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January 25, 2011  | by: Dania McDermott

RuPaul, Drag Master

Eager to showcase its charisma, uniqueness, nerve and talent, RuPaul’s Drag Race offered a new gaggle of glamor “girls” in its third season premiere this Monday. Or did it?

Of the 13 new hopefuls, several contestants ring remarkably similar to their drag sisters of seasons past, whether in their preferred persona or designated stature.

Token fatties Delta Work and Stacey Layne Matthews are, at least at first glance, reminiscent of previous contestants Victoria “Porkchop” Parker of season 1 and Mystique “Summers” Madison of season 2. Rounding out the chunky brigade, Mimi Imfurst couples her size with a quirky, comedic sensibility that manages to fall somewhere between drag legend Divine and season 2 funny gal Pandora Boxx.

Also taking a cue from last season, this year’s “race” has not one but two Puerto Rico natives – Yara Sofia and Alexis Mateo. But don’t be too excited by the prospect of two Latina queens: Multiplying one’s charm by the other’s still produces a fraction of season 2 alum Jessica Wild‘s disarming appeal.

If it’s at all possible to hone in on just one, the resident diva of the season, aptly going by the mononym, Mariah, has all the necessary trappings to fit the bill: impenetrable self-confidence, fiercer than fierce eye-make up, and a knack for padding a pretty ridiculous set of curves. Barring her presumably large ego and lengthy physique, the former ball room dancer is season 3′s answer to Jujubee – with hearty doses of Raven‘s unapologetic boldness and season 2 winner Tyra Sanchez‘s easy elegance.

The parallels don’t end there. Shangela, the first contestant to be eliminated from last season’s competition, is back – at least for the time being. Once again facing the dreaded task of lip-syncing “for [her] life” on Monday night’s premiere, the short but stacked queen in training managed to beat out Madonna-impersonator Venus D-Lite, who had a bit of a poor man’s Sonique thing going on anyway.

As the boyfriend of season 2 contestant and Sheree Whitfield-lookalike, Sahara Davenport, season 3 queen Manila Luzon knows its best to preempt comparisons by squashing them entirely before they’re allowed to be made. As she points out in her intro video, “I am different from all the other contestants because I’m the beautiful Asian who’s taller than 5’2”.” (Wonder what Jujubee has to say about that!)

But Manila’s not entirely right. Despite the emergence of “types” across contestants that becomes inevitable on competition shows like Drag Race, one queen juts boldly from the pack this time around, offering a drag-swag we haven’t seen before.

Drag Race Contestant Raja

Also going by one name, Raja spares herself the trouble of elaborate padding to achieve the voluptuous silhouettes coveted by queens like Mariah and Jujubee. In fact, in proudly sporting a visibly sunken chest, Raja’s presentation goes against the “traditional” glamazon nature of drag, aspiring instead to the heights of high fashion runway model.

Raja, whose real name is Sutan Amrull, is no stranger to fashion. Currently working as American Idol contestant Adam Lambert‘s makeup artist, the slender phenom has done make-up for countless celebrities, also lending his beautifying hand to America’s Next Top Model hopefuls. Not surprisingly, the make-up artist turned drag queen briefly served as Tyra Banks‘ double.

Sutan with Tyra Banks

Will Raja take home the ultimate prize of $75,000, free cosmetics and several other perks Sutan probably doesn’t need? Having won the first challenge on Drag Race, we’d venture to guess that the fashion forward queen stands a fighting chance. It may not seem fair, but like Ru says, “May the best woman win.”

RuPaul’s Drag Race airs Monday nights at 10 EST on Logo and Tuesday nights at 9 EST on VH1.

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