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RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 9 Review: Episode 3: Draggily Ever After (SPOILER FREE)

By Joanna Cosgrove

After last week’s elimination of the beautiful and bubbly Jaymes Mansfield, everyone’s eyes are open – but sadly, everyone was not surprised to see her sweet self sashay away.

After the first elimination, everyone’s eyes are open. It’s a real competition, and it’s another week of watching every queen in that work room scratch their way up that little step closer to the winner spot (especially the newly determined Trinity Taylor).

Baby queen Valentina, who unexpectedly won last week’s main challenge, is keeping her head up high and is hoping for a successful streak in this competition. I would suggest for her to stay that little bit humble; at the point of entering the competition, Valentina had only been doing drag professionally for 10 months, so she is going to still make some mistakes. I want to make sure she knows she still has a long way to go – think of her as a new Shangela. She’s amazing but she could still flop. Sorry!

Ru’s entrance is all animal (I love the leopard print suit) but the challenge is anything but real. This week’s main challenge? Designing an outfit for a fairy-tale character! These queens have to be princesses, and as a new design challenge, let’s analyse the interaction and the – yes – panics.

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Not having the easiest time really, Farrah Moan and Kimora Blac are performing the classic drag sin: they don’t sew! I hate Kimora’s view of sewing her own outfit, if I’m honest; she said she pays people to make her outfits, she never makes them herself. It’s a classic skill, and as a drag queen who has been doing the art form for ten years, you would expect Kimora to have some idea of using a needle and thread. Someone send her to a tailoring class (and English, while we’re at it – you’ll see why).

Everyone’s ideas for princesses are different, and their inspiration are incredibly varied! Eureka’s idea, for example, really does stand out (as pointed out by Kimora) and you will see later on how she really is a different kind of princess.

Queens like Aja, Farrah and Valentina are using the elements of nature in their concepts, such as ice and fire, and these are stable and useful and broad enough to manipulate, but will they be executed without any stress? It’s Drag Race, it’s not that easy!

Again, special mention of Farrah Moan, who is compared to a crying child by her obvious expressions of pain and fear because she is lacking the fundamental skills of making clothes – pray, girl. Pray.

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As the girls prepare, making themselves up, things get personal and this talk is personal and tear-jerking, as the topic of conversation move to the Pulse nightclub shooting from Orlando, Florida last summer. Trinity shares her history of working at the club and how she performed as soon as the weekend before the shooting took place.

Returning queen Cynthia Lee Fontaine shared her losses during the tragic attack, as she knew people who worked at the club and knew a couple of people who had their lives taken. Discussing this event brings almost all the queens to tears, and they all embrace before showtime.

Let’s move on to the runway, where the princesses are introduced – along with their animal and non-animal sidekicks – and shake their royal stuff.

Special shout-out to Charlie Hides, who once more rocked her outfit 110% (and her ‘Lady in Waiting’ made me laugh quite a bit). At this point, it seems there is no bad Charlie can do! I am hoping more and more for her to be the winner!

Alexis Michelle, also, made me giggle. The look was unique, and I loved how it looked, but her sidekick was what won me over (mainly because of the low English accent and the uncanny resemblance to Season 6’s Ornacia).

Every queen had such different looks, from one to another to another; it did highlight the diversity of these queens (although one queen almost burned herself to the ground in a not-too-clear outfit).

A repeat for the bottom two, and another obvious choice from the queens, are chosen to fight for their right to stay in the competition through the Bonnie Tyler hit “Holding Out For A Hero”.

One queen is killing it, using every second of opportunity to move and twirl and give the power you need to; the other, I’m afraid, is showing everyone she is going home. You cannot match up to that power when you aren’t using your whole body as your weapon to win. I was waving from mid-song, saying “sashay away” myself.

RuPaul confirmed it all with those two words herself, and I smile because she wasn’t prepared for the struggles of this contest.

Looking back, the season is going strong and I believe the judgements are as fair as always (but I’m still not over last week’s first elimination for my own reasons). If anything, the episodes need to possibly slow down in its pace slightly, because the first viewing of it (I watch it at least twice before reviewing), I thought it was on and over in no time.

Slow the episode down, let us see more of these queens before they possibly leave.

But overall, I am looking forward to seeing where this contest goes.

Rating: 7/10

Single Review: Harry Styles – Sign of the Times

By Joanna Cosgrove

Background
Harry has been a quiet, secretive man recently, head down in writing music and finishing the filming for his (technically) acting debut in Christopher Nolan’s war flick Dunkirk, but now we have seen what musical talent he has left over from his One Direction days. But now it’s him, and him alone, and he has taken himself down a different route.

With a post of a photo from a possible album shoot, stating the title “Sign of the Times” and today’s date (7th April) – and now we got that song! It’s been a long time, so let’s see how this re-introduction has been.

The Song
The song, straightaway, you can feel this isn’t the Harry Styles from One Direction. This man has matured, grown, and he has experienced his fair share in life; you can feel it all from the slow piano-led introduction.

Styles’ vocals have changed and honestly, improved. Not that he had a horrific singing voice prior, but it’s a lot stronger and much more confident. The song quickly builds up to a strong verse, as the percussion comes in, and if vocals can overshadow the drum beats, you’re doing something right – and Styles definitely is!

