I’ll put the bias upfront so you can decide whether to read the rest of these rambling thoughts through that lens or not:
I love Utica. She was my Number Two when Meet the Queens videos came out (after Symone), and she has generally been my Number Three during the course of the season (behind Symone and Gottmik). I don’t think we have ever had a queen this visually talented across the board. There are better painters (Kim Chi), better glam make-up artists (Miss Fame), better fashion queens (Aquaria), and better tailors (reigning UK winner Lawrence Chaney), but there is no one queen who operates at such a high standard in all four other than Utica. She would be better suited to Project Runway than RuPaul’s Drag Race, but I’m excited to see where her career ends up after this.
And, I feel like I understand her. She’s a white queen from the middle of nowhere in a town with less than 500 people who grew up Seventh Day Adventist. My hometown was 409 people and I grew up in a Seventh Day Adventist church (cult, actually) around a bunch of awkward white kids. There was absolutely no way she was going to be able to roast anybody. Utica isn’t even sure of herself enough to say the same things on camera that she says to other queens, because she’s not sure how the “joke” will land, and she’s afraid of the rabid Drag Race fandom online. She’s socially awkward, unsure of herself, and isolated in the fields of Minnesota in a such a way that she’s excited about being around so many queer people. You tell someone like that to be mean and funny, and they will be mean and funny, but the funny won’t land because she’s only funny to herself. You’re just left with mean.
But everyone was a letdown. Because every RuPaul’s Drag Race Roast is a letdown. Because it’s time to let this challenge go and replace it with something else.
We don’t need jokes about the judges anymore.
RuPaul is old and she can’t sing. Michelle is a New Jersey whore who’s made of plastic (even though she got her boobs taken out, so why is that ever a joke anymore?). Ross is very gay and annoying. We got it. There’s nothing left to say about any of them that hasn’t already been said and none of the jokes about the judges have been funny in years. (Except, honestly, Utica telling RuPaul to stand up as a fashion icon, when everybody knows she has on sweatpants under the table, is my favorite roast moment in a long time). Any queen forced to do the roast from this point on should just completely ignore the judges.
Being mean and funny is hard, and it’s not a skillset drag queens need to keep cultivating.
I would never sign up to be roasted. I have thin skin and I take things very personally. I’m an emotional person, and pointing out my “flaws” to a large group of people, things that I’m embarrassed about or dislike about myself or am actively trying to change, is just traumatic for me. And that is why you don’t see me at too many drag shows when the queen fancies herself a “comedian.” Funny, to a drag queen, means there will be a point where the audience is involved and you may get read, even if you didn’t sign up for that.
The first time I ever went to a drag show was the first year I moved to NYC. I went to Barracuda with some friends, and Shequida was the drag entertainment. At random points, she would pull a guy up on stage, flirt with him for awhile, and then give him a drink ticket for being hot. I was sitting a little too close to the stage, and Shequida pulled me up. I was really feeling myself — I thought my outfit was cute, my afro was blown out to perfection — because I assumed she was going to flirt with me and give me a drink ticket. She started with “who does this bitch think she is, Diana Ross?” and proceeded to drag me for what felt like half an hour, but was probably a minute. The entire bar was laughing, she didn’t give me a drink ticket, and I walked past my seat and into the bathroom to cry.
It was years before I went to another drag show, and when I finally did, I made sure I stood as far away from the stage as possible. That strategy was working until I was at Kizha Carr’s show one Sunday and she decided to take the mic, walk the room, and tell everybody at Industry I looked like Lil Jon. I left, and I don’t mess with “comedy” queens. Roasting anyone should not be a challenge that determines whether you are America’s Next Drag Superstar, because we shouldn’t go to a gay bar for happy hour with the expectation that a drag queen will walk in and start tearing you apart for the enjoyment of the audience.
Roasting only works between friends.
I understand the concept of the roast and I think they can be funny to watch, but only if the roasters and the roastee(s) are all friends and all like each other. Comedy Central roasts are great. Experts in the field are making fun of people they like and who like them back. It’s all in good fun. Drag Race roasts are awkward because clearly not every judge likes every queen and vice versa. I can call one of my friends a whale in the same tone of voice that Utica used on Loni in rehearsal and it will go over just fine. Utica and Loni do not have that rapport. The line between roasting and being mean isn’t just “a roast has to be funny” — a roast also has to come from a place of respect. Loni doesn’t know if that comment is coming from a place of respect and fulfillment of the challenge, or if it’s coming from a place of fat-shaming from a skinny queen who doesn’t like big girls.
The format is forever changed now.
