Welcome to RuPaul’s Drag Race Power Rankings! Every week, we’re debriefing the week’s new episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 16 to determine which queens are riding high, and which need she-mergency care. A fan favourite goes home this week, while a surprising winner means we’ve got a new leader of the pack.
13. Mirage (last week: 11)—ELIMINATED
Regrettably, Mirage hoisted herself with her own petard a couple times this episode. Fighting for the host role that she was always going to be an imperfect fit for was the first issue, made infinitely worse by her immediately second-guessing it when Sapphira Cristál suddenly backed down. Then, she made a key Drag Race error by muddling her references (in a Cher runway!) in front of RuPaul. Ru may have said he likes that younger queens mix-and-match references, but even his Emmy-winning hosting skills couldn’t sell that as truthful. And finally, while she did her best to cover for it, Mirage’s shaky handle on the “Dark Lady” lyrics doomed her. She’s one of the most impressive performers to be out this early, but I can’t say it was unjustified based on her work in this episode.
12. Geneva Karr (last week: 13)
Geneva has the unusual distinction alongside Season 13’s Denali of lip syncing in all of her first three episode appearances. (Unlike Denali, who won once, landed in the bottom once and had to participate in the season-opening lip sync gauntlet, Geneva’s landed in the bottom twice and the top two once.) Though she’s fought her way out of trouble the last two weeks—albeit with a big assist from Mirage not knowing the words this week—the risk of lip syncing so many times early on is that you run out of tricks to surprise the judges with. I wouldn’t be surprised to see her eliminated the next time she lands in the bottom against pretty much anyone. And with performances like her utterly misjudged Lindsey Graham, I unfortunately think she’ll land there again sooner versus later.
11. Mhi’ya Iman Le’Paige (last week: 12)
The bad news for Mhi’ya is obvious: after scoring a surprisingly low fifth in her premiere’s Rate-a-Queen rankings, she has since racked up two near-bottom two appearances in the first challenges of the season. She has a poor, but not disastrous, track record so far. But here’s the good news: Ru seems really invested in Mhi’ya. We’ve seen Ru pick “project” queens before, contestants he sees potential in despite early rough performances. (Adore Delano is the most notable version of this archetype that also includes queens like Heidi N Closet and Tia Kofi.) I was glad to hear Mhi’ya finally elaborate on why she’s been so shy so far: she’s nervous in front of Ru, and it’s preventing her from being her true self. If she can puncture through that, I think she might be able to get some momentum going. That said, she’ll need better performances than we saw in her sketch this week, and better runways than she did for this Cher, to get there. (That absurd, hilarious Cher impersonation probably got her out of lip syncing, though.)
10. Morphine Love Dion (last week: 8)
God, I love Morphine’s shit-stirring ass so much, and I am desperately hoping she gets better at the actual competition element of the show soon. She wasn’t the problem with the QNN sketch, but she certainly wasn’t a solution. Her characterization basically fell off every time she wasn’t actually speaking. I did like her Oscars Cher look, but it’s unfortunate that there were some far superior Bob Mackie tributes that came down the runway after her. She’s getting a ton of confessional time every episode, so I think she’s our de facto narrator of the season, but she’ll need to step it up to actually stick around.
9. Amanda Tori Meating (last week: 10)
Man, Plane Jane really thought she chose an easy target to pick on with Amanda, only for Amanda to eat her up at just about every turn. I do think the core issue with Amanda’s drag is still a problem; as Mirage noted in the cold open, Jane wasn’t actually saying anything the other queens weren’t, she was just doing it in a rude and unwarranted way. And indeed, on the runway this week, her cute Cher Doll runway idea was muddled by a messy mug. I’m inclined to think that Amanda’s built-in storyline with Jane will keep her around for a bit, but she is decidedly among the worst-performing queens so far this season.
8. Dawn (last week: 4)
I’m growing a little weary of Dawn’s focus-pulling in the werk room and confessionals only to not really step it up in the challenges. She basically pushed Plasma out of the Weekend Update-style sketch by cliquing up with Amanda and Q, only for their chemistry—the supposed reason why they had to do it together—to produce no memorable moments. Q owned that sketch entirely by herself, with Dawn honestly barely registering throughout. On the runway, I didn’t hate her Mod Cher, but thought she skirted the rules a bit by deciding what the colours would be. She basically took a black-and-white inspiration and made her own look out of it. And while I like her signature makeup, I don’t get why she used it for this runway. Even Gottmik didn’t always do a white face. I dunno, I still like Dawn overall, but I’d like to see her walk the walk as well as she talks the talk.