Let’s discuss that beautiful falsetto, that appears a fair few times throughout the tune. Styles puts his heart into every reach of a high note, and it doesn’t sound forced or pushed; it feels natural, and it feels passionate, and matches the change of key perfectly. Styles has always been known in his old boyband for having one of the best range of vocals, and when you give him five minutes for himself, you can tell that is 100% true. It tugs at the listeners’ hearts as his lyrics speak out, discuss how tears are just “a sign of the times”, which suggests a yearning to leave the anger and sadness behind to move forward into a better and easier environment.

This story can speak to a wide range of people, young and old, men and women. That’s how you know your song’s story is worthy: when a whole population of different people can hear it and picture a moment in their lives when they felt they had to sit and ask “why be here when I am not getting anywhere?”

Styles’ debut solo gives the feeling of a classic power ballad from the 1990s, and as he stated in interviews (particularly from the BBC Radio 1 interview with Nick Grimshaw), he had to work his own influences from songs he learnt and loved from his childhood, listening to what his parents enjoyed. That is evident when you hear the instruments work together, along with Styles’ strong but sensitive lyrics and voice, to give those older listeners a nostalgia trip. I’m sure they would sigh, lean back, and remember.

To conclude, this song is a great step towards a successful solo career, and I will support Harry as he continues this new and scary journey as I have and will with the other members. He knows his former 1D audience have grown and matured with him, and in a way, this song shows that he sees the fans are no longer the boy-crazy teenagers they once were. They have changed, their music tastes have broadened, and Harry is no stranger to change himself so he is welcoming them all.

Adults: don’t groan and shake your head! Give this a listen and I swear you will listen to it again. And again. And again.

Rating: 4/5

RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 9 Review: Episode 2: She Done Already Done Brought It On (SPOILER FREE)

By Joanna Cosgrove

As a reviewer, I need to not be biased but in my opinion, this episode ended terribly!

Now let’s get on with the rest of the review.

No time, no intro, and the whole internet knew the answer to last week’s question anyway: who is the 14th queen? I’ll give you a hint. I was “CuCu” to think she wasn’t the returning queen! But yep, she’s here and it’s as if she never went home. But thank goodness she did, because she had gone through one hellish year and she happily made it back on stage, healthy as ever!

But as there always is with a returning queen from a previous season, there are some unsure murmurs (remember how everyone was with Shangela’s return/s?), especially the idea that she knows the competition and she knows how to play the game better than these new queens. But that does not specifically mean she’ll last longer than the rest of them!

Let’s move on to coming to the work room, where in walks RuPaul – AND sitcom sweetie Lisa Kudrow. First Gaga, now Lisa Kudrow, but if I’m honest, Lisa’s appearance didn’t come as naturally as Gaga’s. I mean, it was appreciated and the queens loved seeing her, but her appearance felt forced. As if it was ‘to keep up’ with the introductory guest Lady Gaga.

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But now onto the main challenge, which is – in true feminine fashion – a two-group challenge. This challenge is that the two teams compete in the draggiest of athletics: cheerleading! The captains are the new return, and Gaga challenge winner Nina Bo’nina Brown, leading teams representing RuPaul and representing guest judges The B-52s – and let’s go go go!

One team has struggles through practices, and their plans even involve switching the roles of two queens – but despite this change, it’s all for the best, as one member claims. I have all the hope in the world that this team wins, and cheer their little sweet hearts out!

And if learning the lines and chants are tough, the actual athletic side of things would be too troublesome – I feared a queen was gonna fall during the stunting and break a bone! Especially when one was seasoned queen Charlie Hides, whose commentary sounded fearful and stunned that she did it perfectly. I have faith in you, girl!

As always, work room conversations get deep and personal, and this was Peppermint’s turn to share a tough tale from her high school days. But this story had a happy ending, where she said she felt she had a “circle of love” from the other students. Peppermint, hands down, is one of the most inspirational queens in the history of Drag Race; not only for competing as a transgender woman, but for surviving and sharing stories like she did in this story.

The returning queen takes a moment to share the story of her cancer battle, which was only around a year before this season was filmed. She said it was hard, and she was breaking down, but she got over it and she’s in remission, and believe me, the warm reception from the other queens was more than astounding. RuPaul was right: everyone on Drag Race is a large ever-growing family.

Let’s move onto the runway!

The queens are ready, and they brought it on alright! The characters are unique, and most – not all – of the queens got their acts perfect for the descriptions given.

The competition starts and the athletics are amazing; these queens are fierce and confident – even if there was a tumble here and a fumble there. I gasped at some moments with these girls, because wow, can they move!

But there were a few of them lost in their groups. They could have done a little more to sparkle as bright as their studded uniforms. However, special mention to Trinity Taylor for keeping in youthful character when stunting and being launched into the air. I could re-watch those seconds for hours!

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The runway looks are “White Party” – so white. All white, most white, but some even manage to get lost on ‘white’ as a tip for the runway (I’ll let you see who).

Special mention on these outfits to Jaymes Mansfield, who gave me “Marilyn Monroe on a winter morning” (it was beautiful); and Valentina, because she looked so elegant that she could make any man commit (whoa!). Sadly, though, this time around, everyone is NOT safe and someone has to go home – dang – and my heart broke when I saw who was on the bottom two (only one of them; the other one, I knew she would be there).

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I’ll say this now: it was the first, and as I’ve seen, one of the most controversial in terms of who stayed and who left. When it’s camp queen versus showgirl queen, one gets an advantage based on the song – the lip-synch for this was B-52’s “Love Shack”, which is so a song for the camp queens to perform because when it comes to those classic hits, they have to be funny! They have to be played up! And this lovely camp queen played it up well, and that’s not the bias speaking. I have many who agree. But who ended up leaving the competition?

