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For 'Drag Race' judges, queens & fans, Sapphira Cristál is the moment

For 'Drag Race' judges, queens & fans, Sapphira Cristál is the moment

Charlize Theron; Sapphira Cristál; RuPaul on RuPaul's Drag Race season 16 episode 1
Images: MTV

Sapphira Cristál stood out as a clear frontrunner during the first episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race season 16.

The grand premiere of RuPaul’s Drag Race season 16 featured an MTV Spring Break­-themed Variety Show hosted by none other than Derrick Barry herself. The challenge featured several original songs from the queens, with performances ranging from toot-toot to click-clack.

It’s unfair and ill-advised for anyone to blame the queens who chose to perform with an original song. Kornbread “The Snack” Jeté won the Variety Show in season 14 episode 1 with an original song. So did Angeria Paris VanMicheals in season 14 episode 2, as well as Anetra in the double premiere of season 15.

Xunami Muse; Mirage; Dawn on RuPaul's Drag Race season 16 episode 1

Images: MTV

But this first batch of original songs for the Variety Show of season 16 just didn’t live up to past seasons. On one hand, some of the best songs in the group didn’t have performances that matched them. On the other hand, some of the most impressive on-stage performances had songs that needed a little bit more work.

The first fabulous surprise of the night came from Q, who delivered a Humanette (puppet with a human head) number that had never been seen on Drag Race before. In the great tradition of “everybody loves puppets,” Q’s performance was an impressive mixture of showcasing her sense of humor, calling back to other moments in the series, and most importantly: standing out!

Q on RuPaul\u2019s Drag Race season 16 episode 1

Images: MTV

Then came Sapphira Cristál, who had been talking a big game all episode long and was expected to blow our socks off with her number. Well, guess what Mimi? She did.

Sapphira performed an English (and slightly dragged-up) version of “O mio babbino caro” from the 1918 opera Gianni Schicchi by Giacomo Puccini. The translated lyrics shown on a screen for the judges – and as subtitles for the viewers – told the story of RuPaul being Sapphira’s father, this queen’s love of beautiful men when in heat, and her desire to be slayed. “Daddy, forgive me,” Sapphira sang with her gorgeous operatic voice while looking straight at Ru and doing a split that turned into floor-pounding.

RuPaul asked at the end of the performance, “Why were you pointing at me when you said, ‘My beloved father’?”

“You know why,” Sapphira quipped back without missing a beat.

Sapphira Crist\u00e1l on RuPaul\u2019s Drag Race season 16 episode 1

Images: MTV

The Rate-A-Queen twist was next – a clear reference to Netflix’s The Circle that felt draggy and fun. 16 seasons later, Drag Race is maintaining its core mission statement: taking the piss out of other pop culture moments, movies, TV shows, and points of reference.

This is a juicy twist, too, because it doesn’t necessarily “destroy” any of the interpersonal relationships between the queens. After all, no one is directly sending anyone home. But the twist still manages to inject that Survivor energy that is rarely felt on All Stars, forcing the queens themselves to judge and rank one another.

Rate-A-Queen on RuPaul\u2019s Drag Race season 16 episode 1

Image: MTV

It’s unclear how long the Rate-A-Queen twist will last in season 16, but its introduction to the series felt pretty exciting.

As we recall RuPaul’s explanation from the beginning of the episode, immunity is back this season. However, Ru noted that immunity could be used in a “future challenge,” which is not necessarily the “next challenge.” If true, this makes it feel as powerful as an immunity idol on Survivor.

Unlike the original immunity granted on Drag Race season 5, as well as the plunger-blocking of All Stars 7, this kind of immunity allows queens to strategize and choose when they want to use it… rather than being safe for a challenge they didn’t need saving from or being blocked from earning a legendary legend star for a challenge they wouldn’t win anyway.

Q; Sapphira Crist\u00e1l on RuPaul's Drag Race season 16 episode 1

Images: MTV

As soon as the top-two lip sync song was announced to be Beyoncé’s “Break My Soul,” there was an immediate sense that Sapphira was about to pee all over the freaking stage. And that, she did. The lip sync was also great for Sapphira to have fun and show range. From Puccini to Beyoncé, this queen can do it all.

We do give props to Q for standing her own, much like Gigi Goode against Widow Von’Du in their lip sync to Nicki Minaj’s “Starships,” and Dusty Ray Bottoms against Monét X Change in their lip sync to Nicki Minaj’s “Pound the Alarm.” But Sapphira was unstoppable this episode and deserved to win this challenge, point blank period.

Overall, season 16 is giving us range, shade, twists, and queens who seem ready to put up a good fight – on and off the stage. So get in, babes. Another lap of Drag Race is just getting started.

RuPaul’s Drag Race season 16 airs every Friday on MTV.

Amanda Tori Meating on RuPaul's Drag Race season 16 episode 1

Images: MTV

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Bernardo Sim

Bernardo Sim experiences and explains the queer pop culture multiverse. Born in Brazil, he currently lives in South Florida.

Bernardo Sim experiences and explains the queer pop culture multiverse. Born in Brazil, he currently lives in South Florida.