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RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 16 Episode 1 RECAP: Rate-A-Queen

A new cast of queens enter the werk room and we meet half of them in the season 16 premiere, actress Charlize Theron is a guest judge…

It’s a new year and we’re back with a new season of RuPaul’s Drag Race! Last season, the iconic Sasha Colby was crowned as the new queen supreme and she’s been using her reign to bring us fashion, performance, and trans representation to the world stage. This season a new group of queens will enter the werk room, take on a number of challenges, and win over the hearts of the viewers to be crowned America’s Next Drag Superstar. I’m sure there will be no shortage of twists and gag-worthy guest judges, so without further ado, let’s jump right in.

Season 16 begins in the werk room of course. The first queen to make their grand entrance is Q who is an artist and a diva and she’s feeling very correct. She’s a fashion girl who makes her own looks and she’s always serving. Next in is Xunami Muse who looks like she’s stepped straight off of a runway. Xunami is from the same house as Kandy Muse, so she’ll have big shoes to fill. Third in the werk room is Amanda Tori Meating who brings all the camp to the space. Next up is Morphine Love Dion the goddess from Miami and she’s here to heat things up! Her makeup is stunning and she’s friends with Miss Xunami. The next to arrive is Sapphira Cristál and she’s a talented opera singer which I’m sure will come in handy with this week’s maxi challenge. Following Sapphira, is Mirage from Las Vegas and she’s giving Claire’s accessories in the best way. Dawn is officially in the room and she’s bringing her ethereal elf fairy fantasy energy to the werk room. The girlies get some Ru Mail and a lot of them are thinking this is going to be a split premiere. Ru welcomes the queens to the competition in person and tells them that the race for the crown starts NOW. For this week’s photoshoot challenge the first half of the queens will have to pose the house down on Ru’s doorstep. 

One by one the queens make their way to Ru’s porch where their photos will be taken with a video doorbell. Love Connie surprises the queens by ambushing them on their way out. After their porch photoshoots the girls get out of drag and get a good look at each other. A little playful shade is thrown before Ru re-enters the room and announces that the winner of the first mini challenge is Sapphira! Ru tells the queens that for this week’s maxi challenge they’re paying homage to an MTV classic. It’s spring break, bitch! And the queens are all competing in a talent show. But before Ru can tell them the first twist. The winner of this week’s challenge will also receive immunity (which hasn’t been in play since season 5) THIS IS MAJOR! But wait, there’s more! This week Ru will not be judging the queens, they’ll be judging each other using a peer-evaluation system called Rate-A-Queen. As the queens get ready for their talent show they talk about how they’ll be evaluating each other and unsurprisingly, there’s no real consensus. They transition to open the floor to talk about the filler that everyone has gotten and then a doorbell rings only to reveal the Atomic Blonde herself, actress Charlize Theron. Charlize asks the queens how they’re feeling and gives them a pep talk, and a sneak peak of the pit crew before they head out to the stage. While they get ready some of the queens talk about growing up queer in a small town. Morphine reveals her parent’s don’t know she’s a drag queen but she still lives with them, which has resulted in this Hannah Montana double life she’s currently living. 

Out on the main stage Ru introduces this week’s panel of judges, Michelle, Carson, and of course, this week’s extra special guest Charlize Theron. Derrick Barry returns to host the talent show and the first to perform is Morphine who stuns with a latin-inspired dance routine. Amanda is next and she’s performing an original song, which if we’ve learned anything from the past, won’t be the last of the night. Dawn performs her original song but she does incorporate some outfit reveals with it. Q is next with the night’s most original performance, a silly illusion puppet ballet show using her head on a teeny tiny body and the judges eat it up. Mirage is next performing, you guessed it.. Another original song, but she’s a dancer baby and she’s making those acrylic stripper heels CLACK. Xunami also does an original song/rap, which is a little lackluster if we’re being honest. Sapphira is the last girl to perform and she decides to perform live opera with some suggestive lyrics which is something different, so points to her. It’s certainly original and the judges love it. After the talent show the category on the runway is “RuVeal Yourself” and the queens show off their best reveal looks. 

Ru and the judges will provide critiques but the queens will have to rate each other. The critiques begin with Morphine and the judges liked her talent but weren’t gagged with her reveal. Carson called Dawn’s talent fun and Michelle loves how weird and Brooklyn she is and Charlize calls her really entertaining. Amanda is next and Michelle says her reveal was so bizarre and gives her some hair and makeup advice but Carson really liked her talent performance. Carson and Michelle tells Xunami that her performance started really great but the energy died throughout and Charlize tells her that her walk is perfect. Michelle tells Q her puppet show was so much fun to watch and she really sold her performance and both Carson and Charlize are obsessed with her look. Q reveals she made her entire look which has all the judges gagged. Michelle says Mirage’s reveal look was fun and Charlize tells her that her talent show performance was “fucking great”. Michelle says her performance was a little messy and she just needs to tighten up a bit. Michelle wasn’t obsessed with Sapphira’s reveal look, but all of the judges loved her talent show performance. 

Backstage the queens privately rate the others in order from worst to best. A lot of them play it strategically. Once all of their ratings are locked in they head back out to the main stage where the ratings are revealed. This week there will be a top two who will lip sync against each other for immunity. Based on the ratings, the top two queens of the week are Q and Sapphira. Ru reveals this week none of the queens are going home. Q and Sapphira lip sync for immunity to Break My Soul by Beyoncé. Both queens serve a fun performance full of energy and splits. After a shablam and a nip slip, Ru announces that the winner of the first lip sync of the season and immunity from a future elimination is…Sapphira (who has won both challenges this week)!

Next week on RuPaul’s Drag Race: We meet the remaining seven queens and see what talent they bring to the competition.  

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