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'RuPaul's Drag Race' hits the finish line with biggest finale yet

April 30, 2012|By Matt Donnelly
  • The three finalists from "RuPaul's Drag Race" are Phi Phi O'Hara, left, Sharon Needles and Chad Michaels.
The three finalists from "RuPaul's Drag Race" are Phi… (Aaron Young / World of Wonder…)

"RuPaul's Drag Race"is crossing its Season 4 finish line, honey, with the reality competition arguably at the height of its popularity.  

To close the show's splashiest and most twist-laden season yet, RuPaul's pack of drag queens reunited last week in North Hollywood, where a special live taping awaited along with the crowning of "America's next drag superstar."

The Ministry was on site for the taping (the finale airs Monday night on Logo), and Ru and his girls didn't disappoint. Even the "grande dame," as Ru called himself, was a bit overwhelmed at the scale of the event.

"In social media we get to see there's a lot of people into it, but the [finale] sent a message to another place in my consciousness," he said Friday. "To have this kind of success? After 30 years?"

It was a rare treat to see Ru live in full drag (the contestants were asked to wear black, and Ru showed in red, a page right out of Oprah Winfrey's book when she hosted her 2006 Legends Ball with a similar dress code). 

"I haven't put on a dress unless it's for a television camera in 10 years," Ru told us. Meanwhile, the top three finalists — the polarizing Phi Phi O'Hara, decidedly alternative Sharon Needles and seasoned Chad Michaels — hustled several looks.

"We're a bunch of sex clowns, but last night was a culmination of this entire process. I really couldn't handle it," Needles told us the day after the taping, where [spoiler alert] she joins the opening number in a costume gown shaped like a beer mug.

"We were told to open wearing gold, and there's really only two ways to do it: lamé and sequins. Phi Phi is a tacky-ass drag queen, so I knew she'd do lamé. Chad is so glamorous, so I knew she'd do sequins."

All the better, as the top three likely needed a cold one. Season 4 diverged from the series' tradition of naming a winner at the end of the taped season — given the girls' fierce competition, Ru upped the stakes by deciding to name the winner on the live finale.

Yet another twist came on the live stage, when Ru announced that all three contestants would be filmed accepting the crown, to preserve the integrity of Monday night's big reveal.

"That's because some stunt queens tried to ruin this last season!" RuPaul told the audience, referring to a leak that had outed drag queen Raja as the winner of Season 3.

Also new in Season 4: The winner snatches $100,000 in prize money, among other spoils. The girls have their respective plans for spending it, but according to their host, no one turns up a loser.

"For them to go through this machine is life changing. They get to see themselves for the first time the way other people see them. They all grow exponentially."

As does "Drag Race." Catch the finale at 9 p.m. Pacific on Logo. 

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Follow Matt Donnelly on Twitter @mattdonnelly.

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