It's down to the final six on RuPaul's Drag Race, and some familiar faces are back to bring the drama.
After the remaining queens took a moment to mourn the elimination of Shuga Cain, they had a quick pow-wow about how it was time to "step their p***ies up" (thanks, Anne Hathaway) as the finale draws near. "I cannot fold and crack under this damn pressure," Silky Nutmeg Ganache tells the cameras. "I cannot give up!”
Thankfully, the ladies got a chance to work out some aggression in this week's mini challenge, "Slap Out of It!", where they paired up to hurl some insults -- some even more cutting than when the library opened a few weeks back -- and throw some fake slaps. Thanks to her dance-inspired spins, twirls and flops, Brooke Lynn Hytes took the challenge, which gave her a big advantage in the next round.
The maxi challenge arrived via an ominous warning from Mama Ru that the past always comes back around again. And just like that, the doors to the Werk Room opened and in walked six of the season's eliminated queens: Soju, Ariel Versace, Honey Davenport, Scarlet Envy, Plastique Tiara and Abuela Shuga herself. Thankfully for the top six competitors, Ru announced that none of them would be returning to the competition. Instead, each remaining queen would be tasked with making over one eliminated queen and "transforming her into a member of your drag family."
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'Drag Race': Monique Heart Reveals Who's Got Her Gooped and Gagged on Season 11!
Brooke Lynn's advantage came in the form of picking the pairings. She chose Plastique for herself and paired up the Davenports, putting Honey with A'Keria, Scarlet was assigned to Yvie Oddly, Ariel went with Vanessa Vanjie Mateo, and Shuga was teamed with Nina. The only oddball pairing, which raised a few glue-sticked eyebrows? Soju and Silky, who immediately went off on Brooke's "shady a**" to the cameras.
"Obviously Brooke Lynn sees me as a top competitor for her," Silky proclaimed. The pairing got off to a rocky start that didn't get any smoother as the "Reverend Doctor" quickly got fed up with Soju, who was still talking about her cyst, and revealed -- to the horror of the entire room -- that she didn't know how to walk in heels. “Why do I feel like I’m about to put someone in drag for the first motherf***ing time in their life?” Silky exclaimed.
Things got even more heated as past dramas resurfaced courtesy of a pot-stirring A'Keria, who got Ariel heated over some wigs she left behind after her elimination. Then Scarlet spoke up about how surprised she was that Silky and Vanjie were still in the competition, and honestly, it's a little impressive that these queens can yell so much yet keep their faces still enough to get beat.
When it came to the runway (category is: "Drag Family Values"), things went almost as expected. Yvie and Scarlet went all in with their weirdo "denim tribe" looks, though the judges thought it looked a little "crafty." The Davenports brought A'Keria's pageant glam to life with coordinating colors and sky-high Texas hair, with guest judge Lena Waithe praising them as "melanated Marilyn Monroe." Vanjie and Ariel were also safe, with Michelle Visage making a specific point to praise the look and bringing Vanjie to tears after weeks of criticism over her lack of range.
Though some expected Vanjie to take the win this week, it went to Brooke Lynn once again, as she and Plastique put together not only a perfectly old Hollywood glam but a subtle runway storyline -- including choreography, of course -- that earned laughs and praise from all the judges. "Vanjie, we're going on vacation!" Brooke yelled back after earning her trip to Aruba.
Mama Ru also stirred the pot on the runway, asking each queen who they thought deserved to go home. Votes were pretty evenly split between Yvie and Silky. Only Big Silk ended up in the bottom two, however, after her and Soju's look was less family and more "two friends going to a club," per Michelle, who also called out Silky's sloppy padding once again.
After Yvie was declared safe, the other bottom dweller this week was Nina. The judges loved the message of her family ensembles, which incorporated the rainbow pride flag and the trans flag colors, but thought they ended up looking more "circus" than glam. "I'm fighting," Nina told the cameras after receiving the news that she was in the bottom two for the first time. "I want to be here. I want to make the five. I am not giving up.”
So it was Silky vs. Nina lip syncing for the life -- both for the first time -- and though they were given an absolute classic in TLC's "No Scrubs," the showdown was, uh, well...let's just say that Brooke-Yvie showdown from a few weeks back has set a high bar, and this did not reach it.
And the tenth queen to sashay away from season 11 was...