That’s one creative campy queen out first (my heart is still breaking!) and that leaves 13 – again. Good luck to them all, but still, I believe that was the wrong judgement.

I’m sorry, Ru. You sent the wrong queen home.

Rating: 8/10

RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 9 Review: Episode 1: Oh. My. Gaga! (SPOILER FREE)

By Joanna Cosgrove

It’s back and it’s bigger (and brighter) than ever!

Yes, I didn’t need to wait another week – or two – or it could’ve been like six – to begin the newest season of RuPaul’s Drag Race, because the beauties at Netflix are streaming all episodes from season 9 right after they air in America. Awesome! So what did I do? I woke up early, repeatedly checked Netflix until I saw the “New episodes” banner and click-click-clicked my way in!

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The first queen to walk in is the herstory-making Peppermint, who won me because of the simple yet stunning outfit with some long beautiful braids. I knew from then this season was going to be a big one for eleganza.

Then the red-hot Valentina – the ‘drag baby’ of this season’s selection – follows, sweet and petite. She has that glint in her eye, telling us all that she could Shangela her way through (compete with little drag experience and make a strong impact).

Every queen makes a dramatic entrance – as expected. Then in comes Eureka (this season’s big and beautiful queen), Charlie Hides (the oldest queen in Drag Race history who doesn’t look it!), Farrah Moan, Sasha Velour (with the vocal talent of Yoko Ono), Alexis Michelle, Shea Coulee, Trinity Taylor (the Coco Montrese to Eureka’s Alyssa Edwards – you’ll see), Kimora Blac, Jaymes Mansfield (MY PERSONAL FAVOURITE), Nina Bo’nina Brown and Aja. That should be all of them, right?

Oh, forgot a queen: Lady Gaga! In her trademark drag look, Gaga storms in and the girls lose it! One queen has a personal moment with Gaga and straight then, I can see there is emotion here and let this squash all the rumours saying she is rude, vain, self-centred, because she isn’t.

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As soon as RuPaul enters, he welcomes his queens (in person, and not through a video message – wow!) and announces the first challenge: it’s a pageant! And all the pageant queens are cheering and squealing on the inside.

After their formal introductions, the main challenge is to honour the music legend before them in copying a famous outfit from Lady Gaga.

While the girls de-drag and re-drag, we get a look into the queens’ personalities. We see some shade already being thrown, and have a sneak peek into their talents as drag performers. Some shock, some do not, and you’ll have to check out who does which – but believe me, it follows straightaway with most first impressions when they strut their stuff on the runway.

In my honest opinion, I enjoyed the Gaga outfits more than the pageant ones. Maybe it’s because I love Gaga to death myself, but they hit the mark and made me incredibly happy! My favourite of these outfits go to British-American Gaga impersonator Charlie Hides, who decided to take on a Brit Awards style (I promise, there is no bias), because it made me go “oh Gaga!”

As we conclude and the winner is crowned, RuPaul halts the celebrations: “The real competition is just about to begin!”

She brings in a new queen. A 14th queen! And she’s a returner!

Who? Who? WHO?!

All will be revealed next week – DAMN! The suspense will kill me, and if you’re as big of a fan as me, it’ll kill you too. Let us get killed together until next Friday/Saturday, when the second episode airs.

Altogether, this is a strong start and as the game changes, I get drawn in more and more. I can’t wait to see what the rest of the season holds for us.

And to end, I just want to say: go Jaymes Mansfield!

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Rating: 10/10

RuPaul’s Drag Race: Season 9’s Queens – Reviewed

By Joanna Cosgrove

If you are anything like me and have been getting every new Drag Race fix you possibly can, you would be more than aware that the new competing queens have been announced for Season 9, airing in the US in March. I have done my own research on these queens and, to be honest, they all seem delightful and unique and I would be lying if I said I wasn’t looking forward to seeing this season unfold.

I want to give a quick run of all the queens competing this year; as good as I can, because none of us know what they truly are like yet. I might get their personalities all wrong, but even if I do, I will still give my opinion on how they will do on the show and what I might be expecting from them.

We will be going in alphabetical order, from Aja to Valentina, so sit back and let me show you the colourful cast of this year’s Drag Race.

 

1: Aja

From Brooklyn, New York, Aja’s fun fact is her drag name was inspired by a Bollywood tune from the 1980’s. She said she resonated with the lyric “Aaja”, and adjusted it to use as a drag persona (even if she doesn’t know the translation).

We seem to also have an honest queen on our hands. Aja has stated that she does things differently; she won’t keep problems and bothers to herself, and she’s not afraid to call out someone. This trait could cause some tension between her fellow competitors, and could lead to enemies, but let’s hope for the best with her!

She is laidback, relaxed, and content with just playing in the race. However, it is a tough competition – not having that drive could really hurt her if she makes it far into the season, so best of luck to her.

Drag look: Aja said her drag is a cross between slutty and anime girl, and says it corresponds with the reputation she upholds in her hometown. A key phrase used is “Judy Jetson hooker”, which itself brings on a great image of what we should be expecting from her.

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2: Alexis Michelle

Another New York queen, Alexis has done the classic trick on finding a drag queen name: just feminise your real name! Alexis Michelle came from her birth name, Alex Michaels, and you can’t fault her for the wonderful simplicity.

