Gender-fluid drag queen Sasha Velour is hitting the road with The Big Reveal Live Show! This 90-minute extravaganza will be staged for two nights at Broadway Playhouse on April 29 and 30, and features an evening of drag and storytelling from the winner of RuPaul's Drag Race's ninth season.
Inspiration for the new show originates from Velour's first book, The Big Reveal: An Illustrated Manifesto of Drag, debuting in April of 2023. This follows other phenomenal projects such as hosting the New York-based drag show NightGowns and as well as her first "one-queen theater show" Smoke & Mirrors.
Velour spoke by phone to tell both her story and how she is now redefining drag for a whole new generation.
Windy City Times: Hi, Sasha. The last time we spoke was after an appearance at Roscoe's in Chicago.
Sasha Velour: Yes, back in 2018 and we were upstairs in a side office. I have never seen that room any other time. We were in the bowels of Roscoe's! [laughs]
WCT: What was the process of making your new book The Big Reveal?
SV: I am used to laying out books as my day job previously. I always think about books from how the reader encounters them with the physicality of it, the colors and where the eyes might go on the paper.
I spent a couple of years writing down the personal stories that helped me understand drag and my queer identity. I included drag history that I wanted people to hear within the context of the larger phenomenon and then tried to weave them all together.
At a certain point, I stepped back a bit and then drew in the book with little sketches just like I did back in the day to stay true to my DIY tradition. I had the publisher behind me for this one, to make this project come out into the world. It took me a number of years, and a lot of different drafts.
WCT: So you did all the drawings, with many Polaroid pictures included as well?
SV: I love a Polaroid. It is something to just snap behind the scenes and can encapsulate a drag moment with all the glamor and the grittiness too.
WCT: The history included in your book was important. When can we have a drag history class taught in schools?
SV: It is happening in some schools and universities. I hope they make all the fancy Ivy League students buy my book. There hasn't been anything written like this from someone who does drag.
I am someone who can read between the lines of history, because I am a performer myself and have thrown my whole life into this thing we call drag. Being able to tell that story mixed with my experience added a new perspective to any history that is out there.
WCT: Let's talk about the current war on drag. The queens are basically already wearing war paint and armor, so I am not sure why someone would start a battle.
SV: I love that!
WCT: Are you touring Tennessee with The Big Reveal Live Show?
SV: We are not and will only be in major queer markets. I have toured Tennessee many times and there are many queer people there, and there's a lot of good drag happening there too. We need to stick together and stand up for that.
This is part of the targeted attacks on trans and nonbinary people, including queer existence, beyond the stage. The subtext is that drag would be comfortable for them if it wasn't something that was explicitly queer.
Before this, history was beginning to change in a positive way. It felt like finally we were getting the reception onstage from mass audiences, and that was being reflected in the ability to live real lives as queer and trans people outside of drag off the stage. Sometimes people take steps forward and it's met with backlash.
This is a continuing pendulum where we will keep fighting for queer- and trans-rights. Drag is a good platform for making those voices heard, because drag is art and entertainment. No one will ever be able to get people to stop watching drag, because it is just that good and too pervasive. It is part of the culture and has been for thousands of years.
We can use that art form now to advocate for our rights as they try to take it away from the larger LGBTQ+ community.
WCT: Were there topics on the cutting room floor that you would like to use in another book?
SV: I am living another book right now! This one was kind of a memoir, but not really, because I haven't touched on the most recent stuff that has happened. I hope there are many more experiences in my life to write about in a book.
The environment in the world makes this book feel more necessary and I hope people read it because I make a good case for drag being part of culture everywhere. This book is a positive force in the world that everyone should read.
WCT: What is the biggest reveal in The Big Reveal?
SV: There are a lot of reveals, depending on what one's perspective is coming into the book and what they already know. For some people, a reveal is an analysis of drag going back to the earliest forms of theater. To other people that won't be interesting, but they may be surprised that my actual name is Sasha and it's not a stage name.