Once Loni clapped back at Utica, the roast as we previously knew it was dead and gone. For the most part, the roastees don’t engage with the jokes. They laugh, because they signed up to be insulted, so you don’t respond when the insult digs a little deep. Loni was still smarting over the rehearsal, and she had every right to feel that way. If Loni and Utica hadn’t gone into the roast with previously built up tension, she wouldn’t have commented on Utica insulting her career. Instead, we have Loni sitting there watching someone who just aggressively called her fat the day before now insulting her career. She’s a former electrical engineer who quit her job for a successful career in comedy, and someone who is mean and terrible at comedy wants to dig at a thing she’s actually good at? It would be like Tina Burner dragging Violet Chachki for her fashion or Symone dragging Monet Xchange for her singing voice. So Loni let her have it, and that opened the door for everybody to comment while they were getting dragged. Loni clapping back was funnier than the actual roast, so everyone wanted a chance to turn a dig against them into a funnier moment. That’s what the roast will look like going forward, which wouldn’t be a roast anymore.
Most people are not funny.
Ergo, most drag queens are not funny. You’re asking them to do a thing that experts in comedy shy away from because it’s the hardest thing in comedy to do successfully. Even the funniest queens at the roast are mediocre, and they’re usually only great in relation to how terribly everyone else is doing.
So retire the roast. The surprises at how well someone does (Gottmik) do not outweigh the absolute cringe of watching someone fail horribly (Symone) and it’s a boring challenge that shouldn’t be a factor in making a great drag queen anyway. Replace the roast with a Design Your Own Show challenge the way they do the Thailand finale. Let the girls put on a drag show from top to bottom any way they want, so we the viewers can understand what to expect when we go see them after the season is over. And if one of the queens decides that roasting is part of their show, let her take that risk solo, and I’ll be sure to buy a ticket to see someone else.
Hot Takes: LuLaRich
Compared to NXIVM and Scientology, this is a much calmer Escaping the Cult documentary.
1. Not to get on my lil Atheist Soapbox so early on the Lord’s Day or anything, but damn. Y’all really do ruin a lot of stuff by randomly throwing religion into things where it simply does not belong whatsoever. There’s no reason to quote the Book of Mormon to women who just wanna sell ugly leggings.
2. The girl who designs the ugly leggings is such a stoner and I’m obsessed with her. I’m one-thousand percent sure she hates 98% of the LuLaRoe customer base, so she’s great in my book.
3. Last night when we watched it, my main takeaway was that Money Corrupts. This perfectly wholesome maxi-dress company for stay-at-home moms ballooned into a cult-like pyramid scheme where the owners took zero responsibility for problems within the organization all because of greed. I was actually very impressed with the startup story of how DeAnne created LuLaRoe and I honestly believe she and her husband only had the best of intentions. I don’t think they set out to defraud anybody or steal money from anyone at all, and then the company got away from them and they couldn’t admit their failures or own up to the things they were doing badly.
4. This morning after I’ve slept on it, I’m walking that back, because money can’t corrupt you out of nowhere. All the seeds where already there in the Stidham’s belief system: patriarchy, bootstraps, and unacknowledged white supremacy. If DeAnne and Mark ran LuLaRoe the way she ran it when she had 3 sellers, we wouldn’t be sitting here talking about how disgusting they are. But they also wouldn’t be sitting on a billion dollar business.
5. The pot-selling nephew is a joke. The whole family is a joke but he’s such an obnoxious piece of human.
6. MLMs are pyramid schemes. It is what it is. I grew up in the Rural South. I am so *so!* familiar with pyramid schemes. I can’t tell you how many “meetings” I went to with my grandma, held in some small conference room of a Howard Johnson or Holiday Inn, where the scammer of the month rolled through with a new product to “sell” based on a structure that was essentially just a money tree. You put $10 in this week and get $100 back in three weeks! Some are worse than others and LuLaRoe is definitely toward the crappier end of things, but I wanna make a lil sidenote about MLMs — not everybody goes into it wanting to be a seller. A lot of them are structured just like LuLaRoe, where you make more money by bringing in people under you than you make from selling the clothes, but whereas LuLaRoe worked on this massive startup cost of thousands of dollars with a truckload of clothes you would never personally use, some MLMs have more reasonable startup costs and a small buy-in of product that some “sellers” use just for themselves. If you’re in a pyramid scheme selling fancy coffee beans and you try to sell me some, maybe I like the product and I buy a couple of bags for $20 a piece. Then you say, “you know, you could make some money and be a seller too. I buy these from the company for $10 a piece, so I make $10 profit on each one. It’s only $100 to sign up.” Well to me that sounds like I can become a “seller” and get these beans for half off, and now I have ten bags of coffee. If I sell it, fine, but it’s really just for my household. So many MLMs have a huge “seller” base that never intends to actually sell anything. LuLaRoe isn’t one of them, but I kinda wish that point had been made in the documentary because it shows LuLaRoe is even more unscrupulous by comparison.
7. I don’t think we’d be watching this documentary after 50 lawsuits if they hadn’t let the product quality slip while also refusing to acknowledge the product quality slipped. If you send me stuff that smells, stuff that’s wet, stuff with holes in it, etc. and then cop a smarmy little attitude when I can’t sell it or complain about the merchandise, I’m gonna assume (rightfully) that you’re a pisspot little human and I no longer care about your company. You’re a crook and I want you to go down for taking advantage of me and everyone else. LuLaRoe expanded too quickly to keep up with quality control. If they had just admitted that and taken the loss (which they could absolutely afford to do!) they would still be as big as they were three years ago
8. I wore a pair of the low-quality leggings and they ripped after 30 minutes of walking. My Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis were just out of control on 8th Avenue for everybody to see. I had to run into a shop and buy some shorts.
