Sasha Velour isn’t leading the drag revolution alone. Three years after her singular talents won the RuPaul’s Drag Race crown, the 32-year-old is still spreading the wealth across the ever-evolving industry, playing mother to a disparate family of drag entertainers who are primed to, quite frankly, f--- up the status quo with their new Quibi project NightGowns.
Inspired by Velour's recurring New York City stage revue of the same name, NightGowns (debuting April 6 on the subscription streaming service) is a reactionary venture spotlighting alternative styles of drag that push beyond superficial dressings, and, at times, defy classification. Though their aesthetic might sound foreign to some (Velour promises a fusion of spoken word and body modification in addition to high-energy theatrics from gorgeous queens and a lone drag king blessed with the deadliest jawline on the planet), she lets her cast of characters — in every sense of the word — loose to help spell it out for you across eight 10-minute episodes.
"Drag is all about telling your own story and putting your own performance and idea together. It’s sketching out a dream and then bringing it to life," she tells EW of the show, which focuses each installment on an individual member of Velour's six-person collective, outlining every step of their processes in creating their own grand finales that cap each episode on the NightGowns stage. "The goal of NightGowns is to show people behind the scenes of that process, the real-life of a drag artist and the real work of a drag artist."
As EW's exclusive clip (above) from the upcoming short-form docuseries proves, Velour thrives on uniting such varying visions under one roof, both literally and metaphorically. In a scene that sees the cast — including drag king K.James, femme performer Miss Malice, Dragula season 1 winner Vander Von Odd, visual artist Untitled Queen, dancing diva Neon Calypso, and transgender showgirl Sasha Colby — gathering for dinner at a long table inside Velour's Brooklyn home, their fearless matriarch plots each step of their impending theatrical endeavor, like a general zoning a battlefield for her troops.
"I asked myself what each person's world would be if we created it for a second," Velour says to her children as she speaks aloud her vision for their opening number, which will introduce each star with their own vignette: "K.James is the hottie that everyone's throwing themselves at the feet of. Vander is on a swing like Barbette reincarnated. Sasha Colby is in some distorted dance studio. Neon? Tubes of light! Untitled Queen's is my favorite: The guitar solo!"
If you've ever been to a live NightGowns event, you know part of the fun is, in addition to letting your eyes feast upon the visual orgasms on stage, watching Velour watch her babies come alive under the lights. And the sentiment carries through on the Quibi project.
"I wanted to be an advocate for these artists, not just like, 'Here’s an empty stage, do what you want,'" Velour says of adapting NightGowns for television with the Oscar-nominated team at The Documentary Group (Cartel Land), who matched Velour's desire to highlight a raw, gritty side of drag transformation with a soft, intimate lens that finds moments of levity and compassion as cast members pour their life stories into their art. "I love showing the perfected, fantasy side of drag more than I love pulling back the curtain, but I think it was important that this show was made more intimate by being a private watching experience than a communal live show, with more of the behind-the-curtain, intimate, alone part of the artists’ experience."
Velour stresses, however, that "the power of consent" from the featured players was vital "to help distinguish this" from the more salacious nature of reality television, and that she got chills while witnessing the power of documenting alternative drag with "high-resolution cameras and gorgeous lighting" that rarely seeps into the furthest reaches of queer nightlife on the underground scene.
"The [fantastical world of drag] can be a way of communicating this story as well, we didn’t have to wrap things up in the behind-the-scenes sections and then tack on a performance at the end," Velour explains. "Each section had to ask questions that the other section answered. The in-drag and out-of-drag experiences of these people’s lives flow completely together, and the artists are in charge of how both acts are told."
She pauses, briefly, before sounding a hard-earned battle cry: "Queer empowerment forever!"