Reality TV. Love it. Hate it. No really, that’s how I feel about Reality TV, I’m not just speaking in a general sense of the populous. I really do have a crazy love/hate relationship with Reality TV. Mostly I love to trash talk it, and hate it when I get addicted to a particular show, and it consumes my very being until the season ends. Being a performing artist, who loves every aspect of theater, music, and dance, there are a couple of handfuls of AMAZING competition shows. My favorites are (in no particular order): Project Runway, So You Think You Can Dance, and Rupal’s Drag Race.
First, Project Runway. I have been obsessed with this show since Bravo said that they were making a competition show about fashion designers hosted by Heidi Klum (who I totally have a girl crush on). As with any competition show, the producers scour the nation for the best, brightest, and craziest in the untapped fashion industry. They are then sent to NYC for a series of challenges. They are mentored by the incomparable Tim Gunn (who I demand play the part of my grandfather at my wedding), who has coined the infamous catch phrase “Make It Work.” In their work room, which I’m sure reeks of muslin, sweat, and drama, the designers work along side each other in various challenges. At the end of the allotted time, they must fit, style and coach their model to embody the garment that they have created. They are then judged as the garment comes down the runway, and one is crowned the winner, and one goes home, or as Heidi says “Aufweidersehen,” in her native tongue. The prize varies from year to year, but the most impressive prize is that the top three contestants go to Bryant Park during fashion week for their own fashion show, which is like having your indie film showcased at Sundance Film Fest- HUGE DEAL.
Now, to why this show is a must watch. First of all, fashion above all is a high visual art. My favorite exhibit that’s ever been at the Frist was the “Gold Age of Couture” exhibit. I saw some of the most intricate and beautiful creations I’ve ever seen, and you live your life in these works of art. I think that’s what makes fashion so special. The creations that these designers make are in one word, fantastical. And they range from everything from a new uniform for the postal service to costumes for the WWE Divas to sexy lingerie. My personal favorite challenge ever is where they had dogs as their inspiration, and they had to make a dress for the model inspired by the dog… and make a dog garment, as well. Uli, my favorite designer from that season, won with her beautiful flowing print dress, and her cute little matching pullover for the pug.
Next, to So You Think You Can Dance or SYTYCD. You have to have some serious talent to and be at the top of your game or you are not even getting through the preliminary auditions. The dancers are eventually whittled down to a top 20 contestants. After that is when the true magic happens. The show brings in guest choreographers, ranging from top Bollywood dancers, to major hip hop choreographers, and even to founders and principle dancers from contemporary dance companies.
SYTYCD literally has it all. Contestants have to dance in every type of dance known to man. What then transpires are neat little vignettes ranging from a poor pauper finding a sexy little genie in a bottle to a couple of jailbirds making a break for it to a heart wrenching battle between a woman and her addiction. Combining lights, music, costume, make up, and dance make for some of the most gripping scenes you’ll find on television anywhere. My personal favorite contestant has to be Steven “Twitch” Boss, and he just happens to be in my favorite dance choreographed by the talented Mia Michaels to John Mayer’s “Dreaming with a Broken Heart” (which I CAN’T STAND John Mayer… so the fact that this dance makes me love this song REALLY speaks for itself). You see Twitch, beautiful man that he is, on a bed in the middle of the stage in just pajama bottoms. But wait, it gets better. Kherington (his crazy sexy blonde partner) pops out from behind the bed just wearing a pajama top throwing rose pedals everywhere as they jump on and off the bed, over and under each other, but never touching… do you need a cigarette yet? I tell you what, I watch that video on cold nights… yes I do.
Last but certainly not least is Rupal’s Drag Race. For those of you who don’t remember, Rupal is the queen that brought drag more mainstream, most notably because of her smash hit “Supermodel of the World,” which if you haven’t heard it, please download it now and “Sashay, Shantay!” Rupal and her producers go on a nation wide search for the queens with the most “uniqueness, talent, and nerve” to win the next crown. About 14 queens are chosen and are whittled down each week with various challenges that range from making garbage into couture clothing to celebrity impersonations to singing and dancing one of Rupal’s newest songs. One queen always wins the challenge and then two queens are up for elimination, which then means that they must “Lip Sync for Their Lives.” At the end of the competition, the queen who wins gets a lifetime supply of cosmetics, headlines the tour they put together for all of the queens, and a cash prize of $100,000… not to mention a big gaudy crown;)
Beyond being about drag queens, being voted by E! Entertainment the best reality show out there (Ryan Seacrest JUST tweeted this), and having the most fabulous host ever, why is this show on my must watch list? Simple, Rupals Drag Race is the most amazing amalgamation of every single performing arts competition show out there. It is Project Runway, America’s Next Top Model, American Idol, So You Think You Can Dance, Face/Off, Hair Show… and ANY other show you can think of like that combined. My favorite queens are always the ones who are the strange, quirky ones who no one else seems to get… either them or the fierce lip syncers, like JuJu Bee, a Leotian Beauty who is as funny as the day is long, and as the incomparable Rosie Perez (who was one of the celebrity judges) once said, “JuJu Bee, you give GOOD mouth.” I swear when I come back in my next life… I want to come back as an Asian Drag Queen… because in my eyes they seem to be some of the most fabulous (no offense to my latin, black, and white queens;-P)
So, as you can see, I LIVE for reality television with glitz, glamour, and just a hint of drama… oh who am I kidding, I live for the drama as well because like fictional television, shows like these remind us that our lives really aren’t that bad. Every single one of us, no matter rich or poor, Belle of the Ball or unpopular ragamuffin, needs an escape. So thank you Reality TV. Thank you for reminding us of why we are alive.