RuPaul’s season 16 crowns a winner after finale twist (spoilers)

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One month ago I declared that RuPaul’s Drag Race season 16 contestant Q would make it to the finale as one of the top four queens. I was right, and I was wrong. Q did make it to the top four, but for the first time in eight years the finale show only featured three queens vying for the crown. Mama Ru always has a trick up her custom-designed-by-Zaldy sleeve! And so last Friday we saw this year’s top three — Nymphia Wind, Sapphira Cristal, and Plane Jane — battle it out until Ru turned to one of them and declared, “Condragulations, you’re a winner, Baby!”

Winner, winner, chicken (or banana, or burger finger, or delectable six-octave vocal range) dinner: RuPaul’s Drag Race season 16 just crowned a new champion!

Friday night’s grand finale saw Nymphia Wind, Plane Jane, and Sapphira Cristal battle for the crown and a $200,000 check one last time, after 16 hard-fought episodes that included even more shady drama, on-camera clashes, and legendary lip-syncs added to the Drag Race canon.

With help from returning season 15 winner Sasha Colby, the evening ended with Mother RuPaul naming Nymphia as America’s Next Drag Superstar, while runner-up Sapphira received a $25,000 prize for her contributions to the competition.

Nymphia fell to her knees when RuPaul announced her name as the winner. Composing herself, she said, “To those who feel like they don’t belong, just remember to live fearlessly and have courage to live your truth. And Taiwan, this is for you!”

This marked the first Drag Race finale to include an official top-three roster of finalists since season 8 in 2016. (The season 12 finale consisted of three competitors only after the disqualification of top-four finalist Sherry Pie.)

Earlier in the episode, Plane was eliminated in third place following performances of original numbers from each of the finalists. The Boston native, whose controversial approach to Werk Room sisterhood ruffled plenty of feathers among fans and fellow queens this season, took home $25,000 before sashaying away, leaving Taiwan-raised Nymphia and Philadelphia-based entertainer Sapphira to lip-sync for the crown to Kyli Minogue’s 2023 hit “Padam Padam.”

The performance was the first time Nymphia engaged in a competitive lip-sync on the season, and she did not disappoint. Following a series of bubble tea-themed reveals (including the stunning release of black “boba” balloons form under her coat, representing tapioca pearls) Nymphia launched into a series of acrobatics as she flitted around the stage. Sapphira, on the other hand, began her performance more subtly, standing in place and emoting the lyrics with a pair of vampire teeth in her mouth.

RuPaul deemed Nymphia the winner of her first and only lip-sync of the season, and she took home $200,000 in winnings as well as the title of America’s Next Drag Superstar.

Sapphira and Xunami Muse — drag daughter of the legendary Kandy Muse — made her-story earlier in the night by becoming the first-ever duo to tie for the Miss Congeniality title. The presentation of Miss C also included two $10,000 checks for Sapphira and Xunami, with the rest of the eliminated queens receiving $2,000 tips for their run on season 16.

[From Entertainment Weekly]

I love a queen with an absolutely bonkers sense of humor (I’m looking at you, Willow Pill!), so I am thrilled with Nymphia Wind’s big win. She had me from her entrance in a 1960s beehive wig accessorized with five retro sunglasses to match the pair she was wearing. The bubble tea concept was perfectly executed, with the release of the “tapioca pearl” balloons harkening back to Sasha Velour’s now-iconic lip sync to Whitney Houston’s “So Emotional.” I enjoyed Sapphira throughout the season as well, but Nymphia delivered a stronger lip sync.

As for Plane Jane, well… First of all, yes, that’s how she spells it, Plane not Plain. Because, and I quote, “I’ve always really been into airplanes.” From the beginning, Plane was a formidable competitor. Her drag is excellent, her performances flawless. She was just also a real bitch (and I don’t mean that in a good way) from day one. She somewhat opened up and let down her defenses, but it only ever felt like we saw hints of humility and authenticity. If she continues to loosen up, though, I could definitely see her coming back for an all stars season and claiming victory then. But this year no one could hold out against the prevailing wind of Nymphia.

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9 Responses to “RuPaul’s season 16 crowns a winner after finale twist (spoilers)”

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  1. Lexilla says:

    Congrats to Nymphia, but this one surprised me. To me no one held the stage like Sapphira, and she was such a genuine, supportive queen to others. I loved Nymphia, my god the fashion, but I was sure Sapphira would win.

    • CommentingBunny says:

      I was sure it would be Sapphira until Nymphia released those balloons! I hope we get Sapphira and Plane on a future All Stars.

      • Lexilla says:

        You’re right @commentingbunny, the balloons were an iconic moment. If Ru judges based on the final lip sync I get it, but I was hoping she would weigh the whole season. Yes to both on future All Stars! Plane for the drama, Sapphira for the win.

      • Flamingo says:

        It was a great ending and Ru mentioned it was the new and improved stage. I wonder if that will be used in future seasons. Since it looks about 2x the size of the usual stage. That would be great for Rusicals and for Queens to shine in Lip Synchs so they are not on top of each other.

        Very happy for Nymphia she edged Sapphira out with that last Lip Sync. But I feel Sapphira had a stronger season overall than Nymphia. And there in lies the rub for me. It seems Ru flips from season to season on a winner. Is it the final lip synch or how they perfomed over the whole season aka Jinx Monsoon in AS7.

        But I think no one really loses on RPDR. We will 100% see Plane Jane and Sapphira and other Queens from season 16 one day in All Star seasons.

    • Sherry says:

      I loved Nymphia too, but Sapphira’s lip sync was way more thrilling. You don’t need handstands to make a great performance.

  2. Lauren says:

    I have seen and met Plane Jane quite a few times at drag shows around the Boston area. She is definitely a bad ass queen as well as a bit bitchy lol. It was awesome seeing her make it that far!

  3. Grant says:

    Nymphia is also from Taiwan (I believe). Asian queens don’t always fare very well in Drag Race (justice for Manila Luzon!) so Nymphia’s win is HERSTORIC!

  4. DeluxeDuckling says:

    I was was rooting for Sapphira and Nymphia from day 1, the moment Jane was eliminated I just sat back and enjoyed the show. I don’t think Jane is on the level of the others, but she’s great TV.

    The finale lipsync was mesmerising and they both commanded the stage in different ways. I wouldn’t be able to call it. Sapphira’s eyes are so expressive and funny and she doesn’t need flips to have attention. Nymphia has an insane taste level and she crafts each performance so meticulously. I love them both so much.

    My conspiracy about production:

    I feel like the producers have been f***ing with us fans of powerhouse Asian queens ever since the Pangina / Blue situation. They saw an opportunity with Marina to have fans riled up about them being robbed (in that case by Hannah, not Tia). They edited s16 to bait us into thinking Nymphia might be robbed by Jane, despite being the top competitor along with Sapphira.

    This whips the fans up so that the win is still shocking and discussable, even though she is undeniably one of the best. It’s engagement that’s good for the show. I feel played but also happy one of my favourites won.

    I’m glad that Nymphia incorporated her culture into every look and was rewarded, it means a lot and actually has international significance considering China/Taiwan opposite stance on queerness but shared history.

    I reckon they got rid of Q because no one wants to see her dance. She is an incredible design queen.

    Ps. I love Morphine too. What a joy to watch! My assassin ❤️

  5. DeluxeDuckling says:

    PS so happy to see drag race coverage on Celebitchy!! 💚 These queens are the true royals lol.