Nightgowns Series Brings the Fabulous World of Drag To You
Tonight: Season-finale of Sasha Velour’s critically-acclaimed show on Quibi.
“Let the drag magic commence!” says drag superstar Sasha Velour inviting you to a fabulous, intimate show—Nightgowns, now playing on a video screen near you. The queen of ruveals promises to surprise you during the show, but this time there’s more than rose petals under her sleeve. In an 8-episode docuseries, Velour and her Nightgowns family unveil the process, backstory and daily life behind each artist in drag. “You need to be able to express yourself through fantasy, but you also have to be seen as a real person, a normal person,” explains Velour, “and I think that that’s essential to queer liberation.”
Before the Brooklyn-based queer artist became Ru Paul’s Drag Race royalty, and even before her wig snatching finale performance racked up over 2 million views on YouTube, she was an underground New York City queen. Back in 2013, upon moving to Brooklyn, Velour and her partner Johnny Velour self-published a zine that highlighted different creatives from the New York LGBTQ community that included not only drag artists but other visual artists as well, which she describes as, “combining queer artists of the page and queer artists of the stage into some kind of hybrid.” Nightgowns was born in 2015 as a release party for that zine—a party that brought the spirit of the zine to life by celebrating and welcoming different kinds of drag art in a time where drag queens didn’t share the stage with drag kings, cisgender women queens or other non-binary drag artists, but Velour set out to change that.
“I wanted to take away all those barriers and have all the different performers who make up the drag world feel like they had a place at the performance showcase; that it wasn’t going to have any kind of exclusivity or gatekeeping like so many other spaces in our industry,” she states. “That went not just for who was allowed, but what kind of things we could bring.”
Nightgowns became the business model for promoting and selling what were then homemade zines. The scale of the show grew quickly and by the time that Velour was cast on RPDR, the party had outgrown the underground scene. Velour recalls coming home after the filming of Season 9 and seeing her “little neighborhood live show packed with people.”
As Velour’s fan base continues to grow, so does the audience at every Nightgowns show—now performing in bigger venues and different cities (prior to COVID-19). Today the homemade zine that planted the seed is a hardcover coffee-table book and the zine release party that sprouted from that is a critically acclaimed monthly revue in Brooklyn, selling out shows in Los Angeles and London as well. The core cast consists of Velour, Untitled Queen, Vander Von Odd, Neon Calypso, Miss Malice, K. James and Sasha Colby. Past guest stars include Amanda Lepore, Latrice Royale, Aja, and Bob the Drag Queen. But Nightgowns’s biggest audience yet—is sitting right at home.
On April 6, Nightgowns series premiered on Quibi—a short-form mobile video platform. “Getting to make the shift to Quibi makes this show available, up close for people all over the world and for people who can’t get to a live drag show for whatever reason, which as we know, is now more real than ever,” says Velour about the shift to video. “My favorite thing about this is it makes it intimate again because we were able to film the show in a smaller theater and we can bring that to people’s living rooms.”
Produced by Velour and the Academy Award-nominated producers at The Documentary Group, the series captures the fantasy, the high-fashion and the intricacies of drag—all in stunning short segments made to fit your screen. Velour admits that it was challenging to edit and cut out some great moments, but the opportunity to make lip-sync performances into videos directed by Sophie Muller, (Beyonce, Rihanna, Gwen Stefani, Alicia Keys) who she describes as a legend, is somewhat of a dream come true. “A drag number is kind of a music video for the stage already. So being able to actually turn it into a kind of music video is kind of like an amazing fantasy.”
Each short episode highlights a member of the cast—it draws a portrait of the drag artist and the human behind the makeup. “We want to show that our experiences and our emotions are universal stories that anyone can connect to and that what we do on stage is something that is for everyone to enjoy that,” explains Velour. “People may have preconceptions about what drag is all about or who it’s for, and I want this to satisfy the people who already know about drag and I want it to challenge the people who think that drag does nothing for them because the truth is, it’s like one of the most accessible and easy-to-enjoy art forms out there.”
In a span of 8 episodes, Nightgowns will perform their biggest show ever for the world to see—up close and from the comfort of their homes. The show couldn’t have come at a better time, and we thank the internet for this one. During these trying times, amid global pandemic, we can either choose to mourn our old lives or adjust to the changes. Velour argues that “we have to adapt to everything already. Artists need to figure out how to make work accessible digitally and remotely. That was probably true already. And [the pandemic] just made that more clear.”
Whether it be live or through Quibi, Velour and her Nightgowns family want to remind us to imagine the world as it could be—a place where differences are celebrated and drag is venerated.