“RuPaul’s Drag Race” Season 16 FINALE Recap

April 20, 2024

BY Eric Rezsnyak

Sisterrrrrrrrs! It’s the grand finale of Season 16! And what a season it has been. I would put Season 16 toward the top of the list of at least the “modern” phase of “Drag Race” — which I consider to be Season 9, when the show moved to VH1, up to now. I would rank 16 up there with 9, 10, and 12, which I think are all excellent seasons. It was engaging, exciting, surprising, and a joy to watch, pretty much week after week.

It was also an unusual season in many ways. Expected challenges were nowhere to be seen. There were really no scripted acting challenges; the closest we came were “RDR Live” and the Rusical. There was no new Ru song remix for the Final 4. There was a glut of design challenges — four, if you count the bathroom makeover episode. I’m not saying that’s WHY the season worked better than many of the preceding ones, but it could be a factor.

The main reason this season was so successful: the cast. Kudos to the production crew for casting, mama; for spilling these queens. Almost every one of these 14 competitors contributed something to the proceedings, and I can’t remember the last season where I would have been happy with literally any of the finalists winning. That was very much the case going into this final episode. Nymphia Wind, Plane Jane, and Sapphira Cristal have had very different journeys this season, but each had a legitimate claim to the crown.

RELATED CONTENT

Best “Drag Race” Snatch Game Performance

Best “Drag Race” Runway Look (S7-S12)

Top 10 “Drag Race” Winner Stepdown Looks

Top 10 “Drag Race” Seasons of 2023

Rather than give a blow-by-blow on what happened in the finale, I’m going to go through each Season 16 queen in order of elimination and offer my take on their “Drag Race” journeys. I encourage you to offer your own takes in the comments!

Spoilers on the finale below!

Hershii LiqCour-Jete

As the first out, it makes sense that Hershii got the shortest shrift of all the contestants. Lasting only two competitive episodes, but still appearing in 1/4 of the season, Hershii came across as a perfectly lovely, professional queen. I think on another season Hershii probably could have gone a bit further — this was a very strong group of queens — but the recurring themes I kept seeing with Hershii were looks that were not fully developed, and although she is instantly charismatic, she seemed to hit a wall and recede into the background. It’s possible that was all in the edit, and that in real life Hershii is consistently as effervescent as she initially appears. The conspiracy theorist in me wonders if her drag sister Kornbread’s openly hostile attitude toward “Drag Race” may have hurt her chances here. But honestly, I don’t think it’s that deep. Someone has to go first. But I wish Hershii only the best!

Mirage

For a second out, Mirage made a huge impression. Viewers were completely gagged by her heel-clacking talent show, and made her song “She’s Such a Bitch” a bona fide hit, with more than 4 million streams on Spotify as of this writing. That is an incredible accomplishment for any “Drag Race” queen, much less a second out. Mirage also seemed like a total sweetheart, and had she known the words in that “Dark Lady” lispynch I think she may have gone much further this season. She did well in the LaLaPaRuZa and has great fan and Ru Girl support. I suspect we will see Mirage again before too long, and I am confident she’ll be booked and blessed for some time.

Amanda Tori Meating

Amanda arguably had two storylines this season: the underdog being bullied relentlessly by a frontrunner (Plane Jane), and the plucky crunchy queen with charisma and talent that outpaced her aesthetic. I thought the show did her a bit dirty in the girl group episode — she was better than the judges gave her credit — but I don’t know if Amanda was ever truly a contender. Still, she was a character, and she was a topic of conversation with the other girls even late into the season. Clock the number of Amanda reaction shots in the finale. That’s notable. I think Amanda has a bright future in drag, and now that she is on her transition journey, I would love to see her again in the future. Best name of the season!

Geneva Karr

I would argue that Geneva got less play this season than Amanda or Mirage, despite lasting a few episodes longer. Geneva has the distinction of being in either the Top or the Bottom every single episode in which she appeared, mostly in the bottom. At least she got an iconic track record! She was our early-season lipsynch assassin, and in a season filled with excellent lipsynch artists, that is saying something.

