Sasha Velour is abundantly beautiful and daringly creative. Living in Brooklyn, Sasha Velour—whose real name is Sasha, even as a boy—is one of the selected drag queens slated to compete on season 9 of “RuPaul’s Drag Race.”
She is highly impressive and has a lot of positive things to say.
So how excited are you to be a contestant on season 9?
I’m so, so, so excited! It’s a wonderful opportunity.
Where were you and what were you doing when you received “the call” telling you that you were to be on “Drag Race”?
I actually had been visiting my father in Russia, and I was in the airport coming back through immigration. I was at the officer’s counter. I had saved the number in my phone, so I knew exactly what it was, and I was hoping that it was a yes call. It was amazing, and I will never forget that moment. Later on, when I called them back, I was crouched by the baggage carousel in the middle of the night.
Are you from Russia?
My grandmother is from Russia. My dad is a Russian historian by trade, so we’ve gone back and forth to Russia almost every year since I was a little kid. So I’m half Russian, and also I’ve studied a lot about Russia. I studied the Russian language in school.
Do you have any dramatic drag stories to tell? The first time you ever did drag will work.
The first time I ever did drag I was a little kid. My parents were really always encouraging me to dress up however I wanted. I always chose to dress up as witches and evil queens. My favorite game was Lady Macbeth. I watched a movie of Macbeth late at night by mistake when I was six or seven, and then became obsessed with Lady Macbeth, how she tortures herself and then throws herself off the fortress into the mist. I would love to reenact that. My parents could not stop me from reenacting Lady Macbeth. I’d wear a flowing dress, and I’d run upstairs. I would take the dress and open my window and throw the dress out the window. I don’t know how dramatic that is, but I don’t have any bad memories of being in drag. Every memory I have of drag is a positive one, even when things have gone disastrously. I think that’s all part of the experience, an optimistic outlook.
How long have you been doing drag professionally?
About five years. I didn’t start until after I had finished college. I decided I didn’t want to be a part of academia; that’s the course that I had been following for a long time. It was a very weird, transitional part of my life. In the same year my mom was diagnosed with cancer. I decided to check in with myself about who I am and what I wanted to be doing with my time, and I returned to drag, which I remember loving as a little kid. I kind of never finished putting on dresses I think. I started doing it again, more glamorously, on a larger scale.
Do you have a drag mother?
No, I just have a lot of drag brothers and sisters. They were drag kings and queens who have grown up alongside me, and we sort of pushed each other. I like that better. No one has ever really handed down any rules of how to do drag. It’s always been discovered through trial and error.
That’s a very creative way to do drag. If you had to give advice to any of these new baby drag queens who might be just starting out, what would you say to them?
Try everything, even if you only end up trying it once. Find a way of expressing your fashion and performance that feels the truest to you. I wasted time, although it’s part of the journey, trying to look like other people. It wasn’t until I lost the fear of being really, really different, and that’s when I became a ball queen, and when I started painting my eyebrows crazy and putting in monster teeth and monster ears. I think that there is so much power in being weird and different.
When was the last time you did something for the first time?
Every day! Just today for the photo shoot I only painted half my face and tried this mask that I’ve never tried before. I always love trying new things, even though it’s terrifying.
Do you have a favorite song that you like to perform?
Yeah. My favorite song to perform is Kate Bush’s song, “Wuthering Heights.” Her voice and her emotions are so beautiful. Either that or any song by Shirley Bassey. She is definitely my favorite singer. She’s so dramatic and over the top.
Who in the drag world inspires you?
I really love learning about drag history and figures from the New York scene, like Leigh Bowery. Drag is not just a serious art, but also queer and political. Also, I love reading about drag queens in the ‘50s and earlier, when it was really challenging to express gender in that way. If people could do drag then, and do it so beautifully and creatively, that’s amazing to me. That gives me hope.
What does it mean to you to be on “Drag Race”?
It’s an enormous honor. It makes me feel better about myself, because it’s the greatest honor you can have as a drag queen in this country. At the same time I also feel like it’s a responsibility, because I know that I am the first queen from my community, Brooklyn, from this sort of different gender, queer, burlesque, drag hybrid to get on the show. I feel like it is a responsibility to represent my friends and that crowd.
If you could say anything to your fans and followers, what would it be?
That I love them and need them, and just as they are rooting for me, I’m rooting for them.
What will you do if you win?
I’m going to just keep producing drag, and I’m going to take the drag community, then I’m on the road. I want to start a dialogue between our community and small drag communities throughout the country. I visualize it like a traveling drag circus that goes to towns and interacts with the local talent. We can both learn things.
You are an amazing queen. Is there anything that you would like to promote for yourself?
Yes, actually. I am a director of a drag magazine. It’s all about drag, and I’ve been putting together the third issue, which will be out in April. It’s called “Velour: The Drag Magazine.” I named it after myself!