Our prayers have been answered: America’s next Drag Superstar is Sasha Velour, AKA Sasha Steinberg. The New York-based performance artist is the winner of Season 9 of RuPaul’s Drag Race. And as you’ll see, it’s no wonder that Sasha took home the title because her performance in the finale, which included lip syncing to two Whitney Houston songs, was just plain fantastic. She blew my mind.
This year’s finale, which aired last Friday, was a bit different than in season’s past. Each of the four final queens had to lip sync battle in pairs to iconic pop hits. (In past years, the finale mainly involved reminiscing about the season, and then the three finalists would perhaps have one solo performance each.) The victor from each round went to one final “Lip Sync for the Crown,” and RuPaul chose a season winner.
Let’s zoom in on Sasha performances, which were among the best in Drag Race herstory. Coincidentally, both numbers in which she participated were Whitney Houston hits. The first was “So Emotional,” a song about being so invested in a relationship that it’s a bit frightening to the narrator. And “frightening” is a good word for it, because Sasha acted as a woman consumed with intensity, radiating an energy that was almost creepy, while still being fully lovable– quintessential Sasha Velour. In that number, against close friend Shea Couleé, she also turned the performance into a floral extravaganza, gradually spilling rose petals over the stage as the song progressed, including, ultimately, pouring them out of her wig.
The second number, against other finalist Peppermint, was “It’s Not Right But It’s Okay.” In the number that won her the crown, she began the song with a white, detailed, mask, that she cracked off in pieces as the song progressed, channeling the character of a woman breaking out of the confines of a toxic relationship. As a woman wronged, she’s angry, once again a bit scary in her rage, but ultimately jubilant as she twirled around the stage in a gorgeous floor-length white gown.
It was dynamic, it was moving, it was funny, and beat-for-beat perfect. The crown was hers for the claiming. In the interview portion, she was as chill yet sharp as ever, talking about her role on this season as the resident intellectual and drag historian.
“They say that if you look into a mirror and talk about sad things, I appear behind you to give you a queer history lesson,” she told RuPaul.
Supporting Velour in the audience were her boyfriend, and her adorable Jewish dad, who looked just thrilled to see her perform.
“Let’s change shit up!” Velour announced to the audience, as she accepted her crown and scepter, “Let’s get inspired by all this beauty, all this beauty, and change the motherfucking world!”