Finally we’re here, the day we discover whether Jinkx Monsoon, Alaska, or Roxxxy Andrews will walk off with the RuPaul’s Drag Race season five crown. To prepare for the big event, let’s circle back through the show’s hyper-dramatic history and rank the ten best lip-syncing moments. Some of my entries highlight one performer while others highlight both combatants, but all are ferocious examples of charisma, uniqueness, nerve, and tongue-twisting talent.
10. Shannel, “The Greatest Love of All”
Maybe that headpiece snafu was entirely staged, but the theatricality of Shannel’s “recovery” as she belted Whitney’s most bloated ballad was seriously kickass. Akashia, in all her finger-pointing might, didn’t stand a chance once Shannel owned her wardrobe malfunction, removed her breastplate, and stepped forward like a valiant dame.
9. Latrice Royale and Dida Ritz, “I’ve Got to Use My Imagination”
Two of the fiercest face-giving, lip-sync-smashing doyennes vied for the crown here, but ultimately the showstopper was Latrice, who exploded with charm and sincerity — not to mention actual explosives, essentially. Girl is machine-gun fierce!
8. Jinkx Monsoon and Detox, “Malambo No. 1”
Could Yma Sumac have been a more perfect match for the woozily sensual stylings of Jinkx Monsoon? The season-five frontrunner gyrated, mugged, and wobbled like a naughty hood ornament to the wacky tune. Detox — whose quavering lip act is pretty ingenious no matter how many times she uses it — worked almost as well, giving her fierce-frightened-demented chicken gaze like Colonel Sanders had just approached with a cleaver.
7. Raja and Carmen Carrera, “Straight Up”
Years have passed, and I still don’t know what to make of this act. Sensing that her elimination was imminent, Carmen Carrera stripped down to nothing for the panel of incredulous judges, but an unfazed Raja took that move as an opportunity to get really sexy, leaving a lip print on Carmen’s comely shoulder. What could’ve been a wholly vulgar showdown was classed up with Raja’s nervy wit. God. This was so weird. So weird and raw and worthy of Sharon Osbourne’s visible astonishment.
6. Coco Montrese and Jade Jolie, “I’m So Excited”
One of the most competitive lip-syncs in RPDR history has to be this ebullient exhibition from Coco Montrese and Jade Jolie, who gallivanted and jived to “I’m So Excited” like the giggliest, most glamorous girls on Earth. Couple of points of order: Coco’s face and kicks are unforgettable, but I have to give major props to Jade Jolie for working her weird-ass outfit, letting her fringe fly, and popping with all sorts of thundering sauciness, even if it wasn’t enough to win herself a victory. These two embodied the spirit of this big, beaming number, and it’s one of the most rewatchable lip-syncs on this list.
5. Jujubee, “Black Velvet”
Here is a textbook example of Bring. Ing. It. Jujubee took to Alannah Myles’ gritty classic with the kind of emotional drama usually reserved for presidential assassinations, erupting in tears and trauma like a fishy Pagliacci. It is an unforgettable display of her winning stage instincts, which just dominate everything else in the room (including the late Sahara Davenport, whose “Carry On” is the unofficial #11 on this list).
4. Latrice Royale, “(You Make Me Feel Like a) Natural Woman”
There’s something gimmicky about the queens who depend on gymnastics, sprints, and jumping splits to win RuPaul’s affection. And there’s something so, so bad-ass about standing in one place, clutching your unborn child, and selling the hell out of “Natural Woman” while Kenya Michaels fights for relevance with desperate animations behind you. Latrice Royale stayed almost completely stationary here, but her face was a hundred times more alive and yearning than anything Kenya dropkicked at us.
3. Dida Ritz, “This Will Be”
Oh, girl. This is still one of the most fabulous moments in the show’s history because of 1) how surprising it was, and 2) how Dida’s sparkling triumph keeps crescendoing right up until the end of the song. Alongside Natalie Cole, we LIVED, DIED, AND LIVED AGAIN while watching Dida chirp “This Will Be” with the churchiest Whitney glamor ever seen in this solar system. She enters an electrified fugue state here, and it completely changed our perception of Dida’s capabilities. Go ahead, watch that GIF for days.
2. Manila Luzon, “MacArthur Park”
“MacArthur Park” is one of the few items of pure camp in pop culture. It is an ode to cake recipes, precipitation, and the impermanence of icing, and Manila Luzon clearly understood the importance of that message. Like a bizarro, cross-eyed Telemundo star, she vamped and crackled with a senseless urgency that totally matched the tone of the song. Anyone who cares about wonderful lip-syncing must reference this gem, since it’s a great display of Manila’s character, charisma, and commitment to the competition. She was a star here. I also LOVED Arden Myrin’s delighted reaction to Manila’s battiness.
1. Coco Montrese and Alyssa Edwards, “Cold Hearted”
Make no mistake: “Cold Hearted” remains the toughest song to lip-sync in RPDR history. I’ve heard that damn Paula Abdul song 10,000 times, and the frenetic double-speak is still hard for me to mimic. Coco Montrese and Alyssa Edwards had both established themselves as lip-syncing veterans by the time of this masterful duel, and it wasn’t a surprise that both of them turned out showstopping, eye-popping choreography. Note Alyssa’s fierce beginning, stunning hand choreography, and that 360-degree (540 degree?) jump-split that puts Mystique Summers Madison, Sonique, and every other split-loving queen to shame. Then note Coco, who has two freakishly ferocious instincts: the way she directs everyone’s attention to her spot-on lip-sync using a sternly pointed finger, and the impromptu whirlybird sleeve twirling that perfectly illustrates the silly instrumental of “Cold Hearted.” Some may even call Coco’s inspired choreography “waacking,” but whatever it is, both of her sleeves looked like motorized, menacing tornadoes on that stage. Just fabulous, not to mention the season highpoint for the endlessly contentious Coco and Alyssa.