Every December, RuPaul’s Drag Race announces its cast for the upcoming installment of the flagship series that will premiere the subsequent month, beginning a months-long competition to become America’s Next Drag Superstar. While every season produces its own share of fun, drama, winners and losers, this season had a winner walk into the Werkroom the very first episode of the season: Miss Continental 2012, Sasha Colby.
The competition began with sixteen drag queens all vying for the top spot each week to extend their bid to win the series, a year’s worth of Anastasia Beverly Hills make-up products, and $200,000 sent directly to their Cash App upon winning (instant withdrawal fees apply!). Sasha Colby was a queen already known for her live performances, wigs and dance skills. She was never in the bottom and boasted four maxi-challenge wins by season’s end, also giving audiences one of the great all-time lip syncs against Anetra (which I am still watching every day). She brought a lightness and humor to her victories, a seriousness to her ambition but also a kindness to her fellow competitors. While there was stiff competition from her fellow queens, almost every guest of YouTube aftershow The Pit Stop predicted Colby to win the season.
I spoke to the reigning drag superstar about a career of performances, her preparation for the season, trans rights in the current political atmosphere, and possible alliances in a future season of All Stars: All Winners.
Tyler Doster: When you got the call for Drag Race, what was your initial thought?
Sasha Colby: My first initial thought was like, “Wow, that was really easy.” (laughs) I only auditioned the one time, so I didn’t go through what the normal drag racers do, they audition a few times, a few years. And it was interesting because I think, especially for the casting department, I feel like a lot of the people… they watch you and they see you grow in the audition process and until it’s time, your time. The nice thing is I’ve been doing this for 20 years, so they got to see my growth throughout the years, and it was just the perfect time.
I think everything kind of coincided for this season 15. Just the fact that it’s been, I think, at the apex of its popularity right now, especially with all the things going on about anti-trans and anti-drag bills that are happening, I think it’s just so important for it to happen now. And it’s wild because when I got the call, it was like, “Oh, great, it’s like a personal thing for me, a personal goal. Yay, I did it.” But now going through it, I can see how useful I can be in popular culture right now.
We need a mother.
TD: Well, we all know that you’re Mother, Sasha. I don’t think anyone’s confused about that. Since you only auditioned once, did you feel like this season, like you said, was kind of a calling for you? And did Kerri [Colby] being on the last season, did that kind of also push you forward as her drag mother?
SC: Oh, definitely. I jokingly, I couldn’t have Kerri be the most famous Colby, so Mother had to come in. And she came in hot for sure. But it was a bunch of things. It was watching Gottmik actually be on the show and having his drag be so celebrated. It was so lovely to watch. And he was like, “You’ve got to audition.” I was like, “No, I’m not going to do it.” He’s like, “You have to.”
So he was already in my ear saying to audition back in his season. And then when Kylie Sonique Love competed for All Stars , I was her roommate during the pandemic, and I got to help her get ready. And that was really wild to watch. It was kind of a, now that I look back at it, it was like a how-to of what to do when you’re going into this competition. And then the final push, the final nudge was Kerri, and she was like, “Mom, you have to at least audition, send in the tape.” I don’t know why I was reluctant or feeling uneasy. I feel like I didn’t know if there was space for me or my drag, but seeing someone like my daughter and Kylie, who is a trans drag goddess at its finest, really allowed me to feel like, “Okay, my drag can be celebrated,” and I was welcomed with open arms. It was so wonderful. It was a great experience.
TD: So that preparation with Kylie, do you think that that got you ready when it came to thinking about what wigs you wanted to bring, what jewelry you wanted to bring, what outfits you wanted to bring?
SC: Do you know with Kylie, the thing that helped me the most watching her is the challenges. Watching her attack the acting and the ad libs; I mean the improvs, the comedy, the roasts, and even the Snatch Game. These were all things that you know you have to do when you go into the competition. And I think that’s where I was the most nervous because I knew the fashion and that fun things were in my wheelhouse. But really, watching Kylie. And she also did this thing where she did nothing but watch it. And it wasn’t because she was getting ready for Drag Race, before she even knew about All Stars it was always on TV. So in the background, I was hearing not only each season being replayed, but then watching each YouTube series, Bob and Monet talking, and really, she just loves the system. She loves Drag Race and drag so much that she had the knowledge to handle whatever was thrown her way, and that’s what I really took from her.
