Since the RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 9 finale saw Sasha Velour sashay away with the crown, the New York queen will, without a doubt, go down in herstory as one of the most fashion-forward competitors to grace RupPul’s show. Saving the best for last, she arrived to the premier in a cobalt gown with a corresponding Queen Elizabeth-esque ruff and cinched the final lip sync with a tearaway lace and pearl mask.
But behind every great drag queen—save for those who can actually sew—is an equally fabulous seamstress, and Diego Montoya is the artist standing behind the reigning queen. Born in Peru, growing up in Miami, and now calling Brooklyn his home, Montoya is a visual artist first and foremost, utilizing recycled objects to create larger-than-life costumes and installations. Creating works for stores, galleries, and queer performers alike, his approach to beauty is equally innovative and subversive.
Montoya worked closely with Sasha in creating her finale looks, basing the blue and white premier outfit on Lucy Westerna in Francis Ford Coppola’s 1992 film Dracula. Originally designed to be in shades of bright red for a regal vampire vibe, the outfit had to be quickly redesigned as the duo discovered queens were barred from wearing red with concerns they might blend with the stage sets.
“We had to rethink everything which was disheartening, as we were already so invested in this bright red vampire fantasy,” Montoya says. “But in hindsight I'm so glad this twist came up because it opened up the opportunity to do something more unexpected. The cobalt blue and white palette that we ended up going was inspired by Russian porcelain, which was a reference Sasha's Russian heritage. The final look: bride-of-Dracula-meets-Faberge-egg-meets-drag-pope."
And on to the pièce de résistance: that iconic tearaway mask. “The all-white mask look was a faster process," Montoya says. "We only found out that we would need to produce an additional performance look a few days before taping. The concept for this look was that same Faberge egg reference, but in the future. Future Egg Queen.” Montoya notes the mask was designed to crack open like an egg, revealing Sasha’s graphic red lips and brazenly bald head. “I wanted her to look really regal but also really aggressive, like a futuristic drag monster.”
For those familiar with Montoya’s work, his masks are perhaps his signature. They are the faces of fever dreams, jutting from every direction with adornments and objects. So it’s hard to say that Sasha’s mask, in particular, was much of stretch. “With the masks I create, they conceal the face completely, which is the thing we usually look to when determining what is attractive or the tone of something," he says. "Without seeing a facial expression—the look in someone’s eyes—we are forced to consider other things... I think it opens up new ideas.”
For more of Montoya's work, visit DiegoLovesYou.com.