This spring, drag artist extraordinaire Sasha Velour ’09, winner of RuPaul’s Drag Race, Season 9, thrilled a packed Vassar audience with a rousing performance and reading during a tour to promote her new memoir, The Big Reveal: An Illustrated Manifesto of Drag.
As a capacity crowd of mostly students filled the Villard Room, an oversized, plush chair in cornflower blue sat at the back of the stage. Introduced by longtime friend and classmate Visiting Assistant Professor of Drama Amanda Culp ’09, Velour shocked the audience by emerging through a hidden panel in the chair, her glittery red lips keeping perfect time with music of J-Lo. The crowd erupted as she shifted, like the world’s most fabulous Transformer, from furniture into a superstar. This was the first of several exciting performances during the evening, including some by members of the student drag club VC Royalty.
Despite the festive nature of the evening, the audience was aware that America is experiencing an unprecedented backlash to queerness in general, and drag, in particular, in the form of bills to curtail the activities of drag performers. But Velour says she sees today’s students as “several steps ahead of where I was,” as far as standing up for equal rights.
The final reveal of the evening came from Professor Culp, who joined Velour in a soulful lip-synch to Dionne Warwick’s “A House Is Not a Home,” in a flash, tearing away her professorial garb to reveal a glittery—and scant—outfit. Perhaps she was taking a note from Velour herself, who writes: “Drag reveals that who we ‘really are’ and how people see us aren’t fixed realities; they can be changed … perhaps just for a night, the length of a song.”—Greg Costello ’00