Megami

Prior to last week’s LaLaPaRuZa, I would have lumped Megami in with Geneva and Hershii as queens who didn’t get much of an arc/storyline this season. But then she showed up and showed OUT in Episode 15, and ended up leaving this season as an unlikely fan favorite. Given her much-memed talent show performance and her genuinely brilliant performance in the penultimate episode, I actually think Megami has a decent shot at being brought back for a second run. I think that LaLaPaRuZa success will get her booked and blessed for a good long time. This is how you turn around a rough edit, kids.

Xunami Muse

Given that Xunami literally never placed above Safe for a single challenge in her seven episodes, it’s remarkable how much of an impact she had on the season overall. She was a great pick for the twin Miss Congeniality wins, and it’s so deserved — she seems like such a sweetheart, a genuinely lovely soul. The fact that she is Kandy’s drag daughter makes it all the more satisfying; she has left a positive impression for the deeply polarizing Haus of Muse. She also gave us some beautiful fashions, including that stunning piece she showed us in the finale. Xunami may not be great at “Drag Race” challenges, but she is a great “Drag Race” personality, and I won’t be at all surprised to see her cast again.

April 2024 GPCD Recap Banner

Plasma

There is zero doubt that we will see Plasma back for an “All Stars” season sooner rather than later. A shocking elimination at 8th Place, despite having won two main challenges, or 25 percent of the episodes in which she competed. I can’t think of another situation like that in a non-“All Stars” format. Plasma has also been producing some great video content post-“Drag Race,” has a strong social media presence, and looked STUNNING at the finale. She coulda been a contendah! At least she broke the Jan Curse, actually racking up wins even as she brought big Theater Kid Energy.

Mhi’ya Iman LePaige

One of the more polarizing figures in the cast, Mhi’ya is deeply beloved by certain segments of the fandom. And I do get the charm. Many people identified with her story arc of being the shy type fighting for recognition in a roomful of loud people. There’s no question she gave us some of the best lipsynchs of the season. And she did get a main challenge win AND did well in Snatch Game. I think she had overall a positive arc on the show, and I won’t be surprised if they bring her back. She’s not my personal preference, but there can be no doubt that she won many hearts who think she is — like Cher, apparently — grrrrrr-ate!

Dawn

In another season I think Dawn would have snatched a win or two, especially in the design challenges. She consistently looked good, or at least interesting. But up against the likes of Q, Nymphia, and Sapphira, the space was just too crowded. Where Dawn excelled was in her increasingly sharp talking heads, and especially in “Untucked,” where she must have gotten carpal tunnel from stirring the pot so hard. Dawn makes for good reality TV, and even though she left without a win — including in either lipsynch she competed in — I won’t be surprised if she is brought back.

Morphine Love Dion

One of my favorite arcs of the season. Morphine showed up very cocky, but didn’t show us much to back that up at first — aside from that peerless mug. Little by little I warmed to her via her top-tier narrating game, and by mid-season I was fully addicted (pun intended). She gave us some great challenge performances by the end, and you could tell how badly she wanted to win something, anything, until she evolved into her final form as our late-season lipsynch assassin. Morphine is a star and I think she’ll have a great career for many years to come. I consider her a lock for an “All Stars” season.

Q

Q had one of the rougher edits this season. That is partially on her — she doesn’t react to criticism well, as best exemplified by her sometimes unhinged social media posts. But there is undeniable talent there. From a looks department, she was toward the top of the pack in a very competitive runway season. The fact that she made virtually everything she owns makes that even more impressive. I think her “See You Next Wednesday” design may be one of my favorite garments of the entire season. I won’t be surprised if they bring Q back. She has certainly earned an “All Stars” shot. But before she does come back, I hope she does some serious self-work, more for her sake than anyone else’s. It was difficult to watch her implode over and over again.