It also seems the New York lifestyle is within Alexis. She is greatly talented and gives off immense theatricality. She is more of a performance queen; she is a singer and great at lip-synching (this could be incredibly handy in the competition). She is strong and believes in the line, “my biggest competition is myself.” Gotta love a queen with confidence!

Drag look: Alexis’ focus point is highlighting the link between curves and glamour. She is confident in her body, works well with a structured and put-together look, and she is willing to show it off in a glitz and glam way to win this competition – with that little hint of prostitute as well.

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3: Charlie Hides

Let us feel proud, UK Drag Race fans! A very own London queen has made it into the competition!

Charlie Hides (using her real name as her drag name) is a London performer, and is making herstory on the show as the oldest ever competitor. I wouldn’t have guessed from her photos, but Charlie is actually 52 years old! 52! And she’s competing among these young and new, up and coming drag queens; good luck to you, Charlie. But she does find the age thing hilarious – and said she’s happy to be on season 9 because she might’ve died by the time season 10 came round.

She is the most mature, yet immature. In my opinion, older queens don’t take the game of drag as seriously as the younger ones, and that is a good view on things. I really hope my hometown queen rocks in this competition!

Drag look: Charlie is all arts and crafts. She creates her outfits with many elements and inspirations in mind, all with one main goal: high fashion. She works on “let’s have fun, let’s look good, let’s make a few people laugh” – so she styles herself on her feelings and those of others. Generous queen.

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4: Eureka O’Hara

A Tennessee queen, Eureka’s name was inspired by her mother – how sweet. Her mother is from Germany, and is also named Eureka but spelt in the German version. With this, she simplified the spelling for Americans to read and pronounce – her words – and from that, Eureka! (Literally)

As a bigger queen, Eureka works at breaking stereotypes: she’s high energy, and she’s a dancer when she’s on stage. She works with her body shape, and wears the fashion she has been warned against – and she rocks it:

Drag look: She describes her look as, and I quote: “the Kool-Aid man meets Eureka’s castle meets Hobby Lobby meets the Grand Duchess meets Mary Queen of Scots meets fabulousness”. Eureka’s a perfectionist when it comes to her look, and she won’t settle for anything less – go her!

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5: Farrah Moan

No major award for guessing where Farrah’s drag name came from!

From Austin, Texas, Farrah Moan is one of the younger queens of the competition. She gives off a fun and relaxed demeanour, and is just looking to show off her unique style and fashion sense to the others in the competition, as well as the judges. She isn’t competitive, and she shows that naturally.

Drag look: A cross between fetish and showgirl; you can’t say that isn’t unique. Shown in the promo photoshoot with a sugar pink latex dress and soft pink curls in her hair, Farrah Moan is showing off her inner fantasies and outer performer.

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6: Jaymes Mansfield

From Wisconsin, Jaymes Mansfied is a personal favourite of mine. She’s squeaky and sweet, and I can’t help but find her adorable! Her name comes from Jay Mansfield; she just fused her name with her birth name, James.

Fun fact about Jaymes is she’s a YouTube star! I found Jaymes Mansfield on YouTube, and she is great at makeup and wig styling; she also gives tutorials on DIY accessory and clothing design (my favourite video is her one on how to make a bow). From her talents of sewing and creativity, no doubt she’s going to excel on the show!

Drag look: She is here with the bright colours and blonde wigs we are all expecting from someone who lives life as a pageant. Jaymes, with her Wonder Woman-esque transformation, is going to wow and amaze with every outfit she brings to the competition. Believe me. I can tell!

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7: Kimora Blac

A Vegas queen! Here we go!

Kimora Blac is presented as a classic queen, introducing herself with striking make-up and a wonderful floor-length gown. Her name came from Kimora Lee Simmons – but now she’s “irrelevant” (her words!), she is the one Kimora.

She has such great confidence in her looks and her body; she details her own attractiveness, in and out of drag, and labels herself a perfectionist when it comes to her drag – while bringing down other queens. With her introduction, and rumours she was a bossy queen during her run in season 9, no doubt this girl is gonna make us scream at our screens.

Drag look: “Sexy and showgirl”. She takes sophistication into account when she’s in drag, and takes the aesthetics from her Las Vegas home and links it in. Her pink number in the promo photoshoot is just a sneak peek – let’s hope she stays long enough to show us more!

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8: Nina Bo’nina Brown

From Atlanta, Georgia, let’s be real: we haven’t seen a queen like her since probably Vivacious (you remember Vivacious? And her little friend Ornacia?)

One of the older queens, from the promo photoshoot, it’s obvious that Nina is a queen like no other. She had gone through many names in her drag career, and her style had gone in a similar way. Striking, intriguing, and genuinely here to shake up the competition, I am here for Nina Bo’nina.

Drag look: Cosplay, fantasy, and no steady aesthetic. She claims herself she has a tough time labelling her aesthetic in drag, but is open with admitting she gets inspired by sci-fi and fantasy in the media, such as from video games and movies. If she goes the distance, I would be happier than happy because we sometimes need a good change from the glamourous and pageant-born queens.

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9: Peppermint

As sweet as her name, the New York-born Peppermint is another part of Drag Race herstory.

Peppermint is the first Drag Race contestant to enter the competition as a transgender woman. Previous competitors, such as season 3’s Carmen Carrera and season 5’s Monica Beverly Hillz, have come out either while being in the competition or after their respective season was over, but Peppermint is entering as a transitioned woman and you know what? She is still one fierce queen!

