Drag Race season 16 is set to introduce three major twists and changes

Carson Kressley in the trailer for RuPaul's Drag Race season 16

It’s hard to believe, but RuPaul’s Drag Race season 16 is here – and after an astonishing season 15, which saw trans goddess Sasha Colby crowned, there’s a lot to live up to.

As ever, Drag Race season 16 will see 14 drag queens go head to head as they act, sing, impersonate and, of course, lip-sync for their lives – and the crown.

While the cast list has some big names in the US drag scene, including Brooklyn’s “ethereal elf” Dawn, Xunami Muse, drag daughter of All Stars 8 finalist Kandy Muse, and owner of the best-ever drag name, Amanda Tori Meeting, the cast also includes some firsts for the show.

Fan favourite Nymphia Wind is the first ever Taiwanese drag queen on the show, while Geneva Karr is the first ever Mexican-born queen on the US franchise.

The trailer for season 16 promises a runway chock-full of sickening looks, and stellar guest judges in the form of Buffy The Vampire Slayer star Sarah Michelle Gellar, “Shower” hitmaker Becky G, bop-making duo Icona Pop, and Oscar-winning Monster actor Charlize Theron.

Though the Drag Race trailers always promise twists, turns and endless drama, in the case of season 16, that’s an actual truth. Here are three ways season 16 will be different to previous seasons.

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The return of immunity to Drag Race

In the first major gag of the season 16 trailer, RuPaul announces that immunity – in which the winning queen of the week cannot land in the bottom or be sent home in the following week’s challenge – will be returning.

It’s the first time that immunity has been offered in Drag Race since season five in 2013, Jinkx Monsoon’s original season.

The last contestant to receive immunity was Alyssa Edwards, which meant that she was unable to be placed in the bottom two for her abysmal impersonation of Katy Perry in the Snatch Game.

RuPaul. (WOW/ MTV)

Some fans believe that was the reason that immunity was removed from Drag Race altogether.

However, in the trailer RuPaul declares that “this week’s winner will receive immunity”, meaning it’s unconfirmed whether the immunity element will last the duration of the season, or just one week.

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The ‘Rate-A-Queen’ twist

The biggest element announced in the Drag Race season 16 trailer is that a shocking, franchise-first twist will be taking place – giving the queens the power to decide who will place in the top, and who will place in the bottom.

In the one minute clip, the queens appear to take on the standard talent show challenge in the first episode, before the contestants are taken one by one to the darkened werk room, to choose which of their fellow competitors deserve to win, and which should go home.

Promotional still of queens from the cast of RuPaul's Drag Race season 16, which premieres in January 2024 on MTV and WOE Presents Plus
RuPaul’s Drag Race season 16 welcomes 14 new queens to the workroom. (WOW Present Plus)

“I will not be judging you, instead you’ll be judging each other,” RuPaul booms in the voiceover. As with immunity, it’s not confirmed whether ‘Rate-A-Queen’ will last for one episode, or the duration of the season.

As a wise woman once said: “What the f**k is going on in here on this day?”

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An apparent change to the Drag Race finale 

OK, take this one with a very big pinch of salt, but according to certain online Reddit rumours, the finale episode may have already been filmed, rather than being filmed in front of an audience a few weeks before the end of the season.

The last time a finale episode on the US franchise was filmed at the same time as the rest of the season and away from a live audience was way back in 2011, for season three. (Excluding season 12 and 13’s finales which were, due to COVID-19, were filmed on Zoom and without a live audience respectively.)

However, as of right now, there is no official confirmation as to whether the finale will be filmed as usual, a couple of weeks in advance and with an audience full of fans and queens, or on the main stage in front of RuPaul, Michelle Visage, Carson Kressley and Ross Matthews, as happens on other franchises.

RuPaul’s Drag Race season 16 starts 5 January on MTV in the US and WOW Presents Plus internationally. 

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