‘RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars’: Naomi Smalls May Not Have Won Season 4, but She Is Responsible for the Show’s Most Iconic Moment
Though RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars hasn’t been on the air as long as its parent series, RuPaul’s Drag Race, the show has had some pretty iconic moments. However, there is one moment in particular that takes the cake for them all. Delivered by Naomi Smalls, this action that took place in season 4 of All Stars is now referred to as being “Manilla’d.”
One of the biggest moments in the entire franchise
Smalls, a runner-up from season 8 of RuPaul’s Drag Race, went head-to-head with Monét x Change during season 4 of RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars in a Lip Sync for Your Legacy battle. Smalls ended up winning and was therefore given the power to eliminate either Manilla Luzon or Latrice Royale. In a stunning decision, she chose to eliminate Luzon, one of the frontrunners in the competition, as opposed to Royale, who had already been eliminated once and was performing the worst in the competition out of the remaining queens.
Prior to this, it had been the unofficial rule of All Stars to typically vote out the queen who is performing the worst if you win the Lip Sync for Your Legacy. And though this has been done before, including the times Alaska and Detox saved Roxxxy Andrews in All Stars 2, this one had the most reverberating effects because Luzon was such a high performer in the competition. Also, Alaska and Detox saved Andrews because she was their friend, not because they necessarily wanted to get out the better competitors.
Because of this, Smalls created television gold and is often credited with being the only person on All Stars who actually tried to vote out their biggest competition. What made the moment so big was the fact that Smalls, a much younger queen than Drag Race O.G. Luzon, was in awe of the fact she was on a season with and working with one of her inspirations to do drag.
What she said about making this move
Some give Smalls a lot of credit for bucking what everyone thought would be the case, while others think that what she did is not a good way to play All Stars. In an interview with Billboard in 2019, Smalls was asked about deciding to send home Luzon and if she always planned to send home a strong competitor.
“It wasn’t necessarily my strategy to send home the stronger competitor, but my goal for All Stars 4 was to get to the crown,” she explained. As much as I looked up to Manila Luzon as a kid and I was very impressed by her body of work, I didn’t necessarily have the same relationship with her that I had with Latrice Royale, who saved me the week prior. I didn’t know if maybe I bombed the next week, if Manila was in the top, that she would keep me. I definitely had a better alliance with Latrice Royale.” She also revealed that a scene was cut from the episode when Royale didn’t send Smalls home. Smalls said that during this episode, she told Royale would save her if she won.
Smalls also said that she received a lot of hate on social media for the decision. “I didn’t know Manila’s fans were gonna be crazy [as Valentina’s]. I have very thick skin, but it makes me a little sad that my mom is so invested in some of my drag that she does read the comments and there are some things like, ‘Your biological family was right to abandon you,’ and, ‘I’m so happy that your brother died so he didn’t have to see you become such a hypocrite.’ That wasn’t necessarily something I wanted my mom to read. Because it’s just crazy. It’s a weird thought for her to have the realization that people have these thoughts about her son, you know? But besides that, I’m pretty fine with it.”
The impact that this had on ‘All Stars’
Even before Smalls, queens didn’t really vote off high performers. This is still the same case with the most recent season, All Stars 5. There was a lot of controversy when Alexis Mateo and Mayhem Miller cast votes to vote Shea Couleé, the competition’s frontrunner at the time and its eventual winner. Though there were not enough votes to send Couleé home, the fandom was in an uproar because of this decision. Fans and alumni of the show said that Shea almost got “Manilla’d.”
According to popular Drag Race YouTube channel, JakeyonceTV, Naomi’s elimination of Manilla “changed All Stars forever.” So even though Naomi Smalls didn’t win All Stars, there may not be a bigger moment from the show than when she truly changed the game.