RIGHT NOW WITH RUSSELL: Recapping Wright State grad’s energetic ‘Drag Race’ debut



Season 16 of “RuPaul’s Drag Race” is shaping up to be another catty, competitive battle but there’s a lot to like about Wright State University graduate Philip Stock, who brings animated, energetic joy to the runway as the vibrant Amanda Tori Meating.

Amanda’s Jan. 5 debut was part of a split season premiere in which the talented cast of 14 were separated into two groups of seven (the second group arrived Jan. 12). Entering RuPaul’s Werk Room fierce, funny and on a mission, Amanda quickly noted what made her drag sparkle.

“My drag style is bright colors, dramatic shoulders — there’s an ‘80s influence,” Amanda said. “I love drama in the outfit.”

Before taking the stage for a talent show, the episode’s main challenge, Amanda and the cast were surprised by an appearance from Oscar-winning guest judge Charlize Theron, who offered encouragement and support.

“Given the climate in our country right now, there’s a lot of energy being put toward your community not existing. I truly believe that all of that is coming from a place of fear,” Theron said. “The beauty of what your community brings and the truth of who you are and represent will come out. Don’t give up.”



On the mainstage, Amanda brought high-prancing, lip-syncing confidence to her kooky original song, “My Kitty,” which drew praise from the judges, including RuPaul.

“Your timing of the lines and how you lip synced it, to me, that’s really hard to do — that’s real comedy,” Theron said. “You’re talented.”

“I think you’re probably like a comedy queen,” said Carson Kressley said. “Your original song — ‘My Kitty’ — super fun, smart, sassy.”

“Your level of energy on that stage — it’s like you’re busting out of your body,” RuPaul said. “It was a lot of fun.”

However, Amanda’s otherworldly runway reveal, complete with purple makeup and green hair, received mixed reviews from judge Michelle Visage.

“Your reveal was so bizarre and extra-terrestrial-like — your body looks amazing,” Visage said. “I think where you’re going to struggle Amanda is makeup. Your eyebrows need to be lifted, your eyes need to come out instead of bringing them in, and, for me, that hair is way too small.”

Thankfully, the premiere, which also included the new Rate-A-Queen peer judging system, was a non-elimination episode. Even so, during the post-show “Untucked,” Amanda opened up about the critiques, especially from her fellow queens.

“The girls all staring at my face going, ‘fix this, fix that, fix this,’ — it doesn’t feel great to hear that. But I feel like everybody just decided to forget the nice things (the judges) said about me. So, I’m not mad.”



Based on the premiere, this season seems as if it will be an uphill battle for Amanda alongside more polished queens. Notable contenders include: Dawn (recalling Season 14 winner Willow Pill); Geneva Karr (earnest and understated); Morphine Love Dion (a formidable triple threat); Plane Jane (recalling last season’s winner Jimbo); Plasma (a Broadway comedy queen recalling Jinkx Monsoon, the first two-time “Drag Race” winner); Nymphia Wind (a hit in her native Taiwan); Q (the best designer since Season 4 All Stars co-winner Trinity The Tuck); and Sapphira Cristál (a hybrid of Season 4′s Latrice Royale and Season 4 All Stars co-winner Monét X Change).

Will Amanda continue to strive forward or be the first queen sent home? Tune in tonight at 8 p.m. on MTV.

Amanda Tori Meating discusses “RuPaul’s Drag Race” at the Season 16 premiere party at New York’s Hammerstein Ballroom:

Here’s what else you should know right now:

Oscar nominations will be announced Tuesday

The voting period is over and the waiting begins. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will reveal the nominations for the 96th Academy Awards at 8:30 a.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 23.

It’s a safe bet “Oppenheimer” will lead the pack with “The Holdovers” and “Poor Things” making strong showings as well. However, there are indications “Barbie” has stumbled based on surprising snubs for Best Film and Best Director from the BAFTAs. If Greta Gerwig fails to receive a Best Director nomination, it will be the biggest snub in that category since Ben Affleck for “Argo.”

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

Personally, I hope Ava DuVernay’s dynamic, powerful and relevant “Origin,” the film adaptation of Isabel Wilkerson’s novel “Caste,” builds enough momentum to land in the Best Picture and Best Actress categories. On Jan. 12, I saw a screening of “Origin” hosted by Dave Chappelle at his YS Firehouse in Yellow Springs. The film’s imagery, scope and tone concerning race and discrimination at home and abroad provided compelling moments from the very first scene. Aunjanue Ellis-Taylor’s outstanding, emotional portrayal of Wilkerson is also captivating. “This film was beautifully shot, beautifully acted and beautifully directed,” Chappelle said. I couldn’t agree with him more.

Right Now with Russell spotlights pop culture every Friday and as news arises. From the latest in film, music, books and TV to the buzz of awards season and other hot button topics, the goal is to fill you in on what’s new in order to satisfy your entertainment cravings. He can be reached at Russell.Florence@coxohio.com.

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