, Blu had an amazing look this week, with or without the headpiece/face makeup. I love the look of the veins and tissue behind the eyeball. It’s very conceptual, and has such careful details implemented. This appeals so much to my cosplay-costuming tastes. I want to wear this look!

Week 5: A Day at the Races

Divina De Campo

Again, I think that this is a great runway theme that combines something traditionally British with fashion, and leaves itself very open to interpretation. I really loved Cheryl Hole’s pretty purple ensemble, but it was a bit too on-the-nose to be the best of the week. This look by Divina is just so weird. This jockey outfit with the long (literal) ponytail, the amazing structured hoof-boots, the bit as a belt, the pastel My Little Pony colours… there are just so many things right with this look.

Week 6: Rainy Day Eleganza

Divina De Campo

In terms of the theme, again, nailing it. Divina also, again, nailing it. Coming out with the classic yellow rain hat and rain coat, then shedding them to reveal a dress made of the same material. I didn’t like many of this week’s looks (sorry!), and I might have chosen Cheryl Hole’s futuristic silver look if she’d come out with an umbrella. I just don’t think it hit the mark of “rainy day” without one!

Week 7: Drag Family Realness

Cheryl Hole (& Sissy Hole)

There is no justice in the world. Cheryl should not have been eliminated based on this challenge. I realize that Michelle doesn’t like a bodysuits, but come on. They looked incredible, had a strong family resemblance, and nailed their choreography. I do think that, with it coming so close to the wire, Cheryl wasn’t quite on the same level as the other queens. I understand why she was in the bottom and sent home but, if things were based entirely on the quality of this challenge, this would be a grave injustice. If you hadn’t noticed based on several of my favourite choices, Cheryl was one of my favourite queens this season.

Final Runway Look

Baga Chipz

All three of the final queens looked beautiful on the final runway. I think each of them represented a different element of drag. The Vivienne’s look was so polished, and reminded me of the American queens. Divina De Campo was like something from a pageant, and very classic drag. I liked Baga Chipz’s look the best because I think it married these two styles together: a beautiful, glamorous look that still plays into the comedy and camp that separates the British style of drag from its American counterpart. Baga Chipz played on this comedic styling throughout the season, so it was great to see her in by far her most elegant look!

I know a lot of my opinions on the show are really picky, but whatever. I think my perspective as a costumer who focuses on character design is what motivates my choices for best runway looks. Again, all these queens are ridiculously talented, and I loved watching the first season of RuPaul’s Drag Race UK. Though I think that Divina De Campo should have won in the end, I think that all the queens who competed brought something interesting and unique to the show. Casting for Series 2 is already over, and I can’t wait to tune in next year for more Drag Race UK!

My Top 8 Halloween Movies

I’m a self-described Halloween junky. The combination of autumn and all things spooky go together better than espresso and pumpkin spice (another fall staple that I’m currently drinking while writing this). I like watching movies, and I like reading movie lists, so I’m writing a list of my favourite movies to get into the Halloween spirit.

There’s definitely a distinction between Halloween movies and horror movies. I love horror, but not all horror movies are Halloween-y. And not all Halloween movies are horror. There will be overlap on this list. I’m also going to be writing up a list of my favourite horror movies for anyone who’s seeking out some straight-up scares for their movie marathons, Halloween or otherwise.

Trick ‘R’ Treat (2007)

My favourite Halloween horror movie, Trick ‘r’ Treat is everything that you could want in a scary Halloween flick. Originally conceptualized with a tie-in comic book, it’s an anthology film telling a handful of Halloween stories. I think that horror as a genre is incredibly suited to anthology storytelling, and Trick ‘r’ Treat ties these stories together into a great non-linear narrative celebrating . My favourite short is either the party girls or the tweens at the quarry, but honestly they’re all good.

As well as the Halloween storytelling, this movie just screams Spooktober vibes. The warm autumn tones and surplus of vintage Halloween imagery have a way of making this movie feel surprisingly cozy while we watch some seriously good scares. This love letter to Halloween is capped off with the film’s mascot Sam (pictured on the poster above), who represents the importance of respecting Halloween traditions… or else.

The Haunted Mansion (2003)

I will start by saying this movie is not good. It has DCOM energy on a box office budget. Based on the iconic Disney Parks ride, The Haunted Mansion is an extraordinarily campy movie starring Eddie Murphy as a real estate agent who learns the value of family after a series of ghostly hijinks ensue at the eponymous mansion. The writing falls pretty flat, and the acting is mixed. I don’t love early 2000s comedy Eddie Murphy (it kind of works in this movie), but Terence Stamp is decidedly creepy as a mysterious butler, and Jennifer Tilly as Madame Leota is a weird casting choice that I personally liked. The movie’s sets look like a Halloween haunted house attraction, which I think really works in this case, because it adds to the camp value of the film and ties it back to the Haunted Mansion as a ride.

