Arts·Here & Queer

Drag queen legend Sasha Velour is serving queer history teacher in her new book (and this interview)

The Big Reveal author — and iconic Drag Race Season 9 winner — is the extra special guest kicking off the second season of our talk show Here & Queer.

Velour is the extra special guest kicking off the second season of our talk show Here & Queer

Drag queen Sasha Velour sits on the set of Here & Queer.
Drag queen royalty Sasha Velour (right) on the set of Here & Queer with Peter Knegt. (CBC Arts)

Here & Queer is an interview series hosted by Peter Knegt that celebrates and amplifies the work of LGBTQ artists through unfiltered conversations.

"Drag embodies the queer possibility that exists within each of us — the infinite ways in which gender, good taste, and art can be lived."

Wiser words have rarely been spoken, and we could not be more pleased to tell you that those words came from the brilliant mind of our first guest on the second season of Here & Queer, the iconoclastic drag queen, author and current New Yorker cover girl, Sasha Velour.

Velour joined us to kick off a new season of CBC Arts' LGBTQ-focused talk show (which will continue throughout the summer), and to promote her stunning first book, The Big Reveal: An Illustrated Manifesto of Drag. You can watch the entire episode here:

Winner of the ninth season of RuPaul's Drag Race, Velour has now added the title of "author" to her mantle, piecing together so much queer and drag history with their own memoir to create a book both wholly unique and incredibly necessary.

"It was so much fun," Velour says of writing the book. "I love learning what's existed before. And I discovered what I really needed was a book that had all the information in a clear way that went into detail, or at least as much detail as I can get into uncovering everything."

"Since it didn't exist or the forms that existed were so impartial, I wanted to tie it together more fully, more expansively. So I had to write it myself. I put it together over about three and a half years, and it took so much revision. I wanted it to be right."

So much of what is written in the book had only existed in oral history, passed down backstage at drag shows. 

"I think drag queens have been the keepers of this history, and so I've learned so much by talking to people, especially older drag queens," Velour says. "They all have lots of stories about the queer past. So I wanted to capture some of those."

Here & Queer host Peter Knegt sits on the set with drag queen royalty Sasha Velour.
Peter Knegt (left) on the set of Here & Queer, chatting with the one and only Sasha Velour. (CBC Arts)

Velour digs into so much more in the interview — including the true meaning of "camp," the real story behind Stonewall, and what she thinks of those aggressively fighting back against the word "queer." She also had some very kind words to say about another Sasha's recent win on Drag Race.

"It was so exciting," Velour says of Sasha Colby's win. "She is a drag queen's drag queen, as she herself says, probably because we keep telling her how much we love her. Her ability to perform onstage, and then her warmth and sense of building community in the dressing room offstage and with the audience, is truly inspiring."

"She was someone I fell in love with completely outside of Drag Race and to me represented the kind of amazing artist that Drag Race hadn't figured out how to bring into that platform."

Velour says that the fact that the show has "figured out how to celebrate someone as brilliant as Sasha Colby" shows that drag is finally growing more inclusive.

"These mainstream platforms are seeing more of the full picture of drag," she says.

We also get into the ugly side of drag's evolution — namely the ridiculous backlash against it from the right wing.

"One thing I'm feeling is that I think this backlash is less about the visibility of drag and more about everyone's comfort with drag and with trans people," she says. "People overwhelmingly understand that this is normal, that this is fun. And I think that is what is so threatening. [It's] less about what we're doing and more about people's acceptance of it."

"That is not going to go anywhere. So this backlash is going to have a hard time truly convincing people who already know the truth to believe these lies."

Can I get an amen?

You can watch every episode of Here & Queer... right here

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Peter Knegt (he/him) is a writer, producer and host for CBC Arts. He writes the LGBTQ-culture column Queeries (winner of the Digital Publishing Award for best digital column in Canada) and hosts and produces the talk series Here & Queer. He's also spearheaded the launch and production of series Canada's a Drag, variety special Queer Pride Inside, and interactive projects Superqueeroes and The 2010s: The Decade Canadian Artists Stopped Saying Sorry. Collectively, these projects have won Knegt four Canadian Screen Awards. Beyond CBC, Knegt is also the filmmaker of numerous short films, the author of the book About Canada: Queer Rights and the host of the monthly film series Queer Cinema Club at Toronto's Paradise Theatre. You can follow him on Instagram and Twitter with the same obvious handle: @peterknegt.

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