7. Megami (last week: 9)
This was Megami’s best week yet, owing to a strong, faithful interpretation of “If I Could Turn Back Time” Cher on the runway and a funny, if a bit one note, performance in “RDR Live.” Jane was right to dissuade Morphine fromor this role—the fact that she and Megami approached it differently made the sketch more enjoyable. It wasn’t the best thing we saw all episode (though to be blunt, nothing was particularly spectacular), but it was more than enough to land Megami a solid safe ranking. Hopefully she continues to rise; I’m interested to see how she’ll do in the girl groups challenge next week.
6. Xunami Muse (last week: 6)
After a near-disastrous first outing, Xunami has quietly recovered in a pretty impressive way. She was the clear winner of a bad opening sketch, delivering all her lines well and not going for a big, incorrect swing the way Geneva and Mhi’ya did. On the runway, in Prisoner Cher drag, Xunami gave us something we haven’t yet seen from her. She looked almost ethereal in the angel look, and she used her model skills to present it beautifully. I’m worried about her in the girl groups challenge next week based on her talent show performance, but if she can survive that, I could see Xunami sticking around for quite a while.
5. Sapphira Cristál (last week: 2)
While Plasma wound up being the standout of her sketch, I think Sapphira made a good case for herself this week. First of all, she wisely pivoted out of a fight for the host role that I don’t think would have served her well. I do think she’d have been better in the part than Mirage, but I also think nailing the monologue was a pretty thankless task that wouldn’t have gotten her any closer to the win. And in her sketch, Sapphira showed an ability to do well enough in comedy tasks, which will be important in a season with not too many comedy queens. Her Vegas Residency Cher look on the runway was terrific—loved the removable piece. Overall a very nice week for Sapphira.
4. Nymphia Wind (last week: 1)
Like Sapphira, Nymphia proved she can hold her own well enough in comedy challenges, which in this cast is valuable. I’m not worried about her being in trouble on something that’s not in her direct wheelhouse, and that should keep her safe until deep into the season. On the runway, her Egyptian Goddess Cher look was a stunner, and showed off a body-focused aspect of her drag that we’ve not yet seen so starkly. Drag Race frontrunners need these kinds of weeks to get them to the end: not a stand-out, but just impressive enough to maintain momentum.
3. Plane Jane (last week: 5)
I’m struggling with this one, because I do think the comparisons between Plane Jane and Jimbo have gotten a bit overzealous online. While Jane does decidedly do bimbo drag, and her talent show was certainly pitched at exactly the Ru interest zone that Jimbo herself occupies, Jane also presents a lot that Jimbo never would. But this week makes ignoring the comparison effectively impossible: Jane was in nearly the exact role that Jimbo was for All Stars 8’s “RDR Live,” and she approached it incredibly similarly. I knew the second she took the part that she was going to be in the top this week. It’s not even about her emulating Jimbo, because if I remember filming dates right, this episode would have shot before the AS8 episode even aired. But in the end, this was a pretty weak crop of performances, and Jane managed to do something we know Ru loves in her role. That was enough for a bronze medal in this challenge.
2. Q (last week: 3)
Colour me truly gagged Q did not win this week. (She seemed pretty gagged herself, too!) She has now finished as runner-up in every single challenge of the season so far. Granted, that’s only three, but even noted Susan Lucci-types like Pandora Boxx and Miz Cracker weren’t pulling these kinds of results. Q is really the perpetual bridesmaid of this season, and I’m wondering what it’ll take to actually put her over the line. She crafts her own gorgeous looks week in and week out, with this one being her best yet. The attention to detail, the fit, the way it shimmered! What a fantastic tribute to Cher—I was sure she had it on this alone. And the fact that Sarah Michelle Gellar sung such praises of her comedy skills made me confident it was going her way. Alas, Ru had other plans, but I still think Q’s gonna snatch a win at some point this season.
1. Plasma (last week: 7)
I’d rank Plasma’s reaction to her win up there with Tatianna’s in All Stars 2’s “Revenge of the Queens” and Kitty Scott-Claus’ in UK Season 3’s “Miss Fugly Beauty Pageant.” She was absolutely not expecting it—and to be frank, I wasn’t either! I thought Q had this in the bag based on momentum. But I do appreciate that Plasma won for the performance that felt the most like it could actually be on Saturday Night Live right now. She took a part she wasn’t that interested in initially (though she absolutely should have been) and nailed it. The “Ru-Barb” joke delivery got my one genuine laugh-out-loud of the episode. She also looked her best yet on the runway—Ru seemed to really appreciate that she went for a darker Cher look. Though I personally would’ve gone another way this week, I give huge plaudits to Plasma. She’s got a real clear lane this season as the comedy/theatre queen, and she could run the table on those challenges if the other queens don’t step it up.