AUSTIN - Since snatching the crown a few short months ago, "RuPaul's Drag Race" season nine winner Sasha Velour has barely had the time to stop and breathe.
From touring the globe, performing in top-notch theaters and nightclubs alike, life has rapidly changed for the Brooklyn drag queen. Understandably so, as she is the winner of the Emmy Award-winning show's biggest season yet.
Since its debut in 2009, the reality drag competition has now spanned nine seasons in addition to three spinoff "All-Star" seasons. However, along with her season nine sisters -- and all the drama that came along with them -- Sasha Velour helped make this year's season the most watched ever.
Sunday, the reigning drag superstar made her way into Austin to perform in front of a fully packed crowd at the Austin nightclub OCH. Illustrating how much impact the show has had on pop culture, fans, spanning all letters of the LGBTQ+ spectrum, lined Fourth Street in the hours leading up to Sasha Velour's show in hopes of catching a glimpse of her electrifying performances and the chance to meet one of the most artistic, influential and inspirational figures to ever grace RuPaul's runway.
Ms. Velour sat down with KVUE behind the scenes at OCH to reveal some of the secrets behind the season, her fashions and how she's using the platform as "America's Next Drag Superstar" to spread an important message:
KVUE: Fresh off a season nine win, how has your life changed since becoming America’s Next Drag Superstar? Is it what you expected?
Sasha Velour: I honestly haven’t even had a moment to think about it. I’m just trying to snap up any opportunity I have. I’ve always dreamed of having the platform to do drag on this scale: to be able to perform in huge theaters and sold out gay bars alike. I’m just trying to do as much as humanly possible.
What message have you been trying to spread as the reigning queen?
SV: I hope that every drag queen wants to spread the message that drag is about love. Sometimes on TV, it seems like it's about being shady, quick or evil to your sisters, and that certainly is part of the tradition in some ways, but at its heart, I feel like drag is very, very much about love and encouragement. That means encouraging many, many forms of drag, and for people to follow their own rules about what drag is. I hope that I’ve shown in my own way that you can be successful playing your own game.
You certainly played your own game this season. And how exactly does Sasha Velour define the word 'drag'?
SV: I define drag as … oh, it’s complicated. In the simplest form, drag would be crossing the boundaries of gender and stylizing yourself into a rule-breaking opposition to how you look normally. But it’s become so much more complicated than that, and people are exploring the genders they want to be; they’re also exploring the genders they don’t want to be. It’s really a fun explorational ground for people to play with all the ideas of gender that exist out there in any combinations. And, for me, it’s about being a beautiful, fabulous queen. That’s not for everyone, but for me that’s very important [laughs].
A lot of the buzz about season nine has been centered around your "looks" and your fashion choices. Can you talk a little bit about how important fashion is to you in drag and how you pulled some of your favorite looks/performances together?
SV: I love thinking about fashion, and for me, it's so much about color and shape, and I think fashion can be created out of anything. I look back at some of the fashions I wore on the show and I’m in a different place now, a little bit. But I’m so proud that literally everything I wore was hobbled together from thrift store finds from around the block, things that I had, things that I borrowed from friends. That to me is a tradition for drag: that we can make fashion; that we can make an editorial eye out of anything that we can find -- even out of literal garbage from the back corner of our closet. And that is the fantasy.
What would you say has been your most fantastic or proudest moment since earning the crown?
SV: My proudest moment was in September at Drag Con in New York. I got to produce a version of my monthly show, "Night Gowns," and it had been about almost exactly two years since the first one. The first one in a small, beloved Brooklyn dive bar and this one in a Beautiful NYU theater with 800 people in the audience and gorgeous, gold proscenium and red velvet curtains, and then most importantly a show of some of the most incredible drag I’ve ever gotten to experience. So I was like, the glowup is actually tangible, not just in terms of the looks and the money, but most importantly the audience and the engagement and quality of drag. It’s awesome.
Other than your winning numbers on the finale episode, we didn’t get to see much of your lip sync performances since you were never in the bottom three. Who are some of your favorite artists to sync to, and what other surprises did you have in store for your performances that we didn’t get to see?
SV: I had a lip sync prepared for every week. Even when I felt I was doing well, I still prepared for a killer lip sync for every one, each of those silly songs. I would have slain "Greedy." [Laughs] I knew all the words. It’s just a combination of tricks and also feeling the true meaning in the song, deeply. I love performing to Shirley Bassey -- I’m doing a little of her tonight. Just like any singer that has a real command of emotion when they sing. Kate Bush, Annie Lennox and Shirley Bassey are my three favorites.
You'll be back in Austin next month for the International Drag Festival. Can you tell us what we can expect out of that?
SV: I went to the second year of Austin International Drag Festival last year, and it was long before "Drag Race" or anything, and it was an incredible experience. A festival that’s all about performance and you get to know people from all over the world and watch them do what they do best, which is to perform. The only thing I can promise [if you don't come] is that you’ll miss amazing drag, no matter where you go.
Have you spent a lot of time in Austin before now? What do you like about the city and what are some of your favorite things to do while you’re here?
SV: I love Austin. Austin is like a beautiful oasis of queerness and liberalism within Texas and it feels fabulous to be here. This city is incredible. My partner Johnny’s sibling, Dandy, lives here in Austin, so I’ve visited several times. And he’s since become my drag son -- my first official drag son. Dandy Velour was born right here in Austin.
In your travels here, what can you say you’ve noticed about the Austin drag community?
SV: It reminds me of the Brooklyn drag scene. It’s full of independent thinkers, but it’s also impossible to pin down in a single description. There really is everything to find here, and that’s what I love in a drag scene.
The cast of "RuPaul's Drag Race All Stars 3" was announced Friday. Are there any queens you’re particularly excited to see on TV again?
SV: It’s exciting! I’m excited to see Aja again, my Brooklyn sister. All of the amazing things about Aja I don’t think completely came across on TV and I think she really deserves this chance. She’s a fighter too so I know it’s going to be fierce. Milk's look was genius. Also, Trixie Mattel’s promo look with the fringe -- so gorgeous.
On the show, you talked about your choice of being a bald queen. If I remember correctly, it’s in honor of your mother’s battle with cancer. Can we talk about how your mom has influenced Sasha Velour and how she’s still helping you redefine both drag and beauty stereotypes?
SV: It was an interesting serendipity that I really started doing drag at the same time as my mom got sick. I started exploring what feminine beauty meant to me as she was grappling with it herself, specifically about her hair, the weight loss and all the physical things associated with chemotherapy and with cancer. We had many, many interesting conversations. She was a super hardcore feminist and she really pushed me to think outside of some of the predominate cliches about what being a woman is really all about and dig deeper. After she passed away, I just felt in my life like I was haunted by her in this beautiful way. So many aspects of her personality I started noticing in me; mannerisms that I used to see her make I would feel in my own face, things she would say to people. I felt like my drag has always been a way to channel her beautiful spirit. She made an impact on everyone that she touched because she was such an incredible listener and an incredibly kind person. And that to me is what femininity -- that elegant and grand femininity -- is all about and what I want to honor with my drag.
What’s in store for Sasha Velour’s future? Do you have any major plans in the works for when things slow down?
SV: Oh my gosh! I’m open to whatever. I’m busy making my own video content and there’s a book in the works, which is something I’ve been wanting to do for a long time. And then there’s all talk about what and how we can really change the world, and I think one of the biggest things that we’re seeing in drag is the effect it’s having on young people and kids. I think the power of drag performance is in reaching out to the youngest generation. We’re going to see the revolution there, so that’s my plan.
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