A biased look at the Drag Race UK Ambassador Auditions

Adam Lowe

Adam Lowe is an award-winning author, editor and publisher from Leeds, now based in Manchester. He runs Dog Horn Publishing and is Director and Writing Coordinator for Young Enigma, a writer development programme for LGBT young people.
Adam Lowe

TruTV recently announced a competition: one lucky queen would be picked as the RuPaul’s Drag Race UK Ambassador to perform in London and fly off to LA. Well, naturally the dragverse exploded with audition tapes. Here at Vada we’ve had so much fun sifting through them for our favourites.

First of all, I have a declaration: I’m biased. I always have been (but you knew that, right?).

Being a Manchester girly-boy (genderfluid, transfemme drag queen to be precise) of a certain age, I’m of course heavily invested in MCR’s beloved drag scene – especially the Queer Alt. Manchester scene. But I feel this investment has been earned – no drag scene in the UK has inspired me the same way our girls in Manchester have.

manchester queens

So, yes, I’m backing the #manchesterqueens in their quest for one of them to win the title of the UK ambassador for RuPaul. Not only because I love them all, but because I watched their videos, and they were actually the best.

Of the 97 videos in the TruTV RPDR UK Ambassador auditions playlist, the ones that really popped all came from Manchester. #sorrynotsorry.

I did watch some others, but the quality was variable. What was really noticeable about the #manchesterqueens was that they did so many things well: make-up, hair, outfits, lipsynch. It all tied together into a cohesive image and a definite personality. In many respects, they seemed more polished than some of the other acts. Again, #sorrynotsorry – and I’m being honest about being biased here, but aren’t all opinion pieces biased?

With all that out of the way (and you’re more than welcome to disagree with me vehemently if you like … it’s a free world), onto the vids themselves, and why I love them.

First up is Anna Phylactic. Anna P is a long-time favourite of the crew here at Vada. Anna makes full use of her success – playing upon the constraints of lipsynching to a RuPaul song by showcasing her own ‘cover girl’ status. Unlike many other queens, Anna has indeed appeared on the front cover of magazines, and for just reason.

Anna also has one up on a lot of the other queens: she’s graced a wall too. The wall outside Molly House in Manchester, to be precise.

Anna’s look is always pitch perfect. She’s as happy being a Borg Queen as the blonde one off Frozen. Her lipsynch, meanwhile, is always, always on point – just look at the articulation going on there, kiddies! Yes, Anna is a total thesp, and she’s a star, and everyone loves her.

Although only relatively young, Lill really shows that she can hold her own – effortlessly, I might add. In her video, Lill munches on burgers, enjoys a bubble bath, and showcases a fantastic range of outfits. There’s a neon-bright, Barbie-mainlining-with-Satan aesthetic going on here, and it works.

Lill is quite happy to play with what she has and own that shit. She has a fabulously curvy figure, oversized lips and wigs to kill for. Plus, those daggered toenails poking out of the bath are simply horrific (and so damn glam at the same time)!

There’s something of the Divine about her, and yet she’s also defiantly Mancunian. I think it’s that she looks like she’d eat shit and laugh in your face wile still looking like she escaped from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. She’s children’s TV colourful but definitely not for kids at the same time.

Lill is ferocious, sassy and funny. What more do you want?

Grace ‘the Face’ Oni Smith is fish galore. You can’t get better than this for face, really.

Grace has been rocking femme realness for the best part of a decade, and she has a definite film star quality. She has elegance, style and attitude by the truckload – and it’s clear to see she lives and breathes the art of drag.

Grace’s video puts on display the range of her work, and in every single shot you can see how flawless the make-up is. Grace has the kind of fishy look that appeals to RuPaul’s Drag Race, I feel, and that means she’s in with an exceptionally high chance of winning. Go, Grace!

Ah, Liquorice Black! Another favourite (okay, I love them all…). Liquorice takes her signature look – monochrome – and runs with it. The quality of this video is exceedingly high – probably the highest of all those I’ve seen to date. There’s a very high fashion, B&W movie feel to this video, and that definitely works to her advantage.

The look Liquorice chooses for the video is also a great one. She shows off her figure, her legs and her style here. It’s simple, elegant but evocative. I can imagine the Smirnoff Judderman coming at me in my sleep, or Bertie Bassett chasing me down the road to give me liquorice kisses.

Liquorice always looks different, despite the chromatic restraint in her costumes, and her pitch-black Scarecrow from Cha Cha Boudoir’s Drag Queens of Oz was one of my favourite looks this year.

Cheddar Gorgeous announces herself with her trademark Darth Vader sting (recognisable from her on-stage appearances at Cha Cha Boudoir, and sets about dismantling everything we’ve come to expect from drag. She ain’t fishy, and she don’t care. As she makes clear, she’s in a suit, and she means business.

Cheddar’s video clips make clear her obvious range – and it’s one that really assaults expectations of gender. One minute she’s femme (ish), and the next she’s bulging out of a sequinned cock-sock as a very fabulous Doctor Manhattan.

But mostly in this video I love her Ferrero Rocher gag. Cheddar’s video is probably the one that made me outright laugh the most. Cheddar looks cool and in control – and anyone who knows her will agree this is how she is. She certainly knows how to command your attention.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HOS2klKG3Js

Now, who’s the best? Well, the cop-out is that it really does depend on what criteria we’re going for.

Based on the videos alone, and how much each entertained me, I have to go with Cheddar. Her audition tape told a story (Cheddar loves a narrative!) and she made it look easy. Cheddar is also great at really subverting gender, which is something we haven’t seen so much of on RuPaul’s Drag Race. Cheddar would remind us that there are some very different kinds of drag out there.

Based on what would be a good representation of the Manchester scene, however, I feel Anna would win the popular vote. The intricacy of her looks is nothing short of inspirational. As a hostess, she’s simply adored. Her name pulls audiences and she’s known as being one of the most approachable drag queens on the scene.

Based on a RuPaul’s Drag Race aesthetic, though, I’d go for Grace Oni Smith. She’s fishy, she’s dishy and she’s stylish. I can really see RuPaul going for her look. Not only that, Grace has really worked hard to get where she is today. If you want to show off the ‘face’ of the UK, then Grace would have to be it – she’s iconic and statuesque. It’s a no-brainer.

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