RuPaul, Drag Race star Aja slay in spreads from Sasha Velour's hardcover art book
From conquering RuPaul's Drag Race to slaying New York Fashion Week alongside Christina Aguilera, drag superstar Sasha Velour has used her platform to fight for queer visbility and diversity. She's advancing the cause further with the first hardcover, collector's edition release of her indie art zine Velour: The Drag Magazine, which includes 296 pages of ad-free essays, collages, and personal editorials by 75 international queer artists and drag performers. In anticipation of the book's Nov. 15 launch date, Velour shares with EW six spreads from Velour: The Drag Magazine [Collector's Edition] in the gallery ahead, featuring poignant poetry, sickening fashions, and eye-popping photos featuring Velour's Drag Race sister Aja and RuPaul himself. The collection will be available for purchase at houseofvelour.com as well as select independent bookstores nationwide. Preorders are available now here.
"Sasha Velour Wears Her Mother’s Dress"
Photographer Daphne Chan shot this René Magritte-inspired series that dramatizes Velour's grieving over the death of her mother, Jane, a community activist. As a kid, Velour says she was "fascinated" by Jane's clothes, which told "stories from when she was a young woman in the '80s in New York." Thus, she'd sneak into the room to try them on when Jane wasn't home. "They were the perfect fit," Velour continues, adding that in the months after Jane died, she turned to the clothes for comfort. "I got emotional in makeup, contemplating her legacy and its connection to my life today. We shot the photos in and around the former grounds of St. Vincent's hospital in the West Village... a city block that was once called 'ground zero' for AIDS in New York, a center of LGBTQ+ history in my city, and a space that calls out for some productive gay mourning."
"House of Aja"
Ayo, sis! RuPaul's Drag Race star Aja's jumping from the stage to the page in Velour: The Drag Magazine in drag queen photographer Maddelynn Hatter's portrait-based, bejeweled chronicle of the original House of Aja featuring Dahlia Sin, Kandy Muse, Momo Shade, and Aja herself.
"I'll never forget the afternoon I did the interview with the whole house of Aja. Aja was packing to go on the road and putting on makeup at the same time, and we sat in a circle, spouting off dramatic statements and lowkey philosophical insights about Brooklyn, Drag Race, spirituality, and what community and family really mean," says Velour. "For these beautiful collages, I wanted to represent each member of the house as her own unique goddess. The lines of text are taken from our conversation.... I hope this piece captures their beloved reputation in our community!"
Artist Chad Sell crafted this portrait of Velour and her partner (and co-editor) Johnny to accompany a hand-written editor's letter for the second issue of The Drag Magazine.
"I've always loved [Chad's] interpretations of drag makeup, and I felt like such a diva commissioning one of myself! [I'm] particularly grateful for this immortalization of my original pre-Drag Race unibrow and my unending obsession with Nosferatu ears," Velour says of the piece. "Johnny, meanwhile, looks exactly the same (now with a beard), although we never got around to making him that brooch for real!"
Velour re-scanned Linda Simpson's 1988 photo comic 60 Photos (featuring a young RuPaul) from the gay zine My Comrade for inclusion in The Drag Magazine, aiming to re-focus her radical depiction of a "utopian fantasy set in a fictional Institute of Homosexual Inclination" for a new audience.
"Linda Simpson's utopian 'Institute' is really just a metaphor for the refusal to succumb to the grief and agony of the late-'80s AIDS crisis," explains Velour, noting that gay artists from this period heavily influenced The Drag Magazine. "Using drag, self-publishing, and camp, she and her collaborators put forward a message of 'gay power, love, and camraderie' (as she says in her introduction) that still resonates today."
"The Sisterhood of Drag" featuring Untitled Queen and Lucy Balls
Four pairs of drag siblings gathered for this editorial, transforming photos of each other (taken by Lucas Blair) using collage, embroidery, paint, and more in over-the-top "visual love-letters to each other's drag," per Velour's description.
"Sometimes a photo can't quite capture all the magic of drag, so you have to put that photo 'in drag', in a sense, embellishing it with a personal touch," she explains. "We called the portrait series 'In Each Other’s Eyes,' because it reminds me that so much of how drag 'looks' is about how it's perceived, and perhaps no one perceives us more accurately than our fellow drag performers. This is a playful attempt to capture that on the page!"
"The Modern Spellbook for Queer Sisterhood"
Velour admits she played matchmaker for this collaboration between cartoonist and printmaker April Malig and drag artist Untitled Queen, which offers magical tips from the Spectacularly Sad Surreptitious Spinster Snake Survival Spellbook including "sickening tips and tricks to turn all your onlookers to STONE,” “five short spells for surviving,” and a “spell for ensnaring a snake sister."
"They are the two most inter-disciplinary people I've ever met, so it's no surprise that their final collaboration involved photography, writing, cooking, glass-blowing, illustration, and risograph printing!" Velour says of the piece's creative partners. "And then we photographed them holding their self-produced zine, and they did their own nails! This is probably my favorite piece in the entire book."