Drag look: She won me over with her outfit from the promo photoshoot; the mixes of teals with her caramel/auburn hair just wowed me. With her long great history, I have no doubt her classy and glam looks will win everyone over – as well as her confidence in her drag.

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10: Sasha Velour

This is definitely the season to stand out from the crowd; here comes Sasha Velour. Her name, cleverly, can be broken up: “Sasha” is her birth name, and “Velour” comes from the velvet substitute fabric which she compares to the concept of drag.

Continuing the collection of New York queens, the Brooklyn beauty is known to take on all competition and take in every element of drag. Her drag is strongly linked to her identity and from that, you can tell things are going to be personal.

Drag look: With a hairless physique and bold make-up style (those eyebrows are like whoa), I can tell she is going to grip everyone. Someone who sees their performance as artistic and meaningful as she does, I can tell every look is going to yell out “Sasha” – and I’m listening every damn time.

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11: Shea Coulee

This Chicago queen stormed on with a bold but naturally toned outfit, and I am listening to her loud statements.

Her drag name came from her own middle name, Shea (Swahili for “beautiful boy”). She seems to kill it in all corners: she has talents everywhere, and could be a great threat to everyone in this competition if the challenges allow her to show off. She has a breezy personality, and it seems everything is effortless. I cannot wait!

Drag look: She put culture into her couture. Her outfit was African-inspired for the promo photoshoot, and it showed off her pride in herself. I hope we can see more of this in the new season, and if we do, beware, queens! You might need to make those heels a little higher.

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12: Trinity Taylor

From Florida, Trinity Taylor is strutting her stuff onto the screen this season. Her name came from Trinity from The Matrix, but in a different stream altogether, she originated in the pageant circuit. You know what this means? We got a fighter on our hands!

She is a make-up artist, and she expresses this through her drag: she takes a new turn compared to how she handles clients, and her expertise definitely shows.

Drag look: Trinity’s introduction is in a whole bundle of blues, but she simply explains her aesthetic as “fierce”. With striking colours and a love of gemstones and glitter, I don’t think we’re gonna lose sight of Trinity. She’s gonna keep shining in the season. All the luck, girl!

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13: Valentina

Small and adorable, and a hint of sass. Let’s meet the last queen in line.

Being the first announced queen via live stream on Facebook, Valentina is a quick favourite of everyone’s. Her name came from a salsa sauce, called Valentina – original like hell – and she is spicy!

Living in LA, she finds herself to be hot and beautiful and with that kind of confidence, how can we doubt it? She is a perfect and luxurious queen, and takes her time with drag. Can’t wait to see what looks she brings out in the season!

Drag look: The mint number and strawberry blonde hair made me gag – in the good way! She wanted to be glam and gorgeous, and bring in some 1960’s retro eleganza and yeah, she made it work. Hope you do well, Valentina; you’re too sweet to go too soon.

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There we have it: 13 new queens introduced to our new world of sparkles, spandex and spitefulness (I’m kidding!). Best of luck to every one of them, and I have my favourites for the top 3 – but no, I’m not putting that in here. I’m keeping that personal.

I need the next month to go by as soon as possible, so I can see these fresh faces on screen.

I’ll be watching it with all you. See you then!

Moana Review: An Inspiration From The Sea (SPOILER FREE)

By Joanna Cosgrove

Personally, I had been waiting a long time – a long long time – to see Moana since I first heard of it being announced. It just felt like it was going to be an adventure differing from previous ones we had seen from Disney and its vast collection of heroines. It was different. A good different. An exciting different.

There is so much to try and condense down into a review, but it all needs covering. First of all: “I’m not a princess!”
Moana is a large, strong leap from the Disney princesses of the 1950s, who were created to fulfil the “damsel in distress” stereotype that sadly, many grew up with. With Moana’s constant correction to Maui, who calls her a princess repeatedly as an undermine of her abilities, by stating “I’m not a princess, I’m the chief’s daughter”, it brings a new sense of character to the leading female. She isn’t rich, she isn’t entitled, she doesn’t have it all handed to her; she refuses to have her work done for her and her dreams crushed for what’s expected of her. I personally felt deeply inspired by Moana’s character – imagine what many other young girls must feel after seeing what is possibly the best animated example for them on the big screen.

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Let’s continue with the cultural background of the story, because this is where we all must feel our proudest.
As we all are too aware of, Hollywood has a thing about celebrating minority cultures. They don’t do it – and if they do, it involves white people who are lying right to our faces about it. Moana, however, does it all right. Most importantly, the voice behind the lead character is Auli’i Cravalho. She is a young, Hawaiian-born actress who auditioned for the role despite feeling like she would never be chosen – and look what happened!
Cravalho has a rich ancestry, being of Chinese, Puerto Rican and Portuguese descent, to list a few. Having an individual like her, who portrays the character more closely than possibly any other girl who auditioned, is going to make girls and women of colour grow up with hope and confidence in their talents and skills. “Representation matters”, as they say, and I believe it.
But Cravalho and the cast aside, the story of Moana of Motunui is one which believe me, many would not have expected to be told in a film. To my knowledge, I had never known a film with such a high backing as Moana had from Disney that was telling a story based on Polynesian mythology. It proves that every corner of the globe has a culture with stories that are worth sharing. It could inspire young movie-goers to seek out and learn more about the mythological figures of various cultures. I know I’m very intrigued to learn more. Best yet, you can tell the culture was greatly researched beforehand; those working on the movie took research trips to islands such as Fiji and Tahiti, and conversed with those who were native to the South Pacific about their culture; they didn’t want to get a single detail out of place, which makes me very proud. They were careful of their content, and wanted to honour the culture wholeheartedly. This is what all movies should aim for: do your research!

