Bang bang into the Werk Room: Ariana Grande pulls off best 'RuPaul's Drag Race' prank yet

Ariana Grande serves Ornacia realness on the 'RuPaul's Drag Race' Season 15 premiere. (Photo: World of Wonder)
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There’s a time-honored tradition on RuPaul’s Drag Race season premieres, when a very special guest pop queen surprises the drag queens — and it’s the gag of the season. There was that time when Lady Gaga pretended to be Ronnie, “New Jersey’s No. 1 Lady Gaga impersonator”; that time when Miley Cyrus went undercover in boy drag as bearded film crew member “Barry Johnson,” aka “BJ”; and that inside-jokey stunt when Christina Aguilera masqueraded as Season 9 contestant Farrah Moan, a reference to a hilarious incident when a fashion blogger mistook a photo of Farrah at DragCon 2017 for a paparazzi snap of Aguilera at the Met Gala.

But for Friday's two-part Drag Race Season 15 premiere on new network MTV, the queen of pop and ponytails, Ariana Grande, pulled off the most epic and inside-jokey ambush yet… involving the triumphant return, or Ru-turn, of Ornacia!

Who’s Ornacia, you ask? Allow me to give you a primer, going all the way back to 2014, to illustrate just how well thought-out this particular Ru-veal was…

So, in Season 6, a contestant named Vivacious only placed 12th — but she secured a permanent place in Drag Race herstory, with what is considered to be one of the most iconic Werk Room entrances of all time. A ‘90s New York club kid who described her style of drag as “living art,” Vivacious experienced a minor wardrobe malfunction, resulting in her screentime being dominated by her nuclear-wasted-eyed, conjoined-twinning, mannequin-headed sidekick. That Styrofoam dome was named Ornacia, after a lyric from RuPaul's 1993 single “Back to My Roots,” and Ornacia subsequently became more famous than Vivacious herself (and more famous than several other Season 6 contestants, actually).

“Mother has arrived!” was Vivacious’s delayed declaration, once she got her zipper unstuck — and a classic RPDR catchphrase was born. That moment is below, complete with snarky Ru-cap commentary from that season’s winner and current "The Pit Stop" hostess, Bianca Del Rio:

Got all that? OK, then you’ll fully appreciate this mother of all Drag Race pranks, when Vivacious (and Ornacia, of course) seemingly sashayed back onto the Season 15 set this week. But then — bang bang, into the Werk Room — it turned out to be Ariana Grande inside that club-kid costume. And it looked like Ornacia had undergone quite the glow-up since 2014.

The eight contestants who witnessed this Ru-veal — especially the Brady Bunch-inspired Marcia Marcia Marcia, who’d just cited Grande as her favorite pop star and “life icon” — were understandably thrilled, as Grande, who’d been a guest judge before on Season 7, told them: “I think drag is the most infectious and joyous art form that there is. Thank you guys for bringing so much joy to the lives of the Drag Race fans and to everyone." Grande also told RuPaul, “My p***y’s on fire” — but how was her head? I assume there were no complaints. (That’s another Drag Race in-joke; look it up.)

And then, just when things couldn’t get any more meta, when the next batch of eight queens entered the Werk Room, they were surprised by… the actual Vivacious and Ornacia! Mother really had arrived. Surely this was all a genius setup for when Ornacia ultimately competes on RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars 8 later this year, right? But in the meantime, Vivacious is probably about to enjoy a big spike in merchandise sales, because according to EW, she sells limited-edition themed Ornacias for special occasions like Pride ("Pridenacia"), Valentine's Day ("Valentinacia"), and Halloween ("Hallonacia").

"I've been holding onto this secret since the summer. I am always in good company. Thank you @arianagrande for making this the moment of my life," Vivacious posted on Instagram after the premiere aired. "I have always been referenced every season since s6. Thank you @rupaulsdragrace and family. For always looking out for me. Now heaven above get me to ALL Stars. Check out my Pride single releasing later tonight at 9 PM."

But back to this current competition: On Friday’s supersized premiere, the show also gave a nod to Drag Race herstory by recreating memorable photo shoots from Seasons 1 and 2, before the 16 queens competed in a Talent Extravaganza maxi-challenge. And then, after a lip-sync-for-their-life showdown between bottom two contestants Irene Dubois and Amethyst to Grande’s “7 Rings,” Irene got the chop.

So far, my favorite two queens among the remaining 15 contestants are the above-mentioned Marcia Marcia Marcia (who would’ve been great in 2021’s “Dragging the Classics” Brady Bunch spoof) and the elegant Sasha Colby. But really, let's Styrofoam)-face it… Ariana and Ornacia pretty much upstaged everyone this week.

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