There are some RuPaul Drag Race production secrets revealed that other people might like. I needed to give that audience a reveal too!
WCT: So what a particular reader takes away from the book is actually the big reveal?
SV: Yes. In the past I think everything that happened was surprising, but not anymore!
WCT: So RuPaul's book would be called The Big Ru-veal?
SV: Good idea, she should definitely do that and make it a tell-all. I know she has plenty of dirt on people, so I would read it!
WCT: I remember a past book RuPaul wrote that told readers to not eat in public places.
SV: Well, I can't eat in drag either way, because I have such a fragile composition on my face and I don't want to mess it up with pizza or anything. My friends and I love nothing more than eating a big meal after being out in drag, when that face is already deteriorating, and it's a happy place to be.
WCT: I'm sure you are always asked to take selfies a lot and wouldn't want pizza in your teeth.
SV: Oh don't worry, we New Yorkers know how to pose with a slice of pizza, New York style of course! Maybe Chicago pizza is a little different story…
WCT: That would be a lot of bread. Bob the Drag Queen described Chicago pizza as soup one time to me in an interview.
SV: Having spent my teenage years in Illinois, I really love Chicago-style pizza. Call it soup, a casserole or whatever, it is delicious!
WCT: When did you live in Illinois?
SV: I lived in Champaign-Urbana from age nine through 17. I got the hell out of there and never looked back, because I spent a lot of time in the cornfields before my bright future happened. I did my best at the time…
WCT: You are based in New York currently?
SV: Yes, I have been in Brooklyn for 10 years.
WCT: What are your thoughts on season 15 of RuPaul's Drag Race?
SV: I am a big Sasha Colby fan. I have been working with her for the past five years with my show, NightGowns. I watched her videos online for the Miss Continental competition before I met her, then I discovered that not only is she incredible offstage, but she is also a lovely person.
I have been rooting for her to win, and this is the most fun watching Drag Race I've had in years. It's more fun than watching myself, that's for sure!
WCT: Talk about The Big Reveal Live Show!
SV: It is a celebration of the book, but I could not just do a regular book signing event like many authors even if I tried. I wanted to make a joke about the whole format.
There will be readings and visuals. The guest on the first night will be drag queen Lucy Stoole and on the second-night drag king Tenderoni. I will be bringing out the Chicago legends. We will do a couple of performances together, as well as some solo performances.
My goal is to dramatize the themes from the book such as the long and much-debated history of drag. I will cover the intersections between our queer identities and our stage personas along the way. I will show the importance of our past childhoods in our individual families, and how we create our own queer families for our future.
I celebrate that, dramatize it, then fuck with the book genre by turning it into a drag show!
WCT: I had read that there would be special guests so it's good to hear they are local.
SV: I will have new guests every night of the tour, so it keeps me on my toes. I'm in the drag queen business and the tendency is to make it about ourselves, but this is a great opportunity to have an author and a local hero sit down in conversation and answer people's questions. We also put on a drag show to entertain people and bring the joy that comes with that.
WCT: What are you doing after the book tour?
SV: Right after I will be jumping on a drag tour of South America. I then return to New York City for my show NightGowns, which has been brought back as a monthly event.
This summer I will be working on a new show that I will be producing with Tectonic Theater Project in New York.
WCT: Where in South America are you traveling to?
SV: I haven't been to Brazil since 2018. There is a lot to show people there who are some of the most devoted drag audiences in the world. I am looking forward to it!
Sashay over to BroadwayInChicago.com and HouseofVelour.com for revealing opportunities happening at Broadway Playhouse, 175 East Chestnut Street, on Saturday, April 29 at 8 p.m. and Sunday, April 30 at 7 p.m.
Shante The Big Reveal: An Illustrated Manifest of Drag slays on April 4, 2023, at HarperCollins.com . Preorders available now.