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Let’s move to the music, because we all know Disney loves their tunes in their movies. Moana, of course, was no exception.
We have all sort of grown bored of the cheesy, overplayed songs of Disney hits (Let It Go, anyone?), but I felt differently about the ones in this movie. Every song was heartfelt, and used elements of music styles you would find from musicians of that culture.
Special thank you to music genius Lin-Manuel Miranda for his major involvement in this movie’s score. As a great music (and Hamilton) enthusiast, I was ecstatic when I learnt that Miranda was lending his skills and his vocals to these songs – it just made me more impatient to see it – and let me say, I was not at all disappointed. The songs were well-placed, served their emotional or humorous purposes (thanks for the laughs, Dwayne Johnson), and just well done, Disney. These are songs I would love to hear over and over again.

Finally, and I wouldn’t always comment on the animation and the look of the film, but I had to. The rich use of colours, and every fine detail took my breath away.
The movie focuses on nature and preserving what the Earth has given us, and never trying to tamper with it, no matter the intentions you had behind it. The stunning aesthetics on the big screen were blinding, but in a beautiful artistic way. I had never seen clearer how gorgeous nature truly is away from real life, but Disney did it in Moana. It drives home to themes of nature, spirituality, and in general, living life how you wish.

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I really recommend seeing this movie, if you hadn’t already. Well, if you have already too. I know I wanna see it again!
Well done, Disney. Keep doing us and our little girls proud.

Rating: 10/10

Concert Review: Panic! At The Disco – Alexandra Palace, London, 19.11.16

By Joanna Cosgrove

This year has been one of the greatest for the pop-punk band (technically a one-man-band at this point), and as it began with some great UK shows by Mr. Brendon Urie and his tour band, it’s only right to end the year with some too.

At London’s own Alexandra Palace, Urie made his debut at the beautiful venue that Saturday night, and brought every last bit of that charismatic and sparkling personality we all know and we all sure as hell love.
With his tour band, consisting of guitarist Kenneth Harris, bassist Dallon Weekes and drummer Dan Pawlovich, Urie rocked the place all night long, never missing a beat or skipping a note (but in fact added some extra high notes, as he does them oh so well). With a nostalgic throwback to the 2000s era of the band, mixing in a fair share of the newer tracks in the band’s repertoire, the night was a sure success among all fans in attendance, young and old.

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The show began with an opener of the Black Eyed Peas’ hit “Pump It”, but that wasn’t a long-laster. It was just a short warm-up, getting everyone pumped for the experience that was about to begin. It worked! Because as soon as that music faded and the beginning notes of Death of a Bachelor hit “Don’t Threaten Me With A Good Time” echoed, everyone was dancing and screaming and singing and – if they were like me – were jumping in the hopes of catching a glimpse of the man behind the voice.
Nothing sparks a fire in the crowd more than the LA devotee himself screaming his welcomes at his “motherf*ckers” in the audience of over 100,000 before him. There was not one moment on stage where Urie stopped and breathed – he kept going, kept his feet moving and hit every note he needed to.

I would personally say one of the surprise hits on the setlist was the Fever track “Time To Dance”, because of that fact itself: it’s a track from the band’s debut album A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out, which was released over 11 years ago. And yet, Urie added this non-single track because obviously, he knows what his audience loves to hear. Everyone in the place was singing along, dedicated to every word of that track, singing their lungs out for the love of their emo idol on that stage.
Another stunner that night was the performance of newer track “Crazy=Genius” from Death of a Bachelor. The energy was electric, and the roaring 20s feel shook through everyone on the floor, but how could you make that effect even greater? Two words: drum off! That’s right, some stage-hands brought on a second drum kit so Urie himself could play alongside/battle against Pawlovich in a once-in-a-lifetime breakdown in the middle of the track. If crazy equals genius, then Urie sure is a rocket scientist! We know of his musical talents, among multiple instruments (as demonstrated on his 2016 release), but to see it with your own eyes just makes the fact so much clearer. It was time to pinch; this was NO dream!
And what’s a Panic! concert without that one song? That ONE single? You hear the beginning notes, you freak out because of course “I Write Sins Not Tragedies” was going to be played. One does not simply go to a Panic! concert without expecting that song. Introduced as “one of our newer songs, so don’t worry if you don’t know the words”, met with an obvious giggle from the crowd, every single fan had that bond for a few short minutes because no matter if you’re an old fan, or newly getting into the band, you know this song. This was the song.

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And I can’t finish this without a mention of a regular now in Panic! concerts, which everyone expected as soon as they saw Urie make that stroll up to the grand piano on the highest platform of the stage. “This isn’t a Panic! song, but I wish it was”, said Urie as he prepared. This was time for “Bohemian Rhapsody”.
As I began with, 2016 has been a massive year for Panic! At The Disco, and this song was one of the reasons. As well as being released as a studio recording as part of the soundtrack for the DC movie Suicide Squad, Panic! has made this classic rock hit a regular in their concerts and every fan gets excited about this as much as they do about the original Panic! hits. It’s that song that brought us all together, swaying, singing, some were crying. It shows that the whole room, they are a family; every one of us are one large family. That is what a fandom should be. What we felt in that moment. One family.

Overall, with the performances and the interactions with the crowd (Urie spreading his love among the thousands in front of him), there was never a dull moment that night.

