As casting for Drag Race Down Under Season 4 begins an anonymous Auckland Drag Queen says the show is doing our drag a disservice.
I have been doing drag in Auckland for years, and while I love the artform, when Drag Race Down Under came along I knew I had no interest in auditioning.
I had a good day job and didn’t trust that I wouldn’t say something that would get me cancelled! Hence the anonymity of this article.
I watched many of the girls around me, rush to create their audition tapes and many of them face rejection after rejection.
The girls who did get in were shocked when they headed to a tiny studio in Grey Lynn that seemed to be held together with little more than gaffer tape.
I found Season One a mess. Not unwatchable but the problems seemed to stem from the fact that Scarlet Adams was clearly intended to win, until the backlash regarding her previous blackface performances was far greater than producers anticipated.
So our talented Kiwi Queen Kita Mean was handed the crown and we all hoped Season 2 would be better, which it was. Spankie Jackson was an eruption of charisma and charm and beat out a top 3 that felt like anyone could win.
When Season Three of Drag Race Down Under began I was pleasantly surprised by the slick feel of Episode One. “It was easier to watch than the first two seasons,” a friend eloquently agreed. Perhaps after the highs and lows of two seasons, producers had learned how to really make Drag Race.
Sadly it went downhill from there with each episode diminishing in quality, with episode four delivering the worst Snatch Game in Drag Race herstory and episode five, a reading challenge so bad, they gave the glittery prize to the Pitt Crew. (Hi Ben, slide into my DM’s any time!)
Drag Race Down Under’s Snatch does not have a good track record. In Season One, RuPaul was so disappointed by the Queen’s Snatch, that every contestant was placed in the bottom, with the exception of Anita Wigl’It. What makes this season far worse, is that Ru and her judging panel behaved as if this Snatch Game was up to her international standards.
If almost all contestants fail to stay in character and very few jokes landing has become an acceptable standard for Down Under, then it’s time to make some changes!
And it wasn’t just the Snatch. The great runway theme of ‘A Night of a Thousand Kylies’ was ruined by four of the seven queens choosing almost identical looks.
And this is not the queens’ fault!
Drag Race is a reality TV show. Outfit choices could have been swapped, or the double-ups could have been foreshadowed with competitive drama, Snatch Games jokes could have been given to contestants, or edited to make the queens who were safe or in the top, at least look like they were funny. But none of this was done.
In a final slap in the face of the Down Under audience and the Australian Princess of Pop, the bottom two queens lip-synced to a Kylie song that even hardcore fans haven’t heard of.
‘Secrets’ comes from Kylie’s 1990 album Rhythm of the Night which featured well-known hits ‘Better the Devil You Know’ and ‘Step Back in Time’, but instead we get ‘Secrets’ a forgettable album track that doesn’t even lend itself to a good lip-sync performance.
These poor production decisions are not good enough.
Like many Antipodean queens, I attended Sydney’s Diva Awards earlier this year and was blown away by the talent on stage. Talent that Drag Race Down Under has seemed incapable of showcasing properly.
Drag Race France ran concurrently to Down Under, and made headlines for delivering some of the best episodes of Drag Race ever. While Down Under (which is broadcast in Canada and the UK, as well as streamed worldwide) continued to screen a subpar showcase of antipodean drag, leading to Isis’ flat win.
Other than Drag Race UK, Down Under is the only international franchise that gets RuPaul and Michelle Visage as judges, bringing far more eyeballs to it and sadly doing our queens a disservice on the world stage.
It is hard to believe that if an Australian production company took over for Season Four, things wouldn’t improve. Shows like Art Simone’s Kick Ons showcase Australia’s wealth of drag talent as guest stars desperate to be cast on Drag Race; and with the show’s current ratio of three Kiwi queens to seven Aussies, it would save on airfares too.
To quote that same eloquent friend, ‘Imagine if Drag Race was filmed at Fox Studios in Sydney!’ It would be a spectacle! Imagine a live finale at the Opera House!?
Even though it would remove Drag Race from our shores; a slick, more creative, and glamorous production of Down Under, that could attract bigger-name guest judges, would be better for Kiwi drag in the long run. The golden opportunity the show provides our queens is the chance to tour internationally, but they are only going to be booked if the production showcases their talents to an international standard.
But before you cancel me for shouting ‘Aussie, Aussie, Aussie’, perhaps put the effort into your Season Four audition tape instead.
Auditions are open at worldofwonder.com/casting