RUPAUL’S DRAG RACE S12E14 “GRAND FINALE”: Ru Crowns The Essence Of Beauty, Miss Jaida Essence Hall For Season Twelve

Mama Ru has made her choice and our new reigning queen is Milhawukee’s own Jaida Essence Hall. Hail to the queen and the Essence of Beauty! Coming in hot with a sizzling lip-sync and one of the first two wins of the split premiere, Jaida established herself as a confident pageant queen with a wicked sense of fashion and one of the best mugs of the season; having only fallen into the Bottom once during the One-Queen Show challenge of Episode 11, she was either winning, in the top, or sitting it safe. A great personality, a breastplate that will not quit, and the grace to properly wear the crown, Jaida is everything we need in a reigning queen.

Jaida’s win feels like a huge win for all of us after a rather vociferous season of RuPaul’s Drag Race; being weighed down by Sherry Pie, produced drama, COVID-19, and that insane facekini RuPaul wore for the completely forgettable Reunion episode (so much so that it only gets a shout-out in this review) that the show needed to get really creative with its finale episode and in the end, it did deliver.

Is There Something On My Facekini?

To briefly recap the finale, we have RuPaul herself and she is back with a new facekini along with kind words for the hard-working Drag Race crew (since she apparently had to set up her greenscreen herself) and breaks down what this season’s finale entails. First up is a “three-way closeup lip-sync” where the queens are judged on their face and lip sync abilities. For the second round, they must do a lip-sync from home where the Top 3 produce their own performances for the cameras. The very last round is between the Top 2 queens in a split-screen lip sync showdown.

RUPAUL'S DRAG RACE S12E14 "GRAND FINALE": Ru Crowns The Essence Of Beauty, Miss Jaida Essence Hall For Season Twelve
source: VH1

How will these three rounds be judged? Why, by our lovely panel of judges of course. Ru introduces Michelle Visage in her glamorous closet and we get a, uh, “cheeky” view of her husband as he cleans the house. We also get to see Ross Matthews and his little dogs as well as Carson Kressley with a cocktail. Everyone’s in good spirits and they all do a really good job of taking the piss out of their remote situation – how very drag of them.

Ru then shows us videos of famous folks who’ve used this season of Drag Race to help them get through quarantine. We see shots of season 12 judges like Robyn and Rachel Bloom as well as LGBT+ icons like Kim Petras and Adam Lambert.

At the top of the hour, we were able to see all of the lovely queens and their finale looks from the comfort and confinement of their homes and now Ru is letting us get a closer look at our Top 3 – Crystal Methyd, Gigi Goode, and Jaida Essence Hall.

Crystal and Ru talk about her connection to El Debarge and to the fact that Crystal, more so than any other queen, was able to take the judge’s critiques, apply them and still come out the other side 100% herself. We get a video message from Crystal’s parents and Abuela, who say nothing but kind things about her and it’s nice to see such conservative folks show love for their drag queen son.

Gigi’s closer look is filled with referential fashion and her ability to bring humor and talent to the performances. Gigi says that she’s proud and unsurprised to be in the Top 3 and we finally get to see her legendary seamstress mother via a video message. Gigi talks about her father not understanding her but eventually coming around and showing his pride for Gigi and how lucky she is to have him in her corner now.

With Jaida’s closer look, we learn about her relationship with her grandmother and how they would watch films from the 40’s together and we see a lovely video message from her brother and father who both cried when Jaida won the first challenge in the premiere episode. It’s really amazing to see such strong familial support for Jaida especially as she talks about them to Ru.

And Now For Something Completely Different

The episode is peppered with small segments with the season 12 queens and their finale looks, a PSA to vote, lip-syncs, and tributes to essential workers and medical professionals who risk their health to keep things going through the pandemic. We get an in-closet segment from Heidi N. Closet about social distancing and an in memoriam segment on Jacqueline Wilson, an Emmy-winning producer for Drag Race who passed away in the last year. We see Ru-Girls from seasons’ past give their kind words and stories via video messages and it’s amazing to see such a beautiful tribute for someone who had such an impact on the Drag Race family.