This movie was played on CBC Movie Nights when I was a kid, so my appreciation of it as a Halloween movie is pretty steeped in nostalgia. The cultural collective seems to agree that Halloweentown is an iconic Halloween movie, and in my opinion The Haunted Mansion is waaay better than Halloweentown. Everyone is sleeping on this largely ignored movie as the perfect campy Halloween film.

ParaNorman (2012)

Ghosts, witches, and zombies populate Blithe Hollow, Massachusetts in this spooky stop motion flick. Surprisingly cute despite its creepy premise (a young boy who can speak to the dead, uncovering a curse in the process), this movie is well worth a watch if you’re looking for something on the creepier side. The characters are very likeable, and the animation style is quite unique. If you’re a fan of Coraline, a close contender for this list, you’ll probably like ParaNorman. I watched it on Halloween night a few years ago after my mum and I handed out candy to Trick or Treaters. It was surprisingly witty and even a bit scary at times! I find it a bit surprising that this movie had an August release, because it’s obviously made for a cozy October movie marathon.

The Conjuring (2013)

This movie is a juggernaught in contemporary horror cinema. It’s spawned two direct sequels, as well as the spinoff Annabelle franchise (three films), and two more spinoffs: The Nun and The Curse of La Llorna. While not all of the “Conjure-verse” films are masterpieces, the original is a contemporary horror classic that carries strong Halloween vibes. I think that haunting and demonic films feel a lot more seasonal than slasher films. The autumnal setting and bleak colour palette further contribute to this movie’s classification as solidly Halloween, and the retro setting (1971) contributes to the same nostalgia as Trick ‘r’ Treat, but in a more perverse way.

The film tells the story of a Rhode Island family whose new home is posessed by the spirit of a devil-worshiping witch. The Warrens, famous real life demonologists from the 1960s-80s, attempt to help the family. Yes, this movie is based on a true story! Even though film studios play fast and loose with “inspired by true events” (case point being that The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is decidedly not the true story of Ed Gein), and even though hauntings and possessions aren’t real, the fact that real people claim to have experienced these events is still a bit creepy. And if it doesn’t creep you out personally, it’s a good tidbit to whip out to those more faint of heart who you may be watching it with.

A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

The only true classic horror film on this list, as well as the only slasher. Like I said, slashers don’t really feel all that Halloween-y to me! Yes, that applies to John Carpenter’s Halloween as well – it’s a great movie, but it doesn’t have to be Halloween for the events to take place! Wes Craven’s Nightmare on Elm Street‘s supernatural elements and weird surreal deam sequences feel more appropriate for Halloween. Freddy Krueger is also the OG slasher who brought comedy to the genre with his quips. Though he becomes a pastiche of himself in the later films (which is fun in its own way), he’s definitely played on the scarier side in the original film. This movie has great camp value on top of some genuine scares, and a sequence of subsequently sillier sequels make it a great series to marathon come October.

A Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)

Do I need to explain? I’m not the biggest fan of some of the iconic Halloween movies like Halloweentown or Hocus Pocus, but A Nightmare Before Christmas is an iconic Halloween classic that I can fully get behind. The stop motion masterpiece is a beautiful nod to the season, and its most famous song “This Is Halloween” absolutely slaps. Fun fact: though it’s marketed as “Tim Burton’s Nightmare Before Christmas“, it’s actually directed by Henry Selick. It’s based on a concept by Burton, who acted as a producer on the project. The film acts as a testament to all things weird and wonderful about the Halloween season, and to those who identify with the spooky and sinister. Anyway, this movie is a Halloween classic, and if it’s not on your October movie list, you’re wrong.

Sinister

Rounding off this list is one of my favourite horror movies of all time. This movie scared the shit out of me, and I think it’s one of the best horror movies from the past 10 years. The plot, acting, cinematography, lighting, sound mixing, pacing… everything comes together so perfectly in this movie. Though it is a bit heavy on the jumpscares, I think that Sinister is the type of film that demonstrates just how valuable this type of scare can be when it’s used appropriately. One of the biggest jumps I had watching this film was a scene transition from the anticipation of something lurking in the dark, to a scene transition in which a teaspoon is loudly dropped into a coffee cup.

Seriously, the atmosphere of this film is so well constructed. If you’re a horror fan, or just horror curious, this movie is always one of my top recommendations for just how good horror movies can be. Like The Conjuring, Sinister isn’t explicitly Halloween-y, but it does have a similar autumnal setting and colour palette. Aesthetically autumnal and absolutely terrifying, Sinister is my number one pick for spooky fall horror.

The Simpson’s Treehouse of Horror

Okay, so this isn’t a movie, but The Simpsons “Treehouse of Horror” Halloween specials are such a nostalgic piece of media for me. CBC would play reruns leading up to Halloween, so a lot of the earlier episodes are firmly imprinted in my mind. If you are unfamiliar with “Treehouse of Horror” specials, they are Halloween episodes divided into three shorts, typically satirizing horror or science fiction classics. This is a pretty definitive list of iconic segments from Treehouse of Horror. Yes, they are still making new Treehouse of Horror episodes, and no, they are not good.