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Drag queen Sasha Velour studied cartooning in White River. Now she's on a world tour

Sasha Velour in a still from "The Big Reveal Live Show," which she'll bring to Lebanon, NH and Burlington, VT in early March.
Greg Endries
Sasha Velour in a still from "The Big Reveal Live Show," which she'll bring to Lebanon, N.H., and Burlington, in early March.

A degree from the Center for Cartoon Studies in White River Junction can take an artist in a lot of different directions. For drag queen Sasha Velour, her time in White River Junction was followed by a win on season nine of "RuPaul's Drag Race."

Last year, Sasha published her first book, The Big Reveal: An Illustrated Manifesto of Drag and she'll soon be heading out on a world tour. Fans can catch "The Big Reveal Live Show" at the Flynn Performing Arts Center in Burlington on March 3 and the Lebanon Opera House in Lebanon, N.H., on March 4. Sasha recently spoke with host Mikaela Lefrak about her tour and her time in White River Junction.

This conversation has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Tell us about your decision to move to Vermont and study cartooning.

I loved my experience at the Center for Cartoon Studies. I learned how to publish, release and create my own artwork there. I had always had stories, ideas in my head, that I wanted to share with the world. Discovering that through comics, and later through drag, I could just put those out into the world with paper and pencil or with my own body and a little makeup was so empowering.

How did you first get interested in cartoon studies?

I read a lot of comic books. I always loved comics, because I think with pictures instead of words, so it feels even more direct than writing to me to be able to communicate with images, which are so abundant in this world. I actually thought I was a terrible artist. But something about indie comics showed me that you don't need to be the best technical drawer to tell a compelling story or even to create appealing visuals. I'm still shocked that I have some kind of career making art or choosing colors, because it's not something I consider myself gifted at. It's just something I really, really love.

Was the first time that you performed drag in public in White River Junction?

I had my drag debut in my hometown in Illinois. It was a monthly open night pageant where anyone could show up and then audience applause chose the winner, and I got second place there. All that confidence I got from going out I brought to school with me that year in Vermont. I started dressing up pretty much every excuse I could find in the small town of White River Junction— for Halloween, for a fashion show hosted by the amazing Revolution vintage shop. Then, the Main Street Museum offered me like a chance to put on a show in their space, and that was my first self-produced drag show ever. We wrote a play, did rehearsals and costumes with different people that I had met around town, so that was really that was my first time creating a drag show.

I was just looking at the list of tour stops for The Big Reveal Live Show— you'll be in Burlington on March 3, Lebanon, New Hampshire, on March 4, and then London on March 8. I don't know how many tours go from Lebanon to London, it's a great jump [laughs]. 

A natural leap [laughs]. I'm still in disbelief that through drag, I'm able to travel the world and have a career as a working artist. It's really thanks to the amazing support that exists out there for drag. All the lessons that I learned from my time at the Center for Cartoon studies about how you got to stay organized, you have to plan ahead, you need to be in charge of your business, I learned all of that through comics, and I get to apply it to this big life and drag.

The musical selections in Velour's live show range from Stevie Wonder to Britney Spears, from Steven Sondheim.
Greg Endries
The musical selections in Velour's live show range from Stevie Wonder to Britney Spears to Steven Sondheim.

Broadcast at noon Wednesday, Jan. 31, 2024; rebroadcast at 7 p.m.

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Mikaela Lefrak is the host and senior producer of Vermont Edition. Her stories have aired nationally on Morning Edition, All Things Considered, Weekend Edition, Marketplace, The World and Here & Now. A seasoned local reporter, Mikaela has won two regional Edward R. Murrow awards and a Public Media Journalists Association award for her work.
Andrea Laurion joined Vermont Public as a news producer for Vermont Edition in December 2022. She is a native of Pittsburgh, Pa., and a graduate of the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies in Portland, Maine. Before getting into audio, Andrea worked as an obituary writer, a lunch lady, a wedding photographer assistant, a children’s birthday party hostess, a haunted house actor, and an admin assistant many times over.