Arthur Mills

Sasha Velour: Review

Sasha Velour. RuPaul. Bianca del Rio. Are any of these women’s names familiar to you? If you know anything about anything then you’ll be aware that these are in fact names of American drag queens, all made popular on the TV show RuPaul’s Drag Race, and catapulted into superstardom by the show’s ever-growing popularity.

The insane success of the show has therefore spawned an upswing in interest in all things related to drag and gay culture: even Big Brother – once the domain of drunken straights tumbling into hot tubs with gleeful abandon recently crowned Courtney Act (Australian drag queen and runner-up of Season 6 of Drag Race) over Ann Widdecombe, notorious for her views opposing pro-LGBT legislation and strictly conservative ideals. It’s thrilling as a gay man and avid supporter of all things drag-related to see what, less than five years ago, was a total subculture to be getting so much publicity and positive reactions from the public, especially during a time in our world where the lives of LGBT+ people are endangered on a daily basis.

Sasha Velour may not quite have cracked the British mass public yet the way Courtney was able to in Big Brother, however she certainly conquered my heart when I went to watch her performance hosted by Klub Kids UK at Heaven Liverpool, at the end of January. Although a nightclub wouldn’t have been my first choice to watch a performance that expertly combined the high camp and theatrics of a drag show and the wild passion of a political rally; Sasha told us it reminded her of the tiny clubs of Brooklyn, New York, where she hails from and it felt like a really special moment for both her and the crowd.

Before Ms. Velour herself came onstage, we were treated to performances by drag queens both local and hailing from Newcastle and Manchester, including Travisty, Azzuro Penderghast and Mutha Tucka: all of whom brought unique styles and personality to the club. It’s important to remember that although the world-famous queens endorsed on RuPaul’s show are fabulous and deserve our support, we should show out for local queens; the amount of talent brought to the tiny stage was amazing, and I eagerly await the day the UK gets a version of Drag Race (on a tangent, Thailand just became the first country to produce an international version of the show).

Over the course of the night, Sasha Velour performed three numbers, and each was brilliant and magical in its own way. The first was a lip-sync to Barbra Streisand’s “I Stayed Too Long At The Fair”; a departure from the upbeat and high tempo songs normally performed to by drag queens, it seemed out of place in the setting, but worked perfectly and was emoted with real feeling.

After each song ended she treated us to some of the wisdom she became known for on the show (“don’t joke about that”), and discussed gender imbalance, politics and the importance of LGBT+ representation and queer culture as resistance to the norm. Also performed was “Deceptacon” by Le Tigre, a complete contrast from Barbra with its punk-ish aesthetic, and the grand finale was Kate Bush’s iconic “Wuthering Heights”, during which Sasha transformed into Gollum: complete with teeth and a stringy disgusting wig. During the final act I found myself transfixed; firstly the song itself is one of my mother’s favourites but the story that was being unfolded in front of us with the costume transformations, one after another, was captivating!

The whole night was an ode to queer culture, and the struggle that many LGBT+ youth face, and on top of that it was just a phenomenal performance by a queen who rightfully deserves her title of America’s next drag superstar. Perhaps it would be too much to ask to give Sasha Velour the recognition that world-famous queens such as RuPaul and Courtney Act currently enjoy…but a gay can hope!

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