“I will say, this is the first time I've ever lost something,” grumbled retired boxer Laila Ali, daughter of the late Muhammed Ali, as she stood defeated in the Masked Singer ring, her just-detached kawaii animal head propped on her furry-onesie’d hip. Ali left the show with two black eyes this Wednesday, literally, because as the Panda, she was Season 2’s third celebrity castoff. Ironically, she was knocked out right after singing DJ Khaled’s un-prophetically titled “All I Do Is Win.” Oops.
But Ali was a good sport about the entire surreal experience. She must have known that her Sanrio cutesiness was no match for the eight-legged vampiness of gothic arachnid the Black Widow, the dotty fierceness of the bipedal Leopard queen, or the power-tower of highlighter-pink Vegas-showgirl feathers that formed the flashy Flamingo.
Soooo… if you have been living under an especially dreary rock this year and missed Season 1 of The Masked Singer, then the two above paragraphs probably made zero sense to you. Allow me to attempt to explain the masked madness:
(Stefon from Saturday Night Live voice) Television’s hottest new singing competition is called The Masked Singer. This bonkers show has ev-er-y-thing: More entertaining blind auditions than The Voice, wilder costumes than RuPaul’s Drag Race, bigger “big reveals” than The Swan, prettier livestock than anything on Animal Planet, more C-list celebrities than a '70s Game Show Network rerun of Match Game PM, a greater break with reality/good taste than Eurovision… and the only setup where a 10-time Grammy-winner like Gladys Knight can stall in third place, two spots behind T-Pain.
So this week, along with Laila “The Panda” Ali, three other cosplaying mystery celebs, their faces shielded by ornate masks that made Slipknot look like amateurs who shop the Nov. 1 clearance rack at the Spirit of Halloween Superstore, sang karaoke for fallen pop star/Duets judge Robin Thicke, Community comedy doctor Ken Jeong, former Singled Out sidekick Jenny McCarthy, and onetime Pussycat Doll/Popstars contestant/X Factor judge Nicole Scherzinger — all of whom made their usual terrible guesses.
In the judges’ mild defense, however, as I mentioned last week, the Masked Singer producers — realizing that most of the viewing public has access to Google and Wikipedia — have made America’s favorite TV guessing game much more challenging this season, with tighter “military-grade” security and vaguer clue packages. Even I am stumped — and I had a stellar track record in Season 1, when I figured out the Peacock was Donny Osmond before he’d even finished his first song. During last week’s Season 2 premiere, I actually made some guesses, or more like guestimates — without consulting the Twitterverse or the Hive-Mind or whatever you want to call it — that were so embarrassingly bad, I want to hide my own face with a mask in shame.
I’ll make some more educated guesses about those characters once they return to compete in a couple weeks’ time. But for now, let’s try to figure out the identities of this Wednesday’s masked menagerie.
The Black Widow, “I Wanna Dance With Somebody”
This tiny, nimble creature said she likes to “hide in plain sight,” and offered such cryptic clues as a peach, a film slate that said “Queen Bee,” and mentions of the words “threads” and “empire.” She also said she wanted to showcase a darker, edgier side to her personality via her creepy-crawly spider character. Additionally, she bragged that her performance would be “good as hell” — although I am fairly certain that the Black Widow isn’t Lizzo. And this definitely wasn’t a Whitney Houston-level performance either. But the spider-woman still handled the song well.
Judges’ guesses: Amber Riley, Sherri Shepherd, Yvette Nicole Brown. (Nope, nope, nope.)
My guess: You guys, I know I just said that I’ve been making terrible guesses this season, but the Black Widow is totally Raven-Symone. Symone is from Georgia (hence the peach); she once got in a Twitter war with Beyoncé stans after she called Lil’ Kim the “Queen Bee”; she had to “hide” her sexuality for years; and she was on Fashion Police (“threads”), The View (“sight”), and Empire (um, “empire”). I suppose her recycling Ricki Lake’s Raven costume from last season would have been too obvious… but this was still pretty obvious.
The Leopard, “Somebody to Love,” “Respect”
When this regal feline in the cinched Dangerous Liaisons dress opened its mouth and a man’s voice came roaring out, it was a massive surprise, even on a show full of massive surprises. “Leopards can be fierce, and yet, so divine,” he purred. The Leopard’s clues package featured a runway and celebrity-scandal tabloid headlines, and he described himself as “heavy-hitter.” He also could really sang.
Judges’ guesses: Gwen Stefani and Katie Holmes before the Leopard actually performed; Robbie Williams, Billy Porter, or Holmes’s ex Jamie Foxx once they heard the voice. (Side note: Jenny McCarthy totally shaded Robbie Williams when she said he wasn’t a “big enough” star. I guess she’ll never be asked to judge The Masked Singer U.K., then.)
My guesses: The runway clue, flamboyant persona, and gender-bending had me leaning towards RuPaul, Miss J from America’s Next Top Model, or Porter. The vocals had me leaning towards Seal (yes, it would be too-on-the-snouty-nose for him to dress as an actual seal) or Cee Lo Green, but the body type didn’t match either of those men. Since the Leopard was so committed to his character, I think this has to be an actor — maybe even an Oscar-winner. So I am guessing it’s Foxx, throwing us all off the scent by not wearing an actual fox costume.
This YouTube (or “ZooTube”) star gave off a soulful girl-group vibe, but she claimed to not be a professional singer. Instead, she makes a career out of doling out “beauty, fashion, and life advice.” Well, I’ll totally take that advice, because the Flamingo’s fringed pink pantaloon were everything! The Flamingo and the Tree are definitely Season 2’s best-dressed. But I digress. The Flamingo also made references to “luxury vacations” and “escape.”
Judges: Olivia Jade, Kandi Burruss (because she was in Xscape), Tia Mowery.
My guesses: The internet seems to overwhelmingly think this is Adrienne Bailon, because apparently the internet very much wants a Cheetah Girls reunion, even if it’s a partial one.
Just got home from the nail salon & my phone is blowing up... a friend said #AdrienneBailon was trending on Twitter. That makes me so nervous! 😂😩😂 So... I’m afraid to ask... But, can someone inform me?!— Adrienne Eliza Houghton (@AdrienneBailon) October 3, 2019
But Bailon is a professional singer, so I was leaning towards Mykonos beach-club boss Lindsay Lohan. (If you’ve listened to Lohan’s two albums from the early-oughts, then you know she’s not a pro.) But I’m probably wrong, even wronger than Ken Jeong, so I’m just going to heed to what Twitter’s trending topics are telling me and say it’s Bailon.
Next week, we will watch the final four contestants of Season 2 compete. Will the Flower and Penguin turns out to be Adrienne Bailon and Raven-Symone’s former Cheetah Girls bandmates, Kiely Williams and Sabrina Bryan? Watch this space.
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