It's the question we've all been asking, ourselves and each other: Who will win RuPaul's Drag Race season 5? I loved assembling my mid-season analysis post, and the more I examined this season from a statistical-records perspective, the more nuanced the question became.
1. What do past seasons' Top Four records give us?
For my purposes, I took the records for the Top Four of each previous season, as of the conclusion of the Top Four Ball challenge. I made a separate column for explicit wins, then grouped together the combined wins and top-three counts, the combined Safe and low-but-safe counts, and the number of Lip Synchs.
As we've discussed in the past, with the exception of Season 3 (where Raja and Manila finished with identical records), the queen with the most challenge wins has always won their season. It's also interesting to note that the runner-up has always had a better win/high record than the third-place finisher, even though, in every season except Season 2, the second and third place finishers had the same number of challenge wins. Finally, it's also potentially-telling to note that the fourth place finisher nearly always has the weakest record of the group, either in wins or wins/highs, if not both.
So, what does that mean for Alaska, Detox, Jinkx, and Roxxxy?
2. The next challenge is very, very important for Jinkx and Roxxxy.
Jinkx and Roxxxy are neck-and-neck at two wins each. At this point, Roxxxy will not be able to catch Jinkx in wins/highs, but that's not necessarily a deal-breaker: BeBe had a weaker win/high record against Nina, and had a lip synch where Nina didn't, and still won the crown. Their overall records are actually very close, and either of them winning the next challenge has the power to establish clear dominance.
Here's another interesting fact: look at the total wins for Top Four in the last two seasons, which had a similar number of challenges to this season. If you total the challenge wins for the Top Four, compared to the number of challenges in the season, it shakes out this way:
Season 3: 10/12 (83%)
Season 4: 10/11 (91%)
Season 5: 7/11 (64%)
In other words, this season's Top Four have fewer challenge wins among them total, which potentially makes this final challenge the most decisive Top Four episode we've ever had.
3. The next challenge is also very, very important for Alaska and Detox.
Simply put: unless one of them wins the next challenge, neither of them realistically has a shot to win the crown. If Alaska wins the next challenge, and Roxxxy does poorly, Alaska would surpass Roxxxy's record, putting her right at Jinkx's heels. Detox's slope is steeper, with few wins/highs compared to the other queens, but this challenge win would put her at two wins, same as Jinkx and Roxxxy, and solidify her legitimacy in the Top Three.
4. Could Roxxxy Andrews be America's Next Drag Superstar?
Yes. As a winner, Roxxxy is an answer to a critique often lobbed at RuPaul's Drag Race: the show doesn't cast enough bigger girls, and that the thick girls they do cast often don't represent well. Roxxxy's peanut buttery crown would be a final response to that complaint. This was also sold as the year that RuPaul's Drag Race would bring in the best of the pageant circuit, and with Alyssa and Coco gone, Roxxxy is the lone pageant queen remaining. Compared to the model-thin, artistic-conceptual queens who won Seasons 3 and 4, Roxxxy is a very different choice for the crown, and a wholly legitimate one.
And aside from the demographic bullet-points she hits, Roxxxy has done very well in this competition. If she wins the Top Four challenge, she is absolutely a contender for the crown. (Frankly, as long as Jinkx doesn't win the Top Four challenge, she's a contender.)
The only elephant in the room? For the most part, fans of RuPaul's Drag Race aren't rallying behind Roxxxy. I would hate to see it happen, but she could potentially face ugly backlash from the fanbase if she's crowned, like Tyra Sanchez faced (even though Tyra had the clear winning record of her season). Which leads us to the next question...
5. Could Jinkx Monsoon be America's Next Drag Superstar?
Yes. In two words? Fan Favorite. Like Sharon last year, the internet has fallen in love with Miss Monsoon, and if RuPaul calls for a vote, Jinkx can start spending her $100,000 now. She's been touring like a madwoman, selling out every venue she hits, and her star power, both on-screen and on-stage, has frankly already made her America's next drag superstar, even with no crown on her head. All that, plus: she currently has the winningest record, and her eight-week success streak has set a new all-time record for consecutive highs/wins.
If she wins the Top Four challenge, I would bet my life on her winning the season. If she flounders, especially if she flounders while Roxxxy wins the challenge, it becomes less clear-cut.
6. Could Alaska be America's Next Drag Superstar?
Maybe. She absolutely must win the Top Four challenge to have a chance, and even that only puts her on equal footing with Jinkx and Roxxxy. Her chances are certainly improved if either Jinkx or Roxxxy is eliminated; a Top Three with a two-win Alaska, Detox, and either of the other two is suddenly anybody's game.
And if that happens, her relationship with Sharon could very well become an asset, because Sharon has worked her tail off for RuPaul's Drag Race this past year.
What I'm about to say is crass, and very presumptuous, but here's how it is: this past year has shown us a very tailored side of Sharon Needles. She's been playing along with RuPaul's Drag Race like a champ, shilling vodka, touring non-stop, and releasing an album with a title that says, "I could be way less family-friendly." On the other hand, she's also been giving more ambivalent interviews like this:
Sharon: You start off loving to do it, but there is a point where you feel like you have to do it.
Interviewer: Will you always have to be Sharon, from time to time?
Sharon: Of course. I don't know how to do anything else. I know how to make coffee, but I like the life that I live now. But at the same time, a lot of other people rely on you to do what you do.
Interviewer: Where does Sharon draw the line, in terms of going too far?
Sharon: She doesn't know yet. I used this year, I created a concept for me which was, "Success comes from compromise." And I've watched people not be successful because they decided not to compromise.
Logo, World of Wonder, and Sharon have had each other by the leash of Alaska since Season Five was cast: Sharon has done everything she can to be a good, bankable Next Drag Superstar for the network, surely in part because Alaska is still in the running for the crown, but on the other hand, Sharon Needles doesn't need RuPaul's Drag Race to drive her success anymore. If Alaska wins, Logo keeps its Power Couple of Drag for another year. If Alaska doesn't win, Logo could potentially lose the franchise power of them both.
Or maybe they both genuinely enjoy working for Logo, and my crass presumptions are completely off-base! Time will surely tell.
7. Could Detox be America's Next Drag Superstar?
Probably not. She'll be remembered as one of the best of Season Five, but her ratio of wins/highs to safe/lows has knocked her out of the running to be called the best of Season Five. Unless Roxxxy's outfit melts off and Jinkx throws a shoe at Michelle at the next runway judging, Detox will probably finish third or fourth.
8. By the way, who's winning Miss Congeniality?
I'd said Jinkx earlier in the season, but I'm changing my tune: her dominance in the competition has won her a lion's share of fans, but with so many people certain that she's going to win the crown, she's less likely to garner Miss Congeniality votes. Instead, I think the frontrunners are likely to be Alaska, Ivy, Detox, and Alyssa.
I'll be voting for Alaska. She's earned special recognition for the way she's given her life to this show: we've been watching her audition tapes since Season One, and frankly, she's the Miss Congeniality of Seasons 4 and 5. She's been more dedicated to this show, and for longer, than any other queen this season. To be blunt, she's probably not winning America's Next Drag Superstar this year, but I don't want to see her walk away empty-handed.
And she's a sweetheart, and that counts.
Finally: Who is the winner of RuPaul's Drag Race Season 5?
Like I said, this race has become very tight, and a lot rides on the final challenge. I'm calling this now: If Jinkx, Alaska, or Detox wins the Top Four Ball challenge, Jinkx Monsoon will win RuPaul's Drag Race. If Roxxxy wins the Top Four Ball challenge, I'm not commiting to a prediction--it could genuinely go either way.