gag of the season

With one small twist, ‘All Stars 7’ delivers one of ‘Drag Race’s’ most delightful runways ever

Photo Credit: Paramount+

A minor spoiler alert for those who have yet to watch this week’s Drag Race All Stars 7, “The Realness Of Fortune Ball.”

We know the fact that Paramount+ drops these episodes over night means everyone’s watching on their own time, but we have to talk about the oh-so-charming moment that occurred when the queens first hit the runway for the Maxi Challenge.

To back up a bit, the third episode of the already all-time-great All Stars 7 season tasks this legendary cast of winners to once again bring it to the ball. A classic challenge format, the ball puts everyone’s styling and sewing skills to the test by asking them to walk the runway in three distinctive categories, all under one cohesive theme, with the final look made on the spot with materials provided in the Werk Room.

In the creatively themed “Realness Of Fortune Ball,” the name of the game is game shows! The first category is “Vanna White Realness,” in which the queens must serve classic game show hostess glamour. Round two is “Before And After,” a prompt that uses combined-phrase wordplay to spawn some wild looks (to use Ru’s example: “Diana Ross Mathews” fits the bill). And, finally, “Realness of Fortune Eleganza” asks the queens to design an outfit from scratch using materials of a specific color, inspired by “exotic vacation destination.”

While all of the categories gave everyone the opportunity to earn 10s across the board, it’s the first, “Vanna White Realness,” that makes the biggest impression for the way it ever-so-slightly tweaks the formula to surprise the queens and keep them on their toes.

Screenshot: Paramount+

Kicking off the ball, none other than White herself—game show legend—walks the runway, looking just as stunning as she did when she first started co-hosting Wheel Of Fortune nearly 40 years ago. Ru greets the sparkling icon with open arms and asks her to stick around for the challenge.

The catch: The queens don’t yet know that she’s there! Announcing the runway with perfectly polished pageantry, Ms. White stands side-stage as the queens walk out one-by-one in their classic game show hostess glamour. The moment Vanna catches Jinkx Monsoon’s eye, her face lights up and she lets out one of her trademark cackles, unable to contain her shock.

Screenshot: Paramount+

This jumpstarts what can only be described as a montage of pure glee as each queen turns the corner and is greeted by Vanna White, prompting sweetly hilarious reactions that had us beaming from ear to ear. Shea Couleé lets out a graceful gasp, Monét X Change tells the host, “You are stunning!,” and Jaida Essence Hall loses it, joking that Vanna was “the first white lady that has ever been in [her] household.”

But perhaps best of all was Raja’s reaction. The classy and typically poised queen immediately clocks Vanna and drops all pretense, raising her hand to her mouth and letting out a “Oh my f-cking god!” The moment’s made all the better by Raja’s pitch-perfect throwback gown, looking just like Vanna in the ’80s.

Screenshot: Paramount+

If the amount of (digital) ink we’ve already spilled didn’t make it obvious enough, we are obsessed with this moment. Obsessed! It’s the perfect encapsulation of why All Stars 7 is such an immediate smash: These are incredibly talented queens operating at the height of their powers and, without the threat of elimination hanging over them, Drag Race gives them the space to push themselves in new directions and, most importantly, cut loose.

In most seasons, walking the runway can be a point of stress, the cast putting on their best dead-serious model faces to serve elegance worthy of the main stage. In its continued insistence to gag the queens at every turn, All Stars 7‘s Vanna White sightings take the air out of the occasion in the absolute best way.

It feels like the rare instance where the queens are genuinely taken aback—and not just feigning bewilderment for the camera. It’s sweet, it’s hysterical, and it’s so very refreshing to see these queens being their charming selves, even if there’s a $200,000 cash prize.

Three episodes in, All Stars 7 really is one for the books, and the fun little twist proves that Drag Race still has plenty of surprises in store—both for the queens and the fans watching at home.

Screenshot: Paramount+