Whew, indeed. The 13th season of RuPaul’s Drag Race premiered last night, and not only did Symone manage to avoid the dreaded first elimination — colloquially referred to as a “porkchop,” after the first queen ever eliminated on the show — the Conway, Ark., queen got enough screen time with VH1 viewers to dazzle. Sporting a stunning dress made entirely of tiny Polaroids of herself, Symone attested to how drag saved her life after a childhood of being bullied and alienated by her peers, and introduced viewers and judges to their first contestant from The Natural State. (Also, in some brief introductory chit chat with the judges, RuPaul casually mentioned that she’d once dated a guy from Pine Bluff?!)

Symone on the main stage for the Season 13 premiere of “RuPaul’s Drag Race”


A format flip put the queens out of the Werkroom and in front of the judge’s panel immediately, and COVID-19 precautions — plexiglass screens between judges and swab tests for all contestants, neither of which was mentioned without a cheeky punchline — made this season different than the past 12 seasons.

Reggie Gavin/Symone


Nevertheless, if you ask us, Symone positively sparkled on camera, at ease with herself and with a room full of big personalities. But lest it be said that our bias for an Arkansan contestant is coloring our optimism, here’s what Vulture’s Paul McCallion had to say about last night: 

Next up, the mononymous Symone. Symone is quite simply a star. She tells us: “My drag is very real woman.” Did she lie? She sports a dress constructed entirely of chain-linked polaroids of herself. It’s a garment you can only possibly pull off if you’re that thin, gorgeous, and confident, but that said … she is, so she does. These days, every queen comes in with a focus-tested branding package ready to go, but Symone’s entrance is noteworthy because of how organic it all feels. Symone even effortlessly riffs with Ru herself when she gets on stage. She’s what we call a TP: a total package. … You can’t keep your eyes off her, and not just because every inch of her exposed body is covered in highlighter. It’s completely iconic. If anyone can lay claim to the title of frontrunner after only 10 minutes of screentime, it’s Symone.

Go, Team Symone! Watch the show 7 p.m. CST every Friday in January on VH1 or stream the series via your cable provider.