Plane Jane

In my opinion, Plane is the star of the season. She may have not have won the crown, but what a satisfying journey to watch. She came in super hot as an overconfident and unapologetic bitch — but a bitch with the skills and the looks to back up the attitude. That alone was daring and refreshing in modern “Drag Race.” But watching her soften up and let down her guard as the season went on was fascinating to watch. Do I think it was at least a partially deliberate “transformation”? Of course. But it was still effective. Plane also has real star quality, and makes for great TV. She WILL get an “All Stars” slot, and I suspect she will do quite well in it. She’s a versatile queen who can basically do it all. For the finale, I thought it was fair that she was cut at F3. As much as I enjoyed her “Bodysuit” number, it was the least successful of the three solos, and her final runway — though beautiful — didn’t have the same impact as the looks won by the Top 2. That said, Plane Jane, you are an icon, and you leave Season 16 as an instant “Drag Race” legend.

Sapphira Cristal

The strongest performer this season, and an all-around performer. Sapphira gave us a great talent show, a memorable Rusical performance, a near-win in Snatch Game, a showstopping political number, and S-tier looks on almost every runway. And she was so LOVELY doing it all; it was correct to name her the other Miss Congeniality winner, even though a season finalist hasn’t won that distinction since Nina Flowers in S1. Many people came into this finale assuming it was Sapphira’s to lose. After her exceptionally strong original number and interview with RuPaul, it definitely seemed that way. But that final lipsynch was pretty clearly a Nymphia win — what was with Sapphira’s vampire teeth, btw? — and I’m not sure Sapphira winning would necessarily add a new dimension to the Winners Circle. She’s a seasoned queen who is strong at almost every element of drag. I’m so glad she got a chance to show her stuff, and she made the most of it. There’s no doubt she could crush an “All Star” season, should she decide to do one (she has said publicly that she is not open to that currently, but I hope she changes her mind). She’s a star, but I do think she got outshone at the absolute wrong moment.

Nymphia Wind

Condragulations to our newly crowned queen, Nymphia Wind! I’m seeing many people stunned by this victory, but I think it makes sense in a lot of ways. First, while Sapphira and Plane had more challenge wins throughout the season, they each had one Bottom 2 placement — Nymphia never had one. And she had three main challenge wins, which is no small thing. Nymphia also came into the season as a frontrunner. She dominated the first two competitive episodes in which she appeared, and did at least well up until Snatch Game, where she crumbled. She built herself up slowly from there, peaking with the book-branding challenge. Her trajectory reminded me a lot of Lawrence Chaney from “UK2.” A clear powerhouse in the beginning who hits the skids while other queens pull ahead in the later season, only to come back at the last minute and snatch the crown. In addition to giving us one of the best finale lipsynchs since Sasha Velour in Season 9, Nymphia also brings something different and unique to the Winners Circle. We haven’t had an Asian winner since Raja in SEASON 3. That’s wild. She’s an immigrant, which I think makes for a great story in an election year. She’s also a look queen and a conceptual queen, and that’s a winner archetype we haven’t had in a while. And she was easily the most popular in the social media voting, by a significant margin. I think Nymphia’s an excellent winner, and I’m so excited to see what she does with her reign.

So what did you think of Season 16 overall? Who were some of your favorite queens? Who would you love to see return? Drop a comment below.

Thanks for reading our recaps! Check out some of our other “Drag Race” content, and then come back in mid-May when “All Stars 9” debuts. This is the first time in over a YEAR there will be no new “Drag Race” airing for any given week. What will I do with all my free time?

Miss Our Previous S16 Recaps? Here They Are:

Episode 15

Episode 14

Episode 13

Episode 12

Episode 11

Episode 10

Episode 9

Episode 8

Episode 7

Episode 6

Episode 5

Episode 4

Episode 3

Episode 2

Episode 1

Newsletter Banner

Subscribe
Notify of
guest

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

1 Comment
Most Voted
Newest Oldest
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Brandon
Brandon
28 days ago

I really enjoyed this season and am happy for Nymphia. I would’ve been happy with any of the final three snatching the crown though. I do hope future season finales return to a theatre setting. I kind of feel like these queens got that shaft a little having their finale in a studio. The setting took away some of the episode’s grandness. As far as the cast goes, I liked most everyone except maybe Geneva – I can’t put my finger on why though. And I liked Xunami in spite of her drag mother.

Thanks for the recaps. I’m looking forward to All Stars, even if I am a little disappointed that it’s only 8 queens?!?