Just in time DracConNYC tomorrow, I’m posting this absolutely fascinating interview I did Sasha Velour about a week after her historic Drag Race win, then promptly lost on my computer desktop. Whoops. In our far-ranging discussion, we touch upon her recent birthday, the multitude of projects she’s currently involved with, and most interestingly, the production of her drag ‘zine Velour. I hope you enjoy it.
James: Well, first of all, condragulations! I bow down to our new bald overlord!
Sasha: (laughs) Yes, it’s the take over of the baldies.
J:You just celebrated your 30th birthday too, didn’t you?
S: Yes, on Sunday – on Sunday of New York Pride. I was on the float waving to people.
Well that sounds like the best 30th birthday, ever. Right?!
It really was, I couldn’t think of anything better.
Then you performed that night in Brooklyn?
Yea, I put on a little “thank you” show to the whole community and used some of the performers that I’ve been working with for years. Along with Peppermint and Ongina and we kind of had a big celebration all together.
Have the other girls been just absolutely wonderful to you since your win? Is everything in the honeymoon period right now?
(laughs) Yes, it is. It’s all sunshine and rainbows.
And how do you think your life has changed since the finale?
There’s definitely been an influx of positivity and encouragement. I get the thing that people are really curious about what I’m going to create this year so I’m just driven to put stuff out there as quickly and as high quality as possible.
And speaking of high quality things you’ve put out there, there’s your magazine, Velour.
Yes, indeed. Velour, Issue 3
Issue 3. Can you believe it? I just found a copy of VYM, the first issue, on my desk the other day.
You did? Yes! We’ve been sending them to you every year.
Let’s talk a little bit about how it started as VYM and how it evolved into Velour
It started as a tiny little stapled ‘zine that we printed at a local copy shop using just the drag performers we knew and the visual artists that we knew. I’ve always kind of thought of myself as “the matchmaker” of this little project – so I try to pair up people who I think can create cool collaborative projects about drag together. And then I do all the layout and design because that’s what my day job was before I started doing drag full time. I did layout for books and magazines…
Oh! I did not know!
… but this magazine was kind of my passion project. I got to focus on this thing that I loved- drag- and I got to be a little more experimental and out of the box with the type of design I was doing instead of the kind of the corporate graphic design that I had to do for my job. And when we put together the first stapled issue, it just exploded. There was so much interest from both the drag side and the visual design side that we decided to create a fully, beautifully produced first issue. That’s the one I think you have in your office.
We ended up doing a Kickstarter for that issue. Basically, just friends and family and people in the community contributed to this really modern little publishing project and then it’s kind of grown a little bit every year. Last year, I started to learn a little bit more about my business fish qualities and I renamed it Velour. (laughs)
A little branding.
Exactly. So I think it’s just continued to a place where it is now – which I think is very… not just focused on the Brooklyn scene…. not just limited to the artists we know… but it’s a project that brings together all the people.
It seems like there is a lot of drag history in there. And a lot of just really thoughtful, interesting pieces… It’s not your usual drag fan ‘zine.
Exactly! We’ve always wanted to have something you could teach in classrooms as well as enjoy on the toilet. You know, the full spectrum.
I know that you have mentioned that (’90s-era drag ‘zines) My Comrade and Pansy Beat were real inspirations to you and that you’ve had the chance to talk to (their creator/drag legend) Linda Simpson. Tell me a little bit about that.
Yeah, I love that self-publishing and drag kind of go hand in hand because it’s the same idea of kind of creating your own world and not being limited by the financial limitations and just using what you have. Using the resources that you have to create something fabulous and treating it, perhaps, grander than it really is.
It’s also sort of a yearbook of the drag scene and in 10 years I bet you’ll be glad you have all these. I think they’ll be real collector’s editions.
Exactly. Yeah, it’s kind of cool to document drag outside of Drag Race, too. We have to write it into the history books.
So far, you’ve been publishing Velour twice yearly. Will you even have time to do it this year? I mean, I imagine things are at an accelerated pace for you right now.
I’m going to make time even if I lose sleep over it. The good thing is I’m going to meet all kinds of new people this year traveling around, so the opportunities for who can work on the next issue just multiplied overnight.
Is advertisement free? Don’t you need to compensate some of the artists? How do you subsidize it?
The good thing is costs are pretty low if you do it smartly. The sales of the issue can go directly to the artist. We take very little for ourselves just to make sure we can keep up with printing costs. The rest all goes to collaborators. You know, we have people shooting these drag performers on real film. So we pay for the development fees & all the materials. We do travel, we’ve had a couple of photo shoots where we have champagne and strawberries. We like living the full assemblance of the Vogue lifestyle for our people.
I love thinking of you as the drag Anna Wintour.
(laughs) I’ll take it!
Actually, you might be a little more Diana Vreeland…
There you go, yeah!
The theme of the current issue is “Sisters.” Tell us a little bit about the issue.
Yes! It’s about the idea of sisterhood in the drag world. I think the idea that queer people build their own families is kind of this magical bond that sustains us and helps us grow as artists and also protects us in certain ways from the kind of stresses of the world. So we looked at the way that people form those bonds. The way those bonds enrich people. The way that drag queens and drag kings and their brothers and sisters share certain things. It’s a nice entry point to talk about community.
It’s funny because when I’m doing Transformations, I start to notice little drag families around the country and how, like, there will be a little pocket of queens in Mississippi and they’ll all do their eyebrows the same way-
Yes, I love that!
I love how everyone influences everybody but it’s still kept in a tight circle of queens. That’s always so fascinating to me.
Yeah, I love that. I think they’re surface markers that you are a part of a tribe. That’s really beautiful.
One more quick question: Where do you see yourself this time next year and how are you going to change drag and what is happening with the future of drag?
Oh my God! Oh, just a small question. (laughs) I don’t know if I’m capable of changing drag but I definitely want to start some conversations about the directions that drag can go and the kind of conversations I’ve had with my people for a long time. I think that people are ready to talk and to ask questions and to argue, if need be in loving ways. I think that this magazine and the shows that I produce can help to do that and I’m excited to see how they can transform on a much larger scale.
Okay. Love it! That was very succinct!
Thank you, And next time you’re out here, I do want to have you in for Transformations. I would love to sit down and really noodle around in your brain
I already have, like, five sketches of your face.
Well, you basically just look in the mirror and subtract thirty years!
(laughs) I love it!
Thank you so much for giving us a little time!
It was lovely to chat!
Love you! Bye!
Be sure to check out Sasha’s booth at DragConNyc and pick up a signed copy of Velour!