Rewriting 'herstory': Sasha Velour's drag as art and activism
Following its move to VH1 in 2017, Season 9 of RuPaul’s Drag Race (RPDR) was positioned to capture a larger audience than ever before, boasting the strongest field of competitors in its ‘herstory’. This article maps the career trajectory of Season 9 winner Sasha Velour to determine how she distinguishes herself from previous champions. While winners of RPDR are expected to possess the virtues of charisma, uniqueness, nerve, and talent, Velour’s articulation of fame post RPDR has been informed by charisma and uniqueness, coupled with a consistent performance of an ‘authentic’ persona. Since winning Season 9, Velour has been an outspoken advocate for the transgender community and the need to diversify drag, in addition to drawing attention from the mainstream fashion industry for her art and style. Drawing inspiration from RPDR’s virtues, I argue that the performance of charisma and uniqueness are essential to interpreting the success of the drag celebrity persona as part of the ‘fame cycle’ beyond RPDR. Velour’s star image is distinctive for centring art and activist performance as vital to her public persona across transmedia platforms, allowing for the promotion of positive change for the LGBTQIA community worldwide.