TD: That sounds like it would be so helpful. Obviously you were already kind of biding your time and getting ready for it and decided that you were finally going to do it, but being right beside someone, watching them get prepared to do it must have been so helpful.
SC: Yes, absolutely. Absolutely. And I’m a control freak and a worry wart. So whatever advice that they were giving, I was holding onto it (laughs).
TD: So most people know that you’re a seasoned performer at this point. You’ve been performing, like you said, for 20 years now. A lot of people knew your name before you even walked into the werkroom. So I guess I wanted to ask, how does it feel being able to climb towards all this? Obviously you’re Miss Continental 2012 and now you’ve won this. Do you feel like your dream has been achieved, and do you think that there’s going to be something next for you that’s going to reach you even further to the top?
SC: Oh, absolutely. I always notice that when people want to achieve a dream, the second that they actually accomplish that goal is when they set another goal past it, or they realize that this dream that you had is the launching pad for the next dream to be achieved. When I won Continental, winning Continental didn’t make me stop. If I just win Continental or if I just win Drag Race, then I’ll be satisfied? No, if I win Continental, it’ll take me to LA to pursue those dreams. Me winning Drag Race or even competing in Drag Race, my intention was always, if I can get mainstream America or if I can get the world to just at least see me a little, that’ll allow me to keep on telling stories the way that I want to, which is really important to me as a storyteller. That’s what I always approach first with any drag number I do. And now being able to achieve, or even indulge these passions of acting, of creating music, doing my one woman show, all these ideas now are just so open because of this amazing show. And because of Mother Ru.
TD: Sasha Velour stated that she would want to compete with you specifically on the next all winner season. How do you respond to that?
SC: Oh yeah. Well, we have been really, really close for many years, and she’s also given me great advice when I was getting ready, or even thinking about auditioning as a winner and as someone who I respect her drag so much. Her intention whenever doing anything as an artist is always just approached with just beautiful healing space and with these very gentle hands, and I admire her for that. So I think people would, if we do like an alliance, that would be amazing because people would never think that. But if we did a secret alliance on All Stars: All Winners, if that was even necessary for the show, that would be amazing. We definitely fill each other up as artists. I just adore her. I’m gushing! (laughs)
TD: What will we do? Everyone reading this will know about your future secret alliance.
SC: I know! That’s why now it can’t happen, but I don’t think a lot of people even knew our history of working together and doing shows. So even when I started this, the season started airing and a lot of fans were picking up like, “how do Sasha Velour and SC even know each other?” For people to now discover that working relationship where we did Nightgowns, we had a lovely docu-series on the short-lived network Quibi, but we definitely have worked together a lot and now it’s not so secret, the alliance.
TD: That’s terrible. Maybe if they read it, they’ll be like, “Oh, they won’t do it,” and now you can do it. You can just reverse it on them.
SC: There’ll be something, I think we can find a twist, we can figure something out (laughs).
TD: Can you give me a little behind the scenes on the Rusical? From the moment you hear the song to the moment you perform it, what is that timeline like of preparation, learning the choreography, learning the music?
SC: I think… let’s say we got the assignment on a Thursday, we probably had that day to learn our music and do a rough draft of choreography. And then I think the next day, if it was a Friday, we set the whole Rusical up. I believe for us it fell on a time where we had a weekend to actually just sit with our characters, which was really helpful for us. And then Monday it was like we shot, I believe so. I actually don’t know the timeline, but it’s very fast. The turnover is very quick. Very quick.
TD: Did you personally feel prepared when you got on stage? Obviously you did great in that, but when you got on there, were your nerves high or anything because of how quick it happened?
SC: No. As a professional dancer, and I’ve done theater, I’m used to that fast pace, learn choreography and do it right there. So that for me wasn’t a big deal. It actually was the most relaxed I felt because that was something I actually have done before. I’ve done theater and things. So that was the most relaxed I was in comparison to the right before that was the comedy stand up challenge. That was rough for me. But yeah, so if I got over that comedy challenge, it just felt like the Rusical was something that was in my wheelhouse. So I was really, really prepared and I didn’t have too much choreography being Carl. It was more so just character development and really filling up the space that they allowed me to be in when I was in a scene.
TD: That actually leads right into my next question. I think you subverted expectations by picking Carl for the Rusical, a bearded man with that beautiful blonde piece on his head. Did the transformation into Carl, is that what attracted you to doing that, to kind of defy that gender identity expectation?
