RuPaul’s Drag Race alumna Sasha Velour took her winning title and spun it into pure gold. Since appearing on and winning season nine of the show, the Brooklyn-based drag queen became a premier name in the world of avant-garde fashion, published her own magazine and created new, intriguing content that her fans were hungry for.
But perhaps her crowning achievement since departing Drag Race has been Nightgowns, a set of drag shows the queen created to feature some of the best experimental and inventive drag talent in New York and America at large. Since its inception, Nightgowns has become a mainstay for drag fans in the New York area.
Now, Velour is bringing her massively successful show to RuPaul’s DragCon NYC. On Friday (Sept. 28), the season nine winner will put on her spectacle with a star-studded cast, including fellow season nine contestant Shea Couleé. Hyped as one of the largest and best performances of Nightgowns to date, Velour is practically guaranteeing her audience a night to remember.
But Nightgowns already has a history of producing some iconic drag moments. In honor of the queen’s new iteration of the show, here are 10 of the best performances from Sasha Velour’s Nightgowns.
Aja – “My Kind of Love”
It’s hard to believe that back in season nine of RuPaul’s Drag Race, now-fan-favorite Aja became the subject of some serious online abuse. But being the crafty queen that they are, Aja took those negative comments, along with a number of very supportive ones, and turned them into an emotional, beautiful work of art. Lip-syncing along with Emeli Sandé’s anthem of love and devotion “My Kind of Love,” Aja projected a series of those negative and positive comments onto a screen behind them, showing fans that they were the reason Aja was performing. Ending their performance, Aja simply posted a message, stating “This didn’t go the way I planned, but I’m glad I did it.”
Vander Von Odd – “Creep”
It’s natural that as the first-ever winner of The Boulet Brothers’ online web-series Dragula, Vander Von Odd may garner a reputation as a creepy queen. But Vander certainly didn’t shy away from that identity in this stunning performance. Performing to an unplugged, paired-down arrangement to Radiohead’s “Creep,” Vander shows off her usual beauty-meets-horror aesthetics, while also baring her soul — and her faux-scarred body — to the audience.
Pierretta Viktori – “U + Ur Hand”
P!nk’s “U + Ur Hand” already serves as an anthem for female empowerment, telling would-be creeps at bars to keep their hands to themselves. But drag queen Pierretta Viktori imbued the song with more meaning by performing it in front of a screen displaying the continuous flow of headlines surrounding the #MeToo movement, along with audio clips highlighting the prevalence of sexual misconduct in America. What’s even more powerful is that Pierretta’s costume — a dress and two bodysuits covered in hands and messages saying “Don’t touch me” — was created and crafted by the queen for this specific number to accent the proliferation of sexual assault.
Hungry – “Monument”
A reveal in a drag show is usually when a queen either rips off an outfit or a wig to reveal another outfit or wig. But Hungry, one of Berlin’s premiere drag performers, seemed to redefine what a reveal can be when she brought her performance of Röyksopp’s “Monument” to the Nightgown stage — she walked on wearing a mask, only to remove it and reveal a nearly-identical makeup recreation of it on her face. This extremely innovative reveal, along with the queen’s clever use of lighting and movement, makes Hungry’s performance one of Nightgowns’ best.
Sasha Velour – “This Woman’s Work”
It’s clear that one of Sasha Velour’s goals with Nightgowns is to make her audience feel things they’ve never felt at a drag show before. If so, then she certainly accomplished her mission with this stunning, heart-wrenching performance of Kate Bush’s “This Woman’s Work.” Innovatively using projections to show another version of herself joining her and eventually merging with her onstage, the performance gains even more emotional weight when you find out the suit Velour wears during the performance belonged to her mother, who passed away in 2015. Tissues are required for this beautiful, emotionally affecting art piece.
Vigor Mortis – “Mad World”
In perhaps one of the most emotional Nightgowns performances to date, drag king Vigor Mortis took to the stage in an outfit outside of what his fans were used to seeing — a dress. What ensued was a poignant, harrowing performance around gender identity and coming out as trans. Lipsyncing along to Gary Jules’ “Mad World,” Vigor slowly dismantles his outfit, eventually stripping nearly naked to reveal the word “Boy” written across his chest. This is without a doubt one of the most sorrowful and exquisite performances in Nightgowns history.
Neon Calypso – “Capitalism Mix”
Some drag queens like to perform thought-provoking pieces at shows, and some like to show off their natural abilities at dance. Others, like Neon Calypso, like to do both. In this performance, Neon starts off by reciting the poem “Capitalism” by Porsha Olayiwola, forcing her audience to think about the negative effects of a money-hungry American society. As she reaches the end of the poem, however, the queen launches into a performance of Rihanna’s “Bitch Better Have My Money,” showing off her incredible dance skills, while underscoring the point of her performance.
Untitled Queen – “Drunk Drivers/Killer Whales”
As one of Nightgowns’ resident performers, Untitled Queen has made a name for herself as a prop performer who makes incredible art using an array of different objects. This performance was no exception — appearing on stage holding two balls of yarn and in a crocheted dress, the drag star emphasized her performance of Car Seat Headrest’s “Drunk Drivers/Killer Whales” with a strange but fascinating visual show. Handing the balls of yarn to someone offstage, Untitled Queen’s dress slowly unravels throughout her performance, making this a visually-stunning art piece for the audience to behold.
Lypsinka – “If My Friends Could See Me Now!”
Sometimes the most shocking thing a drag performer can do in a lip sync is to simply stand and perform. Without a reveal, a death drop or a split, legendary drag performer Lypsinka lived up to her name in this performance of “If My Friends Could See Me Now!” from the musical Sweet Charity. Emulating the beauty and glamour of mid-twentieth century Hollywood film stars, and delivering a pitch-perfect, perfectly-timed lip sync, Lypsinka proved that she’s one of the best drag performers in the game, even without a series of tricks up her sleeves.
Sasha Velour – “Love Song for a Vampire”
There is simply no Nightgowns performance as iconic or entrancing as Sasha Velour’s rendition of Annie Lennox’s “Love Song for a Vampire.” Not only was it one of the first-ever performances from Nightgowns new home at National Sawdust in Williamsburg, but Sasha later reprised her masterful number at the show’s one year anniversary, revamped and reimagined. Both performances feature Sasha in a floor-length white robe, pinned against a projection screen as a series of dress-like figures are formed below her body. At the song’s climax, she throws off her robe to reveal a stunning dress to finish out her emotional performance of the classic song. It’s bold, it’s emotionally raw, and it is the perfect representation of what Nightgowns is all about.