RuPaul’s Drag Race is a special kind of show—it sucks in viewers from all walks of life who are drawn to the drama, competition, and inner and outer beauty of the show’s contestants. Full of passion, tenacity, and a whole lot of eleganzaaa, these drag queens continuously raise the bar for their art form with each passing season. We’re deep into Season 9, and this season the fabulousness is at an all-time high! We’re so excited to share our recent conversation with three of our favorite queens from Season 9: Valentina, Sasha Velour and Shea Coulée! Check out our interview below, and make sure to tune in for the final three episodes of RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 9, Fridays at 7/6c on VH1!
How did you first become involved in the world of drag? Was there one queen in particular that you looked up to or aspired to be as fierce as?
Valentina: I’ve always been an artist. I’ve studied the performing arts since I was 11 years old, and drag’s just not one thing so I feel like I’ve been studying how to be a drag queen for years through that. It doesn’t necessarily connect to drag, but it’s all of those rehearsals, training, and technique that I learned and then applied to my Valentina persona. There’s not really one drag queen in particular that I aspired to be, but when I first started going to drag shows I was very intrigued by Raven’s [Seasons 1 &2] look and thought that her makeup was incredible.
Shea Coulée: I first became involved in the world of drag after watching Season Three of Drag Race! I was SO inspired by Raja. I was familiar with Sutan Amrull from America’s Next Top Model, because he was the makeup artist giving all the best sound bites. I just fell in love with Raja’s fashion forward POV.
Sasha Velour: I started doing drag as a little kid. I loved dressing up as the female villains in all the movies I watched… I didn’t know it was “drag,” I just wanted to be a witch! When I started going out to clubs in my 20s, I was inspired by John Waters movies a lot, obsessed with Divine and Mink Stole, but also legends like RuPaul and Lypsinka. I’ve always been attracted to femme figures that are a little dark or twisted—I suppose that’s how I see myself!
The artistry that is involved in beating your face to the heavens is astounding! How did you master the art of make up, and what was that process like? Do you look at your first few attempts and cringe?
V: I’ve been wearing stage makeup since I was doing plays at 11 years old, and was even designating myself as a makeup artist backstage. Through trial and error, and trapping myself in the bathroom and practicing my drag makeup ever since I was about 20 years old, that’s kind of how I mastered it. By just playing and figuring it out and learning different tricks as I went along. I’ve never cringed at anything I’ve done though, I just try to learn from everything!
SC: My first few attempts at drag makeup were less than stellar. I was unaware of just how much manipulation it takes to achieve a polished drag aesthetic. Also TIME. One should allow themselves time to grow.
SV: Oh yeah, I’m glad that cell phone cameras were such bad quality 5 years ago! I was always great at drawing faces on paper, but learning how to transfer that to makeup, skin and hair was so challenging. Now it’s almost second nature, and I’ve learned certain tricks about my face that you can only learn through practice (like how to make my eyes look symmetrical even though they aren’t)! Even since filming RuPaul’s Drag Race, I keep learning new things and improving!
Why do you think drag is such an important art form? What is it about drag that inspires you every day?
V: Drag is so important to my life because it makes me feel validated in this world. It makes me feel like I have purpose, and it has helped create a career for me. It is a platform to express my artistry as it involves dance, theater, costumes, modeling, vocal technique, staging, and I wouldn’t want to be anything other than a drag queen!
SC: Drag is important because it challenges the status quo. It takes so many social constructs and turns them on their heads. But most importantly it challenges toxic masculinity.
SV: Drag pushes against the rules of gender and beauty. It takes fashions and stories from the world as we know it and squeezes our little queer bodies inside. I think drag empowers us to take charge of our own selves—how we present and define ourselves. Every day, drag makes me braver than I ever imagined I could be. And then I get to see how that inspires others to be brave as well. It’s truly humbling and powerful!
It’s so incredible to see the variety that exists within drag—from those who slay to those who make us cry from laughter! How did you craft your drag persona?
V: There’s such a broad range for drag, and there are so many different types of drag queens. I feel that just being authentic to what I love and referencing my culture is what has allowed me to craft my drag persona.
SC: My drag persona is just an extension of my personality. It’s all of the boldest and bravest parts of myself. Shea Couleé is my Sasha Fierce!
SV: Yeah I’m with you Shea Coulée! My drag persona is also just an exaggerated version of me. My vulnerabilities, my twisted sense of humor, my love of weird fashion. But I think my style of drag also reflects the places I’ve lived and worked. A lot of Brooklyn drag is really focused on performance and politics, so that’s pushed my development too.
What has the experience been like so far being on RuPaul’s Drag Race? It’s a competition of course, but there’s so much camaraderie as well.
SV: That’s what has surprised me the most! We ended up sharing so many facets of ourselves with each other, it’s impossible not to grow close. I think we were all shocked that, despite coming from different backgrounds, we really share a lot of the same values and struggles. That’s the making of a great sisterhood!
V: It’s been exciting, it’s been thrilling, and I’m very blessed. I’m always exhausted from pushing my limits on how hard I work, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.
SC: It’s so nice to be part of this new family! As queer people we get the luxury of choosing our extended families. We surround ourselves with like-minded individuals who help to both ground us and build us up. I’m just glad that I was chosen to share this journey with such talented people.
If there’s one thing that you hope viewers come away with after watching the show, what would that be and why?
SC: I hope they come away with a feeling of confidence in themselves. Being self assured is a constant process, but the sooner we get the tools to manage all the negative voices that tell us we can’t do things. We can be much happier!
SV: I want people to see how varied and different drag can be, and have an appreciation for all those infinite styles. All the contestants work hard at what they do, and are some of the best examples of it in the world! I’m really just a huge nerd about drag, and I want everyone to love it as much as I do!
V: I want viewers to think this is the best show ever, because this is easily my favorite show ever!