Sasha Velour's 'Big Reveal' - drag artist brings new show to Palace of Fine Arts

  • by David-Elijah Nahmod
  • Tuesday March 28, 2023
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Sasha Velour (photo: Mettieo Strowski)
Sasha Velour (photo: Mettieo Strowski)

Drag artist Sasha Velour takes to the stage of the Palace of Fine Arts Theater on April 6 with a new show that's also a celebration of the publication of "The Big Reveal: An Illustrated Manifesto of Drag," her first book. The show is named after the book and is simply titled "The Big Reveal Live Show."

Velour, the Season 9 winner of "RuPaul's Drag Race," has become known for her striking shows that combine drag and performance art. In a version of the Kylie Minogue song, "Can't Get You Out of My Head," Velour steps into the spotlight dressed as a bat, complete with pointy ears, sharp fangs, and a pair of giant bat wings covering her arms. According to Velour, stage personas such as this are an extension of herself.

"Sasha Velour is the real me, just exaggerated and glamorized a bit for the stage and screen," Velour (real name Alexander Hedges Steinberg) said in an interview with the Bay Area Reporter. "I think of her as a cartoon version of myself, and that's why I like to draw any looks, make-up or performances out on paper before creating them in real life."

Velour recalls a childhood in which she always loved dressing up as feminine characters. When she learned about what she calls "the radical history of drag" she came to appreciate what the art form means, and set out to create a drag persona for herself.

Winning "Drag Race" was a big step forward for the artist.

"I had already started to make a name for myself in the drag scene before appearing on TV," she said. "Just a little success thanks to my Brooklyn show, 'NightGowns' and self-published magazine Velour, but being cast on 'RuPaul's Drag Race' introduced me to a much bigger world. It really changed my life."

RuPaul remains a hero of Velour's.

"One of the smartest people I've ever met," she said. "I knew I couldn't do drag exactly like her, that I needed to find my own path. But I've always followed Ru's example in making a big splash with whatever you've got."

Drag rights
According to Velour, laws against drag shows, such as the one just passed in Tennessee, as well as laws against trans health care, are hate crimes. She calls it "shameful" that the far right is making headway in legislating LGBTQ people out of existence.

"Drag is artistic expression," she said. "It is a right, and it helps people. It has saved my life many times, and connected me deeper with my history and my community. The world needs drag."

The backlash against drag has not affected Velour's career. In fact, she is busier than ever. Though the backlash against drag and trans people reminds her of the importance of being visible and loud. She has used her celebrity to raise money for those who are most affected by these laws.

"In just two nights of my monthly 'NightGowns' show, this year we raised over $6,000 for shelters and food organizations that support the community," she said.

Sasha Velour promotional photo from her 2022 'Smoke & Mirrors' European tour.
(photo: Tanner Bell & Nicholas Needham)  

She wrote her book "The Big Reveal" because she wanted to publish the drag book she had always been looking for. She spent more than a decade researching histories from around the world to find out how widespread, creative and political drag really is. But she knew that she also had to share her own story about how she was naturally drawn to drag when she was a child, and how drag has helped her.

"So I wove my story and the history together," she said. "Plus there's lots of imagery, drawings, and photos. I did most of the visual design for this book too, which felt very full circle, because book layout was my day job when I started doing drag."

The San Francisco show promises to offer a lot of "big reveals.' Velour will be reading passages from the book, but she promises that the show will be mostly performance, with new video and costume gags that she's been developing. There will also be an audience Q & A, and an intimate conversation with a special guest star. A book signing will follow. Velour "revealed" who the special guest star will be.

"Papa Velour, a.k.a. Professor Mark Steinberg," she said. "We've never appeared together on stage. We will talk about drag and especially queer and trans rights from a family perspective, as well as a historical one. He's a professor of history."

The evening will be a reunion, as Velour's family is from the Bay Area. The audience will be filled with her relatives (Velour was born in Berkeley and raised in Connecticut).

"Please come," she said. "I always try to surprise my audiences, even ones who have seen me before. But as they can attest, a Sasha Velour show is always an intricately well-planned and ferociously gorgeous night filled with beauty, gags, and maybe some head-scratchers too."

Sasha Velour's 'The Big Reveal Live Show' April 6, 8pm, Palace of Fine Arts Theater, 3301 Lyon St, $45-$100.

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