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The best beauty looks from Drag Race Season 11

TextTom Rasmussen

Ahead of the final, we recap the beauty from the last few months

It’s a given that every competitor on RuPaul’s Drag Race can beat a face marvellously. If you ignore seasons one through four/ five, every queen worth their salt can give you contour, gloss, glamour, lips, eyes, nose. It’s classic beauty, and classic drag, at its finest.

But, after 11 seasons and about 90,000 queens, it’s hard to pick the best ‘beauty looks’. Now when we say ‘beauty looks’ one instantly thinks of Miss Fame, Aquaria or Kim Chi: classic stunners with the odd twist and turn every third runway. Classic beauty is one thing, but at this point it doesn’t quite inspire the gasps we’re so desperate for after tuning in for the last decade.

These queens have a hard task at hand, then, especially since Ru, and capitalism, often rewards the most polished and perfect. But what we want changes over time: we've seen the cut creases and the James Charles FaceTune beauty — what we’re looking for now is inspiration, exploration, escape, critique.

After trawling through every runway from Season 11, we came up with the top ten alt-beauty looks — ones that made us consider what A Good Drag Face™ means.

Nina West All That Glitters — Runway Theme: All That Glitters

God bless Nina West, the queen sent home too early, the one whom hath raised $2.5million dollars for LGBTQIA+ causes in her home state of Ohio. This look — which many ribbed as goofy, claiming she “pillaged the wrong costume store” — is, frankly, inspired. Too long has Drag Race been dominated by queens who have a Morphe palette already named after them. But this is real drug store beauty: a gold lip, a dark, not-smokey eye, and a wet-look glimmering bodysuit. As Dolly Parton said: “it takes a lot of money to look this cheap.”

Silky Nutmeg Ganache — Runway Theme: Face-Kini

A sexy fat-positive bug pulled from the Matrix is what we should all think of as beauty. The challenge was to cover everything but your mouth and eyes, but Dr. Silky decided to become an actual bug, her face sheathed in pleather. She was meant to be a fly, but the judges called her a ‘roach’ which is the kind of camp we must be demanding from our beauty in these hard, desperate times. Extra points for carrying bug spray to literally exterminate yourself. Beauty bloggers: take note!

Shuga Cain — Runway Theme: Orange Alert

Invoking images of feminised Trump is bleak, it’s ineffective. Like those awful edits of Putin in makeup: these men do not deserve the glory and wonder of drag and femininity. Removed from context, however, Shuga Cain’s burnt skin and sunglass-tan-line is very the-subject-of-a-Martin-Parr-photograph-on-the-beach-glamour, but instead of blistered, incinerated skin, Shuga used paint and the knowledge of contour. Eyebrows whitened, lips so burnt they’re purple. Tan-line beauty is in this Summer.

A’Keira Chanel Davenport — Runway Theme: Face-Kini

There’s an irony to the idea that covering your face could be a best beauty look, but ACD’s surgery suit was a beautiful critique of beauty. Everything cinched, sucked, minimised, sculpted, scooped and pooped was the idea behind the most daring of her runway looks and, naturally, she won the challenge. Often drag, and beauty, shows you the endpoint of what hours – or arguably years and thousands of dollars – of refinement and obsession can produce, but Davenport’s body blitzing suit showed us the before instead of the after. Yes, Sharon did it first, but Davenport did it better.

Silky Ganache as Oprah in Trump The Rusical

Okay, so the theme of this season’s Rusical was somewhat problematic, but Dr. Silky’s Oprah was absolutely not. When she came out to sing her ditty Michelle (goddess on high) literally screamed “Yesssss bitch!!” audibly over the music. And yes, the make-up wasn’t the most brilliant — but to emulate omnipotent, omniscient, benevolent God Oprah in such a perfect way is beauty.

Vanessa Vanjie Mateo — Runway Theme: Strut couture inspired by signs of the zodiac

Libra, plucked from the earth like a crimson rose. This whole look was inspired, jaw-dropping, but the face was Vanjie at her finest — big liner, red lips, perfectly blended contour, highlighter, brow-scaping. A proper drag face for a proper queen.

Yvie Oddly — Runway Theme: Best Drag

Way before everyone was cooing over Ezra Miller’s multiple eyes at the Met Gala, Yvie Oddly brought out her third eye for her best drag. It’s simple yet effective — made up of flawless, classic beauty techniques with a twist. If modern art makes us see things differently, perhaps modern make-up should too.

Brooke Lynn Hytes Heights — Runway Theme: Sequins on the Runway

Wear an afro as a white person and you’re cancelled, so thankfully Brooke Lynn Hytes tore it off in the most glorious and iconic of fashions upon entry to the runway and everyone melted. Beneath it was long blonde flowing wig which she then mopped the floor with. Hair is beauty, right? This certainly was. And while the wig reveal is somewhat staid, this one—whipping off a gown and a wig in one— will go down in RuPaul Wig Reveal History.

Nina West — Runway Theme: Face-Kini

My God Nina West is My God. This Leigh Bowery mimicry, while indeed mimicry, was the perfect ode to drag and queer history. Grotesque, pop-art beauty is what Leigh was best known for, and West’s giant eyelashes poking out from that pimply polka-dot face mask is a stunning exaggeration of everyone’s favourite beauty tool, the eyelash. We love us a historically knowledgeable queen.

Yvie Oddly — Runway Theme: Fringe   

From the get go Ms. Oddly established herself as the queen who saw things in different ways. Her jellyfish realness redefined fringe, and while everyone else was doing the classic fabric fringe (bar Nina West, who was perfect) Oddly literally donned the costume of the sea and became a pink floaty fish. Her contour, eyebrows and lips were searing pink, with white to highlight and her attitude was sweet with a sting. Beauty isn’t just face, it’s everything — and that’s what Yvie gave us.

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