On Friday night, a new American monarch rose to power beneath a cascade of rose petals, a cracked mask and the ballads of Whitney Houston.
But she didn’t just use the glamour, comedy, acting and lip syncing prowess that fans of RuPaul’s Drag Race have come to expect from America’s Next Drag Superstar. Sasha Velour relies on brains.
When the 30-year-old queen is at home in Brooklyn, N.Y., she produces and stars in a monthly drag cabaret event called Nightgowns. She co-founded Velour, a magazine spotlighting lesser-known styles and issues in drag. She received an MFA from the Center for Cartoon Studies and studied political art as a Fulbright Scholar in Moscow.
She also considers herself an “amateur drag historian,” acknowledging there have always been different schools of drag — all competing, warring, pushing the art in new directions.
But for Velour, her style comes from simultaneously paying tribute to the queens who came before her and blocking out any voices that might try to dictate what her drag should be.
“I want to do something that is not just a pastiche of drag that’s come before, but is really authentically me,” she said. “I try to tune out all the drag that’s out there and tap into the drag that I was doing when I was a little kid — when I didn’t even know the word ‘queer’ or that gay people were out there. … Tapping into the things I’ve always loved and building a drag that honors those.”
Photo: Courtesy of VH1