Sasha Colby Source: Preston Hertoir

EDGE Interview: 'It's Been Amazing' Sasha Colby on Her 'Drag Race' Win & Her Show 'Stripped'

Steve Duffy READ TIME: 10 MIN.

Sasha Colby is unusual amongst winners of "RuPaul's Drag Race" in that when she won Season 15 last year, she was already an established drag performer. The dynamic is usually the reverse – "Drag Race" makes a drag performer a star. And the reverse comes with the risk of being cut from the show early in the competition, which would not be great look for someone who already has a large following as Colby did when she auditioned for the Season 15 she went on to win. As Vogue put it, "what makes Colby a standout, a star, is not only her polished drag persona and high-octane performance style but her disarming authenticity and vulnerability too."

But Colby didn't come to the show simply for drag glory (though the $200,000 in winnings was a nice compensation). As a trans woman, she saw it as an opportunity to present her success story as a model for others; especially in a moment when the trans community is under fire from conservatives who seek to legislate it back into the closet... or worse. "I realize that I was supposed to do season 15, this season, because of all of this shit with legislation," she told Vogue shortly before her win. "I am a trans woman and a drag queen. I am the embodiment of what they want to eradicate. I would not have been of use to anyone any sooner or later. This, today, is when I can be the most impactful with my art, with my trauma, and with my inspiration for others. This wave feels like a tsunami. It's a big one."

Born in Hawaii in 1984, Colby grew up in a conservative Jehovah Witness family. As a teenager, she secretly did drag locked in the bathroom wearing her sister's clothes. At 17, she saw her first drag show – one made up of mostly trans women – and there was no looking back. After high school, she moved to Las Vegas and established herself as a drag performer, as well as make the first steps in her transitioning process. She began entering pageant competitions and would win the title of Miss Continental 2012. Two years later, she would move to Los Angeles and begin her acting career.

Watch Sasha Velour on "The Daily Show"

During this time, many wondered why she had never auditioned for "RPDR," whose growing success paralleled her own through the first decades of the new century. But she didn't feel her moment to audition was right until the show fully embraced trans women in the competition. She saw the success of Kylie Sonique Love, a Season Two competitor who after transitioning came back to win All Stars/Season 6 in 2021. Once on the show, Sasha all but coasted to victory, winning four challenges and never being put in the bottom three. She so dominated the season, that many called it "Sasha Velour's Meet and Greet." And when she won, she was quick to give it a political edge upon winning, dedicating it to her trans sisters. She was not only the first trans woman to win "RPDR," but the first Native Hawaiian.

Currently, Sasha is our tour with her show "Stripped," which continues through April 19 when she returns to her native Hawaii. EDGE spoke to Sasha about winning "RPDR," her drag persona, her fashion, and her role as a trans activist.

Editor's Note: Introduction by Robert Nesti.

Sasha Colby wins Season 15 of "RuPaul's Drag Race"
Source: MTV

EDGE: What has changed for you since being crowned the winner of season 15 of "RuPaul's Drag Race" earlier this year?

Sasha Colby: My goodness. The whole world has changed for me. My entire world has opened to so many opportunities. Being on the show has given me so many blessings and has allowed me to make all my dreams come true. It's been so amazing.

EDGE: How did you come into your queerness?

Sasha Colby: It was very evident, very early, that I was queer. I was a flamboyant and ultra-feminine child. It was there whether I accepted it, but I do feel like I came into it when I started dancing. I started dance when I was in high school, and that was my gay awakening. Being around gay guys, lesbians, and allies who allowed this space for you to be celebrated was amazing. Some of them are still my best friends to this day.

EDGE: Tell me about developing your drag persona.

Sasha Colby: The first drag show I ever saw heavily featured trans performers, so my transition and my drag kind of coincided together. I kind of developed it all at once. I think that's why it has become one entity at the end of the day. For me, I am my art. I am a walking art installation. Some people find solace in having that separation, I find it extremely powerful to have these two entities blend because whatever Sasha in real life is going through Sasha Colby gets to conquer and overcome it.

Sasha Colby performs on "RuPaul's Drag Race"
Source: MTV

EDGE: Who has made your drag career possible?

Sasha Colby: So many people have made my drag career possible. I think first and foremost was my dance director at my dance studio who encouraged me to do my first pageant and saw the magic in me before I did. He had given me so much good advice when I didn't know how to receive it. I can literally message him today and be like, "Ah, now I get it." When someone you really admire has your back, that's powerful.

EDGE: You recently announced your 22-date tour "Sasha Colby: Stripped." What can you tell us about it?

Sasha Colby: This tour, as the name says, is "Stripped." I think it's a funny play on words because of my persona and my ultra feminine or ultra body-positive way of performing and presenting myself. Stripped is really about stripping away all the ideas and even the ideas of what a show should be. This show is about being at this raw storytelling place where you are going to get a lot of fun stories of why mother is mother. I think a lot of people just assume that I came out as this entity that's fully realized and knows a lot of things, but it was because of all of my life experiences that I get to share on this show by honoring the people that made me the strong woman I get to be today.

EDGE: With this tour, you are looking for an up-and-coming drag artist. What are you looking for? What is going to make someone stand out?

Sasha Colby: I am not looking for my type of drag. I want to showcase the drag performers that represent the cities that we stop in. That's important to me. The reason why I'm going to these particular cities is to celebrate them and what drag means to them. I'm looking for who that city is proud of. I want to see different types of drag. I want to see Drag Kings. I want to see fabulous drag performers. I want to see what your drag is like because I feel like I've learned so much from drag that isn't my aesthetic. I've learned so much from the people who don't look like me and aren't doing my kind of drag. I think it is important to show how vast drag is and the scope that it covers. I want people to understand that we're not monsters creeping around and only trying to disguise ourselves as women. It's an art form and it's a beautiful empowering thing for any gender and gender expression.

by Steve Duffy

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