SC: That was part of it. I definitely knew that it would be very beneficial if I showed in any aspect that I wasn’t afraid to get the laugh. Seeing Carl was an obvious, like, “Oh my God, wouldn’t that be funny if I could web into boy drag?” And with the other characters, I would’ve had to do that too. But I felt like as a young boy, it would just look like, I don’t know if I was a lesbian. So I wanted the older man transition to really get that effect of transition from a man to a trans woman. So that was a deciding factor, but really I loved the story arc of being able to be this goofy character, this very submissive character, and then changing into this alter ego, which is genuinely SC, which was me being normal at the end. But I like that character arc. So that’s what really drew me to the two.
TD: While we’re talking about performances, I wanted to talk about your performance of “Goddess” in the finale. What was the preparation like for that versus getting ready for the Rusical?
SC: Well, the Rusical, you are with dancers and the other girls, the other contestants, and that can be a little challenging. Everyone has different paces of picking up. So for me, doing “Goddess,” it was a little easier. It was just with four dancers and myself, and they framed me lovely and I was able to just insert and be SC. So for me, “Goddess” was a lot quicker. That was also a very quick turnaround. We all had one rehearsal the day before, and then a tech, and then we did it. So that was very quick.
TD: Yeah, I spoke to a Willow Pill last year after she won, and she had a similar sentiment. And I was just wondering if there was any kind of difference in timeline this year, just because we’re a little bit further out of the pandemic. But it sounds like it’s exactly the same.
SC: Yes, yes. It’s exactly the same. I think for the fact of keeping everyone on an even playing field, just having it a limited amount of time is perfect. And then you realize, “Oh, I’m still in the competition.” This is still another hurdle you have to achieve or get over. So yeah, it was a lot of fun though. Because if you don’t have a lot of time, then you really can’t question yourself. You just go with your gut instinct, which is always the best.
TD: How do you feel about your progression and evolution on the show and how it represents your drag and your talent as a performer?
SC: I really was surprised. I surprised myself a lot on the show. I genuinely was like, didn’t know if I could do everything. “Could you be funny? Could you act? Do you know how to sew?” You just kind of go in hoping for the best. But I was really excited while doing the competition for my friends and the people that supported and loved me for so many years. I was excited for them to see what I have done and be pleasantly surprised. Like, “Wow, you really made that?” Or, “Wow, you really went there.”
So I mean, I felt a level up for sure while doing it. I felt a few times of myself as an artist leveling up and even as a human being, being able to shed a lot of the trauma that I had growing up. Needing to feel accepted was a big thing growing up. And for me to catch myself not, I think I touched on one of the episodes, but me not wanting to be happy that I won or celebrate because I didn’t want the girls to be mad at me or not like me. For me to actually see that happening and then deal with it and level up and learn from it was therapy that I didn’t have to pay for.
And it literally helped me so much in letting go of things, which is wild. And I even told Ru, I don’t think it made it, but I had a moment of telling her this and having a heart to heart moment and she said, “Well, thank you for being so vulnerable and sharing your story.” I said, “Well, thank you for creating this show so 15 years later I can heal.” Who knew? Who would’ve thought ever.
TD: Trans representation is so important, especially at this current moment where so many rights are being attacked on trans individuals and drag performers. Does that push you harder to pursue this creative outlet that you adore so much?
SC: Yes, yes. It gives me more ammo for me to not make it about just me and not be caught up in my ego is really important. And for me to just do this drag as a protest, to fight for all the little kids who feel scared is really important to me. I feel with all this legislation, it makes me feel like I’m back as a kid in school getting picked on and the teachers wouldn’t even help you. That’s what it feels like when the government is saying what you’re doing is wrong or wants to eradicate and all this thing, it makes me feel scared. So I could imagine what actual vulnerable children who are feeling really unsafe in their homes are. And that makes me so excited to even just do my little part of doing a little drag show. That’s for me to live and be happy and thrive despite all these things that they’re saying is the only thing I can do. So it has to motivate you. It has to motivate me.
TD: And I think that’s what’s important: living in your truth and other people seeing that.
SC: Yes, and I noticed especially being vulnerable and sitting in my vulnerability is allowing other people to feel strength from it.
Photo: Marco Ovando via instagram.com/sashacolby