9. To reiterate! LuLaRoe is a cult of patriarchy and white supremacy, but they would still be a wildly successful MLM if they had handled the quality control issues with any amount of grace and empathy. It’s hard for me to feel bad for women who got in over their heads with a company that is so clearly exclusionary from all of the promotional materials and advertisements they make. You joined a White Jesus Cult. I don’t really care about the consequences of that terrible decision.
10. Y’all were buying ugly clothes off FACEBOOK! I just have to laugh.
11. LuLaRich doesn’t have the same kind of forward motion that Fyre Fraud did (the same team did both documentaries). I wasn’t quite as engaged over the course of the 4-episode series as I was with Fyre Fraud, but it was still interesting to watch it come together and fall apart. It’s not an absolute Must-See, but still enjoyable, especially if you like to see people talk about cults they were in. As far as the genre of Escaping a Cult goes, this is a lot easier to watch than the ones about NXIVM and Scientology, because the stakes are more along the lines of ruining your credit as opposed to ruining your entire life.
12. How long has this lady had braces? That’s not a read, because she is so cute and fun, but I’m genuinely curious.
Score: 6.5 / 10
Watch: LuLaRich Trailer
Let me get into this MLM documentary. Y’all know I love white mess.
LuLaRoe makes trash leggings. Know how I know? I swiped a pair from a girl I was hooking up with, and after about thirty minutes of wear, my ham candle came right on out to light up the world and say hi to the people. Now, I’m aware that women’s leggings are not exactly shaped to hold a penis, but I have many, many, many pairs of women’s leggings (I wear then fairly often in the winter under jeans or under some of my flowy summer outfits I still want to wear in cooler weather) and all of them lasted more than 30 minutes.
So that’s point one. I’m invested in this documentary as a person who is confused about how this company got so big selling a garbage product.
Point two is, I don’t know why, but I love a White Fraud Exposé. Fyre Festival, Theranos, WeWork, Caroline Calloway, Anna Delvey — inject them all directly into my veins. As far as a I know, LuLaRoe has not risen to (or been exposed as) a fraud on the same scale as some of the others, but any business whose model is based on white women drumming up business via Facebook Messenger is not a business planted firmly on good practices and ethical treatment of its sellers.
The documentary comes out on September 10th via Amazon Prime, and I think I’m gonna have a ball. Plus, look at the trailer.
“I did turn down the cruise….I love white people to death. Just bein on a boat in the middle of nowhere? I’ll see y’all when y’all get back. ”
LuLaRich sounds like appointment viewing!
Hot Takes: Bob Ross – Happy Accidents, Betrayal, and Greed
A cautionary tale about being careful who you go into business with.
1. It never occurred to me that people were painting along with Bob Ross? I thought we were all just watching The Joy of Painting like we watch cooking shows. Unless y’all be cooking from them shows too???? Let me re-examine everything I know about life and get back to you.
2. LOL @ Bob Ross talking like that trying to be sexy! I thought he was trying to put me to sleep, not trying to make the lunchlady wet.
3. Speaking of sleep, it actually took me three tries to finish this documentary because I fell asleep the first two times. Something about it just didn’t grab me the way most Netflix documentaries do, and I think it’s because there are no personalities to hold my attention. Everyone featured is a calm, measured, everyday kind of person. No one really has the energy to make it compelling television, so you have to be wholly invested in the story instead.
4. I’m not invested in the story. Bob Ross got into business with greedy, unscrupulous people. That sounds like An Average Day In America, but it can definitely serve as a reminder to have a lawyer draw up your wills, contracts, successions, etc. in such a way that every contingency is planned for. If you don’t want one person to be able to sign away your rights without input from the other people, plan for that.
5. Affairs really do happen in the unlikeliest of places, and y’all want me to care about marriage or monogamy! Tch!
6. You don’t sue people all the time if you have nothing to hide. The only people who file lawsuits all the time are people who are trying to use the legal system to intimidate and silence others who would expose them for the crooks they are. The Kowalskis who own Bob Ross’s name are crooks. If you have stolen a man’s name and it’s making you millions of dollars but you haven’t given that man’s son any of the profits, you are an amoral human being.
7. Unfortunately, this is probably a skip. The most interesting thing is honestly learning that his wet-on-wet oil painting style is a very old technique called alla prima that they first started using centuries ago to depict hair and fabric. You don’t need to spend 90 minutes watching it — just read a synopsis.
8. Imagine a white man today perming his hair so he could have an afro on TV. I’m hollering. 🤣🤣🤣
Hot Takes: LuLaRich
The Big Tent failure of the Democratic Party.
The Bible is not pro-life.
Hot Takes: LuLaRich
Hurricane Ida is fake in Trumpistan.
Porn has six weeks left on OnlyFans.
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