Sasha Velour is a beloved, gender-fluid American drag queen, visual artist, speaker, illustrator, actor, stage and television producer, and newly minted author. People everywhere flock to Velour for her iconic looks, flawless makeup techniques, and innovative and provocative drag aesthetics.
Among her many accomplishments, Sasha created and starred in the one-queen drag spectacular, Smoke and Mirrors, which Forbes calls a “spellbinding tour de force” that traveled to over 80 countries around the world from 2019-2022, including the a sold-out London Palladium. She also founded the New York City drag show, Nightgowns, hailed by New York Times and was later adapted into a docu-series. In 2017, she was featured on RuPaul’s Drag Race where her legendary performance of Whitney Houston’s “So Emotional” helped her bring home the win.
Crafting together real life stories with rich queer history, The Big Reveal: An Illustrated Manifesto of Drag is a celebration of an expressive art form and the ways it has revolutionized over time. As Sasha Velour uncovers her life and journey as a drag queen, she weaves herself into the history of it, revealing how she learned the craft while bringing substance to our understanding of queer liberation.
Keep reading for our exclusive interview with April guest author Sasha Velour about her new book, her hopes for the queer community, and the future of drag.
What inspired your look and overall design for the cover of The Big Reveal?
I wanted to make the cover its own drag performance! As you peel back the jacket and open the book, the photos do a reveal. The front image is inspired by 90s cosmetic ads—the kind I grew up idolizing—but on the inside, it becomes much more irreverent and camp. That’s very “drag!” In honor of bookmaking, I made water-marbled endpapers that we also turned into a fabric for the lining of the coat! And in honor of zine making (my background!), I tried to keep my hand really visible with roughly drawn lines and homemade elements!
What does your writing process look like?
Oh it was torturous! I would write and delete things over and over again. I would read through the text pretending to be different kinds of people, cut things up and move them all around. Whenever I had a block, I would try sketching instead. I was really excited about the visual component from the beginning and sometimes sketching the designs and illustrations helped me figure out the structure of the writing.
Which artists/writers/creatives are you obsessed with right now?
I’m really loving the playful art and fashion design of Zandra Rhodes, from the ’60s to today! As a writer, I’m so inspired by Quinta Brunson—Abbott Elementary is really heartwarming and hilarious and real. Also I saw Kate Berlant’s show at the Connelly Theater and can’t stop thinking about it. Genius and unexpected.
You’ve previously self-published and designed an art magazine. How would you say that process differs from writing and publishing your book? Which do you prefer?
It’s so different! When my partner Johnny and I put together Velour magazine—working with artists and writers and drag performers from around the world—it was such a communal project. We planned the initial structure and final design, but so much emerged organically from what our collaborators brought. It was really exciting. I guess I prefer that, because writing this book was a little isolating in comparison. I always prefer collaborative work—like my monthly drag show NightGowns. But I also wanted to challenge myself to let my own thoughts and stories speak for themselves!
In what ways do you hope this book will inspire the queer community and beyond?
I want this book to make a case for the radical history of drag. Throughout time, drag has helped people survive. We put on shows and create work for queer and trans people. We protest and speak up for the rights of our community in its fullest. And we entertain and make people feel possibility in the midst of stress, grief, even direct oppression. Drag is an art and it is a right. It has saved my life many times, and given me a home. I hope this book and my story encourages people to accept drag more fully as a wonderful part of world culture.
How do you think this book will help shape the future of drag?
I think we need to know the history to move forward. I’ve really been inspired by the drag legends who came before me, so I put those stories in the book and tried to draw some new connections between them and the present to help us see how to make a difference.
What are you most proud of about this book?
I guess I’m most proud of the way the pieces fit together—imagery, personal story, history, philosophy. I tried to mix it all up without going too disorganized! I think it makes for a surprising read.
What is next for Sasha Velour?
I put together a live show that corresponds to the book—with lip syncs, reveals, readings, and special guests! I’ll be touring North and South America this spring and summer. Plus I’ll be returning home monthly to New York City for NightGowns! Looking ahead, I’m also writing a play about drag with Tectonic Theater Project, and I have a few fiction projects in the works! After all the history, I want to write some fantasy—maybe science fiction, or a drag murder mystery!