Tonight, Sasha Velour passes the Drag Race crown from her shiny head to sit atop the wig of America's as-yet-undecided next Drag Superstar. Wow, what a queen.
She's not going anywhere--far from it--but her year as the face of Drag Race victory has proven unprecedented in terms of the sheer diversity of uber-successful projects she's spearheaded and delivered to us: hungry consumers and admirers.
For starters, there's Nightgowns, the powerful drag show Miss Velour hosts, which has blossomed from a small cabaret in Brooklyn to a cutting-edge drag phenomenon touring from London to Los Angeles, with each emotionally, politically, and artistically-charged show selling out in mere minutes.
Related | Exclusive: Sasha Velour In A Pride Look For Every Color of the Rainbow
Not enough for you? Well, there's also Velour: The Drag Magazine, which Sasha designs and edits down to every last letter in each word on every page. All three volumes of the collection of queer illustrations, essays, photography, and interviews were bound this year into a hardcover collector's edition, which sold out at DragCon in hours.
Photography: Johnny and Sasha Velour.
There's also Velour's six-part anthology film series, 'One Dollar Drags,' the first installment of which (titled Pirate Jenny) you can view here. In the past year, she's broken a million Instagram followers, received acclaim from publications like Vogue and NPR, and all the time served some of the most f*cking brilliant looks a stage has ever seen.
With no signs of slowing down in the slightest, we felt it was high time to talk with the incomparable Miss Sasha Velour about her feelings on the past year as reigning Queen, and what she hopes to achieve moving forward, for herself and for the queer world.
OUT: Let's start with Nightgowns--how has the show grown since winning Drag Race, aside from it obviously having runs in LA and London?
Sasha Velour: Our intention with the show still runs the same--to celebrate and honor the diversity, depth, and wild power of drag. After winning the show, we've been able to push that even further--bringing in performers from around the world, or packing up and taking our show on the road! Performing is in my blood, it's who I am, and Nightgowns is a home for me to continue expressing that--but I have to say my favorite part about Nightgowns is seeing other drag performers shine on stage. The audience is with us every step of the way, in awe of every artist and their drag. It's grown to be something almost monumental! Seeing audiences in London and LA line up for packed theaters shows just how much people around the world are hungry for this type of drag show. Honestly it's not just a show, it is home for our queer community. That's why we have to create a Nightgowns World Tour!
What do you look for in casting your performers for the evening--do you remember attending any future performers' shows and having a moment of thinking, "Them. That's who I want in Nightgowns."
That's how I've always casted the show! I love watching drag performances. I'll see a number in person or on YouTube or Instagram, and be like, "Nightgowns needs them!" For me it's a combination of two things: one, sheer talent and creative brilliance, and two, raw passion and love for drag. I try to make sure that each Nightgowns show is a representation of drag across the board. And even so, it's only even one small snippet of how broad drag can be--Nightgowns is a show about possibilities, after all!
Photography: Tanner Abel.
I saw Nightgowns a few months back, and was particularly moved by Vander Von Odd's lip-sync to a stripped-down "Creep." Obviously, you have special connections with all your castmates, but are there any particularly memorable moments that took your breath away from fellow performers this year?
For me, it's Vander Von Odd's performance of "Over the Rainbow." I don't want to give too much away, but her drag performance transforms a song that's so familiar into something unforgettable, haunting, and political. A couple other favorites are Untitled Queen's "Keep Your Name" number, inspired by Butoh and modern dance, and Neon Calypso's "Capitalism" which presents "Bitch Better Have My Money" as a radical anti-capitalist manifesto. They are amazing.
Velour: The Drag Magazine--what have been your personal milestones with publishing this compendium this year--favorite pieces, stories, images?