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This was Panic! At The Disco’s first performance ever at the Alexandra Palace. Thank god we made it a memorable one!

Rating: 5/5

Doctor Strange Review: Strange? Maybe… (SPOILER FREE)

By Joanna Cosgrove

Marvel’s cinematic universe has given us some great heroes – and villains – but what keeps us coming for more is how this whole universe has so many levels, and so many worlds. We have the Avengers, saving the planet with all their might; we have the Guardians of the Galaxy, protecting the worlds beyond our own; and with the newest installment, we learn that Earth can be saved with the physical and the spiritual. Enter Doctor Strange.

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Alright, we have all heard mixed expectations. As the MCU expands, and we discover more brave faces, we also discover the diversity in how they keep everyone safe. That is where Doctor Strange dazzles us.

The story of famous surgeon, Dr. Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), reaching past his medical expertise to cure himself of what he was repeatedly told was incurable nerve damage, shows something human in my eyes. He was full of himself, and he closed his mind off to whatever of the universe he didn’t know – he acted as if he knew it all – but he opened up his mind and that led to his powers. Opening his mind made him who he is; the best he can be. It’s inspiring, honestly.

We must discuss the ethnicity issue. It’s been there since the beginning and throughout the promotion for the movie, it needs to be discussed, not the whole movie is released to the public.

I need to admit, Tilda Swinton – as talented of an actor as she is – was possibly a mistake in casting. Don’t get me wrong, the diversity of actors cast in these roles is realistic and appropriate, but I believe the character of the Ancient One would have been best to remain as being Tibetan. “Whitewashing” is not a term I’m throwing in here though, because it’s not necessary when diversity is clear and greatly appreciated, as well as being used for the sake of making a successful film – not just to keep movie-goers happy and avoid the “racist” label.

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Same as whitewashing, we cannot call “cultural appropriation”. The representation of spirituality and healing is not used disrespectfully, and the story of Stephen Strange opening his mind to realities he never heard about and abilities he never gave a chance to before is one everyone can pay attention to. Alright, I don’t really want to be that person who finds depth beyond depth in a normal action movie, but there is here. Like we only believed in the Avengers catering to the usual, the stereotypical way of dealing with the supervillains, we can also be opened up to the idea that the mind is just as mighty as the body it controls. Doctor Strange is an example of changing what we know about the strength of superheroes, using your mind to save the world.

Last, definitely not least, we have the special effects of this movie. Like wow.

The representation of the powers in our world, manipulating surroundings, is more than a regular eyeful. It gives us exactly what we need: a visual understanding of these powers. It makes you imagine “how would that feel?” as the world stretches, spins, and separates in front of our very eyes on that big screen. It’s exciting, and despite it being the result of something most of us won’t believe is a real thing, it makes us believe that little bit more. It’s terrifying, but exhilarating, because that could easily be the world we live in. Let us wish it never will be though. It may not end well for us.

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Overall, worth the watch. It might not be your favourite MCU movie, I’ll admit, but it would be a mistake to skip this, as it holds a whole new chapter in this universe, beyond the Earth and the stars. The universe in our own minds.

Rating: 7/10

Suicide Squad Review: The Day The Villains Won (SPOILER FREE)

By Joanna Cosgrove

I’ll start this out by saying, no, I am not as familiar with DC as I am with Marvel (and honestly, besides Assault on Arkham, I have never watched a DC film in full), but if you need to know how great the scale of amazement from Suicide Squad is, just know it made a fan out of me.

The premise of having a full movie, over two hours of watching the nemeses save the day, is enough to intrigue. The movie tells of the formation of Task Force X at the hands of the sophisticated yet devilish Amanda Waller, where she is looking to enforce her superiority over criminals, brought to justice by Batman – and another Justice League member I’m keeping hush hush about for now – by using them as her own unorthodox army to fulfil any orders. If they obey, demands are met and they get a reduced prison sentence each. If they disobey? They can say bye-bye to their lives via bomb in the neck.

By now, for about a year now, we know who is who in this flick. And don’t get me wrong, every character has a chance to shine in their own way. No matter if it’s Harley Quinn’s moments of undying love/obsession for her “puddin”, the infamous Joker; Deadshot’s constant dedication to seeing his daughter despite being restrained due to his deadly job; or even Captain Boomerang’s little friend Pinky (if you’ve seen the trailers, you know exactly who I mean…)

Special praise, in terms of acting, should really go to all of the main cast for their ability to throw away all sense usually linked to the hero role, and embrace the insanity and confused morality of the villain. But let’s single out a few wonderful performances.

Let’s start with the source of casting controversy: Jared Leto’s unique portrayal of the Joker. Unpopular opinion here – I believe Leto’s version of the psychopathic villain was fantastic. Everyone may have had ideas before viewing his full performance, especially from hearing about his behind-the-scenes shenanigans, but I saw what his prep was leading to and wow, I was definitely shocked by how well he fit into the role. Being creepy, frightening, yet fascinating, is what you should always expect from a portrayal of this character; all three were ticked off by Leto so easily. Hopefully with more movies in the DCEU planned, he will appear even more onscreen and we can get deeper into his backstory – and hopefully, it will be Leto returning.

