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April 23, 2024

Sapphira Cristál reflects on her favorite 'Drag Race' outfits and her love for Philly

The runner-up of Season 16 talks about what's next and the top spots in the city for performances.

TV Drag Queens
Sapphira Cristal finale Provided Image/MTV

Sapphira Cristál stunned viewers with her elaborate and operatic outfits throughout the season. Pictured above is her first look from the 'RuPaul's Drag Race' finale.

Sapphira Cristál technically didn't win "RuPaul's Drag Race" Season 16, but she won in many other ways.

"You win by getting on the show, honestly," Sapphira said. "I got to compete with some of the best drag queens in the country. I got to show exactly who I am. I got to be on TV. Now people know who I am and know the love that I have for living and for people."

The highly rated "Drag Race" finale on Saturday ended with Sapphira gaining runner-up status, a cash prize of $25,000 and the title of Miss Congeniality. 

"I think if I had won (the grand prize of) $200,000, that would have felt a little bit better. But honestly, I have won a lot," she said.

Looking back at 'Drag Race' outfits

Philly's self-proclaimed crown jewel grew her fan base as the season progressed, garnering praise for her elaborate and larger-than-life outfits. Sapphira harkened back to her classically trained music roots, bringing an operatic influence to these looks. 

Among her favorite outfits were her winged flower dress, her royal blue dress in the "True Colors" category, her hilarious "Austin Powers" Dr. Evil drag and her chained "BDSM dog" lookSapphira laughed when her enormous and intricate finale outfits were compared to boss characters in "Final Fantasy" video games.

"One of the reasons why my pieces are so big is because if you think about opera, the stages are very large, and so are the halls, so you have to be able to see these things from far away," she said. "What I wanted to do was bring opera back to drag and bring drag back to opera."

Sapphira Cristál outfit finaleProvided Image/MTV

Sapphira Cristál performed in the 'RuPaul's Drag Race' Season 16 finale with a large cover-up dress that the dancers then pulled off.

What she brought to 'Drag Race'

As a Philly drag queen, there was one core value that Sapphira wanted to bring to "Drag Race" from her hometown: Love. 

"The funny thing about Philadelphia is that we have a lot of love for each other," she said. 

Throughout the season, Sapphira took on a motherly role with her fellow contestants, while strengthening her love for herself. She put in extra work to help her fellow contestant Mhi'ya Iman Le'Paige in not just one, but two design challenges. One of her best moments was helping Plane Jane through a moment of self-doubt.

"We are a very tight community," Sapphira said of Philadelphia. "And I think bringing that community mindset to 'Drag Race' was off-putting to some people because it was like, 'Girl, this is a competition, why are you helping her?' But I want to compete against people at their best. I don't want to compete against someone who's struggling. So I'm going to help them get to their best — and so when I beat them, I still feel great about it."

Sapphira also made sure to focus on loving and accepting herself, a mantra she carried long before she entered "Drag Race."

"I lived a very colorful life. And some of those colors were very, very dark," she said. "I had to come to terms with self-love as a means of self-preservation. You put out into this world what you put into yourself as well. So I like to put into myself as much love, kindness, compassion, and patience and understanding.

"Going forward, I'm going to continue to be loving, kind and compassionate for everyone I encounter, and give them a little bit of time and give myself even more as well. Because there's only one way to continue to do it, and it's by doing it at home first."

Lessons from contestants

Sapphira also had a lot to learn from her peers in Season 16. 

"I've learned to have a lot more fun," she said. "I've also learned to give yourself more time to get something done. I have ADHD and it really manifests. And I always end up late to things or I always end up doing things later than I should have."

She specifically cited Q, her sometimes rival, and Nymphia Wind, the season's winner, for their time management skills.

Out of the other contestants, Sapphira said she still talks the most to Dawn, whom she calls her daughter, and Xunami Muse, who tied for the Miss Congeniality title with her.

"I was the mother and she was the auntie," Sapphira said. "In your family, your mother is there for all of you, but who's there for Mother? Her sister. And so Xunami and I had this wonderful kinship where I could be there for her and she could be there for me, and it was very symbiotic."

Sapphira Cristal finale soloProvided Image/MTV

Underneath Sapphira's large dress for her finale number was an orange outfit more appropriate for dancing.

Philly's drag community

To Sapphira, the Philly drag scene is vast and multifaceted. 

"There are the young queens who are learning and who are coming into their own. We have a lot of alternative queens, we have a lot of fierce, fabulous queens," she said. 

"I would say that all queens in Philadelphia are superstars because they're just simply amazing one way or another. It's a really full scene, just like the music scene in Philadelphia. Just like the art scene in Philadelphia. Any artistic scene in Philadelphia is so vast and magical. I love Philadelphia."

Sapphira mentioned Franky Bradley's, located at 1320 Chancellor St., as one of her favorite locations for drag performances. Sapphira and her best friend Eric Jaffe, a Philly drag queen who appeared in the "Drag Race" finale as one of her guests, regularly perform a show called "Sapphi & Jaffe" at the venue.

"We (also) perform at Fabrika over at Frankford in Fishtown. Knock is a delicious restaurant that has some drag as well, and so does Cockatoo and Level Up. The Gayborhood is full of awesome places."

Sapphira believes everyone in Philly is "real." 

"You don't wonder how people feel here," she said. "And when they say something, they mean it. There is no ulterior motive behind anyone's expression of themselves. They are just being fully genuine. And I love that about Philadelphia."

What's next?

After a star turn on "Drag Race," Sapphira should never have trouble booking performances. "The Cristál Ball," her "magical musical comedy extravaganza," will tour around the country this summer, ending in Philly on Aug. 29.

Sapphira will also release an EP for the tour, featuring "beautiful music" and a few guest stars that she didn't reveal. She will also be singing at the Lincoln Center in a show called "Soundcake" with fellow "Drag Race" alumni Monét X Change and Thorgy Thor.

"This is not the end of Sapphira," she said.