There may be ten queens left, but not all of them have a realistic chance at winning RuPaul’s Drag Race.
After bidding farewell to this season’s Thorgy Thor remix AKA Dusty Ray Bottoms, Drag Race fans were left with their top ten queens, but only one can be a winner, baby. To help determine who that might be in advance of the finale in June, this English major decided to embrace the power of math, Nate Silver-style. That is to say, results not guaranteed—but with nine seasons of data to draw on, it should be *almost* as easy as getting the entire Werk Room to join a chorus of “Miss Vanjieeeee.” Let’s look at the numbers…
*A quick short-as-possible note about the scoring: in each episode, each contestant either [A] wins the maxi challenge; [B] does not win, but receives positive critiques from the judges; [C] is declared safe and receives no critique; [D] receives mixed critiques, but is ultimately declared to be safe; [E] receives negative critiques, but is still declared safe; [F] lands in the bottom two, but wins the lip sync challenge; or [G] loses the lip sync challenge and is commanded to sashay away. By assigning diminishing values to each outcome (e.g., 5 for winning; -1 for losing), it’s possible to put together a scorecard for each remaining queen to objectively compare against the previous seasons’ contestants at the same stage in the game.
|CONTESTANT||Ep. 1||Ep. 2||Ep. 3||Ep. 4||SCORE||RANK|
|Blair St. Clair||4||4||4||3||15||1st|
|Monét X Change||3||4||3||0||10||6th|
|Dusty Ray Bottoms||1||2||3||-1||5||N/A|
Though neither has won a maxi challenge, both Blair St. Clair and Miz Cracker have consistently received positive critiques from the judges in three of four episodes. By this measure, both are tied for first place. Close behind them, The Vixen has won a challenge and consistently been declared safe for her solid performances. In third, Aquaria did win the most recent challenge, but had not previously received positive critiques.
In past seasons, more than half of the queens ranked between first and third at this stage in the competition were eliminated prior to the finale. Remember, this is not RuPaul’s Best Friends Race: those fourth and fifth place queens can still claw their way back up the leaderboard. A queen presently ranked fourth or fifth still has a 30% chance of competing in the finale.
But, bad news for fourth-place Mayhem Miller, no winner has ever placed in the bottom two in the first four episodes. Sharon Needles did receive negative critiques in the fourth episode of season four, but by that time she’d already won two challenges. Mayhem could still become the first, of course, but herstory suggests the odds are stacked against her.
Mayhem is not the only queen facing an uphill battle: fifth place seems to be a cutoff. Season seven’s Pearl is the only queen who managed to overcome her early point deficit and compete in the finale despite a sixth-place ranking at episode four. Every other queen to compete in the final lip sync ranked or tied for fifth or higher. Based on this precedent, season ten’s sixth-place queens have a measly 4% chance of making it to the finale.
Further proof: only one queen has gone on to win her season without winning one of the first four maxi challenges. In season five, Jinkx Monsoon had placed in the top three twice by episode four, but did not win a challenge until the fifth episode. This is a good sign for Cracker and Blair—both are still in the running toward becoming America’s next drag superstar—but Jinkx eventually won by a six point margin, which means hers is a pretty tough act to follow. Tough, but not impossible.
Eureka, Monét X Change, and Monique Heart all miss the fifth-place-minimum cutoff. If you hadn’t already begun to anticipate their departures, then you should expect to see them showing off their unworn outfits on Whatcha’ Packin’ pretty soon. To be fair, it remains a tight race, and each of these three queens has fared better than Pearl did in her first four episodes. Having not yet placed in the bottom two, though, Monique Heart is perhaps best poised to beat the odds, but even if she does then she probably won’t go home a winner.
Here’s why: in the nine previous seasons of Drag Race, every eventual winner was ranked or tied for third by episode four. If this holds true in season ten, then Aquaria and Miz Cracker could drag out their New York rivalry all the way into the finale, or we could see a Midwest matchup between The Vixen and Blair St. Clair. But remember: historically half of the high-heeled front-runners stumble before the finale. While winners have consistently distinguished themselves early, not since season three has a majority of queens (three out of four) ranked third place or higher made it to the final three.
Will The Vixen’s Chicago bluster (“I’m just here to fight!”) catch up with her? Will Blair’s baby-face go back to Indianapolis in tears? Based on what we know now, and unless Blair or Cracker can pull off a Jinkx Monsoon -style breakthrough, two girls have a better shot than all the rest to succeed Sasha Valour:
Top three? Check. Early wins? Yes, ma’am. Keep out of the bottom two? Absolutely.
A plurality of Drag Race winners (four out of nine) came from third place to snatch the crown. Seemingly, this would favor Aquaria, but nearly as many (three) were in second place by the fourth episode. And as much as Miz Cracker and Blair St. Clair may give you life (mostly Miz Cracker, TBH), only Tyra Sanchez and Bianca Del Rio took an early lead and held it to the very end. And both had also won challenges early on in the game.
‘Cause she’s from Chicago, and it’s about time the Second City came first. Only two Drag Race winners have been crowned without gaining the highest overall score for their pre-finale performances: Cameroon’s queen BeBe Zahara Benet and Brooklyn’s Sasha Velour, who out-synced the top scorer in round one of last season’s finale, Chicago’s own Shea Couleé. If The Vixen can dance as well as she fights, then she will take her rightful place as the first winning queen to represent Chicago since Oprah. (#JusticeForShea)