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Misinformed bigots are no match for Sasha Velour on We're Here

Misinformed bigots are no match for Sasha Velour on We're Here

Sasha Velour on We're Here season 4

"We were in their faces, handing out flyers, going to queer organizations, finding gay people, and telling them to spread the word," Sasha Velour tells Out. "That's how I do it in New York, and that's how I'm going to do it everywhere I go."

Since being crowned America's Next Drag Superstar at the grand finale of RuPaul's Drag Race season 9, Sasha Velour has pushed the boundaries of drag and expanded people's understanding of the art form through theatrical productions such as NightGowns, Smoke & Mirrors, and the recent world tour in support of her first book, The Big Reveal: An Illustrated Manifesto of Drag.

Sasha was announced alongside Jaida Essence Hall and Priyanka as the new hosts of We're Here season 4 back in July 2023. In subsequent months, Latrice Royale also joined this star-studded cast of drag legends with different backgrounds, personalities, aesthetics, and sensibilities. The result is a combination of fabulous entertainers traveling across the United States to fight against anti-LGBTQ+ legislation and support smaller queer communities in more conservative parts of the country.

In an interview with Out, Sasha reflects on how the We're Here journey compares to her past experiences fighting anti-drag rhetoric, shares her perspective on the cyclical nature of these conservative movements, and reveals the profound bond she's developed with her costars.

The first few episodes in this season are really powerful. I think your presence and your perspective are wonderful elements that have been added to the show. What was it like when producers reached out and asked you to join the cast of We're Here?

Sasha Velour: The first person to reach out was Bob the Drag Queen. She was like, "I'm about to recommend you for this. Do you want to do it?"

I really wanted to be a part of this show because it's such a great representation of the full LGBTQ+ community and of the way that drag affects people's lives in the real world. I thought it was a good match for the kind of drag show that I love to put on; the heartfelt, reveal-filled drag show of everyone's dreams that I love as well.

I asked Bob, "Would you recommend that I do this show?" She told me how it's changed her life to be a part of three seasons — getting to meet all these people in different parts of the country, getting to help win Emmys for these amazing drag visionaries like Diego Montoya, Laila McQueen, and Marco Marco. So I wanted to be part of this magical show as well.

You're co-starring with Jaida Essence Hall, Priyanka, and Latrice Royale on the show. Did you know them before the show? What was your bonding process like?

Yes, I had met all of them. I loved all of them before the show, but the way we get to meet other drag artists is often in passing, backstage at a gig. And working on a show like this, literally needing each other for survival in stressful moments, having to do group therapy in the lobby before you go film a day of scene work because you've been up against hatred for the last several days, and you're dealing with people's really sensitive stories… those are life bonds.

I have so much respect for the three other hosts this season, and I love that we each have our own approach too. You can see in moments of conflict, we each take a different approach to trying to defuse it or fight back, and I think we're all surprised. We all get to show a different side of ourselves than people may have seen before.

Sasha Velour, Latrice Royale, and Priyanka on We're Here season 4

(L-R) Sasha Velour, Latrice Royale, and Priyanka.


This reminds me of a confrontation that happens in Tennessee with a father and a daughter. Our community is being accused of grooming these children, but it feels like the other side is the one brainwashing them. She was using these keywords that I don't even think she fully understands yet. I felt like I was seeing that in your face as well. Can you talk about that moment?

That moment in city council, when we were hearing people testify, it was basically [them] expressing gratitude to the council for prohibiting trans life and queer expression through drag. We were not allowed to speak or respond in that moment. So just receiving all these lies and misinformation was really stressful.

If you want to start an argument with drag queens, we want to speak up for ourselves and speak up for the truth, which is why I was really grateful that they agreed to talk to us outside of the city council meeting. We tried to engage with them on the issues of fact and truth and science that they tried to throw down on us, [but] they didn't have enough information to really have a meaningful conversation.

They didn't really want to hear our perspective, which was a theme in all the people who hate drag and all the people who hate trans people: they've never met one. They've never met us. They don't know about it. They only know the talking points that they've received through their media.

I was really shocked later to discover that this young woman that we heard speak… her entire social media presence is about the dangers of trans people. This is actually her entire identity, but she knows nothing about it except the myths that she and her community regurgitate around. So I think that's what we're up against, and it's good to see it, because we need to know what we're dealing with.

