TOP 10: “Drag Race” Season 16 Promo Looks

December 6, 2023

BY Eric Rezsnyak

The queens of “RuPaul’s Drag Race” Season 16 are here! Today the 14 new contestants were ruvealed ahead of the S16 debut on Friday, January 5, 8pm on MTV.

The promo theme of “Ruvolution” gave us a darker, edgier bunch of looks than we’ve had in years. I know there has been some pushback about the more militaristic elements of the concept, but I think they’re largely muted, and I appreciated the unique color story and harder edges the queens brought to the table. Big Mother is watching YOU!

Below find the Great Pop Culture Debate’s ranking of the Top 10 Season 16 promo looks, as well as our initial impressions after the Meet the Queens:

Looking for more “Drag Race” content? Make sure to check out our Top 10 “Drag Race” Seasons of 2023 list, and our recaps of specific episodes by clicking here.

10. Geneva Karr

I like a lot of the elements in Geneva’s promo look; my issue is that because of the colors they aren’t standing out particularly well. That flared peplum, the intricate mermaid skirt, the gold edging, the exaggerated camo shoulders — these are all great design aspects. They just don’t *pop* as well as many of the other girls. What does: Geneva’s mug, which is BEAUTIFUL. Gorgeous queen, and she is snatched for the gods. After watching her Meet the Queen, I have the impression that Geneva may have Mexican heritage. Just a hunch, I’m not sure what would give me that idea, she never mentions it…

9. Xunami Muse

Well we see who wears the pants in this drag family. Xunami — pronounced “tsunami” — is the daughter of Kandy Muse, the most love-her-or-hate-her “Drag Race” contestant of the 2020s. Xunami’s promo look commands your attention. Those pants, as ridiculous as they are, are very much a statement. While it doesn’t come across in this photo, she has one enormous braid wrapped around the metallic green top. It is a lot of look, but when it comes to promos, I will always take more instead of not enough. As far as her Meet the Queen video, I was not enthused. She says that her personality is what makes her stand out, but can’t actually describe her personality to us. Personally, I’m going to question anyone who thinks it’s a good idea to name themselves after a natural disaster that can wipe out entire cities, all because “Storm” was taken.

8. Amanda Tori Meating

Amanda gets the prize for the stupidest/best name of the season. I also like several of the elements of the promo look. The sleeveless trench on its own is a statement, but the grommet flourishes and the spikes on the shoulder give it a nice edge. We always love a massive high pony. I’m sure the boots/garters will be polarizing, but I think they’re edgy, colorful, and somehow playful in a look that is skirting the line of Thunderdome. The base is a gussied-up swimsuit. I was enchanted by Amanda in her Meet the Queen. She is a proud dumb slut, and seems like a ton of fun. I’m really excited to watch her. She has the gift of gab for sure.

7. Sapphira Cristal

I like the concept of Sapphira’s look, even if I don’t think it’s entirely successful. That long strip down the front is giving me Jasmine Masters’ “straight-up-and-down-pole bodies.” (I know that’s two Jasmine Masters references, but when it’s right, it’s right.) I love the shoulders, the oversized epaulettes on the waist, and that snakeskin (I’m assuming faux?) fabrication is a total *chef kiss*. I loved Sapphira’s Meet the Queen interview. She had a strong, assured vibe that read as confident but not cocky — real capital-Q Queen energy. This is her 11th time auditioning for “Drag Race,” and she comes across as the most seasoned professional in this group. I will root for that every single time.

6. Plane Jane

This look is chic as fuck. It’s giving Britney in the “Toxic” music video crossed with Madonna from “Human Nature” and I am in love with it. Going for simple accessories was the correct move when that look is doing all the heavy lifting. And the mug? Flawless. Unfortunately, Jane does not come off at all well in her Meet the Queen. It’s one of the oddest I can remember seeing, bordering on antagonistic. Jane talked about farting, her specific body odor, and in perhaps in what is the worst decision of them all, she bluntly attacked Season 7’s Katya, basically a “Drag Race” saint, for coopting her Russian heritage and using it as a schtick. Does she have a point? Probably! Was her Meet the Queen the time or place to throw down that gauntlet? I really don’t think so.

