Famous TV actor is unrecognizable on ‘Celebrity Drag Race’ premiere: ‘I'm more secure in my masculinity by doing something like this’

Lyndsey ParkerEditor in Chief, Yahoo Music
Yahoo Music
'Riverdale' actor Jordan, before and after on 'Secret Celebrity Drag Race.' (Photos: Vh1)
'Riverdale' actor Jordan, before and after on 'Secret Celebrity Drag Race.' (Photos: Vh1)

As the runway illuminated on the season premiere of the RuPaul’s Drag Race spinoff series Secret Celebrity Drag Race, mentors Bob the Drag Queen, Trixie Mattel, and Monet X Change all wondered aloud who might soon shanté onto the stage. Eminem? Michael Jordan? Haley Joel Osment? Larry David? Well, no. But the night’s three mystery celebrities underwent such drastic and dragtastic makeovers, it would have been impossible to recognize whoever it was under all that padding and pancake stick, anyway.

This was all for a laugh, but also for a good cause, with Friday’s Celebrity Drag Race champion ultimately winning $30,000 for charity. And there was a noble, can-I-get-an-amen-worthy message here, too. As RuPaul explained to the contestants, “Our mission is simple: We want everyone to experience the miracle of drag. Doing drag doesn't change who you are — it actually reveals who you are. So, consider yourselves cultural pioneers. Or at least Drag Race lab rats!”

As it turned out, this week’s very willing “lab rats” were Younger actor Nico Tortorella, stand-up comedian Jermaine Fowler, and Riverdale star Jordan Connor. All three were absolutely, admirably up for the challenges of wedging their size 12 feet into pointy pink stilettos or memorizing all the lyrics to RuPaul’s club banger “Jealous of My Boogie,” but it was eventual winner Connor — now known as the surprisingly fishy drag queen Babykins LaRoux — who truly embodied what this transformational and aspirational show is supposed to be all about.

“I was a football star in high school, so I'm used to wearing pads,” Connor joked, before adding more seriously, “Coming from a football background, it's such a masculine energy, and I never really was the alpha-male in those situations. … I think when I was 19, 20 years old, and I was playing football really seriously, I would have been pretty scared to do something like this. But now, I think the more you can learn about other people's lives or other cultures, it's such a good insight. At the end of the day, I'm more secure in my masculinity by doing something like this.”

Related: VH1's 'RuPaul's Celebrity Drag Race' Set to Premiere in 2020

Connor later told his mentor, Trixie, that he signed up for Celebrity Drag Race to support his two gay siblings. “As a straight male, I don't necessarily relate to drag as much as maybe my brother and sister do, and understanding the empowerment that a man feels when he dresses up in drag. I think that doing drag for me will really give me a new experience, and a new viewpoint on drag and the LGBTQ community too,” he explained.

Though Connor admitted that he was scared to venture so far out of his comfort zone — “The first thing I thought was, ‘Oh no, are people going to judge me for coming on here?” — he realized, “Then you quickly put that away, because that's stupid. And then you just think, ‘I'm gonna have fun, and people are gonna love it. And if they hate it, then they're idiots.’” Trixie was stunned and moved by Connor’s open-mindedness, saying, “I don't really have a lot of straight male friends. To be honest, straight men still freak me out, because when I was young, it was just like I would never fit in with them, and they'll never think I'm cool or normal or acceptable. And so, to have this experience with Jordan, it inspires me. I think it's cool!”

Connor really got into character, first in the iconic Snatch Game maxi-challenge, in which he hilariously impersonated Chrissy Teigen (his Academy Awards reaction-shot grimace was GIF-able perfection), then in full feeling-the-fantasy makeover mode on the runway, during a three-way lip-sync to “Express Yourself” in which he definitely took Madonna’s song title to heart. He even worked a red rose into his act, which indicated he’d done his home-werk and was probably familiar with Sasha Velour’s herstoric rose-petal lip-sync from the Season 9 finale. “All right, she's the lip-sync assassin of the season,” Monet said of Babykins’s skills. 

At the end of the episode, Connor picked up 30 thousand dollahs for his chosen charity, Cystic Fibrosis Canada, but his opponents, Tortorella and Fowler, rightfully earned their runner-up cash prizes of $10,000 (which went to the Transgender Law Center and RAINN, respectively).

Tortorella, who identifies as non-binary and uses gender-neutral pronouns, took some big risks on the runway — namely opting not to tuck or shave their chest — but their drag character, Olivette Isyou, had a strong and unique point of view. “I'm here representing so much more than who I am. The balance between masculine and feminine energies is something that's so important to me, and I think that's why I'm here to help propel that narrative,” declared Tortorella. “This show fully changed my life. It allowed me to look at gender and sexuality in a new way, and it was full liberation for me. And it has led me on my own journey.”

Actor Nico Tortorella's transformation on 'Secret Celebrity Drag Race.' (Photos: VH1)
Actor Nico Tortorella's transformation on 'Secret Celebrity Drag Race.' (Photos: VH1)

Fowler had his own sweet emotional journey on Celebrity Drag Race. Taking his drag-queen name, Miss Mimi Teapot, from his late mother, who was a lesbian, he said he wanted to live up to her legacy: “Growing up, my mom, she thought for herself. You know, black churches are very homophobic. She inspired me to just be my own person.” Later, when asked what his mom would have thought of his glamorous Mimi metamorphosis, Fowler answered, “She'd laugh her ass off. She'd make fun of me first. And then she'd say she's proud of me.” Perhaps the most touching moment of the entire episode was when Fowler first caught a glimpse of himself in drag — and saw his mother staring back from the mirror. “It's actually really sweet that she got to see my mom again, like, through me,” he mused. 

Comedian Jermaine Fowler's transformation on 'Secret Celebrity Drag Race.' (Photos: VH1)
Comedian Jermaine Fowler's transformation on 'Secret Celebrity Drag Race.' (Photos: VH1)

At RuPaul warned on Secret Celebrity Drag Race, “Drag ain't for sissies.” But Tortorella, Fowler, and especially Connor proved it can be for anyone who gives it a chance — and it can be a ton of fun.

“I feel awesome. I feel wonderful and beautiful and glamorous, and I feel amazing and powerful,” Connor proclaimed. “I feel like a superhero. It's confidence. It feels good. I don't want to take this off.”

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