Jaida Essence Hall, Priyanka, and Sasha Velour on We're Here season 4(L-R) Jaida Essence Hall, Priyanka, and Sasha Velour.HBO

In your incredible book The Big Reveal, you talk about the time you spent in Russia studying how queer people and culture existed there. While filming We're Here and seeing similar parallels, you had all this knowledge, but people were not willing to hear what you were saying. What's your perspective on this anti-LGBTQ outrage in the U.S. as someone who has examined similar political agendas before?

I guess the result is that it's never surprising. I know how international and how timeless the pushback against our livelihoods is. And yet, we prevail, keep resisting, and keep existing even in the face of the most damning misinformation and cruelty. That is the ultimate reason why I know we are natural, and why I know we belong on this Earth.

Some of our drag kids would say, "Who would choose a life where they're told they're sinners and a shame on the Earth every day if it weren't something that was true? If it weren't a deep part of their soul and their being?" I know that we're going to be in this cycle of progress and backlash maybe for our entire lifetimes, but that doesn't mean that we can take our foot off the pedal… to use a driving metaphor. Because even a movement forward that you don't expect is going to make a difference and can change things for people.

I'm always shocked. I was just on this tour of The Big Reveal show in Europe, and people told me what an impact one show of Smoke & Mirrors had in their city. They were like, "We had never seen that many we are friendly people gathered together in a big theater before. It began to show all of us queer people; all of us, trans and non-binary people, all of us drag queens, whatever it may be, that there were possibilities for us here in our own towns."

I feel like that is what we are doing with We're Here on a smaller scale. Every little thing we do could be this big gesture that stays with someone for their entire lives.

Sasha Velour on We're Here season 4


You visited a few different cities on We're Here, and you recently went on tour around the world. How do you compare these two experiences of hitting the road and seeing your fans versus going to these places and meeting people who deliberately want to erase our community? How jarring is that?!

It is kind of funny. I think that's the life of a drag queen. One second, everyone is screaming your name, and then you walk outside and someone calls you a slur and tries to throw something in your face. That's the beautiful dichotomy of our lives.

I think that this seeming mismatch of opposites is also why some of the art that we create is so good and so full of humor and heart and passion, because we see that the world is like that. It's like that for everyone, to some degree, but we really face it. Obviously, I wish for a world where all queer people could just bask in the spotlight and feel free to do whatever they want, but that's not even a reality for me, if I'm honest.

We've got a long way to go before every queer person can experience freedom, but there's something universal in drag, too. There's something about a drag show — whether it be in Poland, or at the Folies Bergère, or in Murfreesboro, Tennessee — that it just brings joy. It feels like a collaboration happening on and off-stage between the audience and the performer.

It's good for the world, and it's healing for all of us, to take part in that. In this time when people want fewer drag shows, I'm saying we need more than ever.

Sasha Velour on We're Here season 4


You're best known for putting together these incredible drag shows that are very inclusive and very creative, pushing all the boundaries of what drag is and can be. On We're Here, you were putting together drag shows in these smaller towns, and I could see Sasha with her business hat looking through legislation and trying to figure out, 'How are we going to put together this show?' Is there something about that process that stood out to you?

I was surprised! I was like, "Am I becoming a lawyer after this experience?" I was shocked I could decipher some of the legal language.

I would hire you as a lawyer.

Drag queens can do anything. [laughs] No, but I think the key is mobilizing the community that is on the ground in whatever place you are. Whether you're trying to shift laws or trying to just put on a show and have an event to make people experience joy, you have to understand the context where you are and connect with the people who are there.

The reason we were able to get so many people to turn up for these shows [on We're Here season 4] is that we were in their faces, handing out flyers, going to queer organizations, finding gay people, and telling them to spread the word. That's how I do it in New York, and that's how I'm going to do it everywhere I go.

Watch Out's interview with Sasha Velour below — and tune in for new episodes of HBO's We're Here season 4 every Friday on Max.

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Bernardo Sim

Bernardo Sim is a writer, content creator, and the deputy editor of Out. Born in Brazil, he currently lives in South Florida.

Bernardo Sim is a writer, content creator, and the deputy editor of Out. Born in Brazil, he currently lives in South Florida.