5. Hershii Liqcour-Jete

I don’t know for certain that Hershii was intending to give us a Phyllis Nefler fantasy. But in my heart, I believe that she was. Is the core of this a corset and bra? Yes, but it is meticulously studded (like the Friday nights of my dreams). The hat! THE CAPE! Why do so few drag queens wear capes? Forget Edna Mode; you’re not near jet engines (unless you’re Plane Jane). I adored Hershii’s Meet the Queen. She is the sister to Season 14’s Kornbread, about whom I have many complicated feelings on any given day. Hershii comes across much more mature. She is effortlessly funny and charming, but I totally understand not to fuck with this queen. I also loved when she said that drag is her passion, her drive. ” A lot of these girls are just trying to get here.” I feel that intensely. Stan Hershii.

4. Dawn

Dawn describes herself as a drag elf, and yep, I get it. I see it. This look is fantasy, but it is also contemporary, and bordering on street. I guess it’s what all the cool kids are wearing in Rivendell or Gridania. Absolutely obsessed with the headpiece. The mug is very cool, but you have to know she is already getting comparisons to Crystal Methyd and Daya Betty. I expect Dawn to give us some great looks, but after the Meet the Queen, I am concerned about her in performance challenges. The energy peaked at a 4. Tap into that Galadriel fury, Dawn!

3: Q

This look is SUMPTUOUS. Look at that corset. Look at it! Every time I look at it I have a new favorite detail. THAT is how you do a memorable thigh-high boot. The singular sleeve with all the o-rings hanging off of it! And what reads to me as Amazonian headgear. It says warrior, it says futuristic, it says, “They assigned me brown for my promo look color, and god damn it, I am going to outshine all the bitches in neon green.” And she did! I enjoyed Q’s Meet the Queen. She seems polished and like she’s bringing the goods. She seems a bit reserved in her personality, but I’m hoping her skills will speak for themselves.

2: Plasma

Come on, metallica! I’m a sucker for a camp queen, and a queen that serves old Hollywood glamour, and by first appearances, that’s exactly what Plasma is serving us. Initially I thought her whole look was that super-shiny silver fabrication, but there’s a a gunny-sack green in there as well. I think it’s a look that demands attention and also gives you a clear indication of the kind of queen Plasma is. She also charmed me in her MTQ. She refers to herself as a 65-year-old woman in a 24-year-old twink’s body. She’s enthusiastic but also scrappy. My concern is that she’s got theater-queen DNA, and at this point we all know RuPaul fucking hates theater queens.

1. Nymphia Wind

Instantly obsessed. The headdress? The tiled jewels over the chest? The gloves? The asymmetrical fetish-buckle leather dress? THE NAILS? The make-up? Fuck me up, Nymphia. I don’t think Nymphia’s Meet the Queen was as successful as some of the others. However, I encourage you to watch her work room entrance video, which is exceptional. I think it will go down as one of the all-time best in “Drag Race” history. It’s completely over the top, utterly ridiculous, and instantly iconic. It also shows us that Nymphia is more than just absolutely lethal looks. She’s creative, she’s kooky, and she’s fucking ready for this.

We have four other queens in the cast, whose promo looks did not make my Top 10, but who could still surprise us. In alphabetical order:

Megami: The necklace is major. The jacket is great. I think the spikes on the toes of the boots are cute. Megami is a gaymer/cosplay/geek queen, and that is right in my wheelhouse. I really want to fall in love with her. After the Meet the Queen, I’m not quite there yet — but I want to be.

Mhi-ya Iman LePaige: To paraphrase Season 7’s Jasmine Masters, “Girl, just for that wig alone, you are safe as fuck.” From the neck up this is opulence. This is drag excellence. I also love the camo cape/shrug/robe thing.

Mirage: The chartreuse is eyepopping. Love that ruffle. But this is not enough for a promo look. Mirage had the weakest Meet the Queen video to me. It somehow felt like it lasted 40 minutes but I can’t remember a single thing she said.

Morphine Love Dion: Morphine may have the most beautiful face of the season. I think the idea of a dress made out of medals is very cool. And yet somehow, this lacks impact. But she’s undeniably gorgeous.

What do you think of the Season 16 promo theme? Which queens had your favorite looks? Drop your thoughts in the comments below.

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