Sasha Velour Reflects on Her Year Since Winning 'Drag Race' Crown & Offers Advice to Season 10 Successor

As we approach Thursday night’s season 10 finale of RuPaul’s Drag Race, it will mark a year since the reigning queen Sasha Velour took the crown. Since taking the tile of America’s Next Drag Superstar and the prestige that comes with it, the bald Brooklyn-based beauty has kept busy using her platform to shine light on drag performers outside the Drag Race realm, promoting political activism and putting her passion for graphic design to use.

Ahead of the finale, we spoke to Velour about her many projects and what advice she has for the season 10 winner: “Stay in touch with why you are doing drag.”

What is your proudest accomplishment since winning the crown?

My proudest accomplishment would be how much my passion project, Nightgowns, has grown this year. I started it a year before I got cast on Drag Race as a Thursday night show at my local drag and burlesque bar called Bizarre Bushwick, and it’s grown into this huge, fantastic drag theatre show. The last performance we did was at the Ace Theatre in LA where they just filmed the Drag Race finale -- It’s such a gorgeous theater. To get to create a space where other drag performers can benefit from the spotlight and excitement of drag, performers who exist outside of RuPaul’s Drag Race, that’s been a huge accomplishment and something I’m very proud of.

What sticks out as an “oh my god, I made it” moment from this past year?

Honestly, getting to do the Google Doodle of Marlene Dietrich kind of brought a bunch of things together, both my drag and the fact that I got to impersonate this amazing queer icon on Drag Race and then my whole life as an illustrator and a graphic designer. Two complete dreams coming together in one moment. And it’s really humbling to create, as someone who loves creating art and would do it just for myself for the joy and passion of it, it’s very humbling to know that people are seeing it, whatever their response is. Just knowing how many people logged on to Google and saw that piece of artwork that I created in December of last year was really exciting.

What is the most important thing you’ve learned about yourself since winning?

I’ve learned that I am a complete workaholic and that no amount of sleeplessness or exhaustion will keep me from taking on new or ambitious projects. That is both a good quality and a terrible one, I think. I love biting off way more than I can chew, and that’s a great motivator because it forces me to rise to the occasion.

How have your side projects One Dollar Drags and Velour magazine been doing?

We’re going to start filming the next two films in the One Dollar Drags series in July and we just came out with a hardcover three hundred plus page book of the original first three issues of Velour: The Drag Magazine. We’re coming out with No. 4, which will be about bodies in the fall.

My goal is just to have as many things out there in the world about drag as possible and have them be high quality and interesting and representative of the world that I love and know. Drag Race really offered me a platform to have a lot of people listen to what I have to show them and I want to showcase the whole community I know.

How has your commitment to political activism informed how you’ve approached your reign?

For one thing, I’m not afraid of drag being political. I love that drag is political. For me, one of the reasons I started doing drag was reading about how in the past, drag performers were able to organize the queer community and move us forward.

With Nightgowns, we raise a pretty large chunk of money every month for a local organizations like Princess Janae Place, a homeless center for queer youth in New York City, and the Queer Detainee Empowerment project that helps fight for people who are locked away from their families in detention centers through immigration issues. And I think that is part of it; bringing politics, bringing the real needs that people face into entertainment spaces. There doesn’t need to be a divide between our entertainment and our political life. I think that’s one part of it.

Then, the other part of it would be visibility and opportunities for people to speak about their experiences, speak about their encounters with dark things. Not all people within the queer community get representation the way that they should. Just having moments to have people represent themselves -- that is political.

On season 10, The Vixen has been vocal about racism within the gay community.

I think it’s seriously amazing that The Vixen addressed those issues on the show, speaking to what drag queens of color have been saying for a long time. I think the troubling thing is that those voices often aren’t listened to. Unfortunately, even this time, we can see the way the audience and fandom don’t want to listen to queer people of color talk about racism. The response that The Vixen got was not what I would want or expected. It’s really disappointing to see people react so negatively to an important conversation that has to happen, especially in an environment where white queens get praised for speaking out against racism. There’s some work that has to be done. The Vixen is amazing and, as a performer, incredibly talented.

Do you still keep in touch with your fellow queens from season 9?

I talk to all [the season 9 queens] regularly. People call me for advice for costumes, especially performance tricks or reveals. I’m the person that you check in with those apparently, and I’m really honored to do that. We shared a very dramatic time together and it's something that know one else understands until you’ve experienced it.

What advice would you give to the season 10 winner?

The advice that I would give would be to really stay in touch with why you are doing drag. I think it's really easy to get bogged down with the stress of social media or being a gay celebrity and lose track of what motivates you as a performer, an entertainer, and a community leader. For me, it’s been very easy because -- sometimes it’s not the most convenient -- I keep having to do Nightgowns every month and it always brings me to the first moments when I started doing drag and helps me remember my intention as a performer, as an activist, and a part of an actual community not just an individual out there in the world.

Festivals 2018