June 29, 2018 09:34 AM
Sasha Velour
Tanner Abel

The monsters’ reign is just beginning.

Sasha Velour’s time on the RuPaul’s Drag Race throne ended when she crowned Aquaria in last night’s season 10 finale, but as her “Alien Eve” coronation look proves, she has a lot more to show the world.

The season 9 winner sketched the design for her style director, Nancy The Girl, and designer Diego Montoya, whose “gorgeous embellishments” brought her vision to life.

“I wanted to embody the fantasy of a more-than-human alien goddess, kind of queer Fantasia for a new world of imaginative queer performers that go beyond humanity,” Velour tells PEOPLE about her finale look. “So we came up with an alien idea, and then gave it an Eve, or maybe even Lilith, twist of someone who has experienced, and taken knowledge and really transformed it into self empowerment.”

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“I wanted to do something that had pants. I looked at all the previous returning queens and thought about the classic drag queen step down look and it’s always traditionally a gown,” she adds.

Velour faced towering expectations for her return to the RPDR stage after the now-iconic “So Emotional” lip sync that helped her snatch the season 9 title, but the star says it’s her “own crazy demands” that really push her to innovate.

“I always want to go to the next level with something, so it’s dangerous. Now my body is fully covered in crystals and stones, I’m a perfect alien goddess wrapped in a snake, holding a giant apple. I don’t know what could possibly be next. Probably minimalism,” she jokes.

The ethereal look is fitting for a queen who spent the past year traveling around the globe and cultivating her inner strength.

“Obviously my life has changed enormously,” Velour says of her demanding year. “The practical aspects of it are different and bigger, and Sasha has had to become a very powerful and smart and savvy person. I’m thankful that I had that character because the need for her to pretend to be that person has, I think, really made me that person. That is the magic of drag.”

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With her Brooklyn theater show, Nightgowns, a short film series called One Dollar Drags and the launch of her own drag magazine, Velour, the star has worked overtime to provide meaningful, enlightening entertainment since she took home the crown.

“Everyone who passes through Drag Race, and especially the people who are able to have really big careers after the show, has a responsibility to the queer community to do a good job of representing queer people across the board to be kind and loving,” she said. “We are brought into the world to entertain people and to give, especially queer people, a sense that there is entertainment being created for us, with our standard of beauty and joy and truthfulness and gender-bending. I’ve really been trying to live up to that this year.”

That responsibility has only gotten more intense as RPDR reaches broader — and increasingly fervent — audiences.

“I think the move to VH1 has really had a huge impact for the community,” Velour says. “It’s definitely shifted and expanded the audience of the show, which allows our stories and experiences as queer people to get shared with folks who maybe wouldn’t have access to those stories.”

“The audience of Drag Race and the fans of drag queens are often very surprising,” she adds. “The other day in the airport I meant a middle-aged married couple who recognized me out of drag and wanted to get a picture. It’s so beautiful that drag is able to speak to so many different types of people.”

But, more eyes on the competition to become America’s next drag superstar means a greater potential for troublesome behavior within the community. During season 10 in particular, current and former contestants have grappled with the fandom’s upsetting treatment of queens of color.

Bob The Drag Queen, RPDR‘s season 8 winner, drew attention to the problem on Twitter. “Sometimes Drag Race makes me realize other things about the world. NOT ALL, but a lot of the most popular queens fall into the thin white category. And NO black queens, except @RuPaul, have over a million followers. It’s not the show. It’s the fandom,” he wrote earlier this month.

Velour has prioritized using her own platforms and passionate fanbase to bring visibility to a diverse spectrum of performers, with the hope that change in the drag world will herald a larger cultural shift.

“Racism is a problem everywhere, especially in this country, but all over the world, and especially within queer space,” she says. “I think that the best thing to do is to pivot to the amazing POC entertainers that are very visible out in the world and then many that people haven’t even given the time of day to, who are more than deserving. One of my goals is always to share any kind of spotlight I’m given. I love that my show Nightgowns is a place where people can come and get to know lots of different drag performers.”

“And it’s no secret that drag does not exist without black drag performers, without trans drag performers, without immigrant drag performers, and seeing all of us together as a community, as we’re intended to be, feels very political at a time when that vision of beauty is not represented almost anywhere. And I hope that the drag community works harder — I have work to do myself — and I hope everyone joins in that process so that we can, by shifting the world of drag, slowly leave an impact in the world at large.”

As she continues to extend her influence in the drag world and beyond, Velour says returning to the workroom for a possible All Stars season is one adventure she has no interest in pursuing: “I don’t think [I’d consider going back],” she says. “The drag that I’m immersed in now is not about competition. It’s about celebrating and uplifting the amazing people around you and being part of a conversation rather than like slowly eliminating other queens until you’re the only one standing. That just doesn’t appeal to me.”

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