Releasing all three volumes of the magazine into a gorgeous hardcover book was a major milestone this year! When we released it as a limited DragCon LA exclusive, it sold out by the second day! My personal milestone is as the magazine's designer. Just like at Nightgowns (where I design the lighting based on the performers' notes), one of my roles at Velour is to create a beautiful and uplifting home to showcase queer artists at their best. I still lay out every word, adjust and place every image, I even hand-lettered the title! It makes me so proud to see what it's grown into.
Where do you hope to take that next?
I'd love to make Velour Magazine into a widely-distributed print and online platform with a team of editors, writers, artists, designers. The more queer media we can put out into the world the better. My passion for this burns so greatly that I know one day soon it will happen.
You've been lauded with praise over the year--Vogue, NPR, us at Out... what, to you, has been the most meaningful feedback you've received since your win?
For me, encouragement from young audiences has been some of the most important. I had an amazing opportunity to be part of the Teen Vogue Summit last month--it was so amazing to be part of a gathering for politically engaged young people. It really validated my mission to use drag as not only a means to push the cultural imagination, but also even have a hand in shaping policy, increasing voter turnout, leading activism.
On a more personal note, my father's support has been important to me as well. So many folks in my community have strained relationships with their parents, especially fathers, and my dad is on a mission to be an antidote to that. He shows his support by turning up to my shows (he flies out to see Nightgowns twice a year) and cheering loudly for each and every drag performer. Our relationship has really blossomed this year, he's so proud to call himself a "Velour."
Photography: Johnny and Sasha Velour.
You hit 1M followers this year-- what's been the most rewarding achievement for you since winning? What are you proudest of?
I'm most proud to see the way that years and years of hard work has finally transformed my passion projects into something sustained and successful. The fact that Nightgowns continues to grow is probably my proudest achievement. We've continued to sell out in minutes every time tickets go on sale. To know that what we are doing really matters to people, and especially matters to the performers....that's what continues to drive me. I want to continue creating new spaces and platforms for brilliant Queers around the world. I want them to know they have a home with me always. That's what makes me really proud!
Your mission, as I understand it, has been to provide platforms for queer and non-binary performers, yourself included, and to spread fabulous visibility of the community and provide platforms for your peers--how do you hope to do that moving forward, once you hand over the crown? In other words--what's next (for you personally and in terms of your mission)?
My job is really just to pass the mic (or "pass the spotlight," if we are lip-synching!) I believe handing over the crown will be the true beginning in my mission to continue doing this. The House of Velour is working on some incredible projects... I don't plan to stop working ANYTIME soon. Not every queer person is given the opportunity to be on television--let alone win a highly-watched reality competition show. So now that I've been given that, I will just do everything I can to take my work (and my work with others) to the next level!
'One Dollar Drags'--had you always wanted to break into film? What was your favorite aspect of creating movies? Do you hope to expand your film career further in other people's projects down the line?
I've always dreamt about what a House of Velour film could look like and with "One Dollar Drags" we are able to create 6! I would have to say one of my favorite aspects of creating 'One Dollar Drags' was getting to experience drag for the camera (as I had done on Drag Race), but this time the means of representation was in my own hands. That's why I made sure the film brought together my queer family here in New York. Executive producing 'One Dollar Drags' is a way for me to create space for artists, filmmakers, and musicians to come together and make a bit of a queer shift behind-the-scenes. I also hope the films we create will reach people who are hungry for more drag entertainment not seen in mainstream media.
And yes, I'd love to explore film more, stay tuned!
Photography: Johnny and Sasha Velour.
There's an impending feeling of doom and despair in the air, at least for many of the queers I've talked to who feel hopeless RE: the president, climate change, nuclear war, mental health, and civil rights. Do you have any words of encouragement/wisdom?
Identify what makes you truly happy, and pour all your love into it...that's what will give you strength. The only way I can stay balanced in this tumultuous world is by fulfilling my love of drag and performance. That is when I feel most free and happy, and that in turn gives me the strength and energy to fight for what I believe in. The other optimistic note I'll add is something I get to observe every time I'm part of a drag show: queer people can accomplish POWERFUL things when we work together. So let's get to work!