Aside from the OG, Simon Cowell, Nicki Minaj was the best judge ever to appear on American Idol. There, I said it. Don’t @ me. During her one-and-done season on that show, Nicki was crass, sometimes almost cruel, but she clearly cared, even when she was angrily ordering some hapless also-ran contestants to “get off the stage!” And let’s be real: If the “Yikes” rapper’s harshest, craziest critiques had emanated from the equally outspoken and un-sugarcoated but older and male-er Simon Cowell’s British-accented mouth, they probably would have been well-received by that Idol‘s largely conservative viewership.
That’s why it was such a delight to have Nicki back to reclaim her judging-table throne this weekend, this time on a reality competition with an audience that could truly appreciate her: RuPaul’s Drag Race. Following in the high-heeled footsteps of past guest divas like Lady Gaga, Christina Aguilera, and Miley Cyrus, bang bang into the Werk Room she sashayed, in her scarlet eleganza, practically taking over the show by using Mama Ru’s own stage door on Friday’s Season 12 premiere. (“I came in where the queen is supposed to come in,” Nicki explained with an amusing shrug and a knowing wink.)
And once again, the hip-hop Barbie was slinging barbs, particularly when she read contestant Heidi N Closet for filth.
Heidi had already struggled during Friday’s episode, suffering a couple wardrobe and wig malfunctions, but when the seven contestants competing on the part one premiere performed their original remix of RuPaul’s new rap song “I’m That Bitch,” Heidi slayed. (Side note: Nicki really needs to release her own remix of this track, because the verse she freestyled and recorded on her iPhone, right on the spot, was pure fire.)
Nicki Minaj bodied this freestyle 🔥🔥. pic.twitter.com/QAvjoeWrSa— ONIKA FORCE (@OnikaForce) February 29, 2020
Nicki was impressed by Heidi’s skills (see the queens’ full “I’m That Bitch” group number below), but she still had zero problem telling Heidi, “I hate, hate, hate your hair and makeup today!” Yikes is right. But Nicki isn’t always that bitch. Nicki listened sympathetically when Heidi revealed that she’d been in the hospital with hives the night before (a newbie to L.A., Heidi claimed she’d had an allergic reaction to not-so-super-food kale), and then said: “If you were hospitalized last night and came out and did the performance you just did? Then you are a superstar!”
Later in the lounge, on the Untucked aftershow, the queen of hip-hop visited the queens of Season 12 for a kiki, and Heidi confronted her, demanding, “What is it that you hate so much about my face?” But hopefully Heidi listened closely to Nicki’s actually constructive cosmetic criticism. “Your makeup looked kind of half-done,” Nicki, a woman who knows a thing or two about face-beating, told Heidi. “Maybe finding a makeup that matches your skin tone a little better, and then blend... just something that is more rich can help you look more stage-ready.”
Heidi escaped elimination, as did all seven of Friday’s contestants: Everyone shantéd and stayed. Seven more hopefuls will arrive on the scene next week... and then, may the best woman win. But while Heidi has a chance if she heeds Nicki’s advice, this is already an extremely competitive season.
Glamorous French look queen Nicky Doll, who actually got her first name from Minaj, was serving ‘90s supermodel runway realness and could be this season’s Violet Chachki. Adorable, effervescent NYC cabaret queen Jackie Cox, a.k.a. “the Persian Annette Funicello,” already seems on course to be this season’s Miss Congeniality. Crystal Methyd’s white-out clown makeup and comedic chops could give even Bianca Del Rio and Trixie Mattel a run for their money, and her Freddie Krueger couture dress looked like it’d been snatched straight from Sharon Needles’s witchy wardrobe. And another flawless fashionista, Gigi Goode, had the judges gagging on her Gwen Stefani-in-the-“Rich Girl”-video pirate glam and her Yoanna-from-ANTM fembot helmets. “You look like a Barbie out of the box,” Nicki told Gigi.
And finally, Gigi and Widow Von Du’s episode-ending lip-sync to Nicki’s own “Starships” was, in Nicki’s own words, “epic epic epic” — with Widow executing a breathless series of gymnastic death-drops, bone-breaking backbends, and drop-splits, and the lanky Gigi bringing some unexpected physical comedy, as seen below.
Nicki would be a welcome permanent addition to the Drag Race panel, but Season 12 promises to be its most star-studded yet, with future guest judges including Robyn, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Chaka Khan, Leslie Jones, Normani, Whoopi Goldberg, Winnie Harlow, and even Jeff Goldblum. You. Betta. Watch.
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