“I am here to show you who the diva of All Stars 4 is.” That’s how Los Angeles-based drag queen Valentina introduces herself in the “Meet Valentina” video Vh1 released ahead of the premiere of the fourth season of RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars. Dubbed the ‘Olympics of Drag,’ the fan-favorite reality competition brings together queens from past seasons and gives them another chance to earn the crown. And while this season’s roster is, in the show’s own words, sickening, there is no doubt that Valentina is its greatest diva. I mean, need we mention she follows that line with an actual sound effect (“tiiiing!”) to match her wink?
Fans of RuPaul’s show first got to know Valentina back when she was poised to win it all in season 9. She had everything. She had gag-worthy outfits (we particularly loved her mariachi-inspired runway). She was funny and charismatic (“kooky” might be a better description: she prayed to the Virgen de Guadalupe every chance she got). And she was just outright stunning. She lived up to all of the subtext her name carries. Not only did she think of herself as the character of an Almodóvar film — a telenovela lead, perhaps — but she was feisty and red-hot like the Valentina hot sauce and the Valentino-red she so loves. But it was not to be. In what has to be the most shocking if warranted elimination on the show’s history, the young star went home after botching an acting challenge and then failing to win the lip sync that would’ve kept her in the competition. Valentina committed the greatest sin a drag queen can make. She didn’t know the words! To an Ariana Grande song no less!
With a ready-made redemption narrative, Valentina has returned to Drag Race in hopes of winning it all. Moreover, as she’s shown in this All Stars season so far, she’s made a point of living up to her self-appointed title: Your favorite Latina goddess. She’s dressed up in full Selena drag for a musical challenge. She’s basically channeled Thalía (whom she’s joined on stage before) while winning a “lip-sync for your legacy.” And, true to those novela divas she so loves, the Mexican-American queen has made every moment she’s on screen into a Televisa-worthy moment. Proof that she really is “every Latina woman you could ever wish for in one!”
For every amazing look this gorgeous queen parades during the weekly runway presentations, Valentina’s best moments often take place elsewhere. For instance, she’s made a habit of announcing who she’s wearing every time she enters the “Werq room.” While queens get time in the first episode to make an entrance, Valentina has given herself license to make every time she walk into the room (as a boy out of drag) to be a dramatic fashion-ready entrance. It makes sense. The other queens may find these moments annoying and proof that Valentina is a tad self-centered, but she understands how to make the cameras work and focus just on her.
As if that wasn’t enough Valentina’s made a point of honing her acting skills since the last time she was kicked off. We saw them first at work in the Season 9 reunion where she never broke away from her pageant-ready perma-smile when being accused of being a bitch (that’s how “Villaintina” was born). But this season? Oh, she’s serving you full Itatí Cantoral-realness. When she was in the bottom two a few weeks back (much to her shock, obviously) she gave an iconic line-reading that’s become a meme of its own asking “So you think I could go home tonight?” to a queen who could potentially eliminate her.
This is why I find Valentina so endearing. Especially when she’s so melodramatic. Because she sells it. She knows she’s both conniving villain and sweetheart lead. That leaves very little room for her to acknowledge anyone else on the show. Last week, after an emotional deliberation that put fan-favorite Latrice Royale in jeopardy of heading home (she was, eventually told to “Sashay Away”) Valentina couldn’t wait to interrupt the teary confessionals backstage. She had to get in a word about how she felt cheated out of good feedback from one of the guest judges. “Ladies!” she announced. “I’m boiling!” It was laughable but also classic Valentina. Whether villain or sweetheart she has succeeded in turning All Stars 4 (if only in her head) into her very own telenovela. The kind, of course, I can’t stop watching.
RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars 4 airs Fridays on VH1.