Sasha Velour on drag as activism ahead of Mother Pride Block Party performance

After winning RuPaul’s Drag Race, Velour has used her platform to showcase her unique style of drag, pulling inspiration from classic film, literature, art, history, and theatre.

Drag performer Sasha Velour, facing the camera in full drag with a golden headgear in front of an electric blue background.
Image: Mother

A flurry of rose petals cascade over a bald head as the beat drops for the first chorus of Whitney Houston’s ‘So Emotional’. This was the moment that changed the course of RuPaul’s Drag Race and made a global star of Sasha Velour. In advance of her performance at the Mother Pride Block Party, the iconic queen told us all about what to expect.

Velour appeared on the ninth season of the drag competition show, which has since firmly established itself as a global television phenomenon, with franchises spreading from Thailand to Brazil. While the cerebral queen went into the finale as an underdog, Velour was a fan-favourite from the moment she walked into the Werk Room.

Velour’s alternative, intellectual, and political approach to drag quickly cemented the queen as a contender for the crown, but it was in the finale that Velour truly stole the show.

Lip-syncing against assumed front-runner Shea Coulee, some expected to see Velour sashay away from the competition, just inches from the crown. But as that song began playing, Velour removed her ginger wig to reveal not only her now-iconic bald head, but also a shower of rose petals. The moment, now cemented as one of the most iconic Drag Race lip syncs, has established a new normal for finalists of the show, with reveals like Nymphia Wind releasing black boba balloons in her Season 16 finale lip sync and Asia O’Hara attempting to release live butterflies during her finale lip sync in Season 10 all trying in vain to match Velour’s unexpected moment.

Since winning, Velour has used her platform to showcase her unique style of drag, pulling inspiration from classic film, literature, art, history, and theatre to put on a drag show like you’ve never seen before.

“I hope to surprise people,” Velour shared when opening up about her drag style. “I like surprising myself with trying new things. I feel like drag can be so many things. And I want to try them all.”

Velour chatted ahead of her headlining performance at June’s Mother Pride Block Party, where the queen will be performing alongside fellow Drag Race winner and recent Dancing with the Stars Ireland runner-up, Blu Hydrangea.

 

 

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The Mother Pride Block Party will be Velour’s first time in Ireland since she brought her one-queen show, Smoke & Mirrors, to Dublin in 2019, a visit that Velour says she remembers fondly.

“That was five years ago or something like that, but I still remember it so well,” said the queen. “I love coming to Dublin. I love Ireland and I feel very at home in the amazing drag scene that the city has.”

Velour added: “It was the last show we had before the pandemic canceled the tour. I wasn’t able to come [to Dublin] on my last tour, and I was so heartbroken, but I’m so glad I’ve been given the opportunity to come over for the Mother Pride Block Party!”

Established by Dublin-favourite queer nightclub Mother, the Block Party has been a staple of Dublin’s annual Pride celebrations for more than a decade. Now based out of Collins Barracks at the National Museum, it has since become the country’s largest Pride party.

Discussing what fans can expect to see, Velour admitted that she was still hammering out the details for her upcoming set.

“I haven’t exactly decided which of my ridiculous numbers to bring yet,” the queen laughed. “But I’m going to be showing up with like five boxes of drag, surprises, and probably a script full of intense things to say, because Pride parties are a time to unify our voices and our activism.

“So I’m going to be speaking to the crowd, surprising you with all my favourite gags and performances, and hopefully sweating my ass off and giving the performance of a lifetime, like I always try to do, especially for my amazing queer Irish fans,” Velour added.

Activism, for Velour, is a necessary and integral part of drag performance. Velour continued: “I look a lot at history, and it shows me that drag needs to be political.

“So when I lip sync, sometimes the story I’m telling is all about finding a non-binary solution, whether it’s in terms of your gender, how you treat yourself, how you treat other people, in your relationships, whether they be romantic or with your parents, or with yourself. I’m all about the in-between places and celebrating that on stage.”

Velour’s political views on drag also came into play after she was cast on the latest season of HBO’s We’re Here. The series, which originally debuted in 2020 with Drag Race alum like Bob the Drag Queen and Eureka in the cast, recently switched things up, bringing new queens like Jaida Essence Hall, Priyanka, Latrice Royale, and, of course, Sasha Velour for its fourth season.

Amidst ongoing anti-drag and anti-trans legislature and religious intolerance in the United States, the series saw the caravan of queens travel to Murfreesboro, Tennessee and Tulsa, Oklahoma where they offered locals a fresh perspective and fought back against hateful misconceptions surrounding queerness and drag.

“It’s been an incredible experience working on We’re Here,” Velour explained. “I had a lot of fun filming the show. Which I think might be a strange thing for people who watched the show to hear, because it can be so distressing to see how much hate there is, especially in communities that are more removed from active queer scenes. But there are gay people everywhere, trans people everywhere, and getting to put on a drag show and have people show up and support each other is just the best.

“I think it fuels people to continue doing good work in the real world,” Velour added. “But it does feel like escaping the pain at times and having a moment of joy and beauty and sparkles.

“I’m really happy to be sharing these difficult conversations that are a big part of our real lives and to be able to put that message and those real stories out there. Because a lot of the time we’re just experiencing it in a bubble, and it feels so lonely.”

 

 

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Looking forward, Velour has plenty of show-stopping drag in the works, with the debut of her latest one-queen show, Velour: A Drag Spectacular, set to premiere this August in San Diego, California.

“The venue is dedicated to producing new work for the American theatre,” said Velour, discussing the upcoming show. “Which is wild to me, because drag has never quite fit into the American theatre, but finally, it’s making space for us and we’re showing up and showing them how much we have to offer.

“This will be my first properly produced drag show,” Velour continued. “I’m going to be showing stuff that people haven’t seen before and reach new heights myself. I know people will love the gags and the beauty and the costumes of it all, but there’s a lot of heart and message in this new show. I’m really excited for people to see it and I hope that we get to bring it around the world.”

Be sure to catch Sasha Velour, alongside performances from Blu Hydrangea and Robin S, as well as a bevy of other entertainment at this year’s Mother Pride Block Party on Saturday, June 29.

This story originally appeared in GCN’s June 2024 issue 384. Read the full issue here.

© 2024 GCN (Gay Community News). All rights reserved.

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