After a lip sync that Mama Ru dismissed as "meh," it was time to say goodbye to the sparking star that is Nina West. "You, my dear, are the pride of season 11," Ru told Nina as she tearfully exited the runway.
"Go big, be kind, f***ing go west," Nina announced as she exited. ET's Brice Sander spoke with the season 11 competitors before the premiere, where Nina opened up about staying true to her "authentic self" and the bonds she formed with her fellow queens.
ET: Did you surprise yourself on this season of Drag Race?
Oh my gosh, yeah! You’re doing something that is so insanely personal and so insanely emotional in so many different way. It's the most challenging thing I've ever done in my life. So, when you’re like, distilled -- that’s the best way I can say it -- you’re distilled down to the sum of your parts, like what makes you you out of drag, and then you have to put on this incredible mask and persona that is, for the most part, intrinsically still yourself, overly personified.
You have to deal with the things you find out about yourself along the journey, and that can be tough. And you’re doing it in the confines of a reality TV show and you’re doing it in the confines of a competition for 100 thousand dollars with RuPaul and all these special guests watching. So, there's a lot to juggle. There’s a lot to maintain and try to figure out how to navigate and negotiate in your emotions. So, yeah! I surprised myself. I also scared myself. I was also like, "Oh, I didn't know I knew that about me." Or, "I didn't know I felt that way." This whole thing is a journey. That’s why Drag Race is a pop culture phenomenon, because people are at home watching like, "Oh my god." And they’re empathetic and they’re going on the journey with us and they’re feeling things and they're learning things about themselves. It’s incredible. It’s a gift of a television show, I think.
There's people under these wigs.
Yeah! And these tits are...here. [Laughs] No, but like, we're people. You see the glitz and the glamour that are overly pronounced, but underneath all this, we’re these guys who have these incredible feelings and then we grow to have these immense bonds with one another and in turn, it changes our art and our drag forever.
When your season is all said and done, what do you hope the fans walk away saying about Nina West?
I hope that people walk away and say, "There’s a queen who loves her art form, loves her craft, uses it for the betterment of her community, who is taking every opportunity to lift up all of us and not just herself." I'm from Columbus, Ohio, and I've done this for 18 years and I have my own charitable foundation. I’ve raised over two-and-a-half million dollars for my local organization in my community and that has been the benchmark of my career and the proudest part of my career. To have this platform to hopefully explode that and take it to another level would be a dream. I just want people to connect to me, my authentic self and who I am and what I represent and the good that I can hopefully do for all of us.
If you had to describe your Drag Race experience in just a few words, how would you sum it up?
The important thing is when you're sitting at home and watching this and you're a drag queen, you’re like, "I could do that." I will tell you, you’re going to say that to yourself a million times and then when you do it, you're going to say, "It’s the most challenging thing I’ve ever done. It’s the most humbling experience I’ve ever had. But it’s been the most rewarding." So, that’s any good sign of an incredible, incredible career experience like this. I can’t even imagine that I ever even thought this would happen.
And here you are.
And here I am! On Entertainment Tonight! I'm getting my legs insured!
This seems like it a very sisterly group.
That's a really interesting vibe that you’re picking up on, because it’s actually pretty true. I think the drama is there, but there's a respect amongst the girls that, look, we’re all trying to do this, we’re all trying to do it together, I might not like you, but we’re in this together. That’s the unique thing about this experience. Fifteen girls are doing it this season. Fourteen did it last season, and the 14 who did it last season, their experience is completely different. So, they’re bonded. This is our experience and this is our time and we’re just trying to make it the most that we can and there's a lot of respect and, in turn, love.
Who's your lifelong friend in the group?
Brooke Lynn. I’ve known Brooke Lynn for eight years? 10 years? When we were in the Werk Room together, I was like, "This cannot be happening. This is insane!" I text him all the time and I'm like, "I'm just so grateful that we’re doing this together." Because it’s big and you don’t know how to plan for it and you’re just going by the seat of your pants. To have someone that you can trust, it’s been great to have him there.
She said you two were like each other's emotional support animals.
Oh my god, that’s so true. [Laughs] It's so true. Our highs and our lows are all marked and you’re going to see it. And you’re going to feel us. I’m like, crying. We’ve been there for each other, so to have that there and present was so weird, but so wonderful. I was so lucky and I think she was too. So weird but so right.
RuPaul's Drag Race airs Thursdays at 6 p.m. ET/PT on VH1.