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On a similar stream, let’s explore his lover of sorts, Harley Quinn. I feel that Harley’s backstory was given more than the other members of the group but it sure did help loop the Joker into the story. Kudos to Margot Robbie for taking on such a complex role and doing it total justice. I cannot think of anyone who could have done a better job for Harley’s first ever live-action appearance. Personally, my highest point with Harley Quinn was all homages to her original red and black jester outfit; whenever it appeared, it was telling the fans “we know how to handle Harley, so don’t you panic”. I did not, and I was proud that she was given the respectful personality she deserved. This includes her chemistry with the Joker. There are scenes that show that despite her love for him, and his love for her, there was an edge to it; she felt uneasy at moments, which gave depth to her emotional state of mind. Thank you, DC, for not reducing Harley Quinn to an insane sexualised blonde. Thank you! Fingers crossed for that Harley Quinn solo movie, because I would so book tickets as soon as they are released.

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Lastly, but definitely not least, let’s discuss the astounding acting of Jay Hernandez as flame-wielder criminal El Diablo. I don’t know how to talk about him for so long without spoiling the movie, but here goes. Honestly, I had no clue about this character before hearing about Suicide Squad, but I now just want to learn all about him. He was one of the most complicated and heart-breaking characters, because unlike the other villains, he did not want to fight. He explains how he was once like the rest of them, out of control and dangerous; but after too many casualties and too many losses, he restricted himself from using his “curse”. If you’re looking forward to badass pyrotechnics 100% of the time he’s on screen, change your ideas; he will make you feel, possibly cry, when he shows too well the damage villains’ powers can have on loved ones.

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So to conclude, I will say this: do not pay full attention to websites like IMDb and Rotten Tomatoes, who take some reviews and average the scores. Go see the movie, judge for yourself. You may agree with me, and you may not; it’s all up to you and how you view this movie.

Give these evil enemies a chance, because like it or not, they are here and they are ready to dominate the box office.

Rating: 9/10

Ghostbusters Review: We Still Ain’t Afraid (SPOILER FREE)

By Joanna Cosgrove

No one can deny the effect Ghostbusters had on the world back in 1984, when our four main men (Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis, Bill Murray and Ernie Hudson) went ghost-hunting and, honestly, gave us one hell of a visual treat – especially as for the era, the use of SFX was top-notch and stunning to its original audience.

Since then, the franchise has grown and grown – even after the setback that was Ghostbusters II – which has extended from the big screen to the small screen in the form of two cartoon shows, The Real Ghostbusters and Extreme Ghostbusters, and several video games.

However, 2016 brought back this frighteningly fantastic franchise in the form of a brand new movie – but hold on. The four men are not the ‘Busters we are seeing; instead, we are granted a shake-up in the form of an all-female hunting team.

This reboot centres around four new characters: former professor Dr Erin Gilbert (Kristen Wiig), her old friend Dr Abby Yates (Melissa McCarthy), Yates’ engineering colleague Dr Jillian Holtzmann (Kate McKinnon) and street-wise MTA worker Patty Tolan (Leslie Jones).

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As Yates and Holtzmann study the science behind the paranormal, Gilbert – once the study partner of Yates – had tried to change her beliefs and denied any such existence of ghosts until suspicions drove her and the other two women to start investigating. After once more embracing her beliefs, as she did years before, the three of them start a small business, named “The Department of the Metaphysical Examination” by Gilbert (surprisingly, no-one else uses it); to take note of all calls coming in, they hire the visually, but not intellectually, appealing Kevin Beckman (Chris Hemsworth). As they develop their equipment, preparing to fight and capture these paranormal predators, Patty Tolan visits them to alert them of a personal encounter she had with a ghost on the job. Not long after they investigate, Tolan invites herself into the group, insisting she can bring historical knowledge of New York to the gang of scientists. She is brought in and trained, armed with some new gear, thanks to the handy tools of Holtzmann.

Without giving much away, I will say: hold whatever opinion you want about Hollywood rebooting Ghostbusters, especially with an all-female team instead of all-male, but I have to be honest. There could not have been a more comedic, visually stunning, respectful reboot of the film franchise than this movie.

Important notes include the natural chemistry between Gilbert and Yates; which only comes from experience of actors working tremendously well together, which we all know Melissa McCarthy and Kristen Wiig have (Bridesmaids) and continue to show throughout the movie.

Special praise is also deserving to Leslie Jones, who has shown how unique and hilarious a comedienne she truly is. Starting from SNL, Jones has proven she has humour worthy of the big screen, especially in a picture as highly anticipated as Ghostbusters.

In all honesty, all four women made this movie a masterpiece, a phenomenon. If it wasn’t for this exact combination, I do not believe the movie would have worked so well. These women just have this connection onscreen that define ‘teamwork’ – and if Ghostbusters works perfectly with anything, it’s teamwork.

And lastly, let’s not forget: you cannot have a reboot without a few actor-shaped Easter eggs. Aykroyd, Murray and Hudson all have their own fun cameos, as well as another familiar face in the form of Sigourney Weaver. These wonderful personalities bring gasps and grins among the audience who recognise and understand their appearances – me among them – and it just added to the indescribable sensation every viewer got from watching the movie.

I dare all men who cry and moan about “the feminists” remaking Ghostbusters, saying it’s been “ruined” by a “men-hating” group of actors, to see it. Open your eyes and ears to the heart-stopping experience. I do not expect you all to say it’s better – even I have to say it isn’t better than the 1984 original – but it’s faithful and respectful, and is on par with the original (as agreed among myself and my two best friends).

Prepare. View. Enjoy. And remember: we ain’t afraid of no ghosts… But the SFX came close.

Rating: 9/10