RUPAUL'S DRAG RACE S12E14 "GRAND FINALE": Ru Crowns The Essence Of Beauty, Miss Jaida Essence Hall For Season Twelve
source: VH1

In the first lip sync round, the song is “Bring Back My Girls” by RuPaul and it is wild. Each queen does her own thing and it’s a little underwhelming, though Crystal does get an edge for hamming it up with her wild look.

Round Two brings us self-produced lip sync videos straight from the queens’ homes. First up is Crystal Methyd performing “I’m Like A Bird” by Nelly Furtado; it’s cute, funny, crafty and bird-tastic; it’s definitely the most creative video of Round Two. Next is Gigi Goode as she puts her own spin on the music video for a-ha’s “Take On Me” complete with cartoon 3-D graphics and monochromatic costume changes. Gigi’s Round Two production is perhaps my favorite but that’s just because I’m a sucker for 80’s references. We then have Jaida’s video with the song “Get Up” by Ciara featuring Chamillionaire, which has the best editing by far. She starts out on the couch and gives it her all as a Ciara doppelgänger complete with sex appeal and blonde hair.

Each video has its own strengths and weaknesses (Crystal has lipstick on her teeth at one point, Gigi isn’t much of a dancer, and Jaida kind of “over” lip-syncs) but it’s hard to pick the weakest link – and Ru agrees because there is no Top 2, it’s still a Top 3(!) and we get the privilege of going cross-eyed trying to keep up with all three of them as they Lip Sync for the Crown in the final round.

America’s Next Drag Race Superstar Is…

Before we get to it though, we gotta find out who season 12’s Miss Congeniality is. Nina West, our reigning MC, crashes the Reunion episode (after kiki’ing it up with Ms. Dolly Parton herself(!)) and, as predicted, we see our forever MVQ Heidi N. Closet take the title and the $10,000 prize for being the absolute best, most congenial queen.

And who can forget our current reigning queen, Yvie Oddly, the winner of RuPaul’s Drag Race season 11. In a cute segment where Yvie creates a couture outfit from gym socks and sweatpants (we’re all in quarantine, remember??), muses on her reign, and prepares to pass the torch for season 12’s winner. Thank you Yvie, you were a wonderful queen for the oddballs out there.

RUPAUL'S DRAG RACE S12E14 "GRAND FINALE": Ru Crowns The Essence Of Beauty, Miss Jaida Essence Hall For Season Twelve
source: VH1

In the Final Round consisting of silver tinsel backgrounds and a three-way split screen, the song is “Survivor” by Destiny’s Child and it’s no contest; Jaida destroys the lip sync. She knows the words, she embodies Beyonce & co. and her final pose tells us exactly who she is (a winner). Crystal has an amazing look and Gigi tells us a story as Dorothy Gale from The Wizard of Oz, but this was Jaida’s to win. Yvie passes her a virtual crown (cute) and Jaida prances to the cheers of many a virtual fan, judge, and Drag Race contestant. Jaida has won a crown (a real one, I promise), a one-year supply of Anastacia Beverly Hills cosmetics, a cash prize of $100,000, and a permanent place in Drag Race her-story. Con-drag-ulations, Miss Essence Hall.

Conclusion

Season 12 is over and in these pandemic times, these queens who have entertained us for the last fourteen weeks have a lot of talent and nowhere to go; in the world of Drag Race, queens use every single dollar and cent that they have to compete on the show and most of them are unable to make up for that lost coin until a year later when their season airs. However, with the pandemic and self-isolations, bars and entertainment venues are shut down and these performers’ source of income has dwindled. This truly is a cursed season. However, it doesn’t have to be because if you’re a fan of this show and a fan of these queens (Sherry Pie excluded) and want to support them and their art, get online and buy their merch, subscribe to their Patreons, or sign up for their digital drag shows. It’s tough all over, especially for the queens of season 12.

As for our newly-crowned Miss Jaida Essence Hall, she is on top of the world and she has earned it. Again, con-drag-ulations, Miss Essence Hall, the Essence of Beauty.

What did you think of the Reunion or the Grand Finale? Did Jaida deserve her win?


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