Music

‘RuPaul’s Drag Race’ Runner-Up Sapphira Cristál Feels ‘Very Seen’ After Miss Congeniality Win

Sapphira Cristál entered the RuPaul’s Drag Race season 16 finale as the clear frontrunner for the top prize. As she tells it, she walked away a winner — even if she wasn’t declared America’s Next Drag Superstar.

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In the high-octane finale (which aired Friday, Apr. 19), Cristál nearly nabbed the $200,000 cash prize, advancing her way to one final lip sync showdown with Nymphia Wind to Kylie Minogue’s “Padam Padam.” But Wind swept away with the title in the end, despite Cristál’s hilarious, vampiric performance.

But all was not lost — before her showdown with Wind, Cristál made Drag Race history when she and Xunami Muse both won Miss Congeniality, a title bestowed on the queen deemed the kindest by her fellow competitors. It also marks the first time that a finalist has won the prize since season one, when Nina Flowers was crowned as the show’s inaugural Miss Congeniality.

Below, Cristál chats with Billboard about her performance on the show, her love for character shoes, her strange connection to Beyoncé and how she hopes to use her platform to promote unabashed self-love.

Congratulations on making it to the final lip sync, and on your Miss Congeniality win! How are you feeling after watching this weekend?

I’m feeling great. There were two possible outcomes, and the one that I didn’t wish for was the one that we got. But … as Xunami said [during the finale], “I might not have won the crown, but I have won the crowd.” I did win the hearts of America, and I really love that. 

I’m very proud of Nymphia, I’m constantly in awe of her talent. She is really quite a beauty, quite a queen, and I cannot wait to see what she does with this platform. And I know that, as part of the top two, I have a platform, and we are going to do many great things with it.

If I’m being honest, it felt like an absolute no-brainer that you would take home Miss Congeniality. With that title being voted on by your fellow competitors, what does it mean to you that they picked you?

I feel very seen! Not only to be Miss Congeniality, but to also still be in the top two with that prize, is huge — that hasn’t happened since season one of the American seasons! It feels amazing to know that people knew everything I did was genuine, and that they didn’t think I had some ulterior motive. Honestly, I was just being me, and they could see that. Some people had some things to say about how nice I was being at certain times in the competition, but at thFee end of the day, if someone comes to me asking for help I am going to give it to them. If they don’t ask me for help but I can see that they need help, I’m going to give it! 

There really was a running theme of you being the “mother” of the season. Is that a role you’re used to playing outside of the show, or did that come about while you were filming?

Oh, I am a mother of quite a few drag children. But I am also the only Libra on this cast, and I do seek balance at all times. If I see that things are imbalanced, or if people are having moments where they’re just not in it to win it, I gotta get them out of there. Because I was not there to compete with people who were stuck in their own way, I wanted to compete with people who were in the game. 

Out of the four challenges that you won, which one stands out as your favorite?

Definitely the “Power” performance. Not only was that song about inspiring people to vote, but I also just loved getting to sing, and to dance, and live my full blown fantasy! And now I’m getting to do it in real life — I just teased my new single “Enough” and a six song EP, and y’all are not ready for this music! When I think about the kinds of things I want to do as a performer, it always comes back to inspiring people with my music and performances, and helping people know that they are enough — and that’s what we did with the “Power” number. 

A really important question I have for you — did your character shoes survive the filming of the show?

Yes, they survived, they are alive and well … and I also already had two other pairs! Listen, the thing about the character shoes is, yes, I am going to wear them all the time. I am not 150 pounds — I have to wear something that is going to properly support my weight. I have broken many a shoe, because I am a stunt queen and I do many things that make it so I constantly bust my shoes. Also, I need to make sure I can do all the same stuff I do now when I’m 40 … and I’m 35! [laughs

You got so creative with all the ways you managed to disguise your shoes throughout the competition, it almost became a fun game for viewers!

Exactly! I mean, if you think about it, there are so many girls who wear the same shoe over and over on the show. They’ll paint it one week, they’ll add some glitter another week, they’ll do what needs to be done. I had a lot of shoe covers, because I knew that I was going to wear these shoes many many times. Like, these are $300-$400 shoes. I’m not trying to own 50 different pairs of these! 

Your solo performance for the finale, “Dance!,” was so fun — tell me a little bit about how you approached putting the whole number together.

Yeah, I loved that number. What happened was we gave them a lot of references from our time on the show, laying out what we wanted to talk about in our numbers. And I wanted to talk about self-love, coming into oneself and accepting who you are, because that is very much my platform. Especially in this world of social media, it’s really hard to compare yourself to others and to not feel less-than. So I wanted to make sure the song was a big self-love anthem, and I was so happy with how it turned out. 

It was so good, as was your performance in the final lip sync. When you started thinking about this final battle, how did you come up with this lusty vampire concept?

Well, we knew the final song was “Padam” — and let me be very clear, I did not know the song that well, because we were all off filming when the song absolutely blew up! So when they gave us the song, we were like, “Wait, what is this?” Everything is different when you’re a part of the sensation as it’s happening, and we were not part of that sensation. So, coming into it without knowing what’s happening, it gives you a fresh perspective.

The more I thought about the line, “I can hear your heart beating,” I was like, “Who really hears and listens to hearts?” Because of that, and because it’s such a seductive song, I started thinking of Blade, of From Dusk Till Dawn, of Interview With a Vampire, all these kind of sexy vampire movies! I was laughing the other day because I saw a meme of my face that said, “The new Nosferatu looks sickening.” 

I know you mentioned a few of your upcoming projects, but what else do you have coming up for fans to look forward to?

I have been so focused on my new music and my tour coming up. The Cristál Ball Tour is going to be a magical, musical comedy extravaganza touring in July and August — it is really just my everything right now, and I cannot wait for fans to see it. 

Anything music in particular you’ve been listening to a lot lately?

Cowboy Carter, obviously. So much of my career and my own music has been inspired by Beyoncé — and fun fact, Beyoncé and I went to the same high school! What’s interesting is the song “Caro Mio Ben,” which she sings on the background of “Daughter,” is a song that every single freshman at our high school had to sing. For the first recital, every single freshman would sing “Caro Mio Ben” back-to-back. So I did have this very special connection when I heard her singing it, because I know that when she was a freshman at